Got this done today. A bit of fatalistic faldarall thrust in the face of a cold, unfeeling universe. I like it. So there. This was done by Moonman Sam (Hill) in Hallowell, Maine.
|A beautiful box|
Today I took delivery of my new box, a Hohner Erica A/D, sent from England by its previous owner, a denizen of the inestimable melodeon.net.
I’ve had my eye out for an A/D box for a while. I found myself playing in situations where my disdain for “the peoples’ key” was becoming more than a charming eccentricity. I had boxes that played in C, G, F, Bb, and Eb. I needed an A and a D. (Anything beyond three sharps or three flats seems a vulgar affectation.)
So, did I want posh box (oh, a Tommy!)? A less expensive posh box (a Lilly)? Or a tiny box (Giordy)? Or a Baffetti organato? I didn’t know. Then this box showed up for sale on mel.net.
I was intrigued. I always had a thing for that old fashion Hohner sound, and had actually started on a mighty Corso. The Erica is a classic bog norm box. Jean Blanchard played one back in the day. Then, accordion fettler, bold Lester Bailey, pointed out that he had worked on the Erica and that it was an excellent model of the species. Also, that the seller was very trustworthy. That was enough for me.
After adjusting all the straps to suit my massive frame, I made some videos. Be kind, still getting used the action and all that.
Continuing my correspondence with David Maust (begun in the previous post).
Jan. 26, 2014
|Spoiler! He goes for the Panther!|
Thanks for the tips. I really appreciate your opinions on all this and feel I know where to go from here in looking for a particular box. It’s hard to decide since there are so many beautiful accordions out there, not just brands but keys and reed set-ups as well.
I took a look at that Corona III and you are right, it is has a remarkable sound. I also love the sound of your Dino Baffetti. But I think I will probably go with a less expensive, simpler option at this stage in my playing like a Presswood or Pokerwork like you say. I should be able to afford one of these and feel it would be a better choice than the Panther. I really liked the used Presswood and Pokerwork boxes on the Button Box’s site and watched the videos.
As far as key, I’m assuming a two row G/C will be a good tuning to start out with. I figure that’s what many players would do French folk music with. I know that hurdy gurdies that are usually G/C tuned are considered Auvernait and D/G Bourbonnais. I’m hoping for something that is a pretty standard key for my first instrument. And G/C is good for American folk stuff too which most of my local musician friends play – although I do like playing in D also… but I figure I always have my chromatic accordion for other keys if I want them.
And I’m going to do some looking around for a shop in my area (Los Angeles) and up north around San Francisco too as I’ll be up there most likely this summer for a family trip. There is an annual accordion festival near there in a town called Cotati (which is close to SF), although going to it is not an option this year for me. Still, maybe there is a shop up there.
And maybe I’ll be surprised and find something in my area too. I found out this year that one of my high schoolers is learning button accordion from his uncle. I’m sure there are more at my school who play as well; my school is overwhelmingly Latino and accordion is plentiful in a lot of the traditional and popular Mexican music.
Thanks again for all your help! I’ve learned so much from our exchange and am deeply grateful for the chance to talk.
After talking with the Button Box some, visiting a place in downtown Los Angeles that had a few diatonic accordions (mainly 3 rows for Norteno players, Corona, Panther, etc.), checking my budget and looking on Craigslist, I decided to buy a Hohner Panther to start myself out.
And although I really like some of the used “Presswoods” and Pokerworks on the Button Box site, I am looking for a G/C instrument and they don’t currently have any in my price range. I’m staying on the look out for one of these but in the meantime, I was able to easily get started with a Panther.
There are a lot of Panthers and Coronas on Craigslist out here in California, and I wanted to be able to play the box I was getting since I have heard the Panther’s out of factory tuning can be inconsistent sometimes. Getting one on ebay, even new just seemed scary to me.
Also, the place in downtown LA wanted 600 for a Panther and I could get one on Craigslist for 350-400. I found an older style Panther about 20 min. away, the model with the Corona-like grill (I really don’t like the newer grill) and it is in great shape. I have been really enjoying it! It is so light compared to my 60 bass piano accordion and I love figuring out tunes and just noodling around on it around the house while my kids play. And I can take it with me so much more easily than lugging the 17 pound piano accordion around!
So my plan is that I’ve got this Panther and will play it for a year or two to see how I like playing a diatonic box. I figured that if I didn’t like it as much as my piano accordion, I could sell it. But if I did like it (which I do!) then I eventually will probably sell my Panther locally on Craigslist and step-up to a nicer box.
I also got the Panther, because I thought I might like the 3 row over a 2 row. I’m undecided on this right now, but the Panther was an inexpensive way for me to try out playing essentially either a 2 or a 3 row system. I purchased Pignol & Milleret Book 1 from the button box and am playing the Panther with this course like it is a 2 row instrument, since that is probably what I will eventually get (but that third row is tempting for shortcuts and fun stuff).
I like having this P and M as a structured course to get my fingering right from the beginning (but ouch it works my left hand pinky doing basses with four fingeres! – I’m used to Stradella bass and NO pinky). But even though I’m not doing much row crossing yet in the course, I’m amazed at how quickly I figure out the same tones and runs across the rows when picking out favorite tunes and messing around with it.
One question for you if you don’t mind… Pgnol and Milleret “deeply” suggest removing thirds. I looked this up on Mel.net and read up on it a little, and now am thinking about taping off my thirds. I took my basses out and mapped out the thirds and I could tape them off easily (although it means taping the reeds themselves which I hesitate to do until I talk to the Button Box or Mel. net or something; I’m very careful to not touch my reeds, even breathe on them, so the idea of taping them makes me cringe). On Italian boxes, I guess thirds are on the same “port” so you can tape them at the “hole” very easily, but Hohners are not like this. If I take the ports on most of my thirds, then I will also be taping a tonic or a 5th for another chord.
Do you play with thirds? I taped my Bb at the port to see how I would like the sound (has the third on push and pull), and I do like it. I like the simplicity and un-Stradella-bass-ness of it. But maybe I’m a little jaded to Stradella-sounding basses from piano accordion playing. When I play French-Trad. things on my piano accordion, I think the Stradella-bass mucks it up on occasion. If you did remove thirds, any advice on taping them off?
Sorry I got a little long-winded, but I love getting to talk about this stuff with someone who enjoys listening. I’m sure you understand.
Very often I am asked questions along the line of “How can I get started?” or “What sort instrument should a beginner buy?” These are questions that don’t have pat answers, but they can start great conversations. David Maust, a piano accordion player who is considering the intensity of diatonicity, began such a conversation via e-mail a few months ago. Enjoy.
|Accordion Temptation is Well Documented|
Wherein I Urge Him to Succumb
Thanks again for the conversation, I’ve really enjoyed it! -David
Videos down below!
The Dino Baffetti Tex-Mex II/34 arrived on Thursday! Very exciting! I had intended to do an internal examination of the box, a la Owen Woods or Daddy Long Les, but I found I couldn’t bear to take a screw driver to it, not even to remove the grill. I’m made of less stern stuff than that, it seems.
Instead, I’ve been playing the heck out of it. Here are some first thoughts:
- Big one! Playing a three row is different from playing two or two-and-a-half row or even two-row-plus-accidentals. Possibly this is obvious. The three row quint box can do different things that I don’t yet know how to do. New frontiers!
- The two row repertoire works just fine on this one. Even if it is obvious that playing up-and-down the rows is not what it was built to do, everything I’ve been learning for the last 15 years is essentially transferable!
- At melodeon.net there is a recurring discussion about stepped keyboards vs. flat keyboards. Playing a flat keyboard for the first time in years has made no difference to me.
- Even though this is an F/Bb/Eb box (which is exactly what I was after) I’m choosing to name it as G/C/F and recognize that it’s a transposing instrument. All of the sheet music and tab is for G/C/F, so this seems simplest.
- It sounds AMAZING. Essentially, as one colleague mentioned, it’s a clone of a Hohner Corona, done to a absurdly high level of quality. The sound is so very sweet. And the touch is effortless. I do have fond feelings for Hohner accordions, but this is a cut above.
- I love it.
- It is a little silly that with five rows of box to my name, I still don’t have a D row. What sort of psychological block am I dealing with? Is it PTSD from the Minneapolis Irish sessions?
Discussing his non-collection, Andy Cutting sent along pictures of some of his accordéons. Not pictured are any of the three Mory boxes, which are somewhat ubiquitous in Cutting’s photos.
|One of the Maxes, the Pokerwork, the Mignon, and … what is that with
the stradella bass? Is that the Crimean thing from John Tam?
I also asked Cutting about acquiring a D/G Castagnari Lilly “by accident.” He tells the following story:
I ordered a D/G Lilly for a friend. A few months later it arrived. My friend was delighted then a couple of weeks another one arrived. I couldn’t very well send it back so I kept it. I now lend it out to people who want to have a go at playing the the box.
This makes a bit more sense than the Lost Weekend I was envisioning — where you wake up with unexplained accordéons in your home — and reveals a not very surprising generosity of spirit!
Part One is Here.
Andy Cutting does NOT have an accordéon collection. Listening to Andy Cutting, one is entranced, of course, by his playing, but one also marvels — perhaps with a modicum of jealousy — at the sound of his instruments. I asked Cutting about his instruments. Is he a gear hound? Does he have a collection?
I wouldn’t say I was a gear hound at all. I’m primarily driven by playing music on a machine and have the instruments I feel I can best do that. I don’t really have a collection, as such. Although my wife would say otherwise! For those who are interested, the boxes I have are:
- Hohner Pokerwork D/G (my first box which I still play at home)
- Hohner one row four stop G
- Hohner Club 3 D/G
- One of those Chinese one rows
- A small two row CBA thing that John Tams got in the Crimea when he was filming Sharp,
- Castagnari Mignon Gish,
- Two Castagnari Max, one in D and one in A
- Castagnari Lilly D/G (bought by mistake!)
- Castagnari Handry 18 G/C
- Oakwood (I’ve no idea what model. It was made for me), two row 21 button, 8 bass with stop for the thirds, G/C Bandoneon (octave) tuned,
- Two Castagnari Mory C/F and, finally,
- Castagnari Mory D/G (my most used and favorite box)
|With Chris Wood|
Some months ago, Lester Bailey posted the below video as a submission for the June 2011 Melodeon.net tune-of-the-month, the tune “Lemmy Brazil’s No. 2.” I’ve come back to it again and again, ever since. Played on a plethora of Hohner accordions, Lester’s vid gives a great sense of the range of sounds the might Hohner brand has — all of them happy making.
And as a bonus, also from Lester, a pin up of Lementina Brazil herself!
Gary: Could you tell me when and how you got started playing?
|Hohner 2915, Pokerwork|
Sylvain: I started to play diatonique during the holidays of 1977 near Saint-Malo in Brittany. My [first] wife had been offered a Hohner 2915 few years before. It was sleeping in our flat, waiting to be played. My wife was a violinist and had learned two or three tunes on the 2915, not more. We took it with us, as I had the idea to take profit of holidays to give it a try. Within two days I was able to play 2 or 3 tunes, not very well but already danceable! I remember having started my playing with “En avant blonde,” a famous waltz played on record by Marc Perronne at this time. Since that, even if I had some periods where I played less, I never really stopped playing.
|Sylvain, the blur in the middle, leads the dance|
|Sylvain Piron and Charles Gonfalone, back in the day.|
|Sylvain with Raymond Frank, in Alsace|
My attraction for traditional music and dances was in fact very old. When I was about 15, we founded in my village in Normandy, a group to do folkloric regional dances. It was for showing on stage, not for the bal. But that experience was very positive, and I discovered the richness of our heritage. That probably influenced me in the choices I made later.
|Perlinpinpin Folk, with Marc Perrone.|
UPDATE: The Giordy has been sold to a good home. The Corso has gone back to the Button Box for trade toward the Nik. Thanks, everyone.
Breaking from the usual festivities, I’d like to point out that I’m currently selling two accordions in hopes of financing my Castagnari purchase. The first is my beloved Hohner Corso, which I discussed at length here. the second is my little Castagnari Giordi. It sounds like a concertina, but plays like a melodeon. A video of me playing the Giordi is below. Both are well-tended, great sounding boxes in excellent shape. Both are in G/C. I’m asking $500 for the Hohner, and $700 for the Giordi.