Piano accordion as an instrument within Traditional Irish Music
I mean..Come on!!!!
You know the definition of perfect pitch……
…without hitting the sides?
Can be anywhere from a session-breaker to a revelation, depending on the player. If this isn’t a troll like post and you are a player, remember that it’s a physically large instrument with a bad reputation. Play it laid back. OTOH, if you’re afraid to use your left hand properly for Trad, you’re probably better off playing something else. This is controversial, but in the hands of a good player, the left hand is where a piano accordion has a real advantage for ITM.
Obvious trolling. Seems to be a lot of this going here lately…
Martin Tourish is great.
As is Karen Tweed and Alan Kelly. But let´s stop this before it gets out of hand, shall we?
Whenever i post, it gets out of hand. I’ll return to what I was doing.
I’ve never minded a P/A in ITM if they play it well. And as long they stay clear of those bass notes.
One of my favourite P/A players is Colette O’Leary from the Long notes and Previously from the Bumble Bees. She doesn’t trash the music and gives it the respect it deserves.
I’ve heard great playing come out of a piano accordion, but you really don’t want to sit to the left of them, it’s like sitting in front of a horde of tubas.
" .. a horde of Tubas." What a great image Jon:
But seriously though, I’m afraid that once again, the answer to this question is simply that there are NO bad instruments …… only bad players! So, of course, the PA is a brilliant "instrument within Traditional Irish Music" but like all other instruments …… only in the right hands.
…a tangle of tubas.
and a flock of flutes.
a gaggle of guitars, and a murder of bodhrans.
"…like sitting in front of a horde of tubas…"
At a local session, I periodically find myself between a piano accordion, a hurdy-gurdy and Border pipes (I am three-sided…).
It’s like being in the cab of The Flying Scotsman at full speed along with a tropical hornet colony and the Battle of Prestonpans.
Great session, actually! And I definitely like the PA for its oomph, if it’s played sensitively - which doesn’t mean there aren’t times when it can fairly let rip.
…a hurl of hurdy-gurdys
a plucking clatter of harps
…and a thrash of guitars, surely?
ha. good one.
gotta be a haggle of harps hasn’t it?
There are so many good PA players in ITM that this question is absolutely redundant.
.. isn’t it a Piste of Harps?
Nah, that’s the players.
A p*ss*d of Harpists.
Jeez, get it right man.
It wasn’t a troll, just interested in people’s responses. I’m normally of the opinion that there are no bad instruments, just bad musicians. But I do believe the piano accordion is not suited to ITM; the reason being twofold. Firstly I don’t believe that there is any range of timbre on the individual voices. So no matter how loud or soft you play, the ‘sound’ of the note is always the same. When I hear a piano accordion it always makes me think of those 1980s cheap nasty MIDI keyboards playing back music.
Secondly, it’s the way most people play it. Because the instrument is fully chromatic, you don’t have to change the direction of the bellow movement anywhere near as much as you would on a button accordion. This strips away a lot of the phrasing, and makes most of the music sound bland.
Plus it’s big, awkward and ugly.
A Clamber of dulcimers, a Bunker of banjos, a Diddle of fiddles, and not forgetting, of course, the Clique of spoons.
i just dont like the sound, no matter how good or bad a player is. is doesn’t blend like other instruments IMO.
fiddleruairi, shouldn’t u be busy studying?
There’s a young bloke called Ben who dropped in on our session the other week who is an absolutely bloody brilliant piano accordion player. He used to play in a band in the Edinburgh area, the name of which now escapes me. Well said, Ptarmigan! We all have these jokes about instruments but we all recognise that we never mean them. Except for bodhrans, naturally. There are no jokes about them.
Bodhrans are too thin-skinned?
oh, how little you know me skip ;) lol.
skip, shouldn’t you be practising? lol. i dont mean to be obnoxious but…check…mate! lol
bodhrans are chick magnets aren’t they?
O that’s right, you’ve finished and are in the real world now. I look forward to joining you someday.
I used to practise, but then I got too good, so I gave it up.
Never heard the piano accordian used well to play Irish traditional music. I would hate to see a talented child waste their time taking it up when there are far better suited instruments to play.
What’s wrong with Mr Foster on his PA?
Ha! That’s hysterical!
Cool discussion and there are a few arguments either way for it.
One argument against its usage is that it uses the 12-tone equal temperament of "modern" music. The disappearance of the older temperaments and microtonal aspects of the genre were lamented early in the 1900’s by Dr. Richard Henebry. This would have been more due to the piano initially but then of course the piano accordion uses 12-TET and at fast speeds it’s hard to use micro-tonal elements. But then that loosely applies to the button accordion also. (It depends how subtle you want to go)
In terms of phrasing (which someone mentioned comparing it as not as good as the PA), you’re actually talking about articulation I think. As the bellows on a BA change depending on the note required, the bellows change many times within a phrase which can often cut it up unless played by one of the greats; Dermot Byrne for example. Also, it is possible to get this articulation on the PA, it’s just quite rare to hear. Jimmy Keane maybe… So the point there is that phrasing is a mental stylistic trait not a mechanical one.
In terms of the argument in relation to timbre, on a subtle level, timbral differences are possible and on a bigger level they are also due to couplers. However this is also true of the button accordion. The only trad instrument with real dynamic timbral possibilities is the fiddle but then the full range of them is rarely used since the days of Frank and Con Cassidy. Perhaps the only exception is the amazing track by Eoghan Neff: http://www.myspace.com/eclock It is however possible for the PA amongst other instruments to explore timbral changes through the use of live electronics. - That doesn’t mean a techno beat btw!
Well I hope that adds in some way. I’m not trying to argue either way - perhaps it is unsuitable for ITM. The way I get around it is that I don’t play ITM; too much fantastic bagage and unsound ideas to want to fit in there!
Worrying about temperament is a red herring. Other fixed-pitch instruments have little or no control over microtonal aspects of the "genre." Every instrument has its pros and cons whether it’s a matter of fine-tuning, volume, timbre or availability to it or not of the whole gamut of ornamentation. What it comes down to is the spirit, the skill, the listening and the depth of understanding of the person playing it. Take a great player of the instrument and all these relatively minor issues are swept away.
As a banjo-player (there, my credability is shot already) the fiddle is definately king, with pipes, whistle, flute and button-row accordian very close behind. All else depend on the skill of the player to make them work within the ITM idiom. My problem with the PA is as detailed previously, it can be bland when in the wrong hands, but having heard the Long Notes recently Collette O’Leary does’nt fall into that category. Diarmuid
There are many great players of the PA. I think you need to examine Irish music a bit closer. Ever heard of Bohola?
Jimmy Keane is a great player.
The PA also gives Irish stepdancing that signature sound. I don’t think that will be replaced anytime soon.
<John Cleese Vx> Is this the place for a gross generalization? </Vx>
Thanks for that link, Aiki. That’s absolutely brilliant. Is any further counterexample needed?
I gather the PA might have been real bugger when your too broke to afford one and/or having to move your family to the opposite side of the street, back in the days of olde.
Of course I certainly don’t agree with the oppression put upon the Irish and other unfortunate woes.
But Hey, Knock-knock:
Welcome to the 21 century skippy.
Yes how right you are, this link proves how sh!te Piano accordions are within Irish traditional music:
I’m so glad you have taken the trouble to stick your head above the parapet on this, to stand up and be counted. Yes just to stand up erect like a p….. and ejaculate anything that Comes to mind. You obviously have a lot of balls.
Aw bugger, Danny. The beautiful Tweed, the world’s most gorgeous woman! I hope you read this, Karen, I bought yer book in 1996ish and you drew me a luvly cartoon of yerself squeezin’… Brilliant, brilliant link there, Danny. One click of the mouse wipes out all them gobsh*tes above… 😀
Great video Danny… both players are brilliant.
I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing the machine that is Gerry Conlon at many a dance competition. He’d play for the dancing from 8 in the morning till 8 or 9 at night… then it’s straight to the bar untill 4 or 5 in the morning. I’ve seen him do this 4 days straight and still be able to walk… epic!
I just have to mention that the dynamic range (variability of loudness) of a well-played accordion is such that some professional organ players commented that Bach’s organ pieces, monumentality aside, actually sound better on the PA. Even a single, uninterrupted tone, can go through fantastic transformations in the hands of a "bellow-master", and I think that even ITM, especially the emotionally-charged tunes, can benefit from that…
Anyone that thinks the piano accordion is not suitable for Irish traditional music should visit Leeds.
And watch this video as well:
"Yes how right you are, this link proves how sh!te Piano accordions are within Irish traditional music:"
He, he, I couldn’t agree more! 🙂
I still think it’s incapable of playing ITM at any decent level of expression. Don’t really buy into the issue of 12-TET, since all of us of this age are so used to hearing melodic instruments with this pitch system playing Irish music. None of us prelate the advent of piano vamping as a form of accompaniment within trad, so it’s an interesting, but outdated point. I find Henebry’s writing on intonation on fiddle much more interesting and relevant.
Yeah, you can ‘push a button’ and make the voices change, thus affecting the timbre, but that isn’t what I was talking about. There’s no timbral range within an individual voice, which strips it of so many musical possibilities. This isn’t the same with button box, particularly poalo sopranis; wide range of timbre within Tony McMahon’s playing. Oh, and there are many many fiddle players that use the dynamic and timbral range of the instrument; not just Con and Frank Cassidy - to say they were the only ones would be false.
Technical limitations of an instrument are usually key to creating a ‘voice’ or stylistic way of playing the instrument within a genre. The necessity of changing bellow directions within a phrase on a Button Accordion being one example. Very rare to here a fiddle player do a roll on the A above middle C; although possible it’s more arse ache than it’s worth, so that too becomes a stylistic element influenced by technical specifics. I think the lack of necessity to change the bellows makes most players really lazy about phrasing, making their playing REALLY boring.
Lord Gordon made a good point about not inflicting this beast onto a child growing up within the music. Aside from it’s expressive limitations, you would be condemning the poor little s hit to a lifetime of back ache and ridicule. Anyone caught doing so should be reported directly to Ester Rantzen!
nice mixture of instruments, what looks like 3 piano accordions, two banjos and a bodhran. wonderful. lol
"Anyone that thinks the piano accordion is not suitable for Irish traditional music should visit Leeds."
Ha! That’s like sending someone with an ear infection to see a chiropodist!
3 piano accordions, two banjos and a bodhran - sounds like a session from hell! Or the start of a musical joke. Let me guess, the piano accordions are being played by an Englishman, Irishman and a Scotsman! Or maybe a Priest, a Rabbi and a Minister!
"I still think it’s incapable of playing ITM at any decent level of expression."
I know a good ENT man. Do you want his address?
Na, you’re alright, I’ll just go visit my chiropodist.
BTW, what’s the difference between a bodhran player and a chiropodist? A chiropodist bucks up the feet……
I thought someone else might mention this obvious thing, but…
Well, anyone who’s ever blown into a bottle, not to mention a flute or a whistle, knows that timbre changes with the amount and speed of air blown. Since accordion is essentially a wind instrument, it’s easy to see that the no-timbre argument is a bit strange.
Oh, and, as a good fiddler will now how to make a tone continuous even through a change of the sliding direction, so will a good accordionist with the bellow. If they wish to 🙂
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, on the video I posted, there were 2 more piano accordions, another banjo player and another bodhran hidden from the camera.
They can run but they can’t hide…
🙂 Very good steve.
you are a pheasant plucker!
skip canlon - Leeds has been a hotbed of Irish trad for a very long time, played by people of every kind of Irish descent or none. Even the English Irish music wannabes are, some of them at least, a little bit better tha cr*p, probably to the point of being winners of competitions in fleadhs and stuff. Fleadhs in Ireland, that is, as well as the UK. The combined length of time they have spent round or under tables in session pubs in Clare would probably stretch back to the last Ice Age.
Not that I’ve ever actually been to a Leeds session! But the place has had a reputation for serious Irish music, maybe still has, and the idea someone could learn a bit by checking out the scene there is not entirely frivolous.
As for the piano-accordion having a fixed timbre - well, so do the whistle and the bagpipe family in general; though maybe the uilleann pipes can modulate more than the others in this respect - I’ve never listened for this, to be honest.
Good to see the clip of Karen Tweed, the dahlia of Corby, but the presence of the other accordion(s) didn’t help with hearing just what she was up to.
"Even the English Irish music wannabes are, some of them at least, a little bit better tha cr*p"
You don’t mean…shockhorror…plastic Paddies…by any chance…?
Steve your posts have made me curious.
I am sure you are familiar with many of these epithets.
Most are new to me.
lol. im so bookmarking that site random. hilarious!
Most are new to me as well. Your point being…?
i think mirella murray’s PA playing is super-beautiful…
PA is not the most traditional of instruments, but it is far more traditional than many instruments you hear in sessions today, such as guitars and bouzoukis. If you have all the stops engaged, and are bouncing around all those bass and chord buttons, yes, you can dominate the musical ‘conversation’ to the detriment of others in the circle. But good players know how to avoid that problem. Lots of good PA players around, Jimmy Keane from Chicago, Phil Cunningham from Scotland, etc etc—they all prove that it can fit the tradition quite nicely.
I agree ceemonster - Mirella is a gorgeous player - as well as a lovely person, she would never dream of slagging people off the way some do on this site