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Author Topic: Using melodeon influences to improve accordion expression  (Read 7891 times)

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Sandy Flett

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Using melodeon influences to improve accordion expression
« on: August 28, 2010, 01:09:33 PM »

I love playing both melodeon (D/G) and piano accordion. There is no doubt the melodeon is the naturally more expressive instrument (Edit - for rhythmically based genres, like dance music), but I find the accordion wider ranging and more flexible - bass, chords, keys, couplers (stops), range of speeds (very slow to very fast) - and I really do enjoy working on getting the best expression out of it (for the genres of music I play). I find my melodeon playing contributes greatly to this.

Are there many people out there who enjoy playing both accordion and melodeon? Would you say playing melodeon helps you to play the accordion more expressively? Do you find you look for ways to emulate on the accordion the type of expression that comes (almost naturally) through the melodeon's push/pull (which is not natural or very feasible on accordion)?

I find the smaller and lighter the accordion the better for getting into a "swinging groove" (but have compromised on a 3-voice 72-bass to give me the range I want). Also, I find staccato playing helps, and repeating notes to get the rhythmic "huffy bellows" effect (the masters of this on melodeon being Bob Cann, Dan Quinn). Any other techniques, tricks, ideas, thoughts on getting good expression out of the accordion.
« Last Edit: August 28, 2010, 11:38:48 PM by Sandy Flett »
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Sandy Flett

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CBA or PA for capturing "melodeon influences"?
« Reply #1 on: August 28, 2010, 01:28:54 PM »

I have just posted a "melodeon influences" thread on this board. I started off including the following PA/CBA discussion, but felt it was worth airing separately.

Are there any views on whether the CBA with its buttons might have an edge over the PA for "getting closer" to melodeon expression (I am referring to English (quint?) melodeon here, but it may also be relevant to semi-tone melodeons)? Although a life-long PA player, I did spend several years more recently exploring the CBA for this very purpose (and also, I will be honest, because deep down I think buttons do look just that bit cooler). However, I came to the conclusion that it did not make any difference, at least at the level of playing ability to which I seemed to plateau on the CBA.

The most important conclusion from my CBA experimenting was that it was better in my case to put all my effort/time into trying to achieve the best expression on the very familiar PA rather than be distracted by a second, different, system and end up not achieving on either what I was after in the first place. Any similar experiences, or are there success stories of equal competencies on PA and CBA (and melodeon?)?
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Kautilya

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Re: CBA or PA for capturing "melodeon influences"?
« Reply #2 on: August 28, 2010, 01:34:12 PM »

I have just posted a "melodeon influences" thread on this board. I started off including the following PA/CBA discussion, but felt it was worth airing separately.
CBA?
ta.
ahh - am I right in deducing from earlier thread elsewhere a Chromatic Box/Button/Accordion......?
« Last Edit: August 28, 2010, 01:40:34 PM by Kautilya »
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Sandy Flett

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Re: CBA or PA for capturing "melodeon influences"?
« Reply #3 on: August 28, 2010, 01:59:28 PM »

CBA = Continental button accordion -chromatic, unisonoric - eg 5-row, 4-row, ..

Not to be confused with British Chromatic Accordion which is B/C/C# layout.
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HallelujahAl

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Re: CBA or PA for capturing "melodeon influences"?
« Reply #4 on: August 28, 2010, 02:44:57 PM »

I don't think the button model has any edge over the keys frankly - they're different beasties and the bellows movement is mainly what makes the difference and both PA & CBA rely on a completely different type of bellows manipulation to the push-pull system boxes. Having said that, I do think that a smaller PA, like the sort that Sandy Brechin plays, is most advantageous when playing music that demands a certain bounce, as it can be thrown around a bit easier than the 96/120 bass models.

Quote
The most important conclusion from my CBA experimenting was that it was better in my case to put all my effort/time into trying to achieve the best expression on the very familiar PA rather than be distracted by a second, different, system and end up not achieving on either what I was after in the first place. Any similar experiences, or are there success stories of equal competencies on PA and CBA (and melodeon?)?
Agreed! I tried CBA out briefly myself and quickly came to the realisation that I was better off continuing with my PA. Now if I'd started off on the CBA then that's a completely different kettle of fish! And even the great Sir Jimmy Shand was noted for wishing that he'd started out on the CBA rather than melodeon.
AL
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Sandy Flett

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Re: CBA or PA for capturing "melodeon influences"?
« Reply #5 on: August 28, 2010, 03:00:22 PM »

Al - I was pretty sure you would have an input on this, many thanks.

I agree with all you say as well, including "now if we had started off playing CBA ...".

I watched a truly excellent-condition Student VM just like Sandy Brechin's (but lovely grey colour) go for its £125 asking price on eBay last night. I was sorely tempted, but it is just a bit short of a few useful low and high treble notes, and I would want to have the 48 bass reconfigured to run from F# to F, especially for Scottish dance music (I am aware of Sandy's bass work-arounds). Presumably just a tad smaller/lighter would be the Student 40, which loses the outer row of diminished chords, which I have seen Sandy playing in at least one photo on the net. I have another potential solution to small and light PA in mind, but will wait to see how things develop before sharing it.
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HallelujahAl

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Re: CBA or PA for capturing "melodeon influences"?
« Reply #6 on: August 28, 2010, 03:55:37 PM »

Yep, I was tempted on that little grey box as well  ;)
But I already have a little 48 bass to throw around, so... ;D Be interested to see what else it is you come up with?
AL
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Kautilya

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Re: CBA or PA for capturing "melodeon influences"?
« Reply #7 on: August 28, 2010, 05:47:04 PM »

CBA = Continental button accordion -chromatic, unisonoric - eg 5-row, 4-row, ..

Not to be confused with British Chromatic Accordion which is B/C/C# layout.
ta.
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nemethmik

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Re: Using melodeon influences to improve accordion expression
« Reply #8 on: August 28, 2010, 06:01:13 PM »

Are there many people out there who enjoy playing both accordion and melodeon?
I love both my very light CBA and my dozens of melodeons equally well.
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catty

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Re: CBA or PA for capturing "melodeon influences"?
« Reply #9 on: August 28, 2010, 08:44:48 PM »

I'm just now getting back into PA after shunning them the past few years.  Having come to accordians late in life, I found diatonic boxes much easier--and, my first "accordian" was anglo concertina.  Although I love the versatility of PA, I'm not fluid on keys--and even opted to persevere with English concertina.  But after a couple of years, EC is still not intuitive enough for me--I often hit wrong notes due to the cross-hand series of tones.  I learned the few tunes I played on PA on DBA and completely ditched PA.

Now, a couple of years later, a colleague wants me to play some zydeco.  So, out come the PAs again--love that stradella bass and keys for R&B!  And I am fortunate to have acquired a couple of good 48- and 72-bass Hohners when I had the bug initially.

But yes, I too wish I had first been exposed to CBA...I was very close to acquiring one when I was beginning DBA, but went the DBA route instead.  But, if not CBA, then PA will do, no?  ;)
« Last Edit: August 28, 2010, 08:50:42 PM by catty »
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HallelujahAl

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Re: CBA or PA for capturing "melodeon influences"?
« Reply #10 on: August 28, 2010, 08:52:03 PM »

Quote
if not CBA, then PA will do, no? 

LOL! Yes, couldn't agree more. I still find that when leading worship/singing the PA is just a better beastie for getting the job done than melodeon. And the piano bit is a bit like riding a bike - very difficult to forget, and soon comes back no matter how long I leave it. And finally, the confession bit: I very rarely use more than 4 chords on the left hand anyway  :-[
AL
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Sandy Flett

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Re: Using melodeon influences to improve accordion expression
« Reply #11 on: August 29, 2010, 12:47:50 PM »

Miklos - I would be interested to know which small/light CBA you settled for. When I was looking some time back the Cooperativa Perla 300/A seemed about right, including for quality, but pretty expensive. I never got my hands on one, but I did have a Cooperativa Jolly 5-row for a while. However, while it was very compact, incredibly good quality and a lovely sound, it was certainly not light, and because of its depth  (front to back) and roundish design it did not feel particularly anchored to my chest (it would roll a little).
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RGF

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Re: Using melodeon influences to improve accordion expression
« Reply #12 on: August 29, 2010, 03:57:14 PM »

Sandy,

The PA is my main instrument this time around, as it was 50 years ago when I played as a youngster. Then a few years back, I picked up the melodeon and -- partly due to the newness of it, I suppose -- that's what I kind of concentrated on for a little while. Then when I started playing some of those melodeon tunes on the PA, I would occasionally find myself making somewhat automatic but unnecessary bellows reversals at certain points. I liked the effect, and would say that, yes, playing a bit of melodeon has somewhat informed my PA bellows technique, perhaps given the sound a little more animation. (If I may stretch so far as to call what I do "technique"!)

Bob
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Sandy Flett

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Re: Using melodeon influences to improve accordion expression
« Reply #13 on: August 29, 2010, 05:14:38 PM »

Bob - thanks for that. To be able to use the bellows like that I assume you have one of these nice small PAs we all go on about.
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RGF

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Re: Using melodeon influences to improve accordion expression
« Reply #14 on: August 30, 2010, 02:07:36 AM »

My main instrument is a 34/72 3-reed Serenellini (LMM), kind of mid-size, I guess. If I had it to do over, I'd probably opt for a 30/72 (such as the Fantini that Allodi handles) , but it's a minor point, and this one is bought and paid for and tuned to my liking, so.........

Also, I hope I didn't sound like I very much know what I'm doing with it....I'm the rankest of amateurs! It's just kind of interesting to notice how the habit of melodion "bellows jabs" can sneak in and alter the sound of one's PA playing.

Bob

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Chris Ryall

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Re: Using melodeon influences to improve accordion expression
« Reply #15 on: August 30, 2010, 07:11:42 AM »

Don't play PA but have played with quite a few in sessions. IMHO the usual 'faults' seem to be

  • Playing musical phrases totally per right hand against a long single bellows movement, resulting in a rather 'flat' style. Yes the meodeon's compulsory bellows reversals tends to take care of this sort of .. automatically But even players who tend to play long stretches on pull seem to give more texture and expression to the notes.

    There are of course some very good PA players who achieve all of this expression. I suspect the sheer weight of the PA left end has something to do with it.
  • Playing over loud. Yes the PA can do it, but it doesn't have to.
« Last Edit: September 17, 2010, 10:10:20 AM by Chris Ryall »
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nemethmik

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Re: Using melodeon influences to improve accordion expression
« Reply #16 on: August 30, 2010, 09:27:58 AM »

Miklos - I would be interested to know which small/light CBA you settled for. When I was looking some time back the Cooperativa Perla 300/A seemed about right, including for quality, but pretty expensive.
The one I have is about the same size of a Hohner Compadre or (1930) Hohner Victoria and 5 kg, which is quite "light" for a 2-voice, 5-row, 60-bass CBA. Definitely, it is not light when compared to a Hohner Liliput or Hohner Pokerwork.
I tend to play the CBA more and more since I really need to play in different pitches: A, Bb, Eb, D, G, F, C, B, E, and the CBA is terribly convenient for this job.
I think I play the CBA quite like a melodeon: 4-fingers, thumb supporting the edge, basic bass chords (very often just droning the bass), staccato as much as I can.
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Sandy Flett

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Re: Using melodeon influences to improve accordion expression
« Reply #17 on: August 30, 2010, 11:56:57 AM »

I think I play the CBA quite like a melodeon: 4-fingers, thumb supporting the edge, basic bass chords (very often just droning the bass), staccato as much as I can.

When I first started playing CBA I was keen to try it with 4 fingers and my thumb on the edge because, like on the melodeon, it serves as an anchor from which you can reach very accurately and of course the octave reach on a CBA is close enough that you can do this. I also feel the anchored thumb allows you to flick your fingers off the buttons for best stacatto effect. However, perhaps because of my PA background, I found my 4 fingers got in too much of a twist and I ended up using all 5 and getting the benefit of folding the thumb under. I think that this was part of why I went back to the piano accordion, because if I was having to use a "floating hand" anyway I might as well improve that on the PA as I was much more familiar with where all the notes were, fingering etc.

Just out of interest, of the CBA players out there who plays using just the 4 fingers and who thumb as well?
« Last Edit: August 31, 2010, 08:09:26 AM by Sandy Flett »
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Don Roberts

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Re: Using melodeon influences to improve accordion expression
« Reply #18 on: August 31, 2010, 01:34:49 PM »

Regarding CBA, I've been playing the C griff for some months now using four fingers and the thumb. I have found it to be very natural to use the thumb. The C system is a four row.
Also, to ad to my madness, I picked up a B griff three row and have been working with it for about a month. I wanted to experience for myself the differences between the two systems. So far I use four fingers and no thumb. I use the thumb against the button board to steady the accordion while I play.
I have made some progress on the B system but I haven't decided which system works the best for me.
Learning three rows is more difficult without having a duplicate row for sure. Some of the note patterns can be real finger twisters.
I'm determined though to give the B system an equal chance to prove itself.
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george garside

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Re: Using melodeon influences to improve accordion expression
« Reply #19 on: September 01, 2010, 10:40:35 AM »

the  overall effect that can be got out of a melodeon or piano (or continetal0 accordion is  very much down to the skills of the player.  Both can be played 'badly' with eqal aplomb particularly by those who treat the bellows as a bloody great air pump!

To me the bellows on  all boxes  are what the bow is to the fidler  & fine ( but positive) control  means that to some degree either instrument can  be made to sound like the other (piano acc/melodeon) & can by used to smooth the proceedings whilst playing on the row - or on a 1 row~!.   Similarly to some degree the melodeon bounce can be transfered to a piano box to some degree.

However  both ;systems  , whilst related, have functions that they do better than the other, the obvious being the advantages of the piano & continental for those who prefer to persue a classical  route of learning through exams & grades as us push/pullers may have slight difficulties with some right hand chords  in test pieces as we just cannot come & go at the same time!.  However, in my opinion,  for ceilidh band work a simple 2 row DG  8 bass box offers more bounce (& bang) for your buck than any othertype of box

I suppose it all about horses for courses, but it can be fun trying to get the horse round a different course.

george ;)
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