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Cajun Accordion Or Melodeon?


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#1 Steve Holley

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Posted 08 January 2005 - 12:28 PM

Hi folks,
It’s been a while since I’ve posted here. Marriage, new home, lots of other things that have kept me too busy to hang around a bunch of squeezers.
Things have returned to a more relaxed pace and I’ve reached a point with my concertina that I would like to “stretch” (badoom-boom) my abilities a bit. I’m considering a try at the “Cajun accordion”. I’ve always loved the sound of one but have never even held one before. (I had never held a concertina before buying one either but have become fairly proficient with it).
There are several things that attract me to the Cajun style accordion. It’s diatonic system would make it easier to learn, since I already play an anglo, and the small size, unique sound and overall appearance appeal to my sense of something “different”.
I was wondering if any of you could answer a few questions for me.

1. Does anyone here have one and are they as enjoyable to play as they seem to be?
2. Is it truly the same as a melodeon? Is the difference in tuning?
3. Is the Hohner Ariette a good starter?
4. Would I be better off saving my money until I could afford a custom Acadian from Marc Savoy
(who has what I think is the most beautiful style of accordion out there. I want one bad.)?
5. Are there any special considerations to think about in purchasing one?
6. Renting one first? A good thought but where?

I recognize the oncoming fever to have one of these so I’m trying to gather as much information as I can. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

#2 stuart estell

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Posted 08 January 2005 - 02:05 PM

Steve, I can't answer all of your questions, but I can offer a couple of comments: firstly, YES, they're brilliant fun to play. I have a one-row four-stop Hohner Pokerwork in G, and it's great. I never tire of playing it. :)

As has been mentioned elsewhere on the forum recently, boxes prepared for Cajun playing have the thirds of the scale tuned flatter than normal, so that they give true thirds rather than equal-tempered thirds. Mechanically they're like playing one row of a melodeon on its own, and of course you only have the root and 5th for bass notes and chords in the left hand.

I haven't played an Ariette, but the Pokerwork is a perfectly adequate machine for my needs - it has good response, and is very loud. The only drawback in their construction is that the four stops for the different sets of reeds work loose so you find yourself needing to wedge them open with whatever stray piece of wood comes to hand (I think John Kirkpatrick uses shoelaces to keep his open).

#3 Chris Timson

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Posted 08 January 2005 - 02:45 PM

One thing you might like to consider is the example of Harry Scurfield, who leads the English band Bayou Gumbo. He rather successfully imitates the sound of Cajun accordion on a C/G anglo, largely by playing in parallel octaves to get something of an accordion sound. It works surprisingly well.

Chris

#4 Stephen Chambers

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Posted 08 January 2005 - 03:52 PM

Hi Steve,

Mine was made by Elton Doucet, in Chuch Point, La. and I absolutely love it. With its handmade Binci "Professional" reeds it is a bit like playing four Jeffries anglos all at once ! I don't think there is any instrument better for getting people up dancing.

The Cajun accordion is the true melodeon (the old "German accordion"), rather than the instruments commonly referred to as melodeons which are really Vienna accordions.

Stuart has mentioned one of the differences in the tuning (which means those flattened notes clash against the bass end), but there is another in that Cajun accordions are tuned "dry" with no tremolo between the two middle-octave reeds. This tuning is what you would get as standard from all the Cajun makers, but if you want to play other music instead you may prefer to order an instrument in Quebecois tuning. As far as I know, Marc Savoy is the only Louisiana maker who offers that option.

Personally I would not recommend either the Ariette or the Hohner, they just don't come anywhere near the real thing, but my Doucet compares favourably with a Marc Savoy (and looks just like one), costs a good bit less and you don't have to wait as long.

Edited by Stephen Chambers, 08 January 2005 - 03:55 PM.


#5 JimLucas

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Posted 08 January 2005 - 05:03 PM

The Cajun accordion is the true melodeon (the old "German accordion"), rather than the instruments commonly referred to as melodeons which are really Vienna accordions.

Meanwhile, what Americans generally call "Danish pastry" -- or "a Danish" -- is one of many varieties of what Danes call "wienerbrød" (Vienna bread). :D

#6 Ken_Coles

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Posted 08 January 2005 - 08:49 PM

I’m considering a try at the “Cajun accordion”.  I’ve always loved the sound of one but have never even held one before. (I had never held a concertina before buying one either but have become fairly proficient with it).
There are several things that attract me to the Cajun style accordion. It’s diatonic system would make it easier to learn, since I already play an anglo, and the small size, unique sound and overall appearance appeal to my sense of something “different”.
I was wondering if any of you could answer a few questions for me.

1. Does anyone here have one and are they as enjoyable to play as they seem to be?


I have two (plus a one-row Vienna in G]. My Cajuns are the Hohner black 114 I learned on and a Walnut one in C by Marc Savoy. Are they fun? You bet.

2. Is it truly the same as a melodeon? Is the difference in tuning?


In a little over a century the types have diverged. The Cajun has a voice and presence unlike the other one- or two-row boxes I've used. It isn't really small; authentic ones are rather weighty compared to a concertina (I use a shoulder strap), though much smaller than a full size piano accordion.

3. Is the Hohner Ariette a good starter?


They're better than they used to be. In 1997, when I started, they were junky, leaky, and fell apart very quickly. Both they and a 114C depreciated maybe $200, so I bought the latter to learn on. I used it the first time I went to Augusta Cajun week (1998) to take Rose Sinclair's class. It has a bit of tremolo and is much lighter than an Ariette or Louisiana box. Some zydeco players still use Hohners, but not so many as a few years ago. The Ariette is better now, so that the market for a used 114 has nearly dried up.

4. Would I be better off saving my money until I could afford a custom Acadian from Marc Savoy (who has what I think is the most beautiful style of accordion out there. I want one bad.)?


Well the same question here about concertinas gets a lot of answers saying buy whatever you can to start and save your money, while others say start only at the very top. When giving advice (or learning an instrument myself) I fall in the former camp.

5. Are there any special considerations to think about in purchasing one?


There is a lot of obfuscation about brands when you ask for advice. Larry Miller, Marc Savoy, and Junior Martin (all highly regarded) build full-time, and there are lots of part-timers out there (some great, some not). The way I did it was to go to lots of music events and visit Cajun players I met, and squeeze all the boxes when they were handed around. Whenever I got one I liked, I looked at the name on it. For me, the one that clicked was a Savoy (Acadian brand), but I wouldn't try to talk anyone else out of making their own choice. There are folks on the Web who will pull that on you. I find it silly. Imagine if there were endless fights here over Suttner vs. Dipper vs. Dickinson etc. The membership would weary of it; I know I would, and it serves no purpose. On one major Cajun web site there is an anecdote posted by someone slamming Savoy and saying he deserves no credit or business at all. When you read between the lines, it turns out the writer dropped in on Marc unannounced expecting him to drop his work and entertain two visitors. In fact, Marc has freely given advice and help to many other beginning makers. I have found Marc and every other Cajun I have dealt with to be great people, especially if you remember to bring your manners with you. Same as in the concertina-making world.

6. Renting one first? A good thought but where?


I don't know about renting, but it is common to borrow. If you are anywhere near Pittsburgh you can borrow my Hohner (or buy it! B) ). Are there any jams or musicians near you? That was my one frustration...only this year have I moved to an area where there are other players who get together to play; true in only a few parts of the U.S.

I recognize the oncoming fever to have one of these so I’m trying to gather as much information as I can. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


No need to explain. Everyone here knows the symptoms! :D Write me off-bbs if you want to hear more.

#7 David Barnert

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Posted 09 January 2005 - 12:40 AM

Meanwhile, what Americans generally call "Danish pastry" -- or "a Danish" -- is one of many varieties of what Danes call "wienerbrød" (Vienna bread). :D


One wonders what they call it in Vienna (or what they call wieners).

I know we're getting off-topic here, but when I was a kid (1968), our family took a trip out west (from New York) and my father got it into his head to find out what they call a western omelette in the west. He started looking at menus and noticed that the answer seemed to be "Denver Sandwich." So when we got to Denver, he looked at menus there only to find it was called a "New York omelette."

#8 JimLucas

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Posted 09 January 2005 - 03:56 AM

Meanwhile, what Americans generally call "Danish pastry" -- or "a Danish" -- is one of many varieties of what Danes call "wienerbrød" (Vienna bread). :D

One wonders what they call it in Vienna (or what they call wieners).
I know we're getting off-topic here,...

Well, it ain't concertina definitions, but maybe a continuation of this discussion would fit in my "Language" Topic. :)

#9 nils

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Posted 09 January 2005 - 07:12 AM

[quote name='David Barnert' date='Jan 9 2005, 12:40 AM']
[

One wonders what they call it in Vienna (or what they call wieners).

The answer is easy: "Kopenhagener" of course.

#10 JimLucas

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Posted 09 January 2005 - 05:02 PM

One wonders what they call it in Vienna (or what they call wieners).

The answer is easy: "Kopenhagener" of course.

I have my doubts.
But since you are apparently a hamburger, maybe we should call you McDonald.
(If you were from Berlin, you could be a Kennedy. Wouldn't that be sweet?)

#11 A.D. Homan

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Posted 10 January 2005 - 09:22 AM

One wonders what they call it in Vienna (or what they call wieners).



The "Wiener" is called a "Frankfurter" there, and the Danish is sometimes called a "Schnecke (snail)," if it's the pastry that I think it is. The pastries that are called "Viennese" by the rest of the world have about a dozen names in Vienna, depending on the shape -- triangular pockets, rectangular pockets, crescents, filled rolls, swirls, etc. Usually the "Schnecke" has nuts or raisins, though, whereas the types of fruit or "cheese" toppings Americans usually associate with "Danishes" are often found in pocket pastries.
And yes, some Viennese are still bitter that the French claim credit for the croissant! ;)
-Andy
Concertina content: Do not take a first bite into a Ribiseltascherl anywhere near your Jeffries!

#12 nils

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Posted 10 January 2005 - 10:47 AM

One wonders what they call it in Vienna (or what they call wieners).

The answer is easy: "Kopenhagener" of course.

I have my doubts.
But since you are apparently a hamburger, maybe we should call you McDonald.
(If you were from Berlin, you could be a Kennedy. Wouldn't that be sweet?)

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Well, "Kopenhagener" are what danes call "Wienerbrod" in Hamburg, "Berliner" a special kind of pancakes, "Wiener" are saucages, "Hamburger" what McDonald's sells. And "Amerikaner" are flat soft cookies with red and wite sugar dressing. "Pariser" shouldn't be eaten.

Nils

#13 Mark Evans

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Posted 10 January 2005 - 11:24 AM

Have mercy please! I'm trying to do alittle work here before lunch and all this has made me hungry.

Each Christmas a friend from Gottingen (sorry, I don't know how to make this machine do an umlaut) sends us Baumkuchen. This year it did not arrive. I suspect Home Land Security confiscated it and of course devoured it! Otherwise I would have some here and put an end to this C.Net induced hunger! :P

#14 Robert Booth

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Posted 10 January 2005 - 11:25 AM

Hi, Gotta get my 2 cents worth in here. I recently bought a brand new Hohner Ariette and must say that I was pretty disappointed. The bellows were, and remain. so stiff that it is a chore to play; they make a distressing POP when opened. It is the most air hungry squeezebox that I have ever held. making it difficult to complete a phrase without having to gasp for air at the least opportune time.
To me, the left hand bar arrangement is awkward, but that is a personal gripe and is not the fault of the manufacturer.
When the Ariette arrived (from China) it smelled so badly of glue and leather treatment that my wife refused to have it in the house and I had to keep it in the garage for months 'till the reek subsided.
I've been using Hohner products for 30+ years and have never been so disappointed with one of their instruments. I think that you'd be better off saving up for the Mark Savoy or the Dewey Balfa boxes.
Hope you have fun, tho, as the style is a kick to play.
Rob

#15 Mark Evans

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Posted 10 January 2005 - 11:36 AM

Okay, so what about a really cheep one like those Morelli boxes you see on ebay by the drove? I have wanted to mess around with one but think the Horner price range is a bit much for a lark. Wonder would it emit a stench as well? :blink:

#16 Stephen Chambers

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Posted 10 January 2005 - 01:05 PM

... a really cheep one like those Morelli boxes you see on ebay

What, one of those really cheap "Morelli ... by Italian Engineering. This IS NOT one of those Cheap Imititations of it!" accordions as well as "CONCERTINA[s] ... ITALIAN" that are all made in China ? :huh:

Wonder would it emit a stench as well? :blink:

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Well I think their advertising stinks anyway ! :angry:

Edited by Stephen Chambers, 14 January 2005 - 03:19 PM.


#17 Mark Evans

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Posted 10 January 2005 - 01:15 PM

Point taken Stephen!

#18 Robert Booth

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Posted 10 January 2005 - 03:13 PM

In case you want to indulge in some more chat like this, only centered around the Cajun end of things, take a look at pub21.bravenet.com/forum/show.php?username=1722942123
I don't know if all of that is necessary, but the fourm is as lively and interesting as this one, and the folks have been helpful in pointing me in their direction B)
Rob




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