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.