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Questions and looking for advice whether a chemnitzer is a good fit for me


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Hello everyone. I have no experience with concertinas whatsoever, so pardon me if some of my questions have obvious answers. I've been playing piano for most of my life, and recently finally started getting serious about picking up another instrument alongside it. I've long adored the bandoneon both for its sound and as a great lover of tango, Piazzolla in particular. However, I'm not sure I can justify jumping into such an expensive instrument at this time, especially since I'm only looking to learn it for my own (and hopefully my friends' and family's) enjoyment.

 

I have the opportunity of purchasing a recently restored 1930's chemnitzer for what I consider to be an inexpensive price. An additional advantage with this instrument is that I have the opportunity to test it myself instead of having to blind-buy online. Nearly all examples of chemnitzer playing I've found online are polka. Is the instrument uniquely suited for that type of music? Would for ex. playing in minor keys on the chemnitzer be a hassle? I'm looking into this first and foremost as a solo instrument, so how it meshes with others is not something that really needs to be taken into consideration. The types of pieces I'd be primarily interested in are on the melancholic and wistful side, such as tangos both argentinian and european, and nostalgic popular songs from my country. If I understand correctly, both the bandoneon and chemnitzer have a similar level of difficulty being both diatonic instruments. Apart from the difference in sound, how similarly do they play? If I ever decide to buy a premium instrument, would going from chemnitzer to bando require extensive relearning?

 

What would you advise me to do? Would a chemnitzer work for my purposes, or am I better off biting the bullet and trying to find myself a used bando someplace? I've also looked into the duet concertina, but apart from something like the Elise price is once again my main concern.

 

Thanks in advance!

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I play whatever comes affordably and conveniently to hand.  I play a duet concertina and all sorts of music with it.  I've played some diatonic boxes as well.  Buy the chemnitzer for goodness sake!  Sit with it and explore.  Don't try to impose your will, (or someone else's). The bandoneon wasn't built for tango.  Any instrument will sing with you. Jazz on a bowed psaltry.!?

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Hello, OskariL,

Your question is a difficult one for this forum, because most of us here play a British style of concertina, whether Anglo, English or some form of Duet. Some of us do play different types, and could tell you which type is more suited to a certain kind of music than another type.

When we're talking about Chemnitzers and Bandoneons, however, we're into German concertinas. These are differnt from their British cousins in shape, size and construction. Notably, German concertinas (of all types) tend to have two or more reeds to each button, which gives more volume, and also allows special effects, like "wet" tuning (two reeds tuned slightly apart), or the Bandoneon's typical "dry octave" tuning (two reeds tuned precisely an octave apart).

As @wunkssaid above: "Any instrument will sing with you." This is true to a certain extent, in that you can, for example, play all the notes of a bagpipe tune on an oboe - however, it will not sound like bagpipe music, though it may be attractive. Certain genres of music are to some extent formed by the instruments typically used to play them, and these genres sound most authentic when played on the defining instrument. With the Argentinian tango, the "authentic" sound comes with piano, violin - and the "dry-octave" tuned Bandoneon. Even when an accordeonist switches in his "dry-octave" register, we immediately think, "Tango!" British-made concertinas are all single-reeded, so this "tango effect" just can't be achieved (though a well-played tango on an Anglo or Duet may sound very nice).

I must admit that I don't know much about the way Chemnitzers are tuned. I know that there are double- or triple-reeded ones, but I dont think there are "dry-octave" Chemnitzers.

Another aspect that affects the typical msic for an instrument is the tuning. For instance, European and North American dance music is almost exclusively in the keys of G, D or A, because these are the open strings of the fiddle. The bisonoric concertinas all have a preference for certain keys: the Anglo and the simple German concertina in C or G, and the Bandoneon in G, A or E. These are dictated by the tuning of the two central rows of buttons of the old, German 20-button concertina (which gave its tuning to the "Anglo-German, or Anglo, concertina). The buttons outside of this central area of 20 buttons (10 on each side) vary a lot between the diferent types, and make certain musical effects easier or more difficult, thus influencing the typical tunes of the genre that the instrument is "responsible" for.

I've never tried a Chemnitzer, but I play Anglo and a little Bandoneon, and my experience is that only very simple, rudimentary tunes with standard accompaniments are transferable.

 

Hope this helps!

 

BTW, although I have a Bandoneon, I never use it for tangos. It's a small model with only one reed per note, so it hasn't got the "tango" sound!

 

Cheers,

John

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I've ventured into Chemnitzer and it's really just a large Anglo with some Jeffries duet elements thrown in.  Another set of fingerngs to learn but, depending on the box, not that hard to play.  The big multi-stop ones get pretty heavy but so do big accordions.  Compared to the english boxes, they come pretty cheap over here.

 

I'd say, buy it and try it out.  It's not a life-long committment.

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Back in the late 70s and early 80s, I played a 52 button 4 voice Chemnitzer C box with a polka band. Make sure that this box in a key compatible with the type of music you want to play. These instruments are expensive and are a lot of fun to play once you get the hang of it. Basically, you play melody on the right hand and bass/chords on the left. You have to make your chords so you can play in minor chords if you need to. There is a book long out of print that you may be able to buy on eBay. It is called the Silberhorn method if I remember correctly. I used it to learn Chemnitzer concertina and it should be helpful to you. You can play many types of music on this besides Argentinean music. I played polkas, Irish and even some German tunes. It is quite versatile. Give it a try. Good luck.👍

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On 4/24/2021 at 4:29 AM, buttonbox21 said:

Back in the late 70s and early 80s, I played a 52 button 4 voice Chemnitzer C box with a polka band. Make sure that this box in a key compatible with the type of music you want to play. These instruments are expensive and are a lot of fun to play once you get the hang of it. Basically, you play melody on the right hand and bass/chords on the left. You have to make your chords so you can play in minor chords if you need to. There is a book long out of print that you may be able to buy on eBay. It is called the Silberhorn method if I remember correctly. I used it to learn Chemnitzer concertina and it should be helpful to you. You can play many types of music on this besides Argentinean music. I played polkas, Irish and even some German tunes. It is quite versatile. Give it a try. Good luck.👍

 

And someone is now selling a copy of the Silberhorn book on eBay: https://www.ebay.com/itm/254954007213 .

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