I am delighted to announce that I will be back at the Irish Folk Workshop Bonn to teach a beginners/intermediate Irish button accordion class. The workshop takes place from 21. – 22. of March 2020 in the facilities of the Music School in Bonn.
The classes will run from Saturday morning until Sunday evening (with coffee/lunch breaks in between) and a nice trad. session in the local Irish Pub on Saturday evening).
The button accordion class aims at beginners and intermediate players who own a B/C button accordion. You can lend an accordion during the workshop (for free) in case you don’t have one. We’ll learn one or two easy tunes (I provide sheet music and tabulature) and discuss all matters of Irish button accordion playing: How to make it sound Irish? How to play ornamentation? How to play fast? Where to put my fingers? and more…
Please note: The amount of accordions that can be borrowed is limited and it’s first come, first serve. If you know you want to attend, and you need a box: Reserve your accordion: here.
For sale is a very special, very sweet sounding Hohner Pokerwork in the key of Bb/Eb. The instrument was restored and tuned following a baroque tuning system from Andreas Werckmeister first published in his writings from 1691.
Readers of our website know about our praise of Ollie King’s fantastic solo record and obviously we had to make a Bb/Eb box after hearing it sound so mellow and pure on that recording. To generate an even more harmonic and sweet sound we choose Werckmeister’s non-equally tempered tuning system in combination with a flat and modern tremolo.
The Hohner Pokerwork itself, is an early one with a black wooden keyboard. Some normal, age related, wear and tear, can be seen on the outside of the box but it comes in overall perfect playing condition.
brand new reeds
new felt pads (to quieten the noise of the keyboard)
While we are in the final stage of completing the next restored melodeon, we have a hot tip for all those of you who can never get enough traditional Irish music: Nuadán is an exciting young band from the Gaeltacht area in the County Waterford (Déise).
These guys were brought up with traditional music and that can be heard. A lovely selection of tunes and songs played on fiddle, flute, box and bouzouki. What strikes me most is the wonderful arrangements and the lilting pace. It’s almost like the instruments are singing the tunes. While the band is harmonizing perfectly, the box playing of Cárthach deserves to be highlighted. This is an accordion site after all. Well done, gents!
Tip: Check out the brilliant lift created when going into the final polka on track #2.
I will definitely have my eyes and ears open for what future traditional Irish music Nuadán will play.
Lately I find myself enjoying more and more English folk music, especially English melodeon music. If you do too, then you should really check out Ollie King’s superb two solo recordings.
I have just discovered them myself and wish I had done so earlier. This is hands down some of the best melodeon playing I came across so far. Beautiful tunes in the most skilled, yet tasteful arrangements.
Did you notice something unusual about the sound of the box? Ollie gives it away in the description of one of his videos:
Finally, I’ll finish with one of my favourite tunes played on my favourite melodeon. I learnt this in sessions with Anahata back in my native Cambridgeshire many years ago. A wonderful, bouncy tune that sounds especially lovely in Eb. Played on an original clubbed Hohner Erika in Bb/Eb.
That’s why! Here you can see and hear the box in action:
More about Ollie King’s English melodeon music can be found on his website. His highly recommended records are available online here.
Hint…we have Bb/Eb reeds and vintage wooden Erikas in stock as well. Contact us if you interested in such an instrument.
Here’s a free button accordion tutorial using some footage of a workshop I gave in Bonn/Germany about two years ago. The recording is supposed to help the participants remember the tune and the bass line as well as some ornamentation. I always teach this tune to my students, it’s simple yet fun to play. Especially when spiced up with some nice bass notes.
Have a look:
Download the free sheet music for the lesson here:
“What do I have to do to play tunes faster on the button accordion?” is by far the most asked question when I teach Irish button accordion to my students. Here are some tips & tricks that will help you to play fast tunes:
Keep your fingers close to the buttons. The less far the finger needs to travel to press down the button, the better!
Try to operate the bellows with minimal effort. It does not require much work to make your box sound! Find a good compromise between desired loudness (it needs to sound good!) and effortless playing. Little bellow movements can be carried out very controlled and very fast. Don’t push and pull too hard. You will tire out and have little control, sounding hasty and sloppy.
Hint: If one or two notes, need much more bellow pressure to sound right, have your accordion repairman take a look. Very often, this can be fixed fairly easy.
It’s possible to play fast and still use all the beautiful, delicate ornaments. However if you are struggling with keeping up speed, then it’s time to let go the fancy ornaments. It makes a good exercise too: Just focus on the tune and groove!
If somehow you are always running out of fingers, you need to re-think your fingering.
I personally consider the following points most important:
As a rule-of-thumb you should play “one button, one finger”. Meaning whenever you change the button, you change the finger too. No sliding from one note to the other.
Use your pinky! Four fingers is already little enough, so make sure to use all of them.
Analyze where things go wrong. There is a part in a tune where you always get stuck? Most likely it can be resolved by changing the fingers in a smarter way before that part comes up. Look at the following examples of common tune patterns and my suggested fingering
Hint: Need help? Sign up for a lesson with Ole either in person or via Skype if you want to learn how to play tunes faster on a button accordion.
Listen to as much Irish accordion music as you can!
Fiddle players might favor a different version of a tune than you. It’s easy to play for them, but hard for you. In this case, search for a box recording of that tune. Not always, but often you might find a variant that sounds and plays better on the box. If you are in a band and have to play what the fiddle plays, check out the next point.
This is by far the most important point. Practice should be fun: Don’t practice one phrase over and over and over again like the classical players do. Instead play it a couple of times and when you feel you get frustrated, play something else for a while to give your brain some rest. Then, try it again. If it still doesn’t work, try again tomorrow or in the evening. It will work eventually and then it feels great :-)
To be most efficient, you should try to practice at least every other day. It doesn’t need to be long, but it must be frequent. I found that 20-30 mins practice every other day generated quite a boost in my repertoire and skills.
If you are digging the old Paolo sound as much as we do, then this box might well tempt you: We are selling a 4-voice (LMMM) B/C tuned red Paolo Soprani Elite II at an affordable price. The instrument shows some age related wear and tear on the backside but is in excellent playing condition.
The accordion was most likely made between 1980-90. It comes with 9-treble couplers that allow for an M, MM, MMM, LM, LMMM sound. Four couplers are dublicate. The bass coupler takes out the lower bass and thirds. The instrument is tuned to a nice Paolo style tremolo.
It comes with a suitable hard case and two shoulder straps. This is a private sale out of our personal collection and trade-in offers are welcome.
Contact us for more details about the red Paolo Soprani Elite II in B/C.
We just finished servicing a lovely wooden Weltmeister 516 melodeon in C/F, made in Germany. The melodeon was bought in 2007 and has hardly ever been played. Apart from some very minor scratches below the keyboard, the instrument is in excellent condition. It is well in tune with a medium wet tremolo that sounds full and warm. However, in case you prefer a dry tremolo, we will re-tune the melodeon for a small additional fee.
The fifth button of the inside row has been switched. In Dutch this is called “gedraaide 5de toets” and a common (and handy!) Dutch modification. If needed, this can be reversed without any additional cost.
The instrument feels new and plays very easy. Therefore this quality melodeon is an ideal beginners instrument that is easy to handle and easy to make sound good:
The melodeon comes with a set of two nice shoulder straps and custom fit solid case as well as our 1-year workshop warranty.
I happily live in the Netherlands for a couple of years now. Before I moved here, I knew from the telling of fellow trad. musicians that the Irish session in Mulligan’s Bar in Amsterdam is top-notch and it surely is. However, what I did not know is that there exists a vivid Dutch button accordion scene outside the trad. Irish music regime.
The Dutch refer to a two row diatonic button accordion as a “trekzak” which probably translates best as “pull-bag”. There exists a variety of dedicated Dutch trekzak pages, one of which is The Harmonikahoek I already highlighted in a recent post. In general many tabulature is available for free and many workshops and lessons from notable players can be found online. There are trekzak clubs and dedicated trekzak festivals like the annual busking festival in Enkhuizen.
This episode of inside the box is dedicated to a very Dutch modification to the two row box:
De gedraaide 5de toets / The switched 5th button
So what is a switched fifth button supposed to be? It refers to the fifth button on the inner row. For this button the push/pull pattern is reversed. Here’s a look inside a box where someone has switched the fifth button by himself:
As you can see it’s quite literally a switch, a switch of the reed plates! The two reeds that correspond to the fifth button are taken off, turned around, waxed on and tuned again.
So what is it good for? Honestly, the first time I tried to play such a box I found it very confusing and not particularly appealing. However, this initial confusion faded fast.
To explain the concept, I shall focus on a C/F tuned box. It translates to other tunings such as G/D or A/D as well.
On a C/F box the fifth button on the inside row contains the notes C and D as shown on the keyboard schematics below.
Main advantage is that – with the fifth button turned – both notes C and D can be played on either push or pull. The player can choose depending on the tune. This allows you too match the note to the basses more easily.
As shown in above figure, you can play half the scale on the same bellows movement. This will result in a much much smoother sound of the tune. However, if you want the old push ‘n draw style, you can just pick the C and D from the other -non turned- buttons.
I have to say, after serviced a couple of accordions with a gedraaide 5de toets, I grew quite fond of this keyboard modification. It’s easy to adopt too and fun to play.
If you are curious and consider to try de gedraaide 5de toets, contact me for info and pricing. It is a fast, cheap and above-all reversible modification.