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Author Topic: Should I learn the bandoneon or the melodeon?  (Read 2509 times)

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Thomas Horwath

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Should I learn the bandoneon or the melodeon?
« on: September 10, 2018, 08:32:00 PM »

This post is kind of a ramble. Feel free to read as much or little of it as you want.

Hello all! I am a hobbyist pianist in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA. Thank you for letting me post on your forum!

For a couple reasons, I am interested in picking up a new instrument – in particular, an instrument that would enable a solo “busking” performance. Some kind of button accordion seems just esoteric enough to be a perfect fit for me.

Through my experiments playing tango piano, I have become aware of the bandoneon. I adore the way it sounds! Right now there is no one who plays that instrument for a hundred miles around me. It’s great as a “busking” instrument, as Klaus Gutjahr demonstrates here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMmKNVSfv1k

Of course, the bandoneon is also used in tango ensembles:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cDE2DMVURyc

However, I am weary of spending an eternity to learn such a punishing instrument. As you all may know, the bandoneon has a more or less random keyboard layout in the left hand when opened, a DIFFERENT random layout in the right hand when opened, and TWO MORE random layouts when the instrument is closed. Surely, there must be a better way!

Enter the melodeon. I recently saw this video of Patricia Pereira performing a composition by Stephane Delicq on a 2.5-row Castagnari, and I fell in love with her playing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tw8Ac06BWas

Surely, this is the answer to all my prayers! An instrument with a simple left hand, that lets me focus on quickly building a repertoire? And it sounds similar to a bandoneon? Not only that, but there’s a whole wealth of great-but-relatively-unknown songs by Stephane Delicq, perfect for soloists, and ready for me to introduce to my city? I was convinced this would be the instrument for me.

But then I started to think about the limitations of the melodeon. Consider tango. If I tried to play tango songs with other people, they would have to match their key to me. What’s more, there are so few buttons, it may be impossible to play many tango songs. For instance, the song "Por Una Cabeza" has a "trio" section after 16 counts in which three flats are added to the key signature, meaning the following chords are necessary:

A+, A-, E+, E-, D+, D-, B+, F+, C+

Surely, no melodeon can play so many different left hand chords, correct? Unless I get a melodeon with a million extra buttons. At that point it would just make more sense to learn the bandoneon instead!

The question of bandoneon or melodeon seems like a question of goals. Do I just want to put together a great solo performance as quickly as possible? Do I want to bring a new type of undiscovered music to my city? Then I should learn the melodeon. On the other hand, do I want to be able to play the compositions of Astor Piazolla? Or play in a tango dance band? Do I not want to be limited to certain notes and keys? Then I should learn bandoneon.

I understand this is a decision only I can make, but I would still appreciate any thoughts or advice. Thanks a lot!
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Winston Smith

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Re: Should I learn the bandoneon or the melodeon?
« Reply #1 on: September 10, 2018, 09:30:43 PM »

Obviously, I'd go for the melodeon. Primarily because you can pick up a serviceable one very cheaply, but equally important for me; they're very easy to get a tune out of straight away! These two facts make for great fun on a budget. I've done some busking, but not to be serious, like bringing a new genre to whereabouts I live, rather to get passing-by folk to dig into their pockets for a good cause whilst I thoroughly enjoy myself.
The bandoneon looks like a big nasty thing to get a tune out of, too much application for someone without dedication; like me.
It all depends on what sort of person you are!
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Richard Shaul

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Re: Should I learn the bandoneon or the melodeon?
« Reply #2 on: September 10, 2018, 09:51:51 PM »

Hello Thomas, by A+, A- etc do you mean major and minor? If so, many melodeons will have a stop to remove the 3rds from the chords, making them useable as either a major or minor. Then you would have all those chords except the F on a standard D/G melodeon
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Andrius

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Re: Should I learn the bandoneon or the melodeon?
« Reply #3 on: September 10, 2018, 10:05:23 PM »

I am playing both instruments - bandoneon and melodeon about 30 years. Yes, bandoneon has more possibilities, but it is really difficult instrument. I am still learning, because 30 years was  not enough to reach level like talents on youtube. But one man from Holland played Bach's 3 voice inventions on bandoneon after one year of learning. When i asked him how much he plays, his answer was "Two days a year - on Christmas and New Years day I was playing a little - only hour or two; all other days - much more..."
I wasn't playing every day, so my level is something about middle.
May be my answer will be strange - I think you need piano or button accordion with LM (bandoneon) register between others.
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Tone Dumb Greg

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Re: Should I learn the bandoneon or the melodeon?
« Reply #4 on: September 10, 2018, 11:08:47 PM »

On my 12 bass Saltarelle (basses are G/D C/C D/A B/Em A/G F#m/F) removing thirds would give you compatibility with all the chords you list or, you could just play bass notes
or, you could make up minor 7th chords  with the root bass and the major chord two tones down or, you could play right hand chords
or, you could have 12 unisnoric bass notes and make up your own chords or, you could adopt some or all of these solutions depending on the situation
or, you could take up the PA (:) or, the CBA or, you could cart round a trolley load of boxes or, you could get a Handry (18 basses)
« Last Edit: September 10, 2018, 11:14:43 PM by Tone Dumb Greg »
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deltasalmon

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Re: Should I learn the bandoneon or the melodeon?
« Reply #5 on: September 11, 2018, 10:45:45 AM »

Keep in mind that asking about melodeon vs bandoneon on a melodeon forum might result in slightly biased responses
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Sean McGinnis
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Re: Should I learn the bandoneon or the melodeon?
« Reply #6 on: September 11, 2018, 11:12:40 AM »

Keep in mind that asking about melodeon vs bandoneon on a melodeon forum might result in slightly biased responses

I love melodeon and bandoneon too, and don't love PA or CBA, but this is no reason to forget they exists  (:)
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Thomas Horwath

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Re: Should I learn the bandoneon or the melodeon?
« Reply #7 on: September 11, 2018, 11:50:14 AM »

Thank you all for the responses! There are some really interesting thoughts.

Those of you suggesting PA are pretty keen! I guess I've shied away from that possibility in part because this city already has a bunch of talented PA players, including a few who sometimes show up to my weekly tango music jam.

I had considered the possibility of removing the thirds, but it just doesn't seem very satisfying. The thirds at the key changes are the ones that I most want to play, in order to communicate the key changes!

The bandoneon does have a few silver linings:
1. Many tango performers only play on the opening, not the closing, so you don't need to learn the closing notes right away
2. If you are playing in a group, the left hand is less essential
3. I know of a great instructor who will teach me bando over skype, and I also know a person in my city looking to sell his bando at a good price

But even still, I think I will try the melodeon instead. The fact is simply that I am excited to learn these Stephane Delicq songs, which is more than I can say about learning tango songs on the bandoneon. I can still play those tango songs that don't have trio sections on solo melodeon (this includes Pregonera and Cumparsita, at a minimum). And if I make a semi-professional tango group, perhaps one of the PA players I know will be interested in being involved. I can keep the bandoneon in mind as a long term goal.

It seems weird to plan to learn two different difficult instruments, but I think it's correct not to use the wrong "tool" for the job.

I'll also consider making a custom melodeon for tango, as some have suggested, but I think I'll start learning with a standard 2-row fourth apart melodeon. I'll contact "The Button Box" store in Massachusetts to see what they have! I'll also check these forums and eBay.

Speaking of which, I noticed this deal on eBay:

https://m.ebay.com/itm/Saltarelle-Le-Bouebe-2-Row-8-Bass-21-Treble-Button-G-C-Diatonic-Accordion-w-Case/323371012309?hash=item4b4a6a10d5:g:CWQAAOSwfLpbkSWZ

While seemingly a great deal, that Bouebe does not seem to have the kind of reed configuration I am looking for. It sounds too "wet." (Am I using that term correctly?) Instead, I want an instrument that will produce this kind of sound:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=LnLJxbcr7yo

Can anyone help me identify what kind of reeds I would need to replicate that sound?
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deltasalmon

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Re: Should I learn the bandoneon or the melodeon?
« Reply #8 on: September 11, 2018, 12:23:15 PM »

Have you considered a concertina at all? A duet concertina will allow you to play melodies with the right hand, make your own chords with the left hand, and both sides are the same note regardless of opening or closing the bellows.

I'm not familiar with other layouts, but the Wicki-Hayden layout lends itself to being chromatic as there are chord and scale patterns that can be shifted to play the same pattern but in a different key.
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Sean McGinnis
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arty

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Re: Should I learn the bandoneon or the melodeon?
« Reply #9 on: September 11, 2018, 12:33:29 PM »

Interesting thread.....I too love the music of Stéphane Delicq and, frankly, could easily play nothing else! There is a lot of magic in his tunes. Did you know there is a Facebook page for Stéphane, run by his daughter Marie. She has just produced a book containing the sheet music and tabs for about 18 of his tunes. It is well worth having!
I just wanted to share my experience. I have two Castagnari Instruments, one is a Laura G/C and the other is a Dony G/C both with the standard ‘swing’ Castagnari sound.
The Laura is a simple two row instrument with accidentals and a thirds stop on the bass side. It is absolutely perfect for playing Stéphane’s music - sounds absolutely right.
The Dony, on the other hand, doesn’t sound right at all. The sound coming from the Dony is much brighter than the Laura and it doesn’t seem to suit the music at all. The sound of the Laura is softer, more earthy. Yet, both boxes are from the same maker, both are two voice and, I presume, have the same type of reeds.
I remember someone on this site telling me that the Laura was the nearest instrument I could buy to that played by Stéphane. That is the reason I got it. I love it.
Also, you must remember that Stéphane played several different boxes. You provide a link at the end of your last post, saying ‘I want an instrument that will produce this kind of sound’. I think on this particular track, Stéphane is playing an instrument tuned D/G but an octave lower than what is played by many on this site. Do you really want this?
My advice, If you want to play and do justice to Stéphane Delicq’s music, then get a G/C Castagnari 2 row model with accidentals. (Make sure that one of those accidentals is a G# on the push, as you will use that a lot.) It is not necessary to have the thirds stop on the bass, because all of Stéphane’s music is played with the thirds in. If you have an instrument like this, you will be able to play almost all of the Delicq repertoire. There are just two or three tunes that require a three row instrument.
Good luck and enjoy!
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Re: Should I learn the bandoneon or the melodeon?
« Reply #10 on: September 11, 2018, 12:59:22 PM »

Speaking of which, I noticed this deal on eBay:

https://m.ebay.com/itm/Saltarelle-Le-Bouebe-2-Row-8-Bass-21-Treble-Button-G-C-Diatonic-Accordion-w-Case/323371012309?hash=item4b4a6a10d5:g:CWQAAOSwfLpbkSWZ

While seemingly a great deal, that Bouebe does not seem to have the kind of reed configuration I am looking for. It sounds too "wet." (Am I using that term correctly?) Instead, I want an instrument that will produce this kind of sound:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=LnLJxbcr7yo

Can anyone help me identify what kind of reeds I would need to replicate that sound?
The Bouebe is a great starter box and this one looks to be in good condition apart from the few scratches and dings on the casework - they are minor and only detract slightly from the cosmetic look of the instrument.

The reeds on that particular instrument are tuned to a moderate swing - not ever so wet, but on the Stephane Delicq recording you linked to, his box is tuned with much less tremolo - nearly dry. The Bouebe can easily be altered to that sort of near-dryness and because it is a G/C box, it should sound great - no need for different reeds to be installed. The people at the Button Box should be able to do this for you.
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Roger Howard

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Re: Should I learn the bandoneon or the melodeon?
« Reply #11 on: September 11, 2018, 01:32:31 PM »

I want an instrument that will produce this kind of sound:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=LnLJxbcr7yo

Can anyone help me identify what kind of reeds I would need to replicate that sound?

How many of us wish we could sound like Stéphane! But I'd have thought any good dryish tuned LMM box in GC would be a decent approximation. As has been said Stéphane played several different instruments, sometimes, I think, in CF. There are partitions available on the web, as well as from Marie,which provide excellent starting points.

Enjoy!  (:)

PS if you want to hear some wonderful bandoneón playing, listen to the Tango prom in BBC iPlayer.  A fabulous evening.
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fc diato

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Re: Should I learn the bandoneon or the melodeon?
« Reply #12 on: September 11, 2018, 02:18:58 PM »

The Bouebe is a fine little box (you can find all sorts of Youtubes of people playing it). My guess is that you will grow out of it - given your goals - but at least it would allow you to determine whether melodeon is the instrument for you without breaking the bank.  I think Delicq played mostly Castagnaris, considerably pricier (and warmer sounding). Once you find your way around, and decide you're in for the lone haul, you might want to switch to differently configured boxes.  If you look up Serafini Darwin on this forum, for example, you'll find a bass side that works differently, and might give you the greater flexibility you want for tango.
From what I figure, tango on melodeon is limited, though.  That said, here's a rendition of Libertango you might like (it takes 2 melodeons, though!) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EizI4Ia3LfQ

good luck.
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Chris Rayner

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Re: Should I learn the bandoneon or the melodeon?
« Reply #13 on: September 11, 2018, 02:25:59 PM »

Have you considered a chromatic button accordion?  With fully chromatic right hand and stradella bass you should be able to cope with most modulations and harmonies.
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Roger Howard

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Re: Should I learn the bandoneon or the melodeon?
« Reply #14 on: September 11, 2018, 03:34:37 PM »

Indeed, there's much to be said for Darwin from Marc Serafini.  ;)

R
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Gena Crisman

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Re: Should I learn the bandoneon or the melodeon?
« Reply #15 on: September 11, 2018, 04:40:35 PM »

But then I started to think about the limitations of the melodeon. Consider tango. If I tried to play tango songs with other people, they would have to match their key to me. What’s more, there are so few buttons, it may be impossible to play many tango songs. For instance, the song "Por Una Cabeza" has a "trio" section after 16 counts in which three flats are added to the key signature

Ah, Por Una Cabeza... so, with the key modulation, I believe that this tune modulates not so much from n major to n + 3 flats major, but, from the major to the minor of the same tonic, so, eg G major to G minor. While that's good news if you have a thirds stop, you may still find yourself struggling with absent or inconvenient accidentals for this tune, though with a 2.5 row instrument such as used by Patricia Pereira perhaps you would be ok. I'm sure there will always be other tunes that will do something awkward, but for arbitrary reasons this is a tune I would myself very much like to play and on my current stopless instrument, I think I have no chance.

One thing to remember is that, when playing with other people in specifically an ensemble performance of a more complicated or arranged piece, it's not just a bunch of people getting together and playing all the same notes. You don't expect a fiddle player to play chords, you (probably) don't expect the bass player to handle the solo - you don't have to be able to do everything on whichever instrument you choose. But, when you're looking at an instrument to learn, it does feel that way sometimes. This do-it-all perspective also discounts that sometimes, certain instruments do not seem to sympathetically meld with any existing predisposition that you may have as a player. It also discounts something else: sometimes the way that single buttons voice those chords just isn't right for the tune - there are low register instruments which are much better suited to providing exciting chord progressions and feelings that a fixed voicing simply can't, and a player may be asked not to compete with those instruments.

At the same time, knowing that there is music I can basically never play on my own on my chosen 2 row 8 bass does hurt a little bit, but I bandage over that with knowing what I can achieve with it with the tunes that it is just the right thing for. Though you say it would be unsatisfying, consider that with a thirds stop especially, but also a low bass notes stop, do have often ways to 'fall into' and be a part of many chords outside of your named basses without having them fully as individual buttons. You can still often be a part of many of those chords, and as a soloist, you can occasionally find a compromise around these concerns because the harmony is whatever you decide that it is - you're the performer, afterall. Or, you can get even go so far as a 3 row 18 bass bass instrument - see the 18 bass Castagnari Benny or Handry, or a stradella can work too, and if you choose to master those instruments, you can probably play just about anything that you're likely to encounter.

I would like to add, however, that Bandoneons are really cool.
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Andrius

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Re: Should I learn the bandoneon or the melodeon?
« Reply #16 on: September 11, 2018, 09:41:37 PM »

First wish was bandoneon sound. It means you must look for "bandoneon tuned" or LM melodeon; or LMM with switches that has LM register possible. May be something like this on Acorn with additional chords and melody sounds.
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catty

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Re: Should I learn the bandoneon or the melodeon?
« Reply #17 on: September 11, 2018, 10:16:26 PM »

I'm attracted to bndn and tango too.  But if it's busking you want, it's hard to beat melodeon - basses are easier to operate in the cold than smaller buttons, and the inherently rhythmic music it pumps out is a crowd pleaser.

I enjoy playing Delicq and musette music - folks generally love it.  However the one thing I find most off-putting is the constant rhythmic meter.  The antidote I've found is a bunch of Latin forms; I don't play tangos but the DBA is eminent in a whole bunch of other forms - Argentinaian chamame being among my favorite.  For me, despite its minimal bass capacity it's a great and easy way to do satie and syncopation.  Otherwise, I need stradella bass.

If I were starting box afresh I'd choose CBA.  But DBAs were cheap, so that was it!


*although, I came at it from irish/scots trad, so I guess it was a no-brainer for me.
« Last Edit: September 11, 2018, 10:20:40 PM by catty »
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Tone Dumb Greg

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Re: Should I learn the bandoneon or the melodeon?
« Reply #18 on: September 11, 2018, 11:30:30 PM »


If I were starting box afresh I'd choose CBA.  But DBAs were cheap, so that was it!


While I wouldn't go so far as to play a CBA myself, I would let my daughter marry a player of one. While many bore the pants off me I have heard a few player/instrument partnerships  that sound great.
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Re: Should I learn the bandoneon or the melodeon?
« Reply #19 on: September 12, 2018, 04:53:31 AM »

My two cents:  I'm not sure why you are particularly interested in playing tango music when it comes to busking?  The obvious instrument - for you, as an experienced piano player - would be the piano accordion.  It's why that appallingly un-ergonomic instrument was invented! You can certainly play tango music successfully on a PA.

I suspect that you may find, if you listen to more melodeon music, that there are many types of music that will come to appeal to you ... & possibly rather different from your starting point. I know nothing about playing the bandoneon, however I can tell you that the melodeon is a cunningly designed instrument, capable of a lot with a little, & it is a relatively easy instrument to start producing acceptable-sounding tunes on.
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