Button box 2-voice or 3-voice? Which is traditional

Button box 2-voice or 3-voice? Which is traditional

I’ve been wondering about this ever since I got my box. I can play it with either two or three voices, is there any preference for either in ITM? Or any option that is considered traditional? Which do you prefer in a session? Assuming that player skill is good.

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Re: Button box 2-voice or 3-voice? Which is traditional

Don’t worry about what’s traditional. Ireland was poor until recently and people played what they could afford. Most people didn’t have much choice in the matter.

If you need volume (if you are leading a set of tunes in a large session or a noisy pub), the third voice can help. If not (you’re not one of the principal players or the setting is quiet), the third voice can be overpowering. My preference is to use it sparingly in the vast majority of session situations.

Re: Button box 2-voice or 3-voice? Which is traditional

Mine only has two voices, so I have no choice! 😉
Like Gary says, it has more to do with how much volume you want to put out, than what is "traditional." There is nothing worse than someone "pulling out all the stops," and dominating a session.
It is a group effort, and blending is important.

Re: Button box 2-voice or 3-voice? Which is traditional

In my experience, in terms if the context if your question, 4v would be the most traditional. It is like the others said. Tradition in this sense is trivial because the amount of reeds would have no bearing on musicianship then as well as now.

Re: Button box 2-voice or 3-voice? Which is traditional

Yes the older instruments had both two voice and 4 voice, i dont think it really matters, A two voice can be every bit as noisy as a 4v, its a question of taste .
To me I would say the tuning of the box is more important and of course the players respect for others in the session

Re: Button box 2-voice or 3-voice? Which is traditional

Alright, if no traditional voice setting exsists surely there’s a sound that pops in your head when thinking of a button box, is that closer to two or four voice? For me it really does sound like a totally different instrument.
I would agree that the 3 voice doesn’t neccesarily give more volume, though the maximum volume output is higher indeed.
But if the answer is that it doesn’t really matter as long as you respect the session than I guess I’ll go with that 🙂

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Re: Button box 2-voice or 3-voice? Which is traditional

3v - LMM or MMM? Very different animals.

Re: Button box 2-voice or 3-voice? Which is traditional

LMM in my case.. but I guess that adds just another permutation.

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Re: Button box 2-voice or 3-voice? Which is traditional

How much overlap between "traditional" and "old fashioned" do you want in this context?

Simple spectrum:-
- More reeds, must include a Low octave voice, fairly wet tuning - Ancient
- Fewer reeds - dry tuned - Modern

Re: Button box 2-voice or 3-voice? Which is traditional

Its your box. If the three reeds suit you, play with them. If they are not to your taste, then you ought to get them retuned. No point in having three reeds in a box, when you are only planning on playing two.

If you don’t like the sound of the basoon reed, take it out and put another clarinet in. You can get your box to sound anyway you like with the proper tuning.

Some Examples (Most accordion players use multiple different voicings. This is just a generalization)-
Joe Cooley - LMMM Wet
Paddy O’Brien (Tipperary) - LMMM Wet
Finbar Dwyer - LMMM Wet
Joe Burke (Older Stuff) - LMMM Slightly Wet
Joe Burke (Newer Stuff) - LMM Slightly Wet
Billy McComisky(Older Stuff) - MMM Wet
Billy McComisky(Newer Stuff) - LMMM Swing
John Williams - MMM Swing
Mary Rafferty - MMM Swing
Colin Nea - LMMM Wet
Dermot Byrne - MM Swing/Dry
Damien Mullane - MM Dry/Swing
Conor Moriarty - MM Swing
Colm Gannon - MMM Slightly Wet
Sean McComiskey - MMM Slightly wet
Donal Murphy - MM Dry/Swing

Re: Button box 2-voice or 3-voice? Which is traditional

Thank Christ I’m old enough to remember when Comhaltas started in the fifties and you turned up to play in a session with whatever instrument you had and whatever accordion you played. No hangups about how the music should be played as long as we were all in tune and all together. Everybody enjoyed the sessions. Then along came people like Sean O Riada and ruined it for everybody. He disliked accordions on the grounds that they were free reed instruments and musicians were not in control of the sound they produced. Somehow he forgot the most traditional of instruments, the uilleann pipes, where the tone is totally dependent on the reed being used. Ceili bands were next for the chop and group playing, which included a certain amount of orchestration, became the accepted way of playing Irish Traditional Music. Eventually all these changes to the music took the fun out of the Sessions and led to the sort of questions we read nowadays.

Re: Button box 2-voice or 3-voice? Which is traditional

EDIT:

Joe Cooley Played a Wet 3 Reed Box…

Sorry About that. Got a little trigger happy i guess

Re: Button box 2-voice or 3-voice? Which is traditional

A lot depends on what box and what reeds are involved.

I’ve got a 2v swing tuned Pokerwork B/C that’s the loudest box I’ve ever played. I’ve also got an MMM black dot DLX that is quite loud.

The M reeds of both my MML Nuage and Tommy are dry-tuned and quite a bit of muscle has to be applied to cut through a busy session. Adding the L reed on either box makes the sound louder, but quite gravelly, which doesn’t always please others. The Tommy only has one stop so MM or MML are the only options. The Nuage has three stops, so ML is a further option. It’s quite a good strong sound, though people have remarked that it sounds a bit French - hardly surprising I suppose.

Most box players have a little 2v Hohner - Black Dot, Pokerwork or Erica - somewhere in their collection. Properly set up, there’s nothing to beat them for value and power at their usual (second hand) prices.

The reeds are shrill so you don’t need to press on hard to be heard (or to hear yourself) - hence your playing can be lighter and better than if you were wrestling to pull volume out of something with stiffer, quieter reeds.

The only downside is that Hohner reeds don’t have as wide a dynamic range as those on some more expensive boxes - they work well at medium and high pressures but don’t really do "subtle" stuff at very low pressures very well. Shouldn’t be a problem.

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Re: Button box 2-voice or 3-voice? Which is traditional

So, does louder mean more traditional?

Re: Button box 2-voice or 3-voice? Which is traditional

@ Tom,

Kinda? The history of the box in irish traditional music, is rooted in the dancehall music popular in the beginning of the century. Loud boxes filled up the dance halls well, and that is why they became so popular.

Re: Button box 2-voice or 3-voice? Which is traditional

Indeed séamusín and for a "read all about it" there’s "See You at the Hall: Boston’s Golden Era of Irish Music and Dance" by Susan Gedutis.

Re: Button box 2-voice or 3-voice? Which is traditional

Like I said in the next to the last paragraph of my post, loudness gives you the option to play lightly, equals playing well. It’s traditional to try to play well, whether in a ballroom or a bar.

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Re: Button box 2-voice or 3-voice? Which is traditional

So O Riada ruined it for you, FR? Perhaps you have never found yourself in the position of a fiddler cultivating a sensitive approach to the music sitting, in what ought to be an intimate quiet session, next to (and being utterly drowned out by) a very loud and very wet 4-v red monster played in an insensitive manner.

It’s interesting to note that only after Jackie Daly and the move he started towards a sound that would blend with other instruments did accordions begin to feature regularly in the lineups of concert bands rather than just ceili bands. O Riada might very well have approved of the changes in the sound of boxes that have occurred after his death, and these changes may just owe something to his caustic comments (which he later admitted to stating very strongly just to get the point across).

Anyway, to get back on track, I think a bassoon voice is a bit of a luxury. If I had one in any of my boxes I think I’d use it only very occasionally, and mainly in a dance-band setting. Although switches or stops that would allow you to play on the low reed only, or in a bandoneon voicing (LM) would be fun.

Re: Button box 2-voice or 3-voice? Which is traditional

I play my red four voice monster on LM most of the time. (Pending drying out the tuning a bit.)

Re: Button box 2-voice or 3-voice? Which is traditional

Boyen, I think the name of the game here, is to have confidence in yourself, and do what you believe is best……. once you do that, everything else will fall into place.

Re: Button box 2-voice or 3-voice? Which is traditional

I guess so Theirlandais, the problem is that neither sounds better to my ears, just different.

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Re: Button box 2-voice or 3-voice? Which is traditional

Years ago, I met an old box player from Boston (perhaps he even played in those Roxbury dance halls that book mentioned above is about). He claimed that in the old days before electrical amplifiers and such, there were boxes made that had even more voices, so they could be loud enough to be heard throughout a dance hall. He claimed there was one guy who had an eight voice box who was always in demand because of the volume he could produce, and had arm muscles like a lumberjack because the bellows were so hard to work on the monstrous box.
Has anyone else heard of such a thing, or do you think his tale was just an example of someone who wasn’t going to let the truth get in the way of a good story?

Re: Button box 2-voice or 3-voice? Which is traditional

Yes I have heard of such things Al. I haven’t seen an 8-v - no doubt there are people on here who have - but I have seen and played a 6-v one-row box that used to belong to the Irish variety performer "Ma" McNulty, recently restored. It isn’t that big but it is exceedingly loud.

Re: Button box 2-voice or 3-voice? Which is traditional

4 voice if anything - probably the most traditional is the one row 4 stop melodeon mass produced in Germany in the late 1800s
up to the First World War. You can still find them in junk shops usually with ripped leaky bellows, stuck buttons and totally unplayable. German settlers took them to Louisiana where they evolved into the modern
Cajun accordion while up North, in Chicago and New York they were popular in the Irish dance halls - check out John J Kimmel ‘the Irish Dutchman’. The limitations of a one row box are that a lot of tunes aren’t going
to be playable in session friendly keys, for instance with a D one row you’re ok with most D major, Eminor
or A major tunes [some B minor if you’re lucky] but forget most G and A minor tunes or those D tunes with a
C natural like Rakish Paddy or Banish Misfortune. But if you want to sound really ‘old timey’ theres nothing like them - have a listen to Bobby Gardiner playing a Hohner 4 voice on You Tube

Re: Button box 2-voice or 3-voice? Which is traditional

"It’s interesting to note that only after Jackie Daly and the move he started towards a sound that would blend with other instruments did accordions begin to feature regularly in the lineups of concert bands rather than just ceili bands. "

Mmm, what "concert bands"? Na Fili, Planxty, Chieftains is about all that come to mind. The last evolved out of Ceoltóirí Chualann who of course had a box player - who I believe played with the early Chieftains too. Tom Ó Canainn played a bit of accordion as well. Bothy Band had Tony Mac in their early lineup. Le Cheile made a record pre Jackie too I think. Looks like "concert bands" are based around the box, usually tuned pretty wet, at first anyway. Joe Burke was having his instruments dried out before Jackie too, I believe, by that Swedish tuner, Nils Whatshisname. Jackie got to document the results on record first though.

This is a pretty silly topic too. About the only think you can say about Irish box’s "tradition" is that if there’s a 2nd row of buttons it’s a semitone apart from the main one.