Continuing my correspondence with David Maust (begun in the previous post).
Jan. 26, 2014
|Spoiler! He goes for the Panther!|
Thank you for the thoughtful
reply! You have given me a lot to think about and I appreciate the invitation
to continue the conversation.
I especially liked listening to the various
renditions of On d'onderon garda
that you posted. I agree that the various instruments give the music a very
different feel, and think what you say about the CBA and PA tending toward
fluidity and complexity is true. I didn't realize the CBA had such a strong
presence in the Auvergne music, but I can see how this would have bridged the
Bal Folk to the Bal Musette. I love the sound of the CBA recording, but I also
really like the one on the Giordy. And really, for some reason the less adorned
Giordy version seems to fit more what I feel is my own personality as a
musician. I really love simplicity and maybe that is why I feel drawn to a
diatonic box. I think I have always felt musically more at home in playing in a
diatonic mode, even on chromatic instruments. Maybe this also comes in part
from playing different diatonic instruments like the mountain dulcimer and
harmonica. I feel that I put the love of those instruments into my playing of
chromatic instruments like the piano, organ and piano accordion.
I mentioned in my last email that I have liked
playing from an Ad Vielle Que Pourra songbook on my PA. There is something so
different about how the tunes feel on my PA and the sound of the recordings of
the band with the diatonic accordion. Of course the musicians are so well
accomplished, but the instrument itself too is just different and that keeps my
interest in looking at the diatonic accordion. Also the lighter weight of the
diatonic is something I know I would like. When I bought my 60 bass PA I
downsized from an extremely heavy Titano 120 bass and that made a great
improvement in my comfort with the accordion (and my 60 bass still weighs about
I appreciate what you say about enjoying the
process of learning the instrument. This is true for me. I'm not really
concerned with reaching a goal of ability, although it is always nice to
improve, but the satisfaction from playing is of much more value to me. I've
always felt I'm a bit of a slower learner, but I really enjoy, and deeply
remember the process. I have so many memories over my life of playing music in
different places, situations and with different people, and there in lies the
richness of music for me. I sense you approach music in the same way and I
appreciate your causing me to reflect on this.
As far as monetary investment goes - is there a
particular box you would recommend for someone on a budget?
I noticed The Button Box's most economical
diatonic accordion is the Hohner Panther, and I've read a lot of favorable
reviews, but I'm not yet sold. I really would like to try and save for a higher
quality instrument. I've always felt that one should get the best instrument
one can afford, and that has certainly proved true for me in playing the
accordion I have. I just love hearing it every time I play it; it always seems
worth the money I spent on it. Have you ever played a Panther?
I also remember reading that you started with a
Hohner Corso. Do you like the Hohners? They seem a little more affordable than
some of the other brands the Button Box carries. I wish I had a place like the
Button Box close by where I live and I could try out different boxes. Watching
different videos is helpful, but it's nothing like actually playing the
Thanks again for the conversation,
I've really enjoyed it! -David
Honing in on an Acquisition
Jan. 26, 2014
Again, thanks for your kind words.
I agree about the difference that
diatonic instruments have, even if I can't necessarily describe it. Even
when I play guitar I tune it CGCGCC. Very drone-y. I play whistles,
keyless flutes, and diatonic accordions. The only chromatic instrument I
really play is recorder (love baroque music). And I play piano, but
really just to help me figure out arrangements and such. I like the
diatonic mindset a lot. I have thought a lot about the CBA, because I
love that Auvergnat style -- and Weltmeister makes a good, less-expensive CBA
($1200) -- but I feel like it would amount to a huge distraction from the work
I've already done. Just taking on the quint-tuned Dino Baffetti has
stretched me quite a bit (and I love it!) It takes me away from the
simplicity your describe. If someone were to gift me one, the temptation
might be too much. But the next accordion I'm going to buy is going to be
a one-row in D … whenever that happens.
About buying an accordion … you
really have to try it before you buy, unless you are commissioning a new instrument from a trusted maker (Saltarelle, Castagnari, Dino Baffetti). The cheaper accordions CAN be
great, but there is a variability. I am very fond of the sound of
Hohners, and I would recommend a Corso or Erica. I got VERY lucky with
my first accordion (a Hohner Presswood in A/D), which was a loaned to me for a
time. Then also lucky with my Corso,
which had a very wide tuning and a very nice touch. I have heard good
things about the Panthers and such, but really, the inherent musicality you
describe in your own playing will move beyond a Panther quickly. The
action of the instrument is really important. I was happy with the Corso,
but I'm much happier with the Dino Baffetti I've gotten, which, essentially, is
a Hohner clone except made with top quality parts. I do love that Hohner
sound. I see the Button Box has a Corona III that looks pretty sweet. If you did decide to go for a cheaper box, I would go for a Presswood or
Pokerwork and pay to have it de-clacked. If you do get a chance to go to
some place where there might be a collection of accordions -- make the pilgrimage. There's nothing like trying them and having it suddenly "feel
Framing the Quest
Jan. 28, 2014
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 that I heard nothing. A few months letter, I checked in on David to see how the quest was going. His response.
March 23, 2014
The quest has been going well and thank you again for encouraging
me along the way. I'm so happy I decided to get a diatonic box after many years
of piano accordion.
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
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
Labels: accordion purchase, corruption, Hohner, Piano Accordion, three-row