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Discussions => General Discussion => Topic started by: The Oul' Boy on January 02, 2019, 06:05:10 PM

Title: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: The Oul' Boy on January 02, 2019, 06:05:10 PM
I've been thinking I'd like to learn to play the melodeon for a few years now, but had no idea whether I'd be able to. Visiting my parents' in Tyrone at New Year, I dug my dad's 65 year old Waeldmaster (?) 21 button diatonic melodeon out of the attic (I think D/G, but no indication on the box itself) and was surprised not only that it still worked, but that I could figure out some straight-forward tunes on it in the 36 hours I was there (though the base reeds and buttons were shot to bits, and rather beyond my control in any case), mostly by ear, but also using the first couple of lessons in George Garside's crash course, which I've recently bought. Anyway, I've got the bug and now want to get myself a 2-row D/G melodeon (though happy to be advised on that too). What's the best way to go about finding a 2nd hand one in decent condition, assuming budgets (/wife's patience) don't stretch to a new one? I live in Edinburgh, but am down on Tyneside regularly.
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: AnnC on January 02, 2019, 06:23:52 PM
 ;D if you get to Tyneside regularly then getting in touch with Theo of this parish who has  The Box Place  (https://theboxplace.co.uk/) would be a good start, he has a wealth of knowledge and good advice as well as lovely instruments for sale  ;D :|||:
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: John MacKenzie (Cugiok) on January 02, 2019, 06:40:23 PM
Aye, good advice from Anne there. I am in Scotland too, and you don't find many D/G melodeons up here anyway. Mostly into B/C , and I never could get to grips with semi tone boxes. Yup, theo's yer man.

Sir John
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: The Oul' Boy on January 02, 2019, 07:54:44 PM
Thanks both! I like the sound of the D/G and fancy an Erika or Pokerwork if I could get one at a decent price. What are the pros and cons of going for D/G (e.g. I assume it's typical for English folk music) or B/C (I think you get a wider range of notes, maybe even the full chromatic scale)? Is one or other more suited to accompany singing for example?
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: John MacKenzie (Cugiok) on January 02, 2019, 08:30:36 PM
Depends where you play, if you play in a session in Scotland, then B/C is more the thing, although Pete Shepherd plays D/G no problems. If you want one to sing along with, then it depends on your vocal range, I can get by on C/G singing in C mostly, or Bb/Eb, singing in Bb, but I am also fairly happy with a D/G, singing in D. It all depends on your voice.
There is no doubt that B/C is probably the most useful for playing in Scotland, but most of the tutors available seem to be for D/G. As I said before one's a semitone box, and the other's a quint (?) (I think) box, and the method of playing either is very different. What you learn on a D/G is transferable to all other boxes with the same interval, G/C, B/E, A/D etc etc.

Sir John
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: Nigel on January 02, 2019, 09:57:12 PM
PM sent
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: The Oul' Boy on January 02, 2019, 10:16:48 PM
Depends where you play, if you play in a session in Scotland, then B/C is more the thing, although Pete Shepherd plays D/G no problems. If you want one to sing along with, then it depends on your vocal range, I can get by on C/G singing in C mostly, or Bb/Eb, singing in Bb, but I am also fairly happy with a D/G, singing in D. It all depends on your voice.
There is no doubt that B/C is probably the most useful for playing in Scotland, but most of the tutors available seem to be for D/G. As I said before one's a semitone box, and the other's a quint (?) (I think) box, and the method of playing either is very different. What you learn on a D/G is transferable to all other boxes with the same interval, G/C, B/E, A/D etc etc.

Sir John

Very helpful, much appreciated thank you!
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: The Oul' Boy on January 02, 2019, 10:18:46 PM
PM sent


Thanks Nigel, I'll likely be in touch for further details.
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: richard.fleming on January 04, 2019, 08:47:02 AM
Your Dad's box, in Tyrone, is much more likely to be a B/C. Why not go for B/C yourself, it's a much more useful and versatile system.
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: The Oul' Boy on January 04, 2019, 09:49:48 AM
Your Dad's box, in Tyrone, is much more likely to be a B/C. Why not go for B/C yourself, it's a much more useful and versatile system.

On reflection you're probably right Richard (I mostly stuck to the inner row in my fiddlings on it). I haven't entirely ruled it out, but I suppose you have to make a choice. I've always been more interested in English folk music than Scottish or Irish (also probably because I've lived in NE England longer than anywhere else); is there much B/C used in that? My impression from reading stuff on here and elsewhere is that B/C is more flexible but also harder, and also not so easy to find tutorials for.
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: Steve_freereeder on January 04, 2019, 09:56:16 AM
...I've always been more interested in English folk music than Scottish or Irish (also probably because I've lived in NE England longer than anywhere else); is there much B/C used in that? My impression from reading stuff on here and elsewhere is that B/C is more flexible but also harder, and also not so easy to find tutorials for.

If your main interest is in English music, I would strongly recommend that you get a D/G melodeon, rather than a B/C.
You will be able to play the vast majority of English tunes (and many Welsh, Scottish and Irish tunes) on a D/G box and the chords and basses will be already be in a friendly and useful set up. 
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: Theo on January 04, 2019, 10:18:12 AM
In NE England most of the box players I know play DG or other 4th apart systems.  But, and it’s quite a big but, the local style has a lot less in common with “English” playing found further south.  There is a lot if Scottish and Irish influence in the style of playing.  I can remember an occasion a few years ago at a festival further south when I was told by another DG player that I played “Irish style”. I took it as a compliment, but I don’t think it was intended as a compliment!
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: The Oul' Boy on January 04, 2019, 11:40:15 AM
If your main interest is in English music, I would strongly recommend that you get a D/G melodeon, rather than a B/C.
You will be able to play the vast majority of English tunes (and many Welsh, Scottish and Irish tunes) on a D/G box and the chords and basses will be already be in a friendly and useful set up.

Thanks Steve, yes, that's my preference I think.
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: The Oul' Boy on January 04, 2019, 11:43:07 AM
In NE England most of the box players I know play DG or other 4th apart systems.  But, and it’s quite a big but, the local style has a lot less in common with “English” playing found further south.  There is a lot if Scottish and Irish influence in the style of playing.  I can remember an occasion a few years ago at a festival further south when I was told by another DG player that I played “Irish style”. I took it as a compliment, but I don’t think it was intended as a compliment!

Thanks Theo. Of course, having not really learned to play yet, questions of style are rather academic at this point!

If you have any suggestions as to where I can get hold of a decent 2nd hand German-made D/G Hohner Erica or Pokerwork at a reasonable price (I appreciate that won't be very cheap though), I'd be interested to hear. What's your feelings on the Chinese made ones, if one could be picked up at a reasonable price?
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: Theo on January 04, 2019, 12:12:51 PM
I have a DG Pokerwork waiting for renovation, and I also have a three voice version in green pearloid which you can see on my website.
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: Fred on January 04, 2019, 12:31:47 PM
I have a DG Pokerwork waiting for renovation, and I also have a three voice version in green pearloid which you can see on my website.

+1 on the Pokerwork - these are just great boxes, especially for beginners. Nothing wrong about them, just about everything right with them.

However, a word of warning considering three voice boxes: I personally had the feeling that three voices more often get in the way of a beginner's progression so I would be a bit careful about that. Still, there's nothing wrong with a three voice box, it's just that I would recommend to start out with a plain and simple two voice melodeon.
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: The Oul' Boy on January 04, 2019, 12:39:45 PM
+1 on the Pokerwork - these are just great boxes, especially for beginners. Nothing wrong about them, just about everything right with them.

However, a word of warning considering three voice boxes: I personally had the feeling that three voices more often get in the way of a beginner's progression so I would be a bit careful about that. Still, there's nothing wrong with a three voice box, it's just that I would recommend to start out with a plain and simple two voice melodeon.

Thanks Fred, yes, the more straight-forward the better! Not sure green pearloid is my look either!
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: The Oul' Boy on January 04, 2019, 12:41:35 PM
I have a DG Pokerwork waiting for renovation, and I also have a three voice version in green pearloid which you can see on my website.

Thanks Theo, I'll PM you.
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: richard.fleming on January 05, 2019, 10:36:37 AM
If DG is such a good system - and to be fair most people on this forum play that system - it needs to be asked why they so often end up with boxes having extra rows of accidentals  or accidentals at the end of the keyboard to make up for missing notes so they can play more keys. On a B/C or other semitone box these notes are where you need them, in a progression of notes running up and down the keyboard, rather than as extra notes  somewhere else on the keyboard that your finger has to fly off to and back from in the middle of the tune. I've never seen the sense of it. Why would you start to learn on a piano with half the notes missing? Correct me if you think I'm wrong, which I'm sure you will - having invested hours in learning a system, one wants to see the best in it.
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: Lester on January 05, 2019, 10:58:14 AM
If DG is such a good system - and to be fair most people on this forum play that system - it needs to be asked why they so often end up with boxes having extra rows of accidentals  or accidentals at the end of the keyboard to make up for missing notes so they can play more keys. On a B/C or other semitone box these notes are where you need them, in a progression of notes running up and down the keyboard, rather than as extra notes  somewhere else on the keyboard that your finger has to fly off to and back from in the middle of the tune. I've never seen the sense of it. Why would you start to learn on a piano with half the notes missing? Correct me if you think I'm wrong, which I'm sure you will - having invested hours in learning a system, one wants to see the best in it.


The 4th apart system and the semitone system boxes are entirely different and both have their pros and cons. They are aimed at different playing styles and lend them selves to different musical traditions.


Both types have pros and cons dependant on what you want to achieve; for instance I am a morris musician, English ceilidh band musician and English session musician and am in no way restrained by only playing a 21 button D/G with 8 basses and the normal accidentals. Could I achieve my desired sound with a B/C, no!
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: Theo on January 05, 2019, 10:58:52 AM
Richard,  I don’t think sense or logic really come into it.  After all if we chose our instrument for its lack of limitations we would all choose CBA or piano box.  And then we wouldn’t have so much fun!  All push/pull systems have their limitations, it’s how you get round the limitations that makes the music.
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: Steve_freereeder on January 05, 2019, 11:03:21 AM
Just a brief addition to what Theo and Lester have already said, and with which I fully agree.

The 4th-apart boxes, because of their pull-pull nature, have a tremendous in-built rhythmic drive which makes them superbly suited to the dance music upon which so much English (and other) traditional music is based.
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: Helena Handcart on January 05, 2019, 11:06:31 AM
After all if we chose our instrument for its lack of limitations we would all choose CBA or piano box.  And then we wouldn’t have so much fun!

Nope, but we'd probably have stronger shoulders and bad backs from trying to play a wardrobe  :|||:
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: Andrew Wigglesworth on January 05, 2019, 11:39:38 AM
If DG is such a good system - and to be fair most people on this forum play that system - it needs to be asked why they so often end up with boxes having extra rows of accidentals  or accidentals at the end of the keyboard to make up for missing notes so they can play more keys. On a B/C or other semitone box these notes are where you need them, in a progression of notes running up and down the keyboard, rather than as extra notes  somewhere else on the keyboard that your finger has to fly off to and back from in the middle of the tune. I've never seen the sense of it. Why would you start to learn on a piano with half the notes missing? Correct me if you think I'm wrong, which I'm sure you will - having invested hours in learning a system, one wants to see the best in it.

If B/C is such a good system then why do B/C/C# boxes exist? If the Stradella bass system is so good then why do 8 button push-pull basses exist? If melodeons are missing so many notes, then surely we should be using pianos on Rapper tours? If transverse flutes are so good then why do people play tin whistles?

I'm not being facetious here, but if you can see or work out the reasons for the above ...

The B/C system is as much of a compromise as the D/G system. You win on certain aspects, you lose on others. Simply stating that a particular instrument has limitations is a non-starter as far as I can see. The Great Highland Bagpipes is a very limited instrument. It might be said to be crude and archaic compared to many other bagpipe systems. But, it is the inheritor of a rich piping tradition that is suited to and fitted to its chanter and is defined and enriched by those very limitations.

Why did all this happen with box systems? Historical accident as much as anything I think. In fact, pretty recent historical accident. We've discussed on here before about the introduction of the D/G system and what was often played previously. More often than not it seems that it was semitone systems such as D/D#, C/C# or G/G# besides the one-rows in C. The popularity of the B/C system is similarly relatively recent and depended on the playing of certain recording artists and the rise of ensemble playing and sessions (just as true for English players I think).

I learnt the D/G system because that was what everyone else I knew was playing (curiously there was a complete lack of accordion players of any kind in the Irish, English and mixed sessions I attended in those days). D/G plays in the common keys that the tradition uses, and makes use of its push-pull system for rhythm and lift. As a vehicle for playing English dance music it is fantastic, and John Kirkpatrick has commented upon how so much of the 17th and 18th century repertoire feels as if it was written for an instrument that didn't exist at that point.

However, I am pretty certain that English players could have just as easily gone other ways, with other compromises, and have ended up playing, say, D/D# or C#/D. Perhaps the thing that tipped the balance and propelled the D/G system to dominance was the need for Morris musicians to stand up and play the instrument with a (relatively) full bass accompaniment. In the end I cannot see why English Country Dance could not be played just as successfully on B/C boxes or, for instance, the Sliabh Luachra tradition on D/G boxes.

They seem to get on pretty well with C/G concertinas in Clare, which I think blows any assumptions apart.
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: The Oul' Boy on January 05, 2019, 12:09:26 PM
Does anyone play both semitone apart and fourth-apart systems, or is playing two otherwise very similar instruments but with different layouts generally too difficult to master? (Not that I'm intending learning both, I've decided to go with D/G)?
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: Gena Crisman on January 05, 2019, 01:12:06 PM
I've never seen the sense of it.

For just a 2 row, 8 bass box, when it is set up as a forth apart, one big advantage is in chords for self accompaniment. It has been noted, but, not laid out ad nauseam, so, here I am! When considering diatonic chords (chords that are made up entirely of notes that are found within the diatonic scale that you are playing in, eg G major), the inside row has access to I, ii7, iii7, IV, V, and vi (G, Am7, Bm7, C, D, Em), and the outside row has access to I, ii, IV, V, vi7 (D, Em, G, A, Bm7). Both exclude the diminished chord, and the outside row doesn't have its iii (F# minor on a DG). So, you basically get almost complete diatonic chord coverage for the 2 main keys of the instrument. Naturally, this coverage extends to the modes of those keys, so on a DG, A and E dorian, E and B natural minor, D and A mixolydian - you can play rich, functional and interesting harmonies for any of these. The inside row also has access to its II and III, which are particularly useful chords - II is the secondary dominant (eg A major -> D major -> G major) and III contains the leading tone for vi (B major -> E minor).

Also, many of the diatonic chords, including the outside row's missing iii and both diminished chords, can be found and played on the right hand side - (F# minor F# A C#, F# dim F# A C, C# dim C# E G, if you wanted them). Having this kind of coverage allows you to make significant use of something called Functional Harmony, which allows you to craft interesting bass/harmony progressions and more easily 'tell a story' with your music without needing another instrument to fill in the role of harmonising/playing chords.

You don't need to go down this rabbit hole particularly for your playing to benefit from this nature, either - it's also fine to hang around the bass pairs for the most popular keys of D, G and Em and push and pull as the tune dictates, as you can receive a functional accompaniment from that alone.

Ultimately, the price that is paid on a chromatic 2 row is in having poorer accompaniment options for the keys you opt to play in. And, the price that is paid for stronger diatonic accompaniment is being more fixed into those scales. So, basically you'd have to start adding basses to a semitone box to get the same coverage, in just the same way some people add half rows to the melody side of fourth apart boxes. Both layouts are one of compromise, it just depends what you want your instrument to be. I do think about how nice it would be to use a system with a chromatic scale across a greater range of notes, but, I also know I'd miss the chords -  for me, my music just wouldn't feel complete without them.

Does anyone play both semitone apart and fourth-apart systems, or is playing two otherwise very similar instruments but with different layouts generally too difficult to master? (Not that I'm intending learning both, I've decided to go with D/G)?

Some people play instruments that combine both systems, eg, Tim Edey, and 3 row instruments such as the C#/D/G exist, so, some people do play both systems. I think it will depend to some extent on how playing music actually mentally works for you. I think I've also seen G/C/B layouts, under the guise of G/C/H? So, yes, there are some people definitely capable of playing both.
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: Stiamh on January 05, 2019, 01:24:17 PM
Does anyone play both semitone apart and fourth-apart systems, or is playing two otherwise very similar instruments but with different layouts generally too difficult to master? (Not that I'm intending learning both, I've decided to go with D/G)?

If you poke around the forum, you'll find a fair number of posts addressing this point. A regular contributor who rides both horses (and teaches riding them) is George Garside, who came to D/G after B/C and apparently has no problems keeping both systems on the go. (People who go in the other direction successfully seem to be thin on the ground - at least I'm not aware of any.)

@Richard, it quickly gets tedious when contributors keep insisting on the superiority of their own system or pointlessness of another (you're not alone in doing this, historically).  :|glug  :|glug

Theo is right about the limitations inherent in every system- you choose your poison and do the best you can with it. As I said in another thread some time ago, with apologies to Churchill: my system of diatonic accordion is the worst possible system - except for all the others!
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: richard.fleming on January 05, 2019, 02:32:13 PM
[quote author=Stiamh /quote@Richard, it quickly gets tedious when contributors keep insisting on the superiority of their own system or pointlessness of another (you're not alone in doing this, historically). 
[/quote]
A fair point, I  think, except that my suggestions on this subject are usually made when a beginner is asking for advice, and it seems to me they get advised to play D/G because most people on this site are D/G players (or not semi-tone apart players anyway) and that gives a false impression of the virtues of the DG system. Many of those D/G players started the system for similar reasons - D/G boxes were all around, and they never had any other advice to consider. I might decide that I don't mind if I bore people - my advice is intended not for most of you but for the beginner asking for advice.. Maybe I should pm the beginners instead?
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: Steve_freereeder on January 05, 2019, 04:18:21 PM
A fair point, I  think, except that my suggestions on this subject are usually made when a beginner is asking for advice, and it seems to me they get advised to play D/G because most people on this site are D/G players (or not semi-tone apart players anyway) and that gives a false impression of the virtues of the DG system. Many of those D/G players started the system for similar reasons - D/G boxes were all around, and they never had any other advice to consider. I might decide that I don't mind if I bore people - my advice is intended not for most of you but for the beginner asking for advice.. Maybe I should pm the beginners instead?

I think beginners tend to be advised to start on D/G or other 4th-apart tuning because of the music they want to play, and not just because 'most people on this site are D/G players'. If you look back through recent queries along the lines of 'which box should I get?' I believe you will see that many early answers try to ascertain what style of music the enquirer wants to play. If it's primarily Scottish or Irish style, I think that the advice swings towards a semitone-tuned box, B/C or C#/D. If generally English, then D/G; if French/continental, then the advice is often go for G/C.

It's horses for courses and I think most established/experienced players on here are knowledgeable yet humble enough to answer accordingly, and also to share their answers - something which would be lost if the only advice was via PMs.
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: The Oul' Boy on January 05, 2019, 04:42:39 PM
A really interesting conversation, so much knowledge, happy to get advice from anyone, thank you!
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: Dick Rees on January 05, 2019, 05:07:34 PM
I went through the typical school/church musical upbringing starting with piano lessons, school band (trombone, tuba, euphonium, etc), learned to read music and sing in a choir...a period of about 15 years.  Once I got out on my own I picked up harmonica and guitar, learning by ear and beginning to approach things from the music rather than the instrument.

In the next 15 years I un/re-learned everything I had ever been taught.  Once I had established an "interior library" of melodies/songs by heart, the mechanics of reproducing the desired sound diminished in difficulty in a quantum leap.  And I find the expression "knowing it by heart" more apt than "memorizing" or "knowing the dots".

Certainly the physical challenges involved are significant, but I will always maintain that learning to listen and discriminate is the most valuable time spent in advancing ones musical abilities, keyboard layout aside.

One thing, though, that I carry with me from the first 15 years is the phrase on the music room wall above the school band directors podium:

"Music is a picture painted on a background of silence."

I've learned to really appreciate this in the last 15 years. 

/sermon
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: Jesse Smith on January 05, 2019, 07:02:03 PM
A regular contributor who rides both horses (and teaches riding them) is George Garside, who came to D/G after B/C and apparently has no problems keeping both systems on the go. (People who go in the other direction successfully seem to be thin on the ground - at least I'm not aware of any.)

The only one who springs immediately to mind is John Kirkpatrick, who started on the D/G melodeon, bought a B/C/C# accordion about four years later, and then about another four years later purchased his 40-button C/G anglo concertina.
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: Chris Rayner on January 06, 2019, 12:57:01 PM
And then there’s Daddy Longles of widespread fame here and on YouTube who appears to be able to play more or less anything he can lay his hands on judging from the musical miscellanea in the background of his videos.
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: The Oul' Boy on January 06, 2019, 01:39:05 PM
And then there’s Daddy Longles of widespread fame here and on YouTube who appears to be able to play more or less anything he can lay his hands on judging from the musical miscellanea in the background of his videos.

I've been loving his blog videos, I've watched about the first half of them, but no semitone apart ones yet I think among the ton of melodeons he has!
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: baz parkes on January 06, 2019, 02:16:46 PM
If DG is such a good system - and to be fair most people on this forum play that system - it needs to be asked why they so often end up with boxes having extra rows of accidentals  or accidentals at the end of the keyboard to make up for missing notes so they can play more keys. On a B/C or other semitone box these notes are where you need them, in a progression of notes running up and down the keyboard, rather than as extra notes  somewhere else on the keyboard that your finger has to fly off to and back from in the middle of the tune. I've never seen the sense of it. Why would you start to learn on a piano with half the notes missing? Correct me if you think I'm wrong, which I'm sure you will - having invested hours in learning a system, one wants to see the best in it.

, it is the inheritor of a rich... tradition.....and is defined and enriched by those very limitations.

AS is the humble 1 row... :|glug
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: Peadar on January 12, 2019, 10:13:44 PM
I read somewhere (cannot find the reference) that the early 2 row accordions in Ireland were usually D/G, so your Dad's old accordion may well be D/G. 

Breandan Breathanach's "Ceol agus Rince na h-Eireann" of 1989, a reference book on traditional Irish Music and dance, suggests that the Chromatic (2 diatonic rows a semi-tone apart) became the Irish (folk) accordion of choice circa 1940- with tunings C/C#, C#/D or D/D#, though by the 1980's younger musicians were going for B/C.  "C/C#, C#,D agus D/D#, a bhiodh ag na ceoltoiri tuaithe roimhe seo ach is é an bosca B/C is mó a bhfhuil gnaoi ag na ceoltóiri óga air anois." (Ref: Ceol agus Rince na h-Eireann" Page 79, Breandán Breathanach, An Gùm, Dublin, 1989). 




Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: Steve_freereeder on January 13, 2019, 12:45:44 AM
I read somewhere (cannot find the reference) that the early 2 row accordions in Ireland were usually D/G, so your Dad's old accordion may well be D/G.

I'm not sure about "...the early 2 row accordions in Ireland were usually D/G...".
It seems unlikely as it is generally accepted that the first D/G melodeons were commissioned from Hohner by English folk musician Peter Kennedy in 1949 with a second batch being made in the early 1950s.
See here for a summary (https://www.concertina.net/forums/index.php?/topic/1807-piano-accordions/&page=2&tab=comments#comment-17264).

Previous to that, 2-row melodeons were generally semitone tuned, as you've mentioned or, on the continent, fourth-apart tuned in G/C or the German Club system in C/F.

Edited to tidy up quotes.
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: The Oul' Boy on January 13, 2019, 07:39:31 PM
Go raibh maith agat, a Pheadair. I'll check when I'm next back 'home', now that I'm a bit more clued up I should be able to tell whether it is semitone apart or 5th apart at least.
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: Peadar on January 13, 2019, 10:53:06 PM
Thanks Steve,

Quote
It seems unlikely as it is generally accepted that the first D/G melodeons were commissioned from Hohner by English folk musician Peter Kennedy in 1949 with a second batch being made in the early 1950s.
See here for a summary.

That link is really interesting.

Reading it carefully there is more than a hint that the instruments commissioned by Peter Kennedy in 1949 were G/D  (5th apart) not D/G (4th apart). I could be totally wrong on this but to quote the wording from the EFDS journal.

Quote
The Society have been fortunate in securing a licence from the Board of Trade for a limited number of Club Melodeons, to be sold only to Members of the Society for Folk Dance work. These instruments are to be manufactured by Hagstroms, at Darlington, and will cost about £19. Many members have already placed their orders for these instruments, and it is suggested that any more people who want to order one should write to the Sales Department as soon as possible . . . These particular melodeons ordered by the Society have Italian reeds keyed in G and D ; these keys are considered the most useful for Folk Dance work. . . . PETER KENNEDY

I am approaching the  melodeon/button-accordion  from playing the fiddle ( albeit badly) and I began by looking for G/D instrument, an obvious tuning to me because G & D are the primary "natural" keys of the fiddle and (I am on the Isle of Skye) G is the key of the Great Pipe. Eventually it sank in that the normal tuning of a 2 row melodeon is a 4th apart i.e. D/G. At which point I settled for the one row as my "starter".

Peter Kennedy's 1949 batch was being authorised for a very specific cultural project and in that context G/D is a tuning which makes a lot of sense-but it would have been a "special".

In Ireland there was a different national economic dynamic. Ireland became a republic and left the commonwealth in 1937. She was a neutral country throughout the war and since the 1920's had been steadily developing economic links with Germany (e.g. Siemens were the construction contractor for the Ardnacrusha Hydro-electric scheme 1925-29). If 2 rows, tuned 4th apart,  including D/G instruments were being made by Hohner (or other German manufacturers) as a standard product by the 30's they may well have found their way into Ireland at an early date.

Just going back to 1949 Northumberland- as a student in 1983(ish) I met one of the Newcastle Kingsmen "Forty-niners" - in the context of country dancing/set dancing , he told me that from his memory of going to village hall dances in Northumberland circa 1950 that it was then normal for dancers to set continously during a whole dance rather than standing out waiting when they weren't actually on the move. (off topic but worth mentioning).
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: Peadar on January 13, 2019, 11:22:40 PM
#36 Failte Romhat  (:).
If when you next look at your Dad's melodeon/accordion you have/can borrow one of those electronic tuning devices fiddlers use these days instead of pitch pipes, it will instantly tell you what each individual note is at.
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: Anahata on January 13, 2019, 11:58:54 PM
Reading it carefully there is more than a hint that the instruments commissioned by Peter Kennedy in 1949 were G/D  (5th apart) not D/G (4th apart). I could be totally wrong on this but to quote the wording from the EFDS journal.

That journal excerpt says nothing explicit about which row was which.
At the time, I doubt the outer/inner convention describing the keys even existed, and even if it did I doubt the author of an EFDS journal would have known.
People still get it wrong now, on this forum...

Those instruments set a precedent for the importation of thousands more D/G Hohner melodeons, all  fourth-apart.
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: Peadar on January 14, 2019, 01:06:48 AM
Just for interest look at the link Steve provided....there's a bit more background there than the snippet I quoted.
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: richard.fleming on January 14, 2019, 09:45:48 AM
I read somewhere (cannot find the reference) that the early 2 row accordions in Ireland were usually D/G, so your Dad's old accordion may well be
I don't think the reference will be found because it is simply not true. And B/C was dominant long before the 1980s. The prevailing style of B/C playing was developed in the 1950s by Paddy O Brien, and with Joe Burke rising to prominence his style on the B/C box became pretty well dominant. We have mainly Jacky Daly to thank for the return of the C#D. DG never came into it.
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: Steve_freereeder on January 14, 2019, 10:03:40 AM
....DG never came into it.
That's my understanding of it too, Richard.

...The prevailing style of B/C playing was developed in the 1950s by Paddy O Brien...
What was the prevailing tuning before that? Was it C/C#?
I'm interested partly because one argument for the popularity of the key of C in East Anglian music was due to the sole availabilty of two-row instruments in C/C# or one-rows in C.
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: richard.fleming on January 14, 2019, 10:31:59 AM
I think you are right, Steve,  that C/C# was around, though in fact Paddy O'Brien played a G/G# in the Lough Derg Ceili band until he got his first B/C box in the 1930s. I think the Wyper brothers in Scotland are generally credited with getting the BC system going.
And while respect is due to Peter Kennedy of the revivalist English Folk Dance and Song Society, one has to ask why, when deciding to order a batch of squuezeboxes from Hagström  in Darlington, he did not spare the time to investigate Scotland and Ireland with their very vital traditional music culture, to see how button accordion playing was developing there, before inventing the DG. I'd love to know what Hagström's advice was, and whether he listened to it..
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: Anahata on January 14, 2019, 11:24:32 AM
Just for interest look at the link Steve provided....there's a bit more background there than the snippet I quoted.

I have done, and I still think they meant D/G. The main post content uses "D/G" several times.
The quote from Brian Hayden says "G/D [sic]" implying that wasn't strictly correct. Brian Hayden is a concertina man, and "G/D" is the correct designation for an Anglo concertina in those keys, so the mistake is understandable.
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: Stiamh on January 14, 2019, 11:56:51 AM
One has to ask why, when deciding to order a batch of squuezeboxes from Hagström  in Darlington, he did not spare the time to investigate Scotland and Ireland with their very vital traditional music culture, to see how button accordion playing was developing there, before inventing the DG. I'd love to know what Hagström's advice was, and whether he listened to it.

I think Kennedy was pretty well aware of traditional music practice in both Scotland and Ireland. But if I understand the timeline correctly, he hit on the idea of a D/G before Paddy O'Brien's 1953 (was it?) recordings of Sally Gardens/Yellow Tinker etc. took the Irish-music world by storm.

The other question one might ponder is, what would the situation be today had Kennedy not pursued his idea, or had he listened to discouraging advice from others. Would morris teams up and down England be dancing to tunes in C and F? Or to fiddle and pipe & tabor? Would hundreds of English musicians have tried the B/C and given up, the way some do today?  >:E

But don't forget, they already had the C/C# floating around, and D/D# too, and yet D/G took the English-music world storm, at least gradually. So you have to give Kennedy credit with coming up with what was apparently needed, or filling a gap in the market.
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: Theo on January 14, 2019, 12:37:10 PM
The other question one might ponder is, what would the situation be today had Kennedy not pursued his idea, or had he listened to discouraging advice from others.

I like to think that Kennedy missed an opportunity by not choosing AD for English music, still fiddle friendly, and a much more box friendly pitch avoiding the not very usable top end of the high G row.
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: Steve_freereeder on January 14, 2019, 03:30:46 PM
I like to think that Kennedy missed an opportunity by not choosing AD for English music, still fiddle friendly, and a much more box friendly pitch avoiding the not very usable top end of the high G row.
But perhaps not so good for English music in the key of G as much of the repertoire is, and was in those days too. Especially in the south of England.
Also, much Welsh music is in the key of G.
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: richard.fleming on January 14, 2019, 03:52:46 PM

I think Kennedy was pretty well aware of traditional music practice in both Scotland and Ireland. But if I understand the timeline correctly, he hit on the idea of a D/G before Paddy O'Brien's 1953 (was it?) recordings of Sally Gardens/Yellow Tinker etc. took the Irish-music world by storm

By 1953 Paddy O'Brien had been playing BC for 20 years, I believe. And the Hohner Double Ray Black dot, always in B/C,  had been around for a similar length of time.
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: Peadar on January 14, 2019, 08:05:37 PM
Sometimes you just have to admit that you were wrong...but as we say in Gaelic "ma 's e breug bhuam b'e breug thugam" and  somewhere on the net there is (or was recently) an article stating that the Irish switched from the "old" D/G to the chromatic.

But having found a (University of Limerick) PhD Thesis on the Social History of the Irish Button Accordion I am now totally convinced that the Irish two row  was always a chromatic....which in itself  goes some way to explaining why in Ireland "melodeon" means a one row and only a one row. By the same token I can choose to think of the English two row as a double barrelled melodeon.   
 
http://hdl.handle.net/10344/1616

Enjoy!
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: folkloristmark on January 14, 2019, 08:20:40 PM
I have often heard DG reffered to as the old irish key I think its right and pre dates the war and the history over here.
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: Peadar on January 14, 2019, 08:34:43 PM
Quote
I like to think that Kennedy missed an opportunity by not choosing AD for English music, still fiddle friendly, and a much more box friendly pitch avoiding the not very usable top end of the high G row.

I am not convinced that the A/D would have been particularly fiddle friendly. The issue being that the Fiddle strings run up in 5ths G D A E, with the low note G below middle C. The (single octave) diatonic scales of G, D, A on the fiddle are all fingered identically G on the G&D strings, D on D&A and A on and E. I appreciate my standard of musicianship is low but nonetheless these are the basic fingerings of the fiddle and the functional range of cheaper fiddles is pretty much two octaves.

The A/D like the D/G is an inversion of the fiddle pitches...though I suppose that matters less if you have a bass voice in there.
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: Steve C. on February 08, 2019, 01:08:18 PM
Theo has identified a great, historical missed opportunity and both myself and my dog agree that A/D would have been a service to mankind personkind.
When I (very occasionally) play in (the quiet far background) of an OT session here in States on the Streb, A/D is very nice.  Plus it blends in nicely with a nice bottom end.
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: The Oul' Boy on April 19, 2019, 05:19:56 PM
I was over in Tyrone again this week, and here's a picture of my dad's old 'Waeldmaster', bought in Omagh over 65 years ago for something like £8 if I remember what he told me right (a lot of money that time, especially to small farmers). Now that I actually know a bit more about how melodeons work, it's a semitone apart box, probably BC traditional lay-out (playing Lillibulero on it, the equivalent of the single C natural you need playing in D on the DG box is the 5th button on the inside row, which would be G natural, so I think that's right), no equivalent that I could find to the low E on a DG box on the outside row when playing in G, which made playing various tunes on the row (e.g. Danny Boy) difficult. Anyway, it is still more or less in tune and has a lovely light action with quite small buttons (though it is heavier than my Pokerwork) and a sweet, mellow sound, though shoulder straps are badly missed, and the bellows are as leaky as a sieve. Nice to give it a go though, but I missed being able to cross between the rows to get notes in the same key, and the bass was a mystery.
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: Peadar on April 19, 2019, 11:25:03 PM
#54 - Thanks for posting the photo, the information and the back story.
Peadar
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: richard.fleming on April 20, 2019, 07:56:19 AM
I missed being able to cross between the rows to get notes in the same key

Puzzled by this. BC players play across the rows all the time.
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: The Oul' Boy on April 20, 2019, 02:24:55 PM
I missed being able to cross between the rows to get notes in the same key

Puzzled by this. BC players play across the rows all the time.

Of course they do, I'm just referring to the difficulties of being a DG player playing a BC box and having to stick to one row as any row crossing I know doesn't work in the same way.
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: ChrisP on May 21, 2019, 05:16:53 PM
The other question one might ponder is, what would the situation be today had Kennedy not pursued his idea, or had he listened to discouraging advice from others.

I like to think that Kennedy missed an opportunity by not choosing AD for English music, still fiddle friendly, and a much more box friendly pitch avoiding the not very usable top end of the high G row.

I think Kennedy knew what he was about. My analysis of 11,000 tunes from historical English sources puts the key of Amaj well down the list, well behind G+D, and even behind C+F. http://www.cpartington.plus.com/Links/A%20Number%20of%20Supporting%20Items/Keys.html (http://www.cpartington.plus.com/Links/A%20Number%20of%20Supporting%20Items/Keys.html)
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: Jesse Smith on May 21, 2019, 06:32:30 PM
I'm a little surprised the D/G melodeon never took off in the United States, where G and D seem to be the most common keys for American traditional tunes as well. Instead it seems like C/F and G/C are the most commonly found configurations for old Hohners in the US.
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: Lester on May 21, 2019, 06:46:14 PM
I'm a little surprised the D/G melodeon never took off in the United States, where G and D seem to be the most common keys for American traditional tunes as well. Instead it seems like C/F and G/C are the most commonly found configurations for old Hohners in the US.


The D/G box only originates in the late 1950s so any 'old Hohners' are unlikely to be in D/G
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: John MacKenzie (Cugiok) on May 21, 2019, 06:53:00 PM
At a guess German immigrants brought their C/F boxes with them, and the Scandinavians, their G/C boxes.

SJ
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: Jesse Smith on May 21, 2019, 06:54:51 PM
The D/G box only originates in the late 1950s so any 'old Hohners' are unlikely to be in D/G

Yes, true enough, so I guess the difference is that the US never had a melodeon-based folk revival in the '50s and onwards like the UK did. Maybe my underlying reaction is that it's odd that the D/G took so long to be developed when it is such a natural setup for traditional music, both in the British Isles and in the US.
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: george garside on May 21, 2019, 08:04:06 PM
I missed being able to cross between the rows to get notes in the same key

Puzzled by this. BC players play across the rows all the time.

Of course they do, I'm just referring to the difficulties of being a DG player playing a BC box and having to stick to one row as any row crossing I know doesn't work in the same way.

speaking as a DG and BC player the only common factor between the two is that there are 2 notes per button.  On a DG etc box row crossing is an option to either get better bass harmony or to sometimes ease tricky bits of fingering. to cross row or not to cross row is a choice  and both methods have there adherents and of course there are those who do a bit of both!

ON the other hand the semitone boxes unless being played in the keys of the rows eg B and C  use  different fingering scales for different keys  so these relativelyeasy scales need to be learned and practiced until they become second nature   - then it isn't thought of in terms of row crossing but just  as the way the instrument is played.  The only options which are very useful are that B and E are available on the push and pull  and the choice of which to use depends very much on the tune being played  i.e. to help with bellows control  and or to ease tricky bits of fingering.

While both systems look the same  i.e. 2 row button accordions/melodeons  but as far as playing is concerned they are best treated as two different but similar instruments .  A DG player is part way to being a BC player and vice versa simply because they share the 2 notes per button .

That's how I see it - others may disagree?

george
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: Stiamh on May 21, 2019, 09:22:02 PM
A DG player is part way to being a BC player and vice versa simply because they share the 2 notes per button. That's how I see it - others may disagree?

I'd just point out that you forgot to mention that a BC player is part way to being a BCC# player.
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: george garside on May 21, 2019, 09:37:26 PM
indeed! and I also forgot to mention that the fingering on a BCC# is much easier than on a BC or CC#

george ;)
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: Peadar on May 21, 2019, 11:37:52 PM
indeed! and I also forgot to mention that the fingering on a BCC# is much easier than on a BC or CC#

george ;)

Too many buttons >:E
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: Anahata on May 22, 2019, 08:21:37 AM
Too many buttons, or lots of useful choices?
IME the problem with B/C/C# is that the whole box is just too heavy.
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: george garside on May 22, 2019, 09:22:26 AM
The weight of a BCC# is not  necessarily the handicap that many think it is, particularly if thinking in terms of the hohner trichord or 48 (12x4) serenellini'  Agreed lthe  Shand morino is heavy but as one with all the age related rheumatism etc etc I don't find the 96 bass hohner gaelic particuolarly heavy to play seated or standing for reasonable periods of thime.

Its more a question of the total physical effort required  and  the BCC sharp has two points in its favour when compared with smaller lighter 2 row boxes.

1. far less bellows movement is required due to lthe larger volume of air therein.

2.  The 'ins and outs' are reduced  because of the number of reversals - 2 of everything exept GDA

having said that I also very much enjoy playing a lilly and  hohner pokerwork DG and a 2 row BC double ray.

george
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: richard.fleming on May 22, 2019, 09:38:04 AM
The D/G box ...
 is such a natural setup for traditional music, both in the British Isles and in the US.

Not everyone would agree with this, of course..
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: Winston Smith on May 22, 2019, 09:48:32 AM
"Not everyone would agree with this, of course.."

Richard, I really admire your persistence in promoting your beloved B/C (or half-step, anyway) system. Bravo!
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: george garside on May 22, 2019, 11:41:26 AM
The D/G box ...
 is such a natural setup for traditional music, both in the British Isles and in the US.

Not everyone would agree with this, of course..

I agree!  and use a dg when playing for 'english' ceilidhs  and also for sessions  as playing on a BC in ,say, E would result in  dirty looks from everybody.       But I also enjoy  the chromatic ability of the semitone boxes  , particularly the 3 row veriety  and  play tunes in other keys than as writ. eg  I find Maggie sounds great played in E  and on the 3 row you can do a bit of F-ing using exactly the same fingering ;D

george
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: richard.fleming on May 22, 2019, 01:08:36 PM
"Not everyone would agree with this, of course.."

Richard, I really admire your persistence in promoting your beloved B/C (or half-step, anyway) system. Bravo!
Maybe I should beg or borrow a DG box and give it a good go, Winston? It's always good to see if one's views turn out to be prejudices, isn't it?
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: george garside on May 22, 2019, 01:55:36 PM
neither system is 'best'  and I would not want to give up either.   This is why the two boxes I would not sell  are my dg pokerwork and my BC double ray both of which  I will hopefully still be able to play when I am very old and knackered.     Interestingly Sir Jimmy Shand    played  a hohner  ?CC# Erica when he was 90 ish.  Iit was was souped up by his son Jimmy jnr with morino reeds and pallets!  There is a you tube of it  - jimmy shand nelodeon solo.

george

Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: baz parkes on May 22, 2019, 02:03:37 PM
indeed! and I also forgot to mention that the fingering on a BCC# is much easier than on a BC or CC#

george ;)

Too many buttons >:E

Frankly, Scarlett, more than 10 is just showing off >:E >:E
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: Winston Smith on May 22, 2019, 03:11:27 PM
"Maybe I should beg or borrow a DG box and give it a good go, Winston? It's always good to see if one's views turn out to be prejudices, isn't it?"

With me, views and prejudices are often interchangeable!

However, I keep on converting boxes to D/G (as that's what I need) and then don't like the sound, although that could (and probably does) have to do with my amateurish workmanship as much as the screechy notes as I travel up the keyboard. The only one I did like the sound of was an old Hohner which ended up being octave tuned, but it had to go as I was short of readies!
Title: Re: Buying advice for a beginner
Post by: george garside on May 22, 2019, 04:26:15 PM
indeed! and I also forgot to mention that the fingering on a BCC# is much easier than on a BC or CC#

george ;)

Too many buttons >:E

  playing a good tune on a one row 10 button  box   with the necessary faking etc  is definitely showing off!

george >:E ;)

Frankly, Scarlett, more than 10 is just showing off >:E >:E