Friday, August 10, 2012

A very rare treat!

Today, I randomly discovered a YouTube video that has put an indelible smile on my face: footage of Marcel Messervier and friends.  Wonderful.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.  And a question: is Marcel ever going to age?

Monday, April 2, 2012

"Big" boxes still distinctively "melodeonistic"

Surveying the internet content on diatonic accordions, I have encountered the frequent refrain that 3 row button accordions give the player extra versatility -- at a price. Due to the greater ease with which they play chromatic passages, and because of the availability of notes in both bellows directions, they sacrifice the "charm" of the simpler one- and two-row diatonic boxes.  The unsuspecting player, so the argument goes, will find his playing "smoothed out" and will soon gravitate toward music that should never have been played on a melodeon.

And then there is the reality.  Many of these boxes aren't all that "big."  The distinctive effect of rapid bellows changes is still available.  The bisonoric basses add harmonic interest.  And even the biggest of these expanded-range boxes are still centered on "home" keys and related minor keys in a way that, like a one-row accordion, gives different weight to each note.

If you don't believe it, ask Cyril Roche. (Video from YouTube.)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A waltz for beginning one-row players

Here is the third installment of tunes for beginning one-row players.  As with the other beginner's tunes, I learned La Valse du Coq from Denis Pepin's out-of-print video.  I have played a highly ornamented version of this tune, and for this recording, it was actually a struggle to tone down the ornamentation because it had so thoroughly worked its way into my muscle memory.  I play the tune through with no repeats -- you could double the length of each section.  First time through with no bass/chords, second time through with basic bass/chords as well as some ornamentation.  MM reeds only (strictly for clarity) on a Melodie in D.

And a direct link to the MP3 here.

And a Melodeon Minute from last year in which I posted a recording of this waltz linked to another.

The first tune for one-row learners is here. And the second one is here.  Cheers!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Flash and glitz, and a very simple accordion!

This video should be interesting to anyone interested in the limits of simple diatonic boxes.  Do not try this at home!  Note the hat: without the hat, none of this would have been possible! Video from YouTube:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Evolution of a tune...

In an earlier post, I gave a sneak preview of a tune I had composed.  The tune has since been refined somewhat.  As a side note: originally, the A part was in waltz time and the B part was in 4/4! Hoping to make it more widely accessible to melodeon players, who can never have too many waltzes, I revised the B part into 3/4. (The earlier post is the first revision -- perhaps someday I'll post the split-time signature version, which has a very different feel!)

Played on the C/F rows of a G/C/F Castagnari Jacky with the bandoneon voicing selected (LM) and the thirds turned off on the left-hand chords.  Here is "Nikolas Builds," copyright 2012.

And a direct link for those who wish to download the MP3.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Rare and available... en France!

I always enjoy perusing the available instruments on a French diato site.  There are almost always instruments that I have never heard of before, like this very fine looking Martin 2 1/2 row.

(Picture by the seller.)
I can't vouch for the quality of the individual instruments (and of course I have no financial connection to the sellers), but I can say that if you are looking for something unusual, this is a good place to check.  I've seen Castagnari mixte accordions (diato treble and stradella bass) as well as oddities (a Castagnari with 30 basses -- 3 rows of 10, bass/major chord/minor chord but not stradella) and some of the brands that we see less frequently in the US (and likely, the UK).

Another tune for one-row learners...

The Marche du St-Laurent was (as far as I recall) the very first tune that I learned on the petit accordeon!  I was practicing it, over and over again, in a rehearsal room at Columbia, when a student opened the door and asked: "Is that a hurdy gurdy?"

The parts were presented the other way around on Denis Pepin's video, but I began playing them this way, without consciously deciding to do so, under the spell of Monsieur Bruneau...

Here it is on a Melodie in D:

And a link to the sound file.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A tune for one-row learners

Here is a tune that I learned fairly early on, from the excellent instructional video by Denis Pepin (out of print).  I can't recall the name of the tune, and because I don't have a VHS player set up, I can't simply refer to the video.  The tune is traditional.

In the recording, I am playing a Melodie in D with only the clarinet reeds (MM+) for clarity.

And a direct link to the MP3 here.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Scottish from Sweden, via Austria...

     Years ago, at a fiddle-centric event near Graz, Austria, I learned this scottish, which is apparently Swedish.  The Austrian fiddlers called it "Swedisch-Schottisch."  I believe they were playing it a fourth higher.
     I'm playing it mostly on the G row of a G/C/F, reaching up to the inside row for "that note," which you will certainly recognize in the B part.

Listen to "Swedisch-Schottisch" here.

(The link above is also an experiment, part of my effort to make my sound clips accessible to multiple platforms and browsers.)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Celebrating 10,000 visits to Melodeon Minutes

      As of today, Melodeon Minutes has been visited over 10,000 times. In celebration of my fine readers, I offer a simple recording of the 2nd part of Quadrille Bouchard, which I learned by listening to recordings of departed master Bruneau.

     It has been interesting to see which posts on Melodeon Minutes were the most popular.  The most visited posts are the video of Denis Pepin and the post about using Cajun accordions for non-Cajun music.  Many visitors find their way to Melodeon Minutes via other blogs or, yet many come here after Google searches.  Not surprisingly, many people who are searching for information on Denis Pepin come to Melodeon Minutes -- there is otherwise very little information about this fantastic player on the internet.  Posts about Castagnaris or specific models are also very popular.

     In the meantime, there is a lot more information on the internet for anyone who wishes to learn about diatonic accordions (melodeons).  Makers like Bertrand Gaillard and Doug Briggs have finally graced the web with information about their unique accordions.  Bloggers like Accordeonaire and Gumshoe Arcana share their personal experiences of melodeon joy.  Enthusiasts from around the world, like Toko, serenade us with their performances.  There are so many contributors to the explosion of melodeon presence on the world wide wide, I tip my hat to those whom I have not mentioned.

     To my readers, here's to you.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Mystery Castagnari 3-row, 18 bass, the "Matris"

Here's another new model from Castagnari's new catalog, the "Matris," depicted in maple (also available in Wenge).
     It compares to the "Evo," which also has the same treble configuration, 2 voice treble, 18 two-voice bass/chords on the left hand.  However, unlike the Evo, the Matris has a curved grille (in a beautiful new pattern) and the dimensions are somewhat smaller, yet still larger than a Benny.
     The mystery is what this means for the development of 3-row designs (and especially 3 row, 18 bass boxes).  The Rik/Handry chassis has been pretty much the standard in 3-row, wooden-bodied melodeons for over two decades, with notable very close designs like Saltarelle's Ocean and Stelvio's large 3-row.  The Benny represents the other end of the spectrum, with an almost shockingly compact size for a 3 row box.  Now comes the Matris, somewhere in the middle, along with new mid-sized 2 voice 3 row boxes, with 18 basses, in Saltarelle and Serenellini's lines.
     Here is a pic from an Italian classified ad, in which you can see the grille design.

  And here is the classified ad (on eBay).

Castagnari for beginners

Looking through Castagnari's beautiful new catalog, I spied a new addition -- the "Brio," a beginner's melodeon.  I have to say, I don't think that I've ever seen an entry-level musical instrument as elegant as the Brio.  Walnut is such a lovely choice for diatonic accordions, and the simple lines of the Brio leave nothing to distract from the beauty of the wood.  Photo from Castagnari/Maison d'Accordeon.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Gorgeous Castagnari Catalog -- now viewable online

     Sometimes I wonder whether the top melodeon builders even need to publish marketing materials -- I would imagine that the Castagnaris would still be swamped with new orders even if they never bothered to make a catalog.  But their line of diatonic accordions is stunning and it would be a shame if no documentation existed for posterity! 
     On the catalog page of the Castagnari website, the viewer can click through to a digital edition of their latest, gorgeous catalog, which includes photos of the family-run factory and workers, components of accordions-in-the-making, and of course, a presentation of the currently available line of some of the finest button accordions ever made. 
     I can't resist embedding this beautiful piece of marketing here. Or you can view it here

Serenellini Dona: Full-featured three-row in a compact size

Hat tip to Steve Jones on for pointing out that Serenellini has updated its website to reflect its most recent designs.

     Of particular interest for three-row players is the Serenellini Dona, which is a two-voice three row in a package that is only slightly larger and heavier than Castagnari's Benny.  Serenellini offers this box in several colors, and while super durall reeds are standard, Serenellini offers upgrades; they also offer a flat keyboard option on their two row boxes, which may be available on the Dona by request.

     Compared to Serenellini's previously available wooden 3 row, the Dona is better equipped for a standard 3 row tuning with its full-length rows (12-11-10).

     I'm particularly interested in how the bass is configured, since Serenellini indicates that the basses have 5 voices.  I have found that accordion makers follow two conventions when describing the left-hand voices -- Castagnari lists how many reeds sound when a single bass or chord button is depressed, whereas some other makers indicate the total number of reeds that will sound when a bass/chord pair of buttons are pressed.  I imagine that Serenellini is using the latter convention -- and this means that this relatively little three-row box could possibly have a low bass voice!

     If any readers of Melodeon Minutes get a chance to play a Serenellini Dona, please let me know, and I will add your comments to this post.

Photo by Serenellini

Early work on a new waltz

Several weekends ago, I found a few peaceful moments to play tunes while my son (5) was building fantastic structures.  The result, my first original tune for melodeon, "Nikolas Builds."  It's played on a three-row G/C/F accordion (on the C/F rows -- easily played a whole step higher on a D/G melodeon).  The B part makes extensive use of the "accidentals" button on the inside row (in both directions) -- in a sense, the tune is a study in using that oft-neglected button!  In any case, I have become much more fluent in using that button since this recording, and I now play the tune at a faster clip -- I'll post a newer recording when I get the chance.

For now, here is the early, slow version of "Nikolas Builds," copyright 2012.