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Cajun Accordion Or Melodeon?


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#37 Steve Holley

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Posted 14 January 2005 - 09:42 AM

So Steve, your good fortune is because of my good fortune with this aeola, otherwise I really would have bought the "Bon Temps" myself. "Laissez les bon temps rouler !"  :D

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...And the best part is, we both end up with a box we've been wanting!
I'm glad to hear that yours is what you hoped it would be.
Mine is scheduled for delivery on Monday. It's going to be a looooong weekend!

#38 bill_mchale

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Posted 14 January 2005 - 10:51 AM

Actually even a D melodeon is not a great session instrument since G tunes only barely lag behind D tunes in popularity (at least around Baltimore that seems to be the case).

That being said, there are some really great Irish Melodeon players (Johnny Connolly and John O'Halloran to name 2), mostly from Connemara.  I am not sure if they mostly play D, G or even C melodeons or whether they mix them up.  I know I remember reading an interview with Johnny Connolly and he basicly said the trick was knowing the music really well so you could sort of play around the notes that your instrument didn't have; by that I took it he meant something along the lines of choosing notes that harmonically worked with the melody. 

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Bill,

The reason that Irish and Quebecois players have prefered the D melodeon, for the past century, is that it is the only one capable of playing in the three fiddle keys of D, G and A.

Admittedly, like the C#/D, G is not its best key, but then A is not a good key on the B/C either, and a certain amount of "fudging" may be required.

Time to buy a piano accordion ? :huh: :blink: :( ;)

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The thing is, I am not sure how many of those old Melodeons were in D; an awful lot of them were in C. Of course back in the days when most of the music was house music and there was likely only one or two musicians playing at a time it probably wasn't a big deal.

The real difference between the melodeon and the half-stepped boxes is that while G may not be a great key for C#/D (Though how tough can it be, you only need to go to the outside row for the C natural (ok, technically a B# :)). Thats no more notes than you need to on a B/C (though perhaps it flows nicer on the B/C). A on a B/C is somewhat tougher with 3 notes on the outside row, but I think the tune more than the key would determine if it was a good tune for the B/C system.

On the flip side on the Melodeons you just plain don't have those accidentals. Playing Irish Music without a C natural has got to be almost as tough as playing it without an F#. Anyone who can play A and G tunes on a D melodeon and make them sound great is someone I think is quite worthy of respect indeed.

Oh... an no, I am not, not now, not ever getting a Piano Accordion.

--
Bill

Edited by bill_mchale, 14 January 2005 - 10:51 AM.


#39 Chris Timson

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Posted 14 January 2005 - 12:36 PM

Actually for more than a year there was a fight in my heart about whether my next instrument after the B/C button accordion was going to be a concertina or a melodeon.  The concertina won, but it doesn't mean I won't get a melodeon at some point. :)

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Bill, in fact Pete Hyde so liked the idea of the anglodeon that he's building for me so much that he bought 5 complete sets of reeds for it in the expectation of further orders. So you could have your concertina and melodeon all in one. Watch out for my report when I get the beast in April!

Chris

#40 Stephen Chambers

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Posted 14 January 2005 - 01:45 PM

The thing is, I am not sure how many of those old Melodeons were in D; an awful lot of them were in C.  Of course back in the days when most of the music was house music and there was likely only one or two musicians playing at a time it probably wasn't a big deal.

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All very true, and I am constantly trying to put across the same points myself. Indeed melodeons, and German concertinas came in all sorts of queer keys, and tuned to pitches that could differ by as much as a semitone. But the serious players, who bought serious melodeons like the "Globe" and "International" models, had worked out that the key of D was best and preferred that key, so they could play with other instruments at "concert pitch". I'm talking here about people like John Kimmel, P.J. Conlon and Joe Derrane...

On the flip side on the Melodeons you just plain don't have those accidentals.  Playing Irish Music without a C natural has got to be almost as tough as playing it without an F#.  Anyone who can play A and G tunes on a D melodeon and make them sound great is someone I think is quite worthy of respect indeed.

But it is amazing how many tunes don't even have those notes, I found myself playing mine in G and A without even realising it, and no notes missing !

On the other hand, some tunes simply don't fit, and I agree with you about what some of the great players can do.

Edited by Stephen Chambers, 08 May 2009 - 08:01 AM.


#41 Stephen Chambers

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Posted 14 January 2005 - 01:51 PM

Hmm.  Not a very good selection on eBay.
I guess I should check the local flea market tomorrow. ;)  :D

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What, for amboyna aeolas, or crowbars and pulleys ? :unsure:

#42 JimLucas

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Posted 14 January 2005 - 03:37 PM

...I remember reading an interview with Johnny Connolly and he basicly said the trick was knowing the music really well so you could sort of play around the notes that your instrument didn't have; by that I took it he meant something along the lines of choosing notes that harmonically worked with the melody.

That's one possibility, and one should be careful that such "harmony" notes also blend with any chordal backup that may be present.

Another "play around", and often much "safer" is to just leave out the notes you can't play. If others are playing melody, those notes will still be heard, but the change in overall tone and loudness where the melodeon drops a note can give a really nice emphasis to the rhythm.

Those techniques are needed for joining with others, where you know what notes they're playing that you can't. Workarounds in solo work often involve changing the melody line to a greater or lesser extent. It may not be "what so-and-so plays", but it has resulted in some really beautiful versions.

Thinking of this reminded me to take out my LP of John J. Kimmel for a fresh listen. Mmm! :) On a 1-row box in D, he shows yet another kind of workaround... he plays "Rights of Man" in Bm, rather than the current standard of Em, with octave shifts (I might guess to avoid going off the end of the keyboard) in a few places.

The reason that Irish and Quebecois players have prefered the D melodeon, for the past century, is that it is the only one capable of playing in the three fiddle keys of D, G and A.

With a certain amoung of "fudging", or "working around" as noted above. The thing about a 1-row in D is that it only takes a little fudging for both G and A, while a 1-row G box would have serious problems with most tunes in A -- and vice versa, -- and either would still need some fudging in the key of D. D is the best compromise when working with fiddles, and at least as good as G when working with flutes, whistles, or pipes in standard tuning.

The Irish and Quebecois seem to have taken different approaches to playing in more than one key. Half-step boxes seem to be the preferred Irish solution, while the French Canadians seem to favor 2- and 3-row fifth-tuned boxes, sometimes carrying more than one (like some anglo players I know ;)). I've seen Philippe Bruneau play all of 1-, 2-, and 3-row boxes in a single performance.

The real difference between the melodeon and the half-stepped boxes is that ... on the Melodeons you just plain don't have those accidentals.

[Bill, I hope that my ellipsis has retained your intended meaning. If not, please correct me.]

It occurs to me that this difference results in qualitatively different solutions to non-central keys on the two instruments. On the half-step boxes, all the notes are there, and if you want to play them all, it becomes simply a technical issue. On a 1-row, any workaround becomes a musical issue. (Of course, one can also do musical workarounds -- varying the melody -- on a half-step box. But that's an option. On the 1-row it's a necessity.)

#43 JimLucas

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Posted 14 January 2005 - 03:59 PM

...on the Melodeons you just plain don't have those accidentals.  Playing Irish Music without a C natural has got to be almost as tough as playing it without an F#.

But it is amazing how many tunes don't even have those notes, I found myself playing mine in G and A without even realising it !

Yep. I remember a whistle player once showed me a couple of tunes which could be played in both G and A on a D whistle... with the same fingering! Because they simply didn't use certain notes of the scale, you could play in G, then shift all your fingers up one hole (no hole for the LH index finger, but it was never lifted in the G version) and play in A with exactly the same fingering.

Now if only I could remember which tunes those were! :(
(Thinking about it, I guess it would be any tune that didn't have either 3rd or a 7th.)

#44 JimLucas

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Posted 14 January 2005 - 04:05 PM

Hmm.  Not a very good selection on eBay.
I guess I should check the local flea market tomorrow. ;)  :D

What, for amboyna aeolas, or crowbars and pulleys ? :unsure:

I think I have a reasonable chance of finding crowbars and pulleys, but if I do find an amboyna Ĉola for sale there, I'll probably forget all about those other things. :)

#45 Stephen Chambers

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Posted 14 January 2005 - 04:10 PM

Hmm.  Not a very good selection on eBay.
I guess I should check the local flea market tomorrow. ;)  :D

What, for amboyna aeolas, or crowbars and pulleys ? :unsure:

I think I have a reasonable chance of finding crowbars and pulleys, but if I do find an amboyna Ĉola for sale there, I'll probably forget all about those other things. :)

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I hope you do Jim ! :)

(Otherwise I could start to get nervous ! :unsure: :unsure: :unsure:)

Edited by Stephen Chambers, 14 January 2005 - 09:51 PM.


#46 JimLucas

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Posted 14 January 2005 - 04:14 PM

Time to buy a piano accordion ?  :huh:  :blink:  :(  ;)

Oh... an no, I am not, not now, not ever getting a Piano Accordion.

Hey, Helen, that sounds like a challenge! :ph34r:
Do you have a small one you could send him for his birthday? :D
(Hmm. Not in his profile. How do we find out when? :unsure:)

#47 Helen

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Posted 14 January 2005 - 10:34 PM

Hey hey wait a minute, Saturday is MY BIRTHDAY. I'm not sending him a piano accordion on my birthday. Oh well maybe.

Sorry all, I've been off the internet for a few days, working, how boring. But I took my BIRTHDAY WEEK off, so I am off all next week. Okay okay so technically Saturday is part of this week, live with it. It's my birthday, I get to make the rules.

So I am all excited. Stephen, congrats on the great new find. Hope your new concertina, well new to you, sounds superb. And :rolleyes: thanks for mentioning a piano accordion.

And Jim, you devil, how did you know I read Bill's post and took it as a challenge?

Hee hee hee.

Helen

#48 Jeff H

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Posted 15 January 2005 - 01:48 AM

Single row melodeon was my main instrument for a few years.. I have owned a dozen at least including Hohners, Castagnaris, handmade Quebec, handmade Cajun and so on..

Marc Savoy: no one in Cajun land is as controversial.. I have spoken with him on the phone 3 times and in person twice.. he deserves his reputation
His box...commonly accepted is that the older the box the better.. and the majority of his current production is not made by him but a woman in his shop.
Quality varies wildly,

Elton Doucet is a good guy.. and surprise.. he makes a lot of the bass boxes, treble keyboards, reed blocks and other components for "famous" makers

There are many "hand made" Cajun boxes as good as the current Savoy, Miller and Martin boxes for less money . if you get a Cajun made box.. ask if they mitre the corners.. this will light a fire

Ariettes.. early on they were junk, the last one I played was consoderably better. With some set up and tuining work ,, not bad but much prefer the older German made 114 .. light fast fun and funky many pros still use them

In my opinion the best single row boxes made are Quebec boxes...and second Castagnari.. Cajun boxes with few exceptions are way down the scale in design, materials (other than the fabled binci reeds which are NOT always used and not always the best sounding) and workmanship

Cajun tuning is "just" tuning with the exception of a minor tweek in Savoys boxes
which is not the norm. A few are wet tuned... such as Charlie Ortega does ,and now others are jumping on that wagon

If you want the "universal" single row that can be used for anything don't get a Cajun tuned box....which are usually in C.. Bb and on occasion D or F rarely G or A
they sound good for Cajun and bad for anything else for more than 5 minutes
Instead get a tempered tuned box fairly dry D would be a first choice then a C

But I would not pass up a decent Hohner 114 or 113

I like the idea of the C/G concertina used for Cajun, I heard a clip of Scurfields playing, damn good, and a fun sound.

2 rows have been used by Cajuns.. some of the die hards doubted this till I showed them a photo of a revered and veteren player using one

run what ya brung


jjh

#49 Jeff H

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Posted 15 January 2005 - 01:48 PM

Couple nuther items

Nathan Abshire was the player in the photo with a 2 row Hohner PokerWork

Paul Groff is probably the most informed on the one row melodeon here in America, and a brilliant player.

And for a brilliant Video of one row playing there is one available in which
American players from Pennsylvania (primarily) were featured and Paul Groff supplied many of the instruments including my custom made Clement Breton.. Paul was playing the keyboard as a back up.

Andy Hohman, who posts here, is also quite informed and skilled with the one row melodeon.

If I could have one only box it would be a single row melodeon.


Jeff

#50 Stephen Chambers

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Posted 15 January 2005 - 03:06 PM

Elton Doucet is a good guy.. and surprise.. he makes a lot of the bass boxes, treble keyboards, reed blocks and other components for "famous" makers

Hi Jeff,

And a very big thank you for putting me onto Elton Doucet. I really enjoyed meeting him & visiting his workshop.

There are many "hand made" Cajun boxes as good as the current Savoy, Miller and Martin boxes for less money .

Absolutely, I got a chance to try Marc Savoy's own accordion at the Michaelstein Conference in Germany 5 years back, and I didn't feel that my Doucet was in any way inferior.

... prefer the older German made 114 .. light  fast  fun and funky  many pros still use them

I know people who absolutely love the Hohner, but I find them awkward to hold and too light. I would also feel that the 114, unlike earlier Hohner models, is an accordion maker's production compromise at making a melodeon : it uses two removable reed blocks, making it easier to manufacture and to tune, instead of a "proper" melodeon costruction with the two outer sets of reeds laid flat and a glued-in reedblock between them. The old melodeons were built like that, and so are the Cajun ones which copy them.

It was disatisfaction with the Hohner, which had become the only melodeon available, that caused Cajuns to start building their own in the first place.

In my opinion the best single row boxes made are Quebec boxes...and second Castagnari..

I would love to try one of the Quebec boxes, but I cannot agree with you about the Castagnari : I used to have one but came to hate it ! For one thing it has the same reedblock construction as the Hohner (which just doesn't produce the same sound), and for another the (Italian-style) bass box is way too wide and the wind key unmanageable (I moved it on my own instrument, but it was still awkward). Nevertheless, the Castagnari does have its fans, but in my experience they are usually button accordion players looking for a second instrument, who feel more at home with the Italian keyboard, rather than melodeon players per se.

Did you see the rumour, on melodeon.com, that they are going to stop making it ?

I like the idea of the C/G concertina used for Cajun, I heard a clip of Scurfields playing, damn good, and a fun sound.

I heard him play with Marc & Ann Savoy, at Michaelstein, though he said himself that he was "rusty" at the time.

Nathan Abshire was the player in the photo with a 2 row Hohner PokerWork

It seems to have been commoner with Zydeco players, but I believe Nathan mixed with them more than most ?

If I could have one only box it would be a single row melodeon.

Ditto, though there is a risk my newly-acquired aeola may yet seduce me to change my mind.

#51 Jeff H

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Posted 15 January 2005 - 06:27 PM

Ahh yes the Castagnari melodeon AKA Max..

My comments were in reference to quality...perhaps there is a Cajun box made to the same level, but I have not seen it.

Bass boxes/growl boxes are the bain/bane of society... they are at best awkward and the "max" is the worst fo the bunch.. add to that the ridiculous placement of the air button, difficult even for a contortionist. I did get used to the "Max" bass box and air button after a time.

Interestingly the "MAX" bass box is not built the same way as the Cajun/traditional bass box.. and could be eliminated...

Were I to design a single row, there would be no bass box.. buttons yes, box no..
It would be similar to a Vienna style bass button arrangement .. might even have 4 or more buttons actually levers.. I prefer them..

The Hohners can be "Hot Rodded" a bit, I have seen them with bass box with buttons instead of levers and a a double frame each side of the bellows...
even upgraded reeds and bellows but not all in the same box


Melodie of Montmagny seems to be building very fine "modernized" boxes and oof course Messervier continues the tradition of quality..

I still think there is major room for advancement in the single row box..

Stephen, you are welcome.. I speak with John/Elton on occasion...he keeps inviting me to visit,,says I ought to move there.. perhaps one day I will make it there. In addition to making accordions and accordion parts he also has a metal file sharpening business.. keeps him busy.

I envy your Aeola...if I had it I may forsake the single row..

I nearly jumped ship and went "English" a few years back when I had a chance to buy a used Homewood for $2500 US... stupidly I did not....

One very good maker and good value for the money is Jude Moreau in Groves Texas...improved greatly in a couple years... around $1100 and compares with Savoys top of the line at $1700

jeff

#52 Steven Hollander

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Posted 16 January 2005 - 07:49 PM

I had the wonderful pleasure of seeing/hearing Raynauld Ouellet in concert and at worshops. I think he's the finest Qubecois melodean I ever heard. I don't play melodean but attending his workshop just to hear him play up close. The point of mentioning this is that he makes the most beautiful and nicest sounding melodeans I have heard. Someone in this thread mentioned that they are interested in Quebecois Melodeans: well he would be the one to buy one from.I remember the cost was extremely reasonable.--Steven

Edited by Steven Hollander, 16 January 2005 - 07:53 PM.


#53 Stephen Chambers

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Posted 16 January 2005 - 10:48 PM

Marc Savoy: ... His box...commonly accepted is that the older the box the better..

Speaking of which, here's an older one that has just been relisted on eBay. But don't expect a bargain, as it originally went for £740.00 (about the price of a new one !) on 19th December. Maybe it was just too loud for his wife !

#54 Clive Thorne

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Posted 17 January 2005 - 08:38 AM

I would love to try one of the Quebec boxes, but I cannot agree with you about the Castagnari : I used to have one but came to hate it !



I don't contribute much these days, I still lurk, but only occassionally, but I feel I must defend the Castagnari Max a bit.

I have one of these beasts, in C, and I love it. True I have never tried a genuine Cajun built box, but comparing it with those 1 row 4 stops I have played (Hohner, Saltarelle, Acadian (ie the one from The Music Room" in the UK)), I consider it to be well out in front.

In particular I think the sound is great and very open, particularly in comparison to the Hohner and the Salterelle which, in comparison, sound like your playing them behind a series of blankets. Also the reed response is superb.

To balance the argument;

I agree that, for me, the position of the air button is a little awkward, and the bass box it a bit too wide (I only have small hands), but if I play the basses with the 1st and 4th fingers the thumb is not too far from the air button.

Also the Max seems quite heavy on air and its frame is smaller (than a Honher) so you have less air to play with in the first place, but then I do play loudly.

The mounting of the reeds may well affect the sound, but I suspect that for the vast majority of people it would not be too noticeable, and having the reeds blocks removeable is a great help when it comes to maintenance. In fact my Hohner has glued in reed blocks which are a complete pain for maintenance (though Stephens comments suggest that they are removeable on later models).


Curiously enough my second favourite would probably be the Acadian from "The Music room". This was a great box for not much more than a new Hohner would have cost. It too had a very open sound and was responsive. I actually went as far as ordering one of these, but when the 4-6 week delivery stretched to 6 months I cancelled the order. As it happened I then managed to pick up the Max off E-bay for £500.


Obviously the choice of instrument is a very personal thing and I have no argument with Stephen for growing to hate it. "Horses for Courses" and all that stuff.


And to end; a joke:

Q: Why to people take an instant dislike to ............* melodeons?

A: It saves time.

* Insert your least favourite melodeon brand here.


And a rather late Happy New Year to you all.

Clive.

Edited by Clive Thorne, 17 January 2005 - 08:41 AM.





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