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PostPosted: Wed Oct 28, 2009 4:16 am 
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I've been listening to Phil Cunningham lately.
While I like his playing very much, I don't fancy the sound/timbre that the PA's he plays has. It's too "full", it sounds like three different accordions at once. I want something that sounds more simple, and that has potential for more subtleness (I don't know if it's Phil's playing that is powerful or the PA that only allows powerful playing).

What I want to know is: can a PA be made to sound just like a button accordion?
Or is it entirely a different instrument when it comes to sound?
I'm aware that the rhythm and ornamentation can be different with PA because the notes don't change depending on the direction of the bellow-movement.

I want to buy an accordion as a side-instrument, since I've discovered that flute wasn't really for me.
As a side-instrument, I can't afford paying 1000 bucks, which it would cost to buy an Irish Dancemaster including shipping and taxes.
And B/C or C#/D Button Accordions are hard to get in my country, so I'm thinking I can get away with a fair-quality two-octave PA. Hagstrom or Weltmeister maybe.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 28, 2009 8:24 am 
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Rhadge wrote:
It's too "full", it sounds like three different accordions at once.

That's because you're hearing at least 3 different sets of reeds at once. Some of the sets are tuned at a frequency offset to each other, to produce a very "wet" or "tremolo sound" - which seems to be favored in much Scottish PA playing. But the selection of which sets of reeds to activate is under the control of the player. Most PAs offer a choice of stops or settings ranging from very dry to very wet. And choosing a drier setting will make it sound less "Scottish".

If you want to hear what a dry PA can sound like in trad music, check out the playing of Jimmy Keane with Bohola, or Karen Tweed of Tweed and Carr. To my ear, without knowing, it would be hard sometimes to tell if they're playing PAs or button boxes. As you say, beyond the choice of reeds, it's the playing technique that makes the difference.

The tendency in Irish trad in recent years has been toward a drier sound. A typical Irish box may have 2 or 3 reed sets, pre-configured for a dry or wet sound, in a range of: dry, demi-swing, swing, musette (wettest) - with dry or light demi-swing predominating nowadays.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 28, 2009 1:42 pm 
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There would be one other key factor in the difference between button accordions and piano accorions. That is the size of the instrument. By their nature, even a small piano accordion probably has at least twice the volume (i.e. in space, not loudness) of a standard 23 button 3 or 4 voice button accordion. Its going to have at least some impact on the sound.

that being said, I agree the tuning of the reeds is probably the biggest factor. And I have seen some great piano accordion players who can pull trad off convincingly... actually more than convincingly. Still, its an awfully big instrument :).

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Bill


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 28, 2009 10:06 pm 
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Also, with piano accordion you don't look like you're having a laterally inclined subspecies of Parkinson's disease. :D

Joke to the side, it is heavier, although there are those female versions (a bit narrower keys and a bit shorter and lighter box), and the rule of the thumb is - the heavier box, the greater the possibilities.
That means that it has more reed ranks, and that means that it could produce more different sounds. It could have up to like four octaves (in dependence of the keyboard size) which could be interchanged into the plethora of sounds. One of the best things is the fact that you could fit in into any band, because of it's range, and be very versatile; you could play the melody or the rhythm (or both). And you can give it a full throttle and sound out like a church organ. :wink:

Now, any PA with two parallel reed ranks could be tuned so to give that tremolo or even musette sound (which is predominant in ITM or even more in STM), you only need to find a master tuner. The trick is, as MT Guru said, to offset the tuning of one reed rank in relation to other, so it would produce that secondary low freq vibrations that are perceived as tremolo effect.

Also, you could have up to 140 bass buttons (from 12 to 140), or if you will, you can have your majors and minors and sevenths and dim's under your single palm. This gives you a world of opportunities for accompanying the melody.

P.S. Where are you from, actually? :-? A Weltmeister (even the used one) could cost well beyond a 1000 dollars.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 30, 2009 7:51 am 
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Sounds nice!

Actually, size-wise, I would prefer a button accordion.
But a small PA is cheaper for me, with all the taxes and shipping if I buy a B/C or C#/D, and money matters since it's not my primary instrument.
I'm not very interested in the possibilities that the PA offers in ways of bass and reed configuration, although I can see that it's important for some.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 03, 2009 6:09 pm 
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i would advise making sure your PA has a minimum of 31 keys. the compact PAs with 24 keys are simply not enough for itm and will drive you mad. ideal would be, 34 to 37, but there are compact PAs here and there with 30 or 31, which will suffice for itm....

when PA is derided as not suitable for ITM, i find that without knowing it, the critics are really reacting against the fact that many better-known irish/celtic PA players:

play hopped-up hyper-speeds
play hopped-up, noisy, untraditional-sounding ornaments
play (overplay) their PA basses & bass chords in a way that does not sound like itm basswork
play fusion-y arrangements including non-traditional-sounding backing and rhythm,
etc.....

these players are absolutely fantastic musicians and more power to them. but they do not sound like they are playing itm, and this is sometimes unfairly ascribed to inherent properties of the PA itself. true, the PA won't sound like the diatonic push/pull phrasing derived from the one-row melodeon and evident in the c#/d (or b/c boxes when playing flat on the "c" row). but pa's CAN phrase very traditionally in the vein of traditional fiddle or flute phrasing....

to my ear, mirella murray, alan kelly, and jimmy keane, who can all do hopped-up fusion-y stuff when they are in the mood, are simply gorgeous players of straight itm when they are playing more "pure drop" ornamentation and arrangements....i'm a particular fan of mirella murray, and alan kelly's cd with his brother john on flute, "fourmilehouse," is gorgeous traditional playing (different from his "Mosaic" cds, which are more world/fusiony-influenced).....here's a nice short PA clip from youtube, in this case an unnamed player:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KpRFgBw-b9o


the pa sound i don't care for is at the extreme opposite end of the spectrum from the super-wet scottish musette described above....i'm not a big fan of the bone-dry single-reed sound in either a PA or a diatonic. it is too antiseptic and denatured for me. but a "dry" sound with two middle reeds set at about 5/6 cents to be full and round, is lovely in both a PA or a diatonic....


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 19, 2009 9:41 pm 
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it's comforting to know that the p/a players want to sound like us box players... unfortunately we're outnumbered and there are far more p/a players performing and recording than box players... still - at least we can take comfort in knowing that in their hearts they wish they were box players... :lol: :wink:

as for choosing between the 2 - I tried both and in my opinion the box is easier in terms of straight forward melody playing - but the p/a has the advantage when it comes to using the basses for accompaniment --

if you really want to do ITM go with the box and find a friend to back you up on keyboard or guitar -- throwing in the chords and basses on the box comes eventually -- the p/a is a wonderful instrument, I have greatest admiration and envy for p/a players - but in the end the box is closer to the fiddle and flute and voice, which are the source instruments/sounds of ITM and are what we are ultimately trying to sound like.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 24, 2009 11:29 pm 
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One point not mentioned by anyone is that button boxes are push pull instruments. That is they produce different pitches when a given button is pressed and the bellows are pushed or pulled. That required change of direction provides part of the characteristic sound of Irish Traditional Music on a free reed instrument. Using a PA in that repertoire is a bit like using an English concertina rather than and anglo concertina; the same issue of push pull. That said there are folks who successfully play ITM of PA or English concertina. But they are few and far between and generally are looked down upon by purists unless they are very good.

On the other hand if you want to play a wide variety of musics the PA might be the way to go...or the button box analogue with 120 basses (expensive beasts but very nice.

Hope you're still enjoying my old box tedrick. When are we getting together again. PM me.


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 25, 2009 1:01 am 
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cboody wrote:
That said there are folks who successfully play ITM of PA or English concertina. But they are few and far between and generally are looked down upon by purists unless they are very good.

Two very small quibbles:

1. My impression is that PA is as common, if not more so, for feiseanna. And that is certainly ITM, too. Here's an example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LC08VEyTGdA

2. I play only English concertina at Irish sessions (when I play concertina), and have never gotten that "look down on" vibe from anyone, including some very very picky players. Maybe it would be different elsewhere, or maybe I've just been lucky. :-)

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 26, 2009 1:34 pm 
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cboody wrote:
One point not mentioned by anyone is that button boxes are push pull instruments. That is they produce different pitches when a given button is pressed and the bellows are pushed or pulled. That required change of direction provides part of the characteristic sound of Irish Traditional Music on a free reed instrument. Using a PA in that repertoire is a bit like using an English concertina rather than and anglo concertina; the same issue of push pull. That said there are folks who successfully play ITM of PA or English concertina. But they are few and far between and generally are looked down upon by purists unless they are very good.

On the other hand if you want to play a wide variety of musics the PA might be the way to go...or the button box analogue with 120 basses (expensive beasts but very nice.

Hope you're still enjoying my old box tedrick. When are we getting together again. PM me.


A couple of quibbles... There are two distinct types of button accordion.. the Diatonic Button accordion which are push pull instruments.. and Chromatic Button Accordions which are not... they also are not used much (if at all) by players of ITM.

As for the push pull nature of button accordions adding to the sound (more likely Rhythm? That might be true of C#/D boxes, but the B/C can and often is played in a manner that is very smooth and flowing.

--
Bill


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 27, 2009 12:30 am 
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I play piano accordion in an Irish rock band, and depending upon which PA you'd pickup, you can have a lot of choices when it comes to reed banks. I have an old Hohner PA which gives me the option of two reeds at once or three reeds. It's a bit limited but damn it if I don't love the sound of those old reed blocks! :D

I've got a newer Universal PA that has more reed bank combinations. Unless my ears deceive me, I think I actually have a couple of buttons on there that allow me to only use one reed bank by itself, which I cannot do on the Hohner. Then I can add two or three reed banks enabled at the same time to increase the "size" of the sound.

As far as the sound you are going for, it does sound like a concertina or button accordion might be more suitable for you. At some point I'd love to learn how to play concertina or some other type of squeezebox.

Matt

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 27, 2009 5:32 am 
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The rarity or otherwise of PAs in ITM probably depends on where you live.

PAs are a very common instrument in Scotland. They dominate a lot of Scottish music (not always in a positive way IMHO). Most people in scotland think PA rather than button box when they hear the word accordeon.

Many excellent Irish style players in Scotland use the PA. My personal preference is for button box, but it is clearly possible to play ITM well on the PA.

- chris


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 27, 2009 9:31 pm 
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Scottish accordion playing used to be dominated by Jimmie Shand. If memory serves he played a C/C#/D bok with 120 basses. PA probably comes closest...


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 05, 2009 9:36 pm 
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I recently purchased a 25 key/12 bass Hohner Student II PA accordion which was made in the 50s...actually, my friend Ron (who is on this board - Hi Ron if you're reading this) purchased it for me and cleaned it up a bit and fixed a stuck reed...paid $75 which includes shipping.

It's a nice, wonderful sounding accordion. The 25 keys gets me a full 2 octaves , so it's a lot like playing flute - anything below low C I have to play up an octave and above high C I play down...but so much of ITM stays within the 2 octave range and that's what I primarily play on flute anyway. However, right now I'm mostly playing Christmas carols and some easy Bach because...I'm a very raw beginner.

I'm having a blast with this little thing. Being able to play so many differnt types of music on it will be nice, and being able to play chords with the right hand is nice (especially since I play piano a bit, so the whole keyboard idea is very comfortable to me). I've also held a friends larger accordion (48 bass if I recall - a Saltere...or however you spell that), and that puppy weighs a ton.

So, I guess my point is there are small, cheap piano accordions out there that can make a nice second instrument (flute is still my primary instrument).


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 06, 2009 10:27 pm 
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48 bass is nothing.
Imagine one with 9 treble ranks+120 basses. It could weight up to 15kg. :D


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