Best button accordion for accompanying fiddle tunes?

Best button accordion for accompanying fiddle tunes?

Question for accordionists: My girlfriend is a highly accomplished Irish fiddler, and I aspire to be able to accompany her on the button accordion. I’d also like the flexibility to play other genres and a few tunes without learning/purchasing a new instrument, since I’m brand new and this is already a big step for me. Can anyone recommend which would be the best type for me to get, including number of rows and key? Thank you so much!

Re: Best button accordion for accompanying fiddle tunes?

Would do you mean by accompany? Playing along side or playing in harmony (chords/basses)? I don’t know the answer if you want to play in harmony, but if you get a C#/D button box you got all keys available to you to play on the treble side, a somewhat limited bass/chord side though. C#/D together with B/C is standard for most Irish music.

Another option would be getting a D/G box which plays well in the keys of G and D and not really any other key. Also has good chords/basses for those keys. It’s also used for english music and if you would acquire a box in G/C , C/F or A/D you can play exactly the same way as you would on the D/G box. It can be used for Irish music look for Tim Edey, but it’s by no means standard or traditional.

Might help to get some more info on what else you’d want to play.

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Re: Best button accordion for accompanying fiddle tunes?

What box do you play i.e 2,3 or 5row? As you are new to it, the 5row C system is great for playing 2nd box as it’s designed for chord playing, and you can fair rattle out the tunes on lead box as well!

Re: Best button accordion for accompanying fiddle tunes?

Whatever Eoghan O’Sullivan is using works for me.

Re: Best button accordion for accompanying fiddle tunes?

I’ll touch on that word ‘accompany’ too. In Irish traditional music, everyone plays the melody together and only one or two people play chords, almost always on guitar or bouzouki, or a piano if the pub has one (rare). I don’t know everything but I’d say you probably wouldn’t want to accompany a fiddle player with left hand chords on the accordion. You risk drowning her out. You’re far better off learning to play the tunes, too. It will seem daunting at first but then so does anything worthwhile.

You might also consider a concertina. Being a free-reed instrument like the accordion it has a similar sound and effect, but it’s cheaper and more portable. You want to get the kind that plays a different note depending on whether you’re pushing or pulling. If you’re lucky somebody below will tell you what kind I’m trying to tell you that is.

Or, as one more alternative, if you’re just getting into the music I think you can’t beat a good tinwhistle. Talk about cheap and portable. You can learn tunes now and pick another instrument up later if you want.

Re: Best button accordion for accompanying fiddle tunes?

"You might also consider a concertina. Being a free-reed instrument like the accordion it has a similar sound and effect, but it’s cheaper and more portable."

I don’t think a good concertina is any cheaper than a good accordion. Smaller and lighter, yes.

Re: Best button accordion for accompanying fiddle tunes?

Concertinas are about twice the price…

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Re: Best button accordion for accompanying fiddle tunes?

I play a Saltarelle B/C Irish Bouebe with McComisky basses that I bought from The Button Box in Amherst, MA, which I have found to be a good, reasonably priced way to start. And in my case, is probably the box I will play for the rest of my life. There are lots of other good ones out there, though, so that is far from the only choice you could make.
My advice is to do a lot of internet searches and talk to lots of people before you make a decision, as button boxes are pretty pricey these days.

Re: Best button accordion for accompanying fiddle tunes?

I’d look for a girlfriend who’s a great cook and forget about the fiddling.

Re: Best button accordion for accompanying fiddle tunes?

Ha ha!

Re: Best button accordion for accompanying fiddle tunes?

Get yourself a nicely tuned Paolo Soprani B/C accordion. They simply cannot be beaten. Just look at the legendary Fiddle/Box duets recorded with fiddle and Paolo Soprani accordions and I think that fact speaks for itself. Paddy O’Brien/Seamus Connolly, Joe Burke/Andy McGann, Joe Burke/Sean McGuire, Tommy McGuire/Liz Carroll, I could go on and on. The list is endless.

Re: Best button accordion for accompanying fiddle tunes?

I cannot begin to express my gratitude for your comments! Because of my unique situation, your directed advice is infinitely more useful than all my internet searching, and helping me get started successfully.
Regarding "accompanying a fiddle", as several mentioned I’m sure that I’ll be playing the melody in sessions, but it seems like it would be useful to be able to harmonize or play chords if playing with the fiddle only (especially since my girlfriend is a professional musician, and I’ll be happy just to not create dissonance).

Addressing the responses:
- Boyen: My priority is Irish/Scottish/Brenton music. The first tune I’m planning to learn is "Rob Fraser’s Welcome to San Fransisco in key of D, then a number of traditional reels and jigs, such as Trip to Pakistan and Janine’s Reel. Other genres are a lower priority but I’d ideally like to have the flexibility to play everything from polkas to zydaco to Christmas tunes and camping songs.
- Robert Brown: I don’t play any box yet…that’s what I’m trying to determine. The 5row C-system sounds like a good flexible option for different types…
- tdrury: I’ve also been thinking an English concertina could be a good option because of portability (as I’ll be traveling with it a lot, maybe camping) and can play any key (fully chromatic), but I’ve heard the accordions have a fuller, richer sound, is that true? Also, are the Concertinas more difficult to learn than accordions?

You are a great blessing encouragement to a new musician, so thank you in advanced for your comments.
- Dusty

Re: Best button accordion for accompanying fiddle tunes?

Well if it’s flexibility you’re after than you’re best off with a system that is chromatic. 5-rows are certainly chromatic and have loads of options for basses so you could play pretty much anything there. A 2 row has the advantage of having a more lifting sound the typical "oom-pha". They are also lighter.
For some info on 4/5 row chromatic see: https://thesession.org/discussions/19302
Because they are unisoric they have a very different sound in my opinion.
If I were you, go on youtube and look for which sound you like best, not much available on the 4-row chromatic but a Piano accordion more or less sounds the same so that works too sound wise. Than choose based on the sound you want to achieve,
re: English Concertina’s , they are comparable to chromatic accordions, not neccesarily more difficult. Playing accompyment gets a bit harder, less loud different sound, again depends on what you like. Scan youtube.

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Re: Best button accordion for accompanying fiddle tunes?

I agree, if you want to accompany tunes in any style and key, play chords and all that, you should either get a piano accordion or a 5-row chromatic button accordion.

Re: Best button accordion for accompanying fiddle tunes?

I’m chiming in with the poster who suggested CBA if what you want is to play any genre (aka chromatic button accordio), the button version of a PA, aka piano accordion). no reason to go PA unless you already play piano and would like the head start of the familiar keyboard. EC (English concertina) also a good super-versatile, particularly the ones in the ranges that give you some lower notes.

I’m someone who has in the last three years switched from bisonoric button accordion and bisonoric (or "Anglo") concertina to CBA and EC. I was doing fine on the bisonorics, just became attracted to the versatility of the unisonorics. can’t get over how you can play any style of music on them in any key….yes, the bisonoric 2-rows such as b/c and c#/d are technically chromatic and theoretically can be played in any key. but few do this….

the Hohner Nova II 60A is a lightweight 60-bass cba that gives you more than enough notes to play all world folk genres in a 11.5-pound package…..

Re: Best button accordion for accompanying fiddle tunes?

Well, it’s been 4 years since the OP posted his question, and we are wondering if he is still with the fiddler, and if he ever purchased/learned to play the accordion/concertina/tin whistle or whatever it was he ended up with.
He never logged in since then, so we are left to wonder.

Meanwhile, I can’t really advise him, but I can tell you what I did that worked for me:

1.) Bought a Hohner Double Ray C#/D or an Erica. Get a used one. Typically half the price of a new one.
Also look for one made in Germany. Lately they’ve been made in China. What a country. Government drives tanks over protesters. Don’t support that shite. Started playing tunes on the D row in D and G. Began immediately using the basses. Ah! First problem surfaces. Bass chords are major chords. Can’t play in minor keys with them. But others do, so how to do it? Solution: get some blue making tape and tape off the holes on the bottom of the bass chord reed blocks that correspond to the thirds in the 3 note chords. With the third missing, the ear can’t tell if it’s a minor or major chord, because the flatted third is what makes a major chord a minor chord. Now you can play major or minor keys without worry. This is a half-hour fix if you’re not drunk.

2.) Start watching Stiamh Ionas’ videos on youTube. He’s an accomplished C#/D player, session player and an excellent tutor. You can pick up a lot of tunes listening to this Canadian tutorials.

3.) I moved on from the Double Ray after about a year. Met a guy selling an old D/C# Paolo Soprani box (thirds removed from the bass side—non-destructively). Early 1960s box. Wow. Big sound 3 sets of reeds (LMM). Two register switches. The trick is to use the full dynamic range of this box when you’re playing. If you go heavy, people will start throwing chairs at you in sessions. SO maybe you won’t meet such a guy in your area. Ebay, I guess. Nice to be able to try it out before you fork over the cash. The thing is, there are lots of little dry-tuned accordions sold every day. But to me they all sound like concertinas. Why would you pay for an accordion that sounds like a concertina? Just buy a concertina instead. Lot of money for one of the good ones, I’d recommend English over Anglo. Play in any key. Just like a piano. Easy to do rolls and decorations.

4.) Go to Gort, in Co. Galway. There’s a pub there called Henneley’s. Go in on a Friday or Saturday night and listen. Just listen. You will suddenly realize how inconsequential almost all of the irish players you ever knew are. This is the main vein of Irish box music in the entire world. Yes, that guy playing the banjo is Des Mulkere, who accompanies Joe Cooley on that film shot by Tony MacMahon. Still playing, still a noble gentleman. Bless him, and bless them all. Charlie Harris. Wow. Baldoni boxes. Four of five sets of reeds. Is it heaven or is it hell? It’s both! You have left the earthly bounds. The four major forces governing everything in the universe fall away. Better grab someone’s hand or you’ll drift off and never come back. You will leave that pub with a 2000m stare. Better have someone drive you home or back to the hotel.

Perhaps I’m being over dramatic. But maybe not.
Disclosure: Playing accordion in one form or another since age 8. That was 60 years ago. Played piano accordion, Russian bayan (that’s b-griff for all you kiddies out there). Played lots of different button boxes, Cajun, Irish, Continental, Garmoshka. Oh the money I threw at accordions! I’m not bragging, I’m complaining.