Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Alan Day

Piano Accordions

Recommended Posts

As far as I'm concerned, there's no such thing as an intrinsically bad musical instrument; the problem comes when an instrument, for whatever reason, attracts unimaginative players. It's very easy to play a piano accordion badly, especially for a pianist of limited ability

 

And with an instrument which looks as if it is easy to play. (bodhran being another obvious example). So many piano accordion (PA) players of my acquaintance had piano lesons as a child and then saw a piano accordion later in life and recognised the keyboard, trouble is imany of thems ignore the bellows - apart from using them to switch the instrument on. All the PA players I like to listen too use the bellows in the same way that a fiddler uses the bow - to create dynamics. The other thing which makes it hard for a pianist to be an interesting PA-ist is that with a piano it matters much less when you take the fingers OFF the keys, wheras with a reed instrument its critical.

 

So I'd agree that in the end its the player not the instrument!

 

Theo

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sorry to say that the PA has had a reputation as being "naff"

well, well. A little chanel hoping the other night brought on one of those airplane films (this was the one with the Space Shuttle).

 

Anyway the William Shatner character says something like "Pull Strikers record", low and behold he is presented with an LP, on the cover is "Striker" with sequined PA, in lederhosen (however that is spelt?)and green feathered hat, along with the caption "400 all time polka greats". B)

 

 

Stuart said "no such thing as an intrinsically bad musical instrument", I completely agree, however that is not the public perception, particularly of PA. The chap, John Graham, who plays PA for Headington Quarry is a very gifted musician and I meant no criticsm of him in my earlier post.

 

It is just my hobby horse:

 

Morris dance should be accompanied by a concertina, usually played in the key of C :D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Don't melodeon players HATE it when you strike up for the morris in"C"?!?  ;)

They should get themselves a G/C, much nicer than a D/G, and more traditional ! B)

 

Edited for typo.

Edited by Stephen Chambers

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
They should get themselves a G/C, much nicer than a D/G, and more traditional !  B)

Depends whose tradition you're talking about! ;)

 

Chris

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Depends whose tradition you're talking about!  ;)

Well, certainly in both English and Irish music. It was only in the mid 1950's that the D/G started to come into general use in England (ask Reg Hall, he got the first Hohner D/G from only the second batch to be imported, about 1955) and also the B/C in Irish music (with the recordings of Paddy O'Brien).

 

Free reed instruments tended to be pitched in C, which was inconvenient for playing with other instruments (Cajun fiddle players still have to tune down a tone) but it seems to have taken players/dealers/makers rather a long time to solve the problem.

 

Getting on my hobby-horse again (or is it a soap box ?), IMHO the low G/C accordion sounds lovely with the high C/G concertina, the whole dynamic between the two instruments is changed, it is certainly worth trying !

Edited by Stephen Chambers

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The AMEB (Australian Music Examinations Board) is the most widely-used organisation for music examination in Australia, with formal links in both Secondary and Tertiary education systems. Graded examinations can be taken in Accordion - there are two Accordion syllabuses: Accordion Stradella; and Accordion Free Bass. I think these refer to piano accordion. Therefore, this seems to "legitimise" this instrument as a "real" one?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It was only in the 1950's that the D/G started to come into general use in England (ask Reg Hall, he got the first Hohner D/G from only the second batch to be imported, about 1953) and also the B/C in Irish music (with the recordings of Paddy O'Brien).

This seems apposite:-

Some years ago I asked Peter Kennedy to relate the story of the introduction of D/G melodeons into England as his name always seems to come up.

 

He said something like:

 

In the 1950s most melodeons were based in C with either F or G as a second row and the half row, often in the club format, to give more chromaticity. He was collecting songs and tunes in Northumberland and found strangely that much of the repertoire played by fiddlers in particular was of Irish origin and in G or D and sometimes A. He investigated and found that an anomolous reception of Radio Eirrean (sp) occurred in the NE and local players were picking up Irish tunes for their repertoire from the radio.

 

Now Irish melodeon players had adopted chromatic instruments based on C with either B or C# as a second row to enable them to play in other keys but this was not generally popular in England and the local melodeon players couldn't join in with this repertoire. So to help local melodeon players Peter arranged for Hohner to produce a batch melodeons in G/D, I believe that they were stocked and distributed by Bells of Surbiton and the EFDSS shop.

 

And it all followed on from there...

 

It comes from a rather interesting discussion of whether the introduction of new instruments to a tradition can improve it or impoverish it. It's an interesting thought, that affects me too, since I espouse the G/D anglo, but I must recognise that like the D/G melodeon it too is a relatively recent addition to the range.

 

Chris

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
So to help local melodeon players Peter arranged for Hohner to produce a batch melodeons in G/D, I believe that they were stocked and distributed by Bells of Surbiton and the EFDSS shop.

Oh well I'm sure he had the best of intentions :(

 

From what I know of Scan Tester (who did not play for Morris but did play for ECD), he really couldn't care less what key he played in and jumped around from key to key, and instrument to instrument (melodeon, concertina [C & Bb], and violin to fit in with whoever he was playing for or with. I understand he particularly liked C for song accompaniment. (from Reg Hall book)

 

Why did/do fiddlers traditionally play in G/D/A? I've asked my sister this - she is a Grade 8 violinist - and she says that it is no harder to play violin in the key of C than any other key and she can not think of a musical explaination. Anyone else with experience of fiddles know why this is?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Why did/do fiddlers traditionally play in G/D/A? I've asked my sister this - she is a Grade 8 violinist - and she says that it is no harder to play violin in the key of C than any other key and she can not think of a musical explaination. Anyone else with experience of fiddles know why this is?

I would think that, as with mandolin, it's because it's easier to use open strings to supply drones/harmony in these keys.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Depends whose tradition you're talking about!  ;)

Well, certainly in both English and Irish music. It was only in the 1950's that the D/G started to come into general use in England (ask Reg Hall, he got the first Hohner D/G from only the second batch to be imported, about 1953) and also the B/C in Irish music (with the recordings of Paddy O'Brien).

Well are we talking about what is traditional for the melodeons or what is traditional for the music? Looking through my copies of the various O'Neil's books, there wasn't alot transcribed in C.

 

--

Bill

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Well are we talking about what is traditional for the melodeons or what is traditional for the music? Looking through my copies of the various O'Neil's books, there wasn't alot transcribed in C.

 

--

Bill

Sorry Bill (and everyone) this is thread creep on a massive scale. I'm just curious as to how we ended up in D/G & A (and relative minors). To my knowledge Ireland invented three musical instruments the Clarsach, the bodhran and the pipes. The violin is of Arabic/North African origin. Carolan was not constrained to D/G/A (according to Donal O'Sullivan) and wrote in all sorts of keys. So how have we got from there to here?

 

BTW I'm not passing any comment on what key we should play in, I am interested to know if there are musical or ease of playing issues which have lead to the adoption of these keys, and which instruments, if any, have influenced this adoption. (Sounds like a PHD subject!).

 

Thanks Stuart, that makes some sense to me from hearing Tony Linnane (violin)recordings where he repeatedly hits one low note in each phrase and plays the tune "above" it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Well are we talking about what is traditional for the melodeons or what is traditional for the music?  Looking through my copies of the various O'Neil's books, there wasn't alot transcribed in C.

 

--

Bill

Sorry Bill (and everyone) this is thread creep on a massive scale. I'm just curious as to how we ended up in D/G & A (and relative minors). . . Carolan was not constrained to D/G/A (according to Donal O'Sullivan) and wrote in all sorts of keys. So how have we got from there to here? . . . I am interested to know if there are musical or ease of playing issues which have lead to the adoption of these keys, and which instruments, if any, have influenced this adoption.

I think the simple answer is that traditional music tended to be played in the keys that suited the instruments in use. The related keys of D, G and A suited the fiddle best, for reasons already suggested, and D & G are the handiest keys on a timber flute or D chanter, and those are the instruments O'Neill would have been transcribing from (and for). However, although there were plenty of melodeon and German concertina players around, the style of playing was a simple, unevolved one, and the instruments were in the "wrong" key, purists like O'Neill frowned upon them and ignored them. It wasn't until the (later) recordings of "the Dutch Irishman" John Kimmel and Peter (P.J.) Conlon that the melodeon/button accordion started to become accepted.

 

In England Cecil Sharp would also have been writing down tunes mainly from fiddle or tabor pipe players, so again D-related keys predominate, but the melodeon and concertina players were mainly pitched in C, and still are in some places.

 

On the other hand, O'Carolan could tune his harp to play in any key he wished, but would have then needed to retune again to play in the next key, you can't do that on a wind instrument !

 

(Sounds like a PHD subject!).

I think you are right, I don't want to get bogged down on this ! :blink:

Edited by Stephen Chambers

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Some years ago I asked Peter Kennedy to relate the story of the introduction of D/G melodeons into England as his name always seems to come up.

 

He said something like:

 

In the 1950s most melodeons were based in C with either F or G as a second row and the half row, often in the club format, to give more chromaticity. He was collecting songs and tunes in Northumberland and found strangely that much of the repertoire played by fiddlers in particular was of Irish origin and in G or D and sometimes A. He investigated and found that an anomolous reception of Radio Eirrean (sp) occurred in the NE and local players were picking up Irish tunes for their repertoire from the radio.

 

Now Irish melodeon players had adopted chromatic instruments based on C with either B or C# as a second row to enable them to play in other keys but this was not generally popular in England and the local melodeon players couldn't join in with this repertoire. So to help local melodeon players Peter arranged for Hohner to produce a batch melodeons in G/D, I believe that they were stocked and distributed by Bells of Surbiton and the EFDSS shop.

 

And it all followed on from there...

This would fit in with what I have found out on the subject, though I hadn't heard the story about players in Northumberland before (and most Irish accordion players had yet to solve the problem of playing in what they would term "concert pitch"). Certainly Peter Kennedy seems to have been behind the general introduction of the system, though I have been told that it originated with a couple of players on Dartmoor who had had their accordions converted to play in D/G. However, I can take the introduction, by Peter, back a few years earlier as the following announcement appeared in English Dance & Song for March 1949 (Vol. XIII, No. 2)

 

 

 

The New E.F.D.S.

Club Melodeon

 

The Society have been fortunate in securing a licence from the Board of Trade for a limited number of Club Melodeons, to be sold only to Members of the Society for Folk Dance work. These instruments are to be manufactured by Hagstroms, at Darlington, and will cost about £19. Many members have already placed their orders for these instruments, and it is suggested that any more people who want to order one should write to the Sales Department as soon as possible . . . These particular melodeons ordered by the Society have Italian reeds keyed in G and D ; these keys are considered the most useful for Folk Dance work. . . . PETER KENNEDY

 

 

Due to post-war rationing and import restrictions, not to mention that German and Italian manufacturing needed to get going again after the war, it was not possible to buy a new accordion in Britain until the late '40's when the Swedish manufacturers Hagstrom's set up a factory in Darlington (and my friend Nils Nielsen came with them as a young tuner).

 

New Hohner instruments only started to come back into the country again after 1951, and they seem to have soon started to supply models in D/G (hence Reg Hall bought the first one of the second batch in 1955). However, it is perhaps significant to note that a 1957 article (Playing for Dancing III; What you can do with the Melodeon, by Roger Marriott) in English Dance & Song (Vol. XXI, No. 4) doesn't even mention the system, so it was still not well known amongst players at that time. The lack of popularity of the D/G melodeon in those years is confirmed by Brian Hayden, in an April 2001 interview with Wes Williams "A Chat with Brian Hayden":

 

I saw this lovely little instrument of Reg Hall's and I thought "I'll have one of those", so I got one eventually.

 

It was a G/D [sic] melodeon. I knew that G/D was the right melodeon to have, and I went to Bell Accordions in Surbiton, Surrey to get one because I'd been told that was the only place that did them. The manager there was a Mr Larkin who had a very good relationship with all the folk accordionists, and he said "Oh yes we've got one, its the last of the second batch of ten made in G/D. The first batch sold fairly quickly, but the second batch hung around, and this is the very last one." But It was a Hohner Erica, and I wanted a Hohner poker work, because that to my mind looked more folky. He said "We're not having anymore of these made because the second lot sold rather slowly and that will be it. It's either this or you'll have to have one specially made for you in the future. We're not going to deal with anymore G/D melodeons!". Of course the number you see nowadays!!!

 

Edited to add quote from Brian Hayden.

Edited by Stephen Chambers

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes it's thread creep, but who cares, it's a really interesting topic, and as I say above, it bears directly on my favourite system, the G/D anglo.

 

Chris

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well my general opinion is that as long as a thread remains civil, and at least somewhat related to music, it can be allowed to drift as far as interested parties let it drift.

 

I think key selection is an interesting guage to how centeral most free reed instruments are to the music they are played in. So is Cajun music the only traditional music where the Accordion (single row melodeon for those unfamiliar with Cajun music) became so dominant that it changed the most popular key for the music?

 

--

Bill

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...