C/C# button boxes

C/C# button boxes

I recently answered an ad in a local paper, "for sale, accordian" to discover that the accordian in question was a Hohner Primatona II C/C# two row button box. I made a somewhat low offer which to my surprise was accepted. My thoughhts are to get the basses sorted to enable me to play in G/D. Is there anyone out there with some experiences of C/C# boxes who could give me some ideas relating to bass end tuning and oranisation? Talk is always about B/C boxes so I wonder what peoples thoughts are on C/C# boxes,
good & bad points and whether they are played for ITM much, reasons if not etc. Note: I play G/D box at present with much cross row playing, realise that I have possibly taken on a new learning curve, really want to buy a 2&1/2 row but cannot afford one. MY thanks in advance

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Re: C/C# button boxes

C/C# is great as an "Eb pitch" version of the B/C — fingered like a B/C, it is in tune with fiddles tuned up a half step.

Long ago this kind of box was also used to play in C, G, etc. "from the outside in," and tutors were available for this style (I have a copy of at least one). See the topic cd "Melodeon Greats" for some Scottish examples of this style of playing.

And I think I remember Jacky Daly mentioning that when he was young the C/C# (Hohner Erica) was used around his home area to play "C#/D style" with the fiddles tuned down a half step.

You mention you now play G/D; but if this is a 2 row box you might mean a D/G? If so, IMHO you might want to try a C#/D/G. You could retain all your D/G fingerings and also experiment at will with the C#/D fingerings, as well as some options that are only available on a C#/D/G. I recently saw a Saltarelle for sale in C#/D/G but that had a very short D row of only 9 buttons. I have had good luck converting older Hohner "club accordions" (often available very inexpensively) with 12/11/7 buttons to the C#/D/G. Email me for more info (paul@groffsmusic.com).

Paul

Re: C/C# button boxes

Thanks, Paul, for your response. My G/D has the ‘G’ row on the inside so I suppose I should call it a D/G. I also have a Hohner club, originaly in Eb/Bb, which I converted to D/G.It has a half row of four buttons on the inside. My attempts at tuning is not brilliant and the fact that I have used many odd reeds leads to an imbalance of sound quality. Will email you shortly.

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Re: C/C# button boxes

I’m a relative box neophyte so you can take what I say as mostly hot air, but if I were you Hetty I’d use your new box to experiment with the various "semitone-apart" systems commonly in use. I don’t think I’d be tempted to learn it as a C/C#, that is playing on the outside row and grabbing accidentals from the inside row, simply because the system is practically extinct in Irish music.

I’d experiment with playing on the inside row and pretending first that it is in D, so you can figure out the fingering and feel of a C#/D box, and then pretending it is in C, so that you get to try a B/C system.

If you like either one you could more easily find another box in those tunings, or have your C/C# box retuned, shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg to have that done professionally.

Steve

PS Paul someone told me that you recommend hanging a new box up with the bellows fully extended by gravity to loosen up the bellows action. Is this true? And if so, can you provide more details? Cheers, S

PPS Paul’s comments about C#/D/G interest me because for a while I thought that was the system I wanted. In the early stages of learning C#/D I felt frustrated (as a fiddle and whistle player) by the fact that the box imposed articulation (in the form of bellows changes) and hence to some extent phrasing on me. A G row, I figured, would allow me many more possibilities for playing legato passages because most of the notes on the D row are available in the opposite bellows direction.

Having got a little more proficient I’ve decided to stick with C#/D - simplicity and light weight is appealing, and anyway I don’t want to start collecting accordions. But I’ve also thought about it a bit and come to the conclusion that a G row would probably not be the ideal third row. For one, the one note that I would most like to have in the other direction (I have C# and F# already on the C# row) would be a D, but on a D/G system Ds are on the push on both rows. I then started musing about a totally customized third row, or a C#/D/C, one of which I saw for sale recently, or a C#/D/D# - a variant on the Jimmy Shand system of B/C/C# which would make things very (but not completely) flexible. But in the end I thought what the hell, stick with the standard, just learn to play, dildo. Jackie Daly, Mairtin O Connor and co. don’t seem to be groping for notes!

So I’m not sure the C#/D/G system makes the best sense unless you are a diehard D/G player and unwilling to make a radical change. You can btw play great Irish music on a D/G and there are a few who do. You’re restricted to the same basic keys as a D tin whistle, but that covers a heck of a lot of the tradition.

Re: C/C# button boxes

Hi Steve,

I have heard of people hanging up accordions like that and may have mentioned that some do so. But I would rather recommend spreading open the bellows and laying the accordion down across a bed to minimize the danger of a drop or of pulling out screws, etc. You might find when you get home from work that it has closed up somewhat so start again the next morning…

I mentioned the C#/D/G idea specifically for hetty, not as a general recommendation. However it is a really neat system if you have enough buttons in the D row. Not only are all the D/G AND C#/D cross-fingerings available but the G row can be played melodeon style for great bounce, reminding me in that high range of some concertina settings.

Yes, I like the standard C#/D 2 row layouts very much also. And the B/C. Both have been used to great effect by brilliant players who inspire me but who I will never come close to equalling. I would think that either is sufficient for a lifetime’s work with Irish music. I agree that a C/C# could be used to try either style (with the changes in resulting pitch that I noted in my first reply), but the mention of a 2 1/2 row got me thinking that a C#/D/G might be an excellent compromise, or transitional, box in hetty’s situation.

WIth any accordion system or layout there are pros and cons, and adding some extra notes usually means losing others (or running the risk of making the box too big/heavy/expensive). The older 2 voice 12/11/7 Hohner club bodies are cheaply available and pretty lightweight as a foundation for a C#/D/G so those risks are minimized.

Maybe P. J. Conlon, Johnny Connolly, and the other brilliant 1-row players had and have the best plan — best ratio of expressive, powerful, subtle music per button!

Paul

Re: C/C# button boxes

i would definetely reccomend C#/D.
easier to play,thats what mairtin o connor uses and he can do anything on that box

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Re: C/C# button boxes

Thanks Paul. My thoughts have always been to aim at getting a three row and I have a Castagnari Morey in mind but at present funds just aren’t there. The third (or inner) row would be tuned to my liking and would have to include ‘F’ natural along with G#. Preferably ‘F’ natural above middle C and also an octave higher. There are lots of tunes that I do not play at the moment which I want to play. Have just received email from Theo Gibb who sings your praises. Still need some ideas on tuning and organisation of basses on the C/C# though, any thoughts any one??

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Re: C/C# button boxes

One thing about the Club though is that it is a lot lighter than the Morey but limited in bass potential.

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Re: C/C# button boxes

Hi again hetty,

That’s ironic because (figuring you are on the other side of the Atlantic from me) I was going to recommend you contact Theo! I know him only via email but I do know that like me he has an interest in the older Hohner clubs. Not sure if he uses them as platforms for modifying as I do, but I am sure he could.

Now my idea was that you might want to find an old 2 voice club, (preferably like yours originally in Bb/Eb/X ), but with the larger 12/11/7 keyboard. Your current one has only 4 buttons in the inside "half-row”. But with the 12/11/7, that inside row could be put into the key of G, running from middle D on up to d’ two octaves higher. Not as wide a range as you have on the G row of a standard D/G, but really the high notes of the standard D/G are almost TOO high for much use, and the low notes you miss would be covered in the other 2 rows of your modified club. Then the middle row would be a nice 11 buttons of D, and the outside row would be 12 buttons of C# — that’s where all your accidentals would be found. But as I say, just an idea. The basses for this could be set up to one of the standard D/G or C#/D arrangements. Oh, for this kind of mod you really do have to buy most or all of the new reeds to get the pitches you need.

If you plan to keep your C/C#, and keep the melody side IN C/C#, then my best advice is to tune the outside basses to: C# push/G# pull (for the lower outside pair), G# push/D# pull (for the upper outside pair). This will be consistent with the most common variants for C#/D and B/C boxes (but transposed, of course). It’s your choice whether you prefer to have the chord buttons give major chords or whether the "thirds" of the chords should be (reversibly) blocked for use with either major or minor harmonies. The bottom inside pair of buttons could be C# push (redundant, but commonly found)/F# pull, or F#/F#, D#/F#, etc. as you wish. The top inside pair of buttons should probably be F/Bb, though I like Bb/Eb also with the Eb chord minor, if all the other chord buttons are tuned to major chords.

As I said, this is all IMHO and YMMV. But a lot of box players have their own customized arrangements including the use of piano-accordion reeds to get basses, drones, or triads that are the same in both directions. In the paragraph above I have just listed a C/C# transposition of the most common C#/D and B/C 8-bass layouts for Paolos.

Confusingly, Paolos and Hohners in C/C#, and the older Hohners in B/C often have a different layout than this (probably to accommodate that old-fashioned "inside-out" style).

Again, I bet Theo could both advise you further and perhaps do the work for you if you decide to go to a professional. Good luck!

Paul

Re: C/C# button boxes

Thanks Paul for all your thoughts. Much appreciated and all the other comments. It gives me much to think about. I think this is going to be a long term project considering that I also have my 120 bass Sonola of some thirty years to get tuned up. Haven’t used it for years until gaining a pupil recently. Elderly gentleman who is not into trad. Very rewarding exercise though working around song tunes that he is familiar with. It’s got me back into playing it again. Thanks again.

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