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Author Topic: Chromatic Button Accordion  (Read 1533 times)

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Chris Rayner

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Chromatic Button Accordion
« on: October 01, 2019, 03:33:25 PM »

In May, on my way up to Melodeons In Wensleydale I dropped in at Fairdeal accordions in Brum.  I had been chafing at the limits of two row diatonic instruments.  A couple of years previously I had bought a three row G/C/Acc twelve bass Benny which certainly liberates one from many of the limits, but I still found it difficult, no, hang on, in all honesty, impossible to achieve what I had hoped for.  So I bought this old c-system Hohner.  Two voices, 96 stradella bass.  About £600, he agreed to take it back off me less £70 if I didn’t get on with it.

Since then I have got myself a teacher, and am working resolutely at mastering the thing.  Totally different from a melodeon, but much more flexible musically.  Chromatic, obviously, and stradella allows me to muck about with the circle of fifths which has been a longstanding source of entertainment to me as a guitarist.

Last week I went back to Birmingham to swap the Hohner, together with an eBay purchase of another Hohner for a Paolo Soprani 120 bass four voice accordion.  It is ginormous and weighs a great deal.  Think of strapping yourself to a small car and playing it.  At first I feared that I might have bitten off more than I could chew.  Now, however, I find that with application I can play it for about an hour while seated without collapsing of exhaustion.  Still playing me melodeons, also guitars, but in my Indian summer (I hope) of retirement I have added another instrument to the pile.  Even in your seventies there still appears to be some hope.  Or should that be despair?😉
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Elderly amateur musician hoping to stave off dementia by learning to play the melodeon.  Main instrument a Tommy, also D/G and G/C pokerworks,  a single row 2 stop Hohner, and a new addition to the free reedery, a rather splendid Paolo Soprani four voice 120 bass c-system chromatic button accordion.  Very shiny, very loud, and about the same size and weight as a small car.  Now I’ve traded me Benny with (ahem) a cash adjustment, to a three voice 60 bass Castagnari K3.

mwatersworld

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Re: Chromatic Button Accordion
« Reply #1 on: October 02, 2019, 03:11:30 AM »

Chris - I also picked up the CBA wanting to play music beyond what my diatonic boxes would allow. It's been an interesting (and expensive) journey thus far. I started out with a C system 48 bass Hohner but we just couldn't get along and it sat unused on the shelf for a year during which time I gave up on the idea of a CBA. Then I had a chance to pick up a B system Russian Bayan and somehow it all came together. Since then I've purchased a Moscva 100 bass Bayan, a Swedish Hagstrom 120 bass accordion, and a Roland FX1b.

I enjoy trading back and forth between the various systems depending on my mood and the music I'm engrossed in at the time. I also enjoy playing an Anglo concertina and a Hayden Duet concertina. The main challenge seems to be playing each of these systems often enough so the muscle memory doesn't disappear.

As far as I'm concerned, having fun is the name of the game. As a card carrying dyed in the wool jack of all trades I've never aspired to be particularly 'expert' at any one instrument. As long as I'm having fun and enjoying learning something new I'm happy. If nothing else, after strapping one of those 'small cars' to myself for any length of time it does make me appreciate being able to throw around a diatonic box with relative ease, even a three row!

Mark
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Castagnari Lily DG, Hohner Galaad GC, Hohner Panther GCF, Hohner 1140 D, Hohner HA112 C, Hohner Eb/Bb, Excelsior Organetto G, Moskva Bayan CBA, Morse Beaumont Duet concertina, Concertina Connection Minstrel Anglo.

melodeon

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Re: Chromatic Button Accordion
« Reply #2 on: October 02, 2019, 03:39:07 PM »

Also in my 70s... I have seriously thought about jumping into a chromatic C system accordeon.
What holds me back is my insistence on the best quality in an instrument (and everything else... fewer but better).
The cost of such an instrument in in the 5K plus range. Hence, no accordeon but still the desire.

Best of luck with your chromatic path.
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Chris Rayner

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Re: Chromatic Button Accordion
« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2019, 10:31:21 AM »

If you are willing to compromise on newness and cosmetics then a serviceable CBA may be acquired at a very reasonable price.  Give it a go for a few months, if you take to it then you may be able to trade it in for a more versatile instrument.  I don’t know where you live, but you may be able to get what you seek from https://www.fairdealaccordions.com/button-accordions.html.  He is In Birmingham, near Longbridge.  He plays the c-system CBA and I bought my first and current CBAs from him.  He’s a nice and honest bloke.
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Elderly amateur musician hoping to stave off dementia by learning to play the melodeon.  Main instrument a Tommy, also D/G and G/C pokerworks,  a single row 2 stop Hohner, and a new addition to the free reedery, a rather splendid Paolo Soprani four voice 120 bass c-system chromatic button accordion.  Very shiny, very loud, and about the same size and weight as a small car.  Now I’ve traded me Benny with (ahem) a cash adjustment, to a three voice 60 bass Castagnari K3.

george garside

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Re: Chromatic Button Accordion
« Reply #4 on: October 04, 2019, 01:40:47 PM »

the continental chromatic B or C system is undoubtedly the most sensible  for anyone without piano kyboard experience   but  for those who have and wish to continue  along the 'diatonic' route   it may be worth considering the 'British Chromatic' BCC# box  .  MUch easier to play than a 2 row semitone box and much more versatile than any 4th aprt box (DG etc) .  12 keys can be played using a mere 5 scales  and most have stradella bass so providng bass for all keys  other than on the 12 bass trichord which  nevertheless is a very useful box.      There is a hohner gaelic on ebay at the moment for   £750.    Played seated the  larger BCC# boxes require less energy to play than  does    most DG boxes  as  due to the much larger volume of air in the bellows much less bellows movement is required.

just a thought!

george ;)
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mudchutney

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Re: Chromatic Button Accordion
« Reply #5 on: March 03, 2020, 10:22:43 AM »

If switching from diatonic to chromatic is anything like as hard as I find switching from chromatic to diatonic... I'd say stick with what you know!
As George says, a club accordion might give you the extra that's missing from your two rows, without having to go through the pain of trying to unnecessarily change bellows direction constantly on a box the size of a small car.
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Chris Rayner

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Re: Chromatic Button Accordion
« Reply #6 on: March 03, 2020, 11:07:43 AM »

If switching from diatonic to chromatic is anything like as hard as I find switching from chromatic to diatonic... I'd say stick with what you know!
As George says, a club accordion might give you the extra that's missing from your two rows, without having to go through the pain of trying to unnecessarily change bellows direction constantly on a box the size of a small car.

Hmm, not sure I agree, or perhaps I misunderstand.  I’m well on my way with the CBA now.  And totally sold.  To the extent that I’m neglecting my practice on the fourth apart boxes.  Apart from the gleichton on the inner row, the G/C/Acc box I traded in for my four row 60 bass Castagnari CBA offers pretty much all a club accordion does.  I’m sure in another life, preferably thirty or forty years younger than I am now, I could’ve made a fist of it, but I didn’t, and I really did try.

Not sure I follow the unnecessary bellows changes you mention.  This is only an issue with diatonics.  They are much lighter than CBAs and so weigh no more than a kiddy’s scooter.  So long as they haven’t been expanded to carry three or four voices and umpteen basses.  But even a Shand Morino is middleweight by comparison with a full strength 120 bass CBA.  One of the pleasures, to my mind, of playing the CBA is that you don’t have to be continually operating the air button.  In fact, you can’t, unless you’re playing high up on the left hand side deep into weird flat keys.
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Elderly amateur musician hoping to stave off dementia by learning to play the melodeon.  Main instrument a Tommy, also D/G and G/C pokerworks,  a single row 2 stop Hohner, and a new addition to the free reedery, a rather splendid Paolo Soprani four voice 120 bass c-system chromatic button accordion.  Very shiny, very loud, and about the same size and weight as a small car.  Now I’ve traded me Benny with (ahem) a cash adjustment, to a three voice 60 bass Castagnari K3.

Chris Ryall

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Re: Chromatic Button Accordion
« Reply #7 on: March 06, 2020, 12:00:13 PM »

Massively better for

1. playing in any key.  Same fingering any key if a 5 row extend!
2. Blues and jazz stuff.  To alter any note by a semitone … just move the finger a row
3. Sheer POWER

Worse for

1. Most rhythm stuff, due to the sheer weight of the ends, and those large bellows. It is easy to sound like a piano accordionist.

Good players, eg John K and George of this parish keep the rhythm element alive, but I personally subscribe to John's theory that melodeon is basically a percussion instrument  ;)
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RogerT

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Re: Chromatic Button Accordion
« Reply #8 on: March 06, 2020, 03:19:54 PM »

If you want an affordable CBA that is the same size as a Hohner Bravo 72 bass/34 PA, the Nova is the instrument to look out for. In PA world the full sized modern accordions (120 bass/41 keys) tend to be big and heavy (older instruments tend to be lighter in construction). However the optimum PA size is the 34 key 72 bass (although 80 bass is better). CBAs tend to mimic this sizing. There is even a little Nova ll, with three rows of buttons (rather than 5) and 48 Stradella bass (same size as a 26 key Hohner Student or Bravo) which is a good place to start because you can get to grips with the CBA button layout but on a smaller instrument. CBAs also come with freebass too, but that's another story. I like the Stradella system but it takes a fair few hours of work to get to grips with it. A mirror comes in handy to start with. Pete at Acorn does do compact Castagnari CBAs, lovely instruments, but with a Casta price tag, natch.
« Last Edit: March 06, 2020, 03:22:39 PM by RogerT »
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george garside

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Re: Chromatic Button Accordion
« Reply #9 on: March 07, 2020, 10:11:36 AM »

there is absolutely no reason why you can't play both 2 row ''melodeon'' and 5 row continental chromatic aand as has been mentioned I is easier for a melodeonist to add aa continental chromatic than for a continental chromatic ( or piano box playr) to add a diatonic.    The continental is dead easy to get the hang of  particularly is you are content to use just one scale fi;ngering for 12 keys. (learning 3 scale fingerings is however preferable)

However those who prefer to stay  diatonic  chromati;c with decent bass the British Chromatic  (BCC#) is  not unduly didfficult  to get the hang of  and provides more of a semse of satisfaction than the continental chromatic.


george
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Chris Rayner

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Re: Chromatic Button Accordion
« Reply #10 on: March 07, 2020, 11:14:11 AM »

What George said. 🙂

Not sure what Chris means about rhythm.  Certainly the CBA doesn’t have the built in rumpty-tumpty of a melodeon played along the row.  The bellows technique is entirely different, and, for me at any rate, the most difficult adaptation moving between the instruments.  My teacher gets quite irritated by my tendency to hold down the stradella buttons too long, particularly in 3/4 time. (OOOOM pah pah).  So you have to develop the rhythmic use of bass buttons.  Different, but not difficult.  And of course, the rhythmic playing of the tune.

Must say I’m getting a lot of fun out of mine.🙂
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Elderly amateur musician hoping to stave off dementia by learning to play the melodeon.  Main instrument a Tommy, also D/G and G/C pokerworks,  a single row 2 stop Hohner, and a new addition to the free reedery, a rather splendid Paolo Soprani four voice 120 bass c-system chromatic button accordion.  Very shiny, very loud, and about the same size and weight as a small car.  Now I’ve traded me Benny with (ahem) a cash adjustment, to a three voice 60 bass Castagnari K3.

george garside

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Re: Chromatic Button Accordion
« Reply #11 on: March 07, 2020, 09:09:13 PM »

the easy way to avoid bass 'mush' is to tap the buttons lightly lifting the fingers entirely clear of the buttons between strikes. The higher the finger is lifted  the shorter the bass note/chord.  It is then easy to play lagato bass on the few occasions where it best suits a tune.  i.e staccato as the norm and legato to special order!

As to OOM pa pa I disagree  as playing with the emphasis on the OOM or UM rather than the Pa or pa pa provides the opposite of 'lift' for the dancers.   The dancers land naturally on the 'um' without any assistanace as the buggers can't hover!  The job of the musicians is to provide the 'lift' to get them into the air again  and putting the emphasis on the pa's does exactly this.  i.e a short um ( for landing) an a long 'pa' to assist take off!

george
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Chris Rayner

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Re: Chromatic Button Accordion
« Reply #12 on: March 08, 2020, 11:11:55 AM »

I think I am in complete agreement with you, George.  Although my primary purpose in playing the accordion is my own amusement rather than as a dance accompanist.  It amuses me to play 19th century operatic tunes, the Waltz from the Merry Widow and La Donna e Mobile are two where there is a temptation to play a ginormous OOOM on the first beat.  I haven’t tried the Brindisi from La Traviata, but I will soon.🙂
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Elderly amateur musician hoping to stave off dementia by learning to play the melodeon.  Main instrument a Tommy, also D/G and G/C pokerworks,  a single row 2 stop Hohner, and a new addition to the free reedery, a rather splendid Paolo Soprani four voice 120 bass c-system chromatic button accordion.  Very shiny, very loud, and about the same size and weight as a small car.  Now I’ve traded me Benny with (ahem) a cash adjustment, to a three voice 60 bass Castagnari K3.

mudchutney

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Re: Chromatic Button Accordion
« Reply #13 on: March 25, 2020, 07:31:41 AM »

Loving all the technical terminology on this thread: rumpty-tumpty, OOOM vs UM etc.

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george garside

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Re: Chromatic Button Accordion
« Reply #14 on: April 01, 2020, 12:17:53 AM »

one advantage of 5 row continental boxes not mentioned is their ready availability in electronic form.  If ever I have to move into a so called 'retirement flat'  a small electronic 5 row  would enable playing without  upsetting the neigbours either side and above and below!  Abut the eating l Streb  would f course be even better  byt the waiting list may be too long if ever I have to move into such a ?dwelling!

george
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Dick Rees

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Re: Chromatic Button Accordion
« Reply #15 on: April 01, 2020, 12:21:38 AM »

one advantage of 5 row continental boxes not mentioned is their ready availability in electronic form.  If ever I have to move into a so called 'retirement flat'  a small electronic 5 row  would enable playing without  upsetting the neigbours either side and above and below!  Abut the eating l Streb  would f course be even better  byt the waiting list may be too long if ever I have to move into such a ?dwelling!

george

George...

I found out the hard way that it wasn't the accordion that upset the other residents.  It was the foot tapping...
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george garside

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Re: Chromatic Button Accordion
« Reply #16 on: April 01, 2020, 11:56:27 PM »

Jimmy Shand as a young man long before he became famous lived in lodgings in a tenement block in Dundee and often played his box on the balcony.
The neighbours told his landlady that they liked to listen to him playing but weren't   keen on 'yon drum'
This was sorted by providing him with a cushion to put on the floor beneath his time keeping foot!

Might be worth a try Dick!

george
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