Piano accordions for ITM

Piano accordions for ITM

I’ve been checking out e-bay for cheap PAs. There are quite a few, but I notice that they’re mostly Italian or German made and the voices are marked ‘violin’ or similar non-diddley sounding descriptions.

Are there any particular makes people would suggest as best for jigs and reels? I suspect they would be more dry tuned.

Are there a variety of actions available? I’d need something pretty fast.

How many keys / basses is a bare minimum for this sort of work? (I’d also like to accompany guitarist/singers, so more than two and a half octaves, perhaps?)

Is it best to buy a cheapie to fiddle around with, or save up for a cherrywood special that I’ll keep for a long time?

All advice greatfully recieved (even the inevitable shouts of ‘don’t do it - keep away from the dark side!’)

Eno 😉

Re: Piano accordions for ITM

Eno, I am your father.

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But, seriously, apart from the paternity suit, you’re mainly going to get German or Italian, that’s who makes them.
And, why do you want a pa if you’re a b/c player ? You’ve already got an instrument that can blast everyone else out of the session.
IMNSHO a pa is too loud and generally powerful to fit in a session, and should be reserved for ceilidh and barn-dance bands. It does too much for many musicians to cope with mastering everything quickly - you have keyboard, bass buttons, and bellows, and co-ordinating right hand fingers and bellows to get a sympathetic and sensitive degree of phrasing and accent into your playing is an uphilltask.
My pet hate is the scottish ceilidh band with two accordions, who think they’re Jimmy Shand - Jimmy played a button-box, and it shows in his accenting, the bellows-work imposed by the system puts a particular phrasing into the playing which requires a lot of work to reproduce on the keyboard of a pa.
If you can’t guess, I have worked in a couple of bands with a pa, and I’d rather not, given the choice.

Re: Piano accordions for ITM

if i had to stick up for you BC in a nutshell, i’d say look at gurnseys bio because it contradicts much of what he writes in this post about multi tasking, if it’s difficult to master one instrument because of the diff things to do then how du manage 7 instruments with fluent articulation….

as regards box’s, paolo soprani is my favourite although the saltarelle isn’t too bad either. don’t get anything more than a 3 voice because it’ll be too loud and the bass will only come with one octave anyhow. (unless it’s a classical free bass) with my own box, a paolo soprani junior two, i got the action lowered by john brosnan in kerry (a fair haul from 0z i know) and as a result it;ll do anything you want perfectly.

as regards getting a cheaper model first, don’t because it’ll turn you off the instrument for life because it’ll be out of tune, keys prob hard to press and you just don’t want to go there.
you can pick up a paolo soprani for about 2500 euro so get it new, they’re worth it.

mt

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Re: Piano accordions for ITM

Eno - I am your mother.

Re: Piano accordions for ITM

I am not a PA player, but I do own a couple, so I have a fair idea of what is required. And before I decided on a BC box, I did do some research on PAs.
On the bass side, in order to get all the minor keys you need for Irish music, I think you need at least 72 bass buttons. You can do a lot with 48 bass buttons, but not everything you might like. But, like with button accordions, many of the people who play them don’t bother with the left hand on the dance tunes, and do just fine.
I would have to say two and a half octaves would be good, but you have to see where your octaves start and stop, it is different from box to box.
And dry is good for this music, but in my opinion, some wetness is required to keep life interesting.

Re: Piano accordions for ITM

Máirtín, were you in with Tom Walsh Last night?
I play with Tom and he told me about the gig in the Corner, I sometimes go up.
Did you travel to Dub with UL Trish recently?
Are you the same person - I would have texted her sending yee into Hughs’…..

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I may play too many instruments, but only one at a time !
The piano-accordion is two, plus the bellows to drive them. It’s all too much,and can lead to splurginess.

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What’s the difference between an onion, and a piano-accordion ?
Nobody cries when……….
Actually, there is a good reason why you shouldn’t crack jokes about pa players, they have these big muscles from heaving the damn things about everywhere.

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As long as we’re wandering around this subject, can anyone tell me what kind of instrument Phil Cunningham plays?

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He plays a custom-made Borsini accordion, which has built in electronic whiz-bang stuff that can do things like make his left hand work sound like a piano instead of an accordion.

Re: Piano accordions for ITM

trust your feelings luke

ray

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Phil now has a Saltarelle Clifden, I saw a notice about this on a UK accordion retailer website.

I’m looking to downsize to something like a Clifden. I plan on keeping my full size Excelsior, but lugging it around to sessions and such is getting old.

Personally, I think you need minimum 72 bass and 35 keys. The Clifden has only 60 bass, but that may suffice for most tunes.

Conversely, the Castagnari Magica 3 has 96 bass and 34 keys, but is a lot more money than the Clifden.

Hmm, accordion dreams??? That’s scary.

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Don’t panic, rogfox, Annie Proulx’s accordion was a button-box, much more acceptable.

Re: Piano accordion crimes for ITM

Yeah, it was a green one to boot, but there were some pa’s in there too.

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From a Far Side cartoon : -
"Welcome to Heaven, here’s your harp".
"Welcome to Hell, here’s your accordion."
Our friendly local harper/harpist sometimes brings along a practice amp, to bring his harp up to an audible level in a session - never needed one for a pa.

Re: Piano accordions for ITM

Pete do you have anything constructive to say in answer to the question aside from all the tired regurgitated criticism? Eno I would recommend taking Máirtín’s advice. I play a Fantini which is swing tuned - ever so slightly wetter than dry-tuning and sounds quite like a button box. This is what Al is referring to. Originally you had to get accordions expressly swing tuned by a retailer but now Fantinini are shipping them direct ready-tuned such is the demand.

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PS Eno don’t worry about the piano accordion "voices"; they may be labelled violin clarinet etc. but may as well be called grand piano flugelhorn or electric guitar for all the difference it makes; they are just different combinations of accordion reed banks.

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Mentioned in passing above about Jimmy Shand but have you condsidered a British Chromatic? Three diatonic rows in BCC# (so you could say you’re 2/3rds the way there on the right hand with piano accordion bass ends. I must admit though that there aren’t many of these boxes around.

Have you thought about a continental chromatic box, the button layout on these boxes means that each key is fingered in the same pattern, you just start on a different button (there are duplicate button to make alternater fingerings possilble). The buttons also mean you have a much wider range of notes under your hand and without the large stretches to get octaves like on a pa. Continental chromatics do seem to have faster actions than piano accordions too.

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Re: Piano accordions for ITM

Conan, we are allowed a bit of levity on this site, don’t be such a barbarian !
Anyway, my second posting was serious, and gave the good reasons why NOT to play a pa.
And I second the suggestion by Compo, he may be an old be-whiskered whatsit, but having heard John Kirkpatrick on a British Chromatic they are fearsome monsters, again, maybe, not for a session, tho’!

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Hi Pete

Yeah sorry I was a bit grumpy last night. :¬/
Nevertheless I don’t understand why you’re trying to persuade someone not to play an instrument. I play pa at sessions and have never had any complaints about volume; in fact most button boxes I’ve heard are louder.

It’s the usual problem with insensitive players giving the rest a bad name. In fact I’ve been to quite a few sessions where I had to leave after an hour due to the presence of an incredibly loud piano box. You don’t have to play them that way.
"Because I can" is not a good enough excuse.
Harumph! :¬)

Re: Piano accordions for ITM

Thanks for all the responses, guys. You’ve given me some food for thought - perhaps the $50 box on e-bay isn’t such a good idea…

Several CD’s I have looked at recently show people with PAs made in uncovered wood. Has anyone any idea which manufacturer they are from (the Fionn Seisiun CDs show one)? They all look to have the same makers’ name, but it’s too small to read from the photographs.

It looks like an 80 bass 38 key with three voices is as far as I’ve managed to whittle it down to so far - my button box gets heavy enough if I’m lugging it to the session on public transport and shanks’ pony.

Conan (sorry, no idea how to put the accent on…), how much was yout box, and what are its’ specs. Any idea of the model number? I couldn’t fing swing tuning mentioned in any adverts - do they call it something else?

I should mention I grew up playing ITM on the piano - hence why I fancy giving the PA a bash. I’m hoping the learning curve won’t be too steep. Also, I want to be able to form any chord I like, not be restricted by which way the bellows are heading.

Cheers,
Eno 😉

P.S. I may have been referred to as a bit of a b*st*rd occasionally, but I never realised my dad came from Guernsey and my mum from Macclesfield….eyup, I’ll bet she comes from Macc.

Re: Piano accordions for ITM

Eno - one other thing you need to know - Guernsey Pete and I are not married.

Sorry son.

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A three reed instrument is plently for Trad music. I would also recommend a 72 bass and, if you can find one, get one with the top bass row C#. This makes it versatile for both Scottish and Irish music. I only know of Fantini who can provide this unless you want one specially made. I bought a Fantini last year ,a 72 bass in a 48 bass case ,from Allodi in London, marketed as a folk special, it is perfect for Trad music and very lightweight. Phil Cunningham’s Borsini is a standard model fitted with a MusicTech Midi system, have a look at Rolston Accordions (Glasgow) web site, they provide his instrument

Re: Piano accordions for ITM

yo Goosey, in a nutshell, tis myself…

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Re: Piano accordions for ITM

Yes, after being deafened by Conán’s playing when I was in London, I rang Allodi Accordions and demanded that they make their prices unaffordable so that in the future nobody would have to suffer like I did.

Sorry, that was tired and regurgitated too 🙂

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Cheky sod!

The only reason I was playing abnormally loud was that I couldn’t stand the unholy racket you were making with the bouzouki.

🙂

Re: Piano accordions for ITM

Eno,
Saltarelle makes a wood PA, I saw someone playing one in a concert recently-nice sound in a pretty package.

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The Saltarelle wood PA would be the Clifden!!!

Alan Kelly has one too.

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Conan - that looks very similar to a Moreschi 80 bass that sold on e-bay here in Aus last week. For less than $200 - that’s $80 or something similar in Euros.

Is that how they term ‘swing’ tuning - ‘octave and vibration’? I haven’t seen swing tuning mentioned on any web sites.

Rog - I checked out the Saltarelle. It’s a beautiful instrument, but it’s not the one I was thinking of. Trouble is I can’t justify the $2000 or more to just buy one outright.

Can anyone give me an idea about the basses - how are they laid out? If I go from 48 to 72 to 80, what are the extra ranges I will be getting?

Thanks for all the help - I can feel a second hand purchase coming on…

Eno 😉

Re: Piano accordions for ITM

Eno - I am yr 3rd cousin, twice removed.

If I understand the question: the Basses run circle of fifths, the "counter " bass is one third up. All very intuitive unless yr trying to play boogie-woogie, I try to stay off the chord buttons entirely

You could get by nicely with a 40 bass, but I like the weight of the 120’s especially when training for the 40m trite regurgitator toss (" We toss tossers")

The down side of 2nd hand purchases : These thing are not particulay immaculate and and a dirty reed sounds kinda flatulatory. Not much problem among adults, but the 7-10 year-old crowd howling and rolling in the floor can be distracting.

Re: Piano accordions for ITM

http://www.accordionpage.com/basar.html

Try this link to see how accordion basses are arranged. Remember that C is the center of the world when it comes to the bass section. How far up and down from C is what determines the usuability of the basses.

The basses are indeed arranged by the circle of 5ths, so a 48 bass would only go up to A above and Bb below C. I would think this would be limiting.

A 72 bass would go up to C# above and Ab below. This should cover any trad music.

80 bass and above and you start repeating notes. Only useful if you are doing some classical things that require large jumps.

Re: Piano accordions for ITM

Thanks guys, that was exactly what I needed to know.

Now we play the e-bay waiting game…

Eno 😉

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Octave and vibration refers to reeds, most commonly in a 3 reed accordion. The first reed is tuned low, the second reed is tuned an octave higher, and the third is tuned just slightly slightly different than the second reed. The slight difference between the tuning of the second and third reed causes a vibration, or tremolo, sounding similar to the vibration in an opera singer’s voice. Varying the degree of difference between the two reeds changes the speed of the vibration between dry, with little vibration, and wet, with more. Swing is most commonly used to describe tuning between wet and dry. I’m learning that this is not a hard and fast rule.

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Hi. Phil Cunningham here. Someone asked me to clarify something written here about the kind of box I play..
It’s a custom made Borsini, 96 bass in a 72 frame , the front end midi is MusicTech and the bass end midi mechanism by Ian Forrest. Borsini now make a version of this for consumer use without the extras. My Saltarelle is the 60 bass Clifden with the Basses moved to give me a C sharp at the top. I hope this helps,

keep squeezin,

Phil.

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Question for all you experts out there in wonderland. What is the current price of the Saltarelle Clifdon in dollars?

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Hi I’ve been playing piano accordion almost 6 years and harmonica for 8 1/2 years. I have varied repertoire to suit everyone’s taste including my own compositions but would love to properly master jigs and reels by ear as I don’t read music. How can this be done. I have a few common jigs on cd and try to transcribe by ear but too fast. Any tips please