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 "My life with the Accordion" by Ronald E. Hodgson - Chapters 1,2 & 3

"My Life With The Accordion" by Ronald E. Hodgson Ron Hodgson - 1958 Ron Hodgson - 2008I began playing the accordion when I was seven years old. I received an accordion for Christmas 1935.

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How an Accordion is Made
Mar., 16, 2007
Written by:Unknown
Publication: Accord Magazine, USA. Reprinted courtesy of owner/editor Faithe Deffner. Back copies available.Date written: 1983 Spring

Few people realize the intricate and detailed steps required to produce an accordion. About 6000 parts are combined in a process involving hundreds of man hours to bring an accordion to life.

The better factories embark on the construction years before the instrument is actually fabricated. Fine, precut woods are patiently stored a minimum of three years, under rigid temperature, humidity and air current control, to assure the full seasoning cycle before they will be used to build a future instrument.

An average of 300 square inches of prime suede and kidskin will be used for each accordion. These leathers must be dated and ideally stored for additional aging of at least two years before careful selection is made for use.

Celluloids, specially formulated for accordion fabrication, are ideally of extra heavy grade with deep color pigmentation to permit the multiple sanding and buffing required to obtain the rich gloss finish. Celluloid, too, must have years of aging under ideal conditions to eliminate the material's tendency towards shrinkage.

The reeds of a quality accordion must be vibrant Swedish blue steel, hand-fitted, riveted on precision duraluminum plates, and individually tuned for brilliant voicings. It is a formidable realization to conceive that the usual accordion with four sets of treble reeds and five sets of bass reeds has no less that 448 single reed tongues to be painstakingly tuned by a craftsman who specializes in the time honored skill.

In these pictures and captions, Accord conducts you on a guided tour through an accordion factory in Italy. Not all phases of accordion production are pictured, but enough are shown to give the reader an idea of how an accordion makes its way into the world of music.

Engineering and design problems take endless hours as the instrument's evolution results in advancements. Here, in an informal European atmosphere, countless years of experience in accordion construction are pooled to arrive at solutions which will enhance the accordion's position in the music world.

These are various stages in the assembly of the accordions' treble keyboards - similar in either piano key or button style. The treble plates must be carefully channeled for trouble free operation. Great skill is required to assemble a first-class keyboard mechanism and even more care must be taken if the treble includes tone chamber construction.

Skilful craftsmanship and carefully chosen materials are vital components of a fine quality accordion. No short cuts are possible when producing instruments which are truly responsive and capable of the most magnificent musical range and colorations.

Injection molding produces the black keys for sharps and flats. Precision dies are used to make a variety of functional and ornamental components of the accordion.

Great effort is required to make the treble registers respond instantly by activation the slides which open and close appropriate tone holes, permitting the desired reed combinations to sound. Here, the molded levers are fitted to the treble switch assembly on the grille and the inner mechanism of the treble registers is adjusted for smooth operation.


The Many stages of bass case construction require much careful work, such as this painstaking shaping on a circular spindle cutting machine, the final woodwork detailing, and trimming the smoothly-contoured plastic covering.

Few musicians can rise above the limits imposed by their instrument. A fine accordion will unleash creativity through its increased musical capacity and potentially expanded musical scope.

The sea of bass buttons, which confounds the novice, is no mystery to these craftsmen who carefully assemble the intricate bass machine mechanism. Rods and pistons, brass pins and mechanical-noise insulators are individually positioned to create the wonderous bass machine, some of which provide innovations such as convertor or chromatic free bass and pedal tones in addition to the stradella system.

The various reed operations are numerous, beginning with a huge power press which die-stamps the plates, the making of the multi-chambered reed blocks, the precise die-cutting of the reed tongues, selection provino-tuned reeds and carefully waxing them onto the blocks to assure air-tight fit.

The bellows, which enable the instrument to offer an amazing range of expression, are constructed of special cardboards, lined with fabric and leather "diamonds" which are positioned in the corners of each fold. All outer sides have folds tape-reinforced, bonded with specially formulated hot glue and finished with precision pinched chrome corners. Here, electroplating the bellows' corners in a chrome bath and pinching them into positions shown.

After the treble and bass selections have been assembled, the reeds in each are tuned by a craftsman. Following this, the instrument will be fully assembled and both sides will be tuned to each other to complete the process.

When purchasing an accordion there are many points to consider. The instrument represents a sizeable investment which warrants careful study.

Some important considerations are enumerated below. Most of them are equally significant whether the accordion is brand-new or an older, second-hand instrument.

Keyboard and Action
Fast action is important; released keys must close firmly, their pads must cover without leakage and be fastened securely. Avoid keys which bind, stick, or are warped - keyboard must be level, not too high, have uniform action, and no mechanical noise.

Basses and Action
Basses must be responsive; buttons should come up quickly and firmly. Chord buttons must produce complete, accurate chords. Mechanical noise must be eliminated.

Reeds and Reed Blocks
The accordion must be able to play a sustained note very loud or very soft and respond instantly to the slightest bellows movement. Response of all reeds should be balanced on a chord. Blocks must be seated perfectly to avoid air loss or waste, They should have multiple coats of high-lustre varnish to enhance tone and protect against warpage.

Tuning
Check for accuracy to be sure the accordion is in tune with other instruments as well as itself - both hands and in all reed lines.

Bellows, Gaskets and Pads
If these are poorly attached, badly made or mal-fitting, the instrument will "leak" and require extra hard pumping instead of the normal easy pressure required to play a sustained note.

Registers and Plates
When plates are warped or badly fitted, registers cannot work smoothly and air loss may result. Examine for excess "play" and be sure registers and slides close ports fully.

Instrument Service
Legitimate dealers provide service facilities. The best source for student instruments is a dealer who offers a planned program of music education with good lessons, expert service and future aids. Maximum advantages are available from a reputable dealer who is able and willing to serve customers' musical needs.

Factory Name Brands
Avoid "fake" brand names. Trace the name to be sure that a real manufacturer and a known factory of good reputation actually stand behind the instrument. Brands which are the name of the importer usually are not produced in a reputable factory and therefore cannot offer consistent quality.

Notazione "actual pitch" e notazione "loco tastature"
Mar., 16, 2007
Written by:Paolo Picchio
Publication: Date written:2001

I fisarmonicisti che hanno cercato di approfondire i problemi relativi alla notazione delle partiture scritte per il loro strumento, si saranno trovati di fronte a due diversi "atteggiamenti" di scrittura; questi due differenti modi per codificare i suoni producibili con lo strumento "fisarmonica" sono stati denominati con due termini inglesi: "Actual pitch" e "Loco tastature".

"Actual pitch" sta ad indicare la grafia dell'altezza reale del suono che si vuole ottenere, lasciando poi all'esecutore lo spostamento di ottava necessario con i vari registri al fine di ottenere l'altezza indicata
Infatti l'esecutore deve tenere ben presente che tutti i registri dei manuale destro che contengono il 16' piedi danno un risultato sonoro di un'ottava inferiore rispetto al riferimento del tasto che viene premuto (ipoteticamente ponendo tutto in relazione a quello che viene considerato il "Do centrale").

Caso esattamente opposto al registro 4' piedi con il quale si ottengono suoni di un'ottava più alti.

Nei brani scritti invece con il criterio della "loco tastature" vi è un'esatta corrispondenza tra note scritte e tasti (e non suoni). Quindi il compositore indicando la registrazione si dichiara cosciente degli spostamenti di ottava (sul piano sonoro) che ne saranno conseguenza.

Ciò vale a dire che, nel caso di una fisarmonica a bottoni con 64 note, i tasti saranno indicati nell'ambitus Mi 1 - Sol 6 e, in quello di una fisarmonica con tastiera "a piano" di 45 note, nell'ambito Mi 2 - Do 6 (tra l'altro, anche su questo versante esiste una simbologia indicante le altezze delle varie ottave diversa per la fisarmonica rispetto agli altri strumenti).

Se di primo acchito non si dovrebbero avere dubbi circa la maggior semplicità della "loco tastature", non si possono però non riconoscere due enormi pregi alla "actual pitch":

1) facilitare il lavoro di compositori che non siano profondi conoscitori della fisarmonica e comunque scrivono per essa;

2) favorire una più corretta lettura della partitura nei brani di musica cameristica e sinfonica con inserimento della fisarmonica.

A supporto dell'altra tesi si può dire che uno strumento di antiche tradizioni quale l'organo, adotta un equivalente della "loco tastature".

Una possibile soluzione - a mio modesto parere - è comunque tutt'altro che lontana: infatti nel caso in cui tutti i registri con 16' dovessero portare l'indicazione di 8va sopra e quelli con 4' l'indicazione di 8va sotto, si può notare che in questo modo la "loco tastature" viene a coincidere con "l'actual pitch".

Questo in molti brani già avviene e sta a significare che la letteratura che non rispetta il principio "dell'actual pitch" non è comunque ingentissima (e, in gran parte dei casi, piuttosto retrodatata).

* * * * *

Prendiamo ora in esame cinque brevissimi esempi tratti da brani scritti con diversi "atteggiamenti" di codificazione.

Nella "Sonatina" di Fugazza, così come nelle altre opere di questo autore e in quelle di Volpi, Ferrari--Trecate, Melocchi, e per intenderci nella quasi totalità delle composizioni pubblicate dalle Edizioni Farfisa (ora Bèrben), si vede applicata una notazione "Loco tastature" considerata "ovvia" e quindi le note scritte fanno riferimento solo ai tasti al punto tale che i registri vengono visti quasi "solo in funzione della potenza sonora".

La trentunesima battuta del secondo tempo della "Sonatina" ne è un esempio eclatante. Dalla diciassettesima battuta del brano viene indicato il registro 8' e dalla trentesima un crescendo che sfocierà nel fortissimo della trentatreesima battuta.

Ora è evidente che sul secondo movimento della battuta riportata dall'esempio 1, vi sarà un abbassamento di suoni di un'ottava perché nel registro indicato (Master) è presente il 16'. Dunque sembrerebbe credibile dire che alla base di questo modo di vedere la notazione, i registri non vengano considerati come traspositori di ottava ma come "graduatori" di potenza sonora.

Esempio 1 - Felice Fugazza: Sonatina - 2° tempo - 31ma battuta (Edizioni Bèrben)

Cosa che non si può dire, al contrario, della "Acco-Music op. 225" composta nel 1976 dal grande compositore austriaco Ernst Krenek. Anche questo brano risulta scritto secondo il principio della "Loco tastature", ma, nella partitura vi sono delle indicazioni di ottava poste alla chiave (e non al registro) che si "preoccupano" di segnalare la reale altezza del suono emesso.

Quando nel registro indicato è presente il 16', la chiave di violino posta vicino ad esso porterà sempre l'indicazione di ottava sotto. Quando viene prescritto il 4' la chiave di violino porterà il segno di ottava sopra.

Alle battute 52 e 53 (esempio 2) viene indicato di cambiare registro mantenendo premuto il tasto del fa #. Si deve notare come le tre chiavi di violino (quella posta all'inizio del rigo con "ottava sotto", la successiva con "loco" e l'ultima con "ottava sopra") si "preoccupino" di segnalare che il risultato sonoro che si ottiene sia di due "salti" di ottava verso l'alto.

Esempio 2 - Ernst Krenek: Acco-Music op. 225 - 52ma e 53ma battuta (Edizioni Deffner)

Sebbene non si possa negare a questo ingegnoso sistema una indiscutibile correttezza, va però detto che esso è di scarsissima diffusione e che un suo uso anche nelle composizioni di musica da camera non sarebbe comunque di grande aiuto nella lettura generale della partitura.

Inoltre, ritornando a parlare in modo specifico del brano "Acco--Music", si deve (purtroppo) segnalare che il meccanismo delle "chiavi ottavate" si blocca nelle ultime due pagine della partitura dove compaiono dei registri 16'+4' e "Master" senza la chiave con ottava sotto e il registro 4' senza ottava sopra.

Per di più, tutto il discorso fatto non vale per la mano sinistra, dove l'indicazione del registro 4' per i bassi sciolti non viene mai accompagnata da nessuna segnalazione in chiave. La "Sonatina Piccola" di Torbjörn Lundquist offre la possibilità di affrontare alcuni importanti aspetti del rapporto tra i compositori e le loro scelte circa i registri indicati nei brani.

Questo pezzo è pubblicato dalla Hohner Verlag di Trossingen in Germania; nel catalogo di questa casa si trovano molti dei grandi nomi della letteratura per fisarmonica: Herrmann, Jacobi, Feld Brehme, Schmidt ed altri ancora.

In gran parte di queste composizioni vi è un modo di indicare i registri "quasi" corretto: pressoché sempre nel corso dei brano le indicazioni di ottava poste sopra (o sotto) i registri realizzano quella corrispondenza tra "Actual pitch" e "Loco tastature" che si ritiene auspicabile; però in alcuni momenti in cui viene indicato il registro pieno (Master) con note che si aggirano nella zona centrale e grave della tastiera (molto spesso nei finali ed in particolar modo in quelli più virtuosistici e fragorosi si preferisce rinunciare all'indicazione di 8va sopra (che comporterebbe una scrittura in parte in chiave di violino e in parte in quella di basso) lasciando tutto ad una improvvisa "Loco tastature" che fa scrivere tutte le note in chiave di Sol.

Queste annotazioni, che sono il segnale di una incompleta presa di coscienza di certe problematiche in quel periodo, sono interessanti dal punto di vista di una storia della letteratura per fisarmonica; ma anche molto interessante e curiosa è la questione che solleva l'esempio n.

Esempio 3 - Torbjörn Lundquist: Sonatina piccola - 2° tempo - 1a battuta (Edizioni Hohner).

All'inizio del secondo tempo della composizione vengono indicati i registri prescelti sia per il manuale destro che per il sinistro; subito dopo, altri due tra parentesi vengono indicati come possibili sostituti. Il perché non è difficile da intuire: rendere possibile l'esecuzione dei brano anche per strumenti di ridotte capacità, sia per numero di tasti che per possibilità di scelta dei registri.

} La conferma di questo si ha leggendo la prefazione al brano, scritta dal compianto Mogens Ellegaard ove si palesa il fine volutamente anche didattico di esso. Ma vi è un'altra domanda alla quale non è così facile rispondere: perché non indicare direttamente i registri proposti tra parentesi e quindi eseguibili con tutti i modelli di fisarmonica, sia piccoli sia grandi?

In altri termini la questione diventa questa: dato che il risultato di altezza di suono non cambia, perché è stato indicato (al manuale destro) per gli strumenti grandi il 16' all'ottava sopra e non l'8' naturale? Stessa cosa al manuale sinistro: perché il 4' all'ottava inferiore e non il normale 8'?

Una risposta fantascientifica proporrebbe di trasferirsi a Trossingen (che vuol dire fisarmoniche Hohner) nel 1967 alla presenza di Lundquist ed Ellegaard. Un altro tipo di risposta - questa molto più concreta e "fattibile" - asserirebbe che evidentemente il suono di questi due diversi registri proposti è simile ma non identico. La spiegazione va ricercata nei "problemi" costruttivi della fisarmonica e, sicuramente, i fattori che concorrono a questa "diversità sonora" sono molteplici.

Provo ad elencarli: il diverso grado di angolazione tra i due contrapposti lati del somiere, la diversità delle dimensioni dei fori per il passaggio dell'aria (sia alla base dei somiere che sul fondo metallico), la diversa posizione che la "voce" ha nella sequenza (verticale) delle varie "caselle" dei somiere, l'alzata della valvola e soprattutto il suo grado di (inevitabile) obliquità che essa ha (e che condiziona fortemente le direzioni dei flussi d'aria) e che per forza favorisce il suono e il "rendimento" di un registro rispetto all'altro.

L'esistenza di questo tipo di problematiche spezza una lancia in favore dell'Actual pitch. Sicuramente l'adozione di questo tipo di notazione renderebbe più facile la vita ai compositori e manterrebbe "allenati" i fisarmonicisti alla lettura delle altezze.

Il fisarmonicista deve sempre essere attento a coprire e "mascherare" i difetti dei proprio strumento. Si deve pensare che Lundquist (non si sa con quanto aiuto da parte di Ellegaard) abbia ritenuto i registri indicati per primi come i più adatti al raggiungimento delle esigenze musicali da lui ricercate in questo "Cantando".

Esso è una breve pagina dal carattere sommesso, lirico, nella quale, restando entro certi limiti dinamici (viene indicato al massimo il mezzoforte), si deve essere però il più espressivi possibile.

Le composizioni scritte con notazione "Actual Pitch" esplicita non sono moltissime. A questa categoria appartiene la "Toccata" di Alain Abbott. Si è voluto utilizzare il termine "esplicita" per mettere in risalto il fatto che i criteri di funzionamento di tale tipo di scrittura vengono dichiarati nella prefazione che precede il brano e che, al fine di evitare fraintendimenti, ciò dovrebbe essere sempre fatto.

Abbott scrive: "quest'opera è stata scritta all'esatta notazione del diapason, in quanto il suono indicato sul pentagramma è il suono dell'ancia più bassa". Dunque: sono state scritte le note corrispondenti alla reale altezza dei suoni che devono essere prodotti dallo strumento; in presenza di registri a più "voci" sarà l'ancia più grave a dover rispettare l'altezza indicata.

All'esecutore viene dato il compito di rispettare tale precetto e il compositore indica i registri come fossero una pura e semplice scelta timbrica. Come mostra l'esempio n. 4 (prima battuta del brano), per il manuale destro è stato indicato il registro 16' (in questa grafia i puntini raffiguranti le file di ance "suonanti" vengono scritti sulle righe del cerchietto del registro e non sugli spazi).

L'esecutore dovrà dunque tenere ben presente di suonare una ottava al di sopra rispetto alla lettura delle no

Esempio 4 - Alain Abbott: Toccata - 1a battuta (Editions Françaises de Musique Technisonor).

Prendendo in considerazione questo brano, non si può certo dire che il compito che Abbott lascia agli esecutori sia gravoso dato che in tutto il brano (103 battute) indica solamente tre registri. Nonostante ciò, viene spontaneo pensare che, se il problema si limitasse al solo discorso dei brani per fisarmonica sola, tutto si potrebbe risolvere semplicemente con una utopistica assemblea "universale" nella quale i fisarmonicisti si dovrebbero accordare su un qualsiasi sistema di notazione a loro piacimento.

Ma la cosa cambia quando si inizia a parlare di letteratura cameristica: in essa questo tipo di notazione permette una maggiore correttezza nella lettura della partitura complessiva e certamente non svierebbe a quanti non sono conoscitori delle convenzioni fisarmonicistiche.

Per tutti i motivi che sono emersi nell'esame di questi primi quattro esempi musicali, si viene a ribadire il concetto per cui la situazione maggiormente auspicabile è quella in cui la "Loco tastature" venga a coincidere con "l'Actual Pitch".

Per ottenere ciò, tutti i registri in cui è presente il 16' dovrebbero avere l'indicazione di 8va sopra e il registro di 4' quella di 8va sotto. Ad esemplificare tale situazione è idonea la "Sonata n. 1 op. 143 a" di Vagn Holmboe, opera del 1979 dedicata a Mogens Ellegaard e al quale certamente si deve la sistemazione dei simboli fisarmonicistici presenti in partitura.

Come mostra l'esempio n. 5, all'inizio della Fuga (IV tempo) è indicato il registro 16'+4' che comprensibilmente reca l'indicazione di 8va sopra; nello stesso brano, 10 battute dopo viene prescritto un registro di 4' all'8va sotto

Esempio 5 - Vagn Holmboe: Sonata op. 143 a - 4° tempo - 1a e 2a battuta (Edizioni Hansen).

Si è già accennato al fatto che tale soluzione non risolve il problema dei numerosi tagli addizionali sulle note "estreme" del doppio rigo ma non si può negare il fatto che, quando tutte le partiture adotteranno questo principio, esse verranno lette da un fisarmonicista russo come da uno danese come da uno francese (e come da un pianista) senza rischio di malintesi.

Piazzolliana
Mar., 16, 2007
Written by:Vladimir Ushakov Publication:St Petersburg, Russia  Date written :April 2001

 
March 11, 2001 in a concert Hall of St.-Petersburg, the premiere of the variety program "Piazzolliana" was held. The concert was devoted to the 80-years anniversary of Astor Piazzolla. The organizers of the program were - St. Petersburg Musette Ensemble, namely Vladimir Ushakov and Sergei Likhachov.

For participation in this program the bayan quartet of the National Philarmonic Society of Ukraine - Rizol Quartet (Kiev, Ukraine) was invited being the musical chief, People artist of Ukraina Sergei Grinchenko (first bayan), Honored artist of Ukraina Viacheslav Samofalov (second bayan), Oleg Shiyan (bayan-bariton) and Roman Molochenko (bayan-contrabass).

The concert was opened by a musical-poetic composition based on Tanti Anni Prima (Ave Maria) with verses by Mikhail Likhachov (well-known musician - accordionist, composer and poet from St. Petersburg) and performed by Vladimir Ushakov (piano) and Svetlana Stavitskaya (accordion). Next on stage was the St. Petersburg Musette Ensemble which performed Meditango (accordion solo - Svetlana Stavitskaya).

Then the Rizol Quartet was represented to the St Petersburg public, which has performed such popular compositions by Astor Piazzolla as Revirado, SVP, Fracanapa, Chau Paris, La Muerte del Angel, El Penultimo, 20 Years After, Tristango, Jeanne and Paul. The first part of the concert finished with a joint performance by the two ensembles of the composition Oblivion.

The second part of the concert opened with the St. Petersburg Musette Ensemble performing the compositions, Ausencias (accordion solo - Vladimir Ushakov) and Melodia in A. Then the performance was continued by the Rizol Quartet playing: Reminiscence, Solitude, Undertango, Milonga sin palabras, Novitango, Violentango, Amelitango, Adios Nonino.

The concert finished with a joint performance by the two ensembles of the popular composition Libertango. The admiring public gave such a strong ovation to the musicians that they were obliged to perform this again.

In the foyer of the concert hall was the presentation of the new musical editions published by the St. Petersburg Musette Ensemble (S.P.M.E) as part of the publishing program of S.P.M.E. Editions. There was also three releases of Astor Piazzola compositions as performed by the Riaol Quartet (author of the transcriptions for a bayan quartet - Viacheslav Samofalov). The compact discs and cassettes of the Rizol Quartet and the St. Petersburg Musette Ensemble were also available. Included in the printed program for this concert was a detailed biography of Astor Piazzolla, the Rizol Quartet and the St. Petersburg Musette Ensemble.

"Piazzolliana" was the first performance of this new programme after a long break by the St. Petersburg Musette Ensemble following a cycle of concerts titled "Meetings of the Friends on the Neva Riversides". The first concert from this cycle was held in April, 1999 and it was named "Accordionada", and it was the creative meeting of the accordioninsts of Russia and Latvia. The program "Piazzolliana" followed the same creative meeting of the accordioninsts of Russia and Ukraine.

The success of the program was confirmed by the size of the audience - about 600 people - who came to enjoy the sounds of Astor Piazzolla music.

The next concert from this series will be held on April 7 in a concert Hall with the premiere of the variety program "Waltzing Accordion" by Roman Bazhilin (accordionist from Tambov, Russia) and the St. Petersburg Musette Ensemble. Another further concert will feature the Lithuanian accordion duet Eduardas Gabnis and Gennady Savkov (Vilnius, Lithania) and that is planned for May 17.

The St. Petersburg Musette Ensemble is highly grateful for the assistance by the childrens music school named after V.V. Andreyev for their help in organizing and undertaking the visit of Rizol Quartet in Saint-Petersburg. Back to

Registers of the Standard Stradella Keyboard
Mar., 16, 2007
Written by:Donald Balestrieri Publication:Accord Magazine, USA. Reprinted courtesy of owner/editor Faithe Deffner. Back copies available. Date written:1979The standard stradella button keyboard, either alone or as an integral part of expanded systemizations which incorporate free bass as well, demonstrates a stylistic viability which is reflected in vastly different approaches to musical composition for accordion. Composers continue to draw on the standard stradella system's resources, sometimes extracting new possibilities or realizing latent potential.

Recognition and use of these possibilities demands imagination and a practical application of information about the following:

1. Range of the single note buttons.
2. The inversions produced by the fixed chord buttons.
3. And the characteristics of the various registers.
These offer challenges that not all composers and transcribers have been able to meet. Few have recognized the full musical potency there, but additions to the repertory of very interesting substance and the system continue to interest the performer and composer alike.

In Galla-Rini's Concerto for accordion and orchestra, written in 1941, and in many of his transcriptions, complete and consistent application of the musical resources of the standard stradella keyboard are in evidence. These works abound in effective and idiomatic writing for the left hand, which must be carefully studied by every serious student of the instrument.

Continued widespread use of the stradella system and the music associated with it is enough to warrant attention. The analysis set forth in this article, of the registers in particular, is necessary information, not only for the composer and arranger, but for the teacher, student and performer as well.

THE BUTTON KEYS

The standard stradella keyboard consists of 120 buttons - six parallel rows of 20 buttons each, graduated on a rising angle - which are functionally divisible into two sections.

The two rows (mediant and fundamental) adjacent the switches produce 12 different single notes, the remaining 28 buttons in these two rows are duplicated for facility in fingering at different keyboard locations. (Use of the thumb is rarely practicable.)

The buttons of the next four rows produce fixed chords 12 each of major, minor, dominant seventh (fifth omitted), and diminished (triad). The correct note content of the latter may be arrived at by spelling a diminished seventh chord, letter named according to the row in which it is found, and omitting the fifth. The remaining eight buttons in each row again provide duplications for ease of fingering.
  THE SWITCHES

These Switches are the mechanical levers which effect changes of reed couplings. Standardized combinations of the reed sets are indicated by the switch symbols (see illustration). Each space within the circle represents a difference of one octave. Reeds are open and operative when a dot appears on a given space or line; inoperative (closed) when that space is empty. The middle line denotes the set of reeds (contralto) which doubles the pitch of the upper half of the tenor and the lower half of the alto reed sets.

According to the register in effect, single notes will be affected by changes in basic pitch location and octave duplication; chord buttons by various inversions, pitch levels and octave doublings.

THE STANDARD SETS OF REEDS

A set of reeds may be defined as a chromatic sequence of single reeds equal in number to the semitonal content of the immediately available range of a keyboard (measured by the single note button range in the case of the stradella keyboard).

For the standard stradella keyboard these sets of reeds consist of 12 semitones (one semitone short of a complete octave). These reed sets are, with the exception of the tenor and bass sets which can only respond for the single note buttons, shared commonly by both the single note buttons and the fixed chord buttons.

In other words, any set of reeds which is open (as represented by a dot in the symbol) will respond for the single note buttons as shown by the long bracket (marked B) in illustration 2; the short bracket (A) indicates the upper three sets of reeds - soprano, alto and contralto - which, if open, respond for the chord buttons.
  Illustration 2 shows the sets of reeds for the standard stradella keyboard together with the symbols representing each specific set of reeds. With the exception of the soprano set, these sets of reeds are not usually available uncoupled.

The symbols which represent the seven standard reed coupling combinations are pictured at the left.

THE SOPRANO REGISTER

The Soprano Register is the highest pitched octave of the standard left hand keyboard. The uncoupled soprano set of reeds (c'' to b'') will respond for both the single note buttons and the fixed chord buttons. The latter will then produce chords with pitches and in positions consistent with these tones.
The switch symbol for this register shows a dot in the space representing the soprano set of reeds (see above), indicating that this set is operative, while the empty spaces indicate that the other sets of reeds are closed.
Example 1 shows the pitch and range of the single note buttons and that of the fixed chord buttons are the same.

Example 2 illustrates the positions and pitch of the C and B chord buttons which will result accordingly in the Soprano Register.
  The Soprano Register's reeds are small and may be easily overpowered by the right hand keyboard. Relatively little dynamic strength (volume) is possible. Careful attention to the registration and substance of the material played on the right hand keyboard is necessary to avoid obscuring the left hand keyboard's performance in this register.

Infrequently encountered in accordion literature, the Soprano Register is usually not available in any but professional model instruments. Student accordions generally do no even contain the required set of reeds. However, the Soprano Register can be very effective and its use by composers should not be discouraged.
Notation for this register is not always given at pitch. Although notation at pitch, or at least not more than one octave lower than sounding, should be recommended. Bass clef notation may be found as much as three octaves below the actual pitch. Chord buttons are often indicated by an abbreviated notation - root and chord symbol (single note notation).
  [The musical examples throughout this article are given with notation for the left hand at pitch. In the case of octave duplications, according to the lowest sounding set of reeds. Fixed chords are given in full (unabbreviated) notations.]

Example 3 is an excerpt from Ernest Krenek's Toccata (1952). The single note buttons of the left hand are exploited to good advantage in the Soprano Register. Excellent balance between the left and right hand key boards is achieved through the use of the Ottavino (piccolo) Register of the right hand keyboard - the reeds being similar in size to those of the soprano set which is indicated for the left hand keyboard.* Notice in the last measure, the continuation in pitch of the left hand part, by the right hand which sounds one octave higher than normal treble clef notation.

Example 4 shows the application of the chord buttons in the Soprano Register, which is relatively rare. In Prelude (1971/rev. 1972) by Donald Balestrieri, a 12-tone series is verticalized. Notes from both hands often overlap. The simultaneous four notes in the left hand at each of the last two measures is accomplished by combining two chord buttons with two notes in common. However, since the single note buttons are also operating the soprano set of reeds, the same aural result could by be obtained by use of single note buttons alone or by combining certain chord and single note buttons.
 THE ALTO REGISTER

The alto set of reeds is pitched one octave lower (c' to b') than the soprano set of reeds. A coupling of the alto set of reeds with the soprano set of reeds constitutes the Alto Register. Both sets of reeds will respond for either the single note buttons or the chord buttons.

It is, however, the alto set of reeds, being the lower octave of the coupling, which establishes the basic pitch of this register. Both the single note buttons will then generate upper octave duplications via the soprano set of reeds, but the basic pitch is established by the alto set of reeds.

The switch symbol for this register shows dots in the spaces representing the alto and soprano sets of reeds (see above), which indicate they are open while the others are silent - clearly illustrating the octave relationship between the two sets of reeds.

Example 5 shows that the alto set of reeds (whole notes) coupled with the soprano set of reeds (diamond notes) will be operative for both the single note and chord buttons.

Inversions of the various chord buttons will be the same as in the Soprano Register, albeit one octave lower, since the range for determination is also from C to B. Since, as with the Soprano Register, the sets of reeds which are open will respond for either the single note or fixed chord buttons, the chord buttons will produce inversions and pitches consistent with the range and pitch of the single note buttons.

Example 6 demonstrates the C and B chord buttons. The upper octave duplications by the soprano set of reeds (diamond Notes) could be taken for granted in notation and they are, in any case, implied by the dot in the upper space of the register symbol.

The preferred notation would usually be at pitch (in the treble clef) or at least not more than one octave lower (in bass clef). However, this register may be found notated in the lower part of the bass clef staff as well. Chord buttons are often given in abbreviated notation (root and chord symbol).
  Example 7 is a passage from Felice Fugazza's Danzi di Gnomi (1959), in which the alto Register's single note range is utilized for the lower part in a three-voice episode.

Example 8, a quotation from Anthony Galla-Rini's transcription for accordion solo of the Rhapsodie Espagnol by Liszt, will illustrate the rarely encountered pitch relationship between the single notes and chord buttons in the Alto Register.

Some curious writing for the left hand keyboard has sometimes resulted from an apparent failure to comprehend the fact that the same set of reeds will respond for both the single note and chord buttons in the Soprano and Alto Registers. In these registers, should a chord button be depressed along with single notes which are already members of that chord (or added after the chord button is depressed) the single notes in question will prove of no aural purpose. Reeds which are already sounding for a chord button cannot, at the same time, be duplicated by single note buttons, or vice versa.

The opening measures of Otto Luening's Rondo for accordion solo illustrate such an instance where the single note buttons can be omitted without resulting in any audible change.

THE TENOR REGISTER

The basic pitch level for the single note buttons in the Tenor Register is established by the tenor set of reeds (c to b) which is the lowest sounding. These are coupled to the alto and soprano sets. Since the tenor set of reeds cannot respond for the chord buttons (see Illustration 2), it is the alto set of reeds, being the lowest sounding set activated for the chord buttons, which will establish the basic pitch level and determine the inversions of the chord buttons in this register.

Attention should be drawn to the fact that only in the Tenor Register is there no break in the basic pitch continuity between the single note buttons and the range for determining the chord buttons. The practical significance of this will be pointed out in a successive example.
  The three octave voicing of the single note buttons is graphically illustrated by the switch symbol (see above), showing that the soprano, alto and tenor sets of reeds are operative. The silence of the tenor set for the chord buttons must be understood.

Example 9 shows the reed sets which operate for the single note and chord buttons in the Tenor Register

THE SOFT TENOR REGISTER

Example 10 illustrates an alternative voicing - Tenor (piano) - available for the Tenor Register. With it, a more subdued effect is achieved by eliminating the soprano set of reeds. Thus, the basic pitch of both the single note and chord buttons remains undisturbed; the single notes will now sound in octaves (tenor/alto) and the chord buttons undoubled (alto).

The sets of reeds for Tenor (piano) Register are shown in the switch symbol.

Because the tenor set of reeds cannot respond for the chord buttons, they will sound exactly the same in the Tenor (forte) Register as in the alto Register - with the soprano and alto sets of reeds responding for the chord buttons in octaves (refer to example 6). The chord buttons in the Tenor (piano) Register will yield pure, uncoupled chords since the soprano set of reeds is silent and only the alto set will respond for the chord buttons.
 Example 11 lists for comparison, the C and B chords as they will sound in the Tenor (piano) Register.
A decided increase of strength over the previously discussed registers is evident in the Tenor Registers because the reeds of the tenor set are larger. This alleviates some of the more delicate problems of balance mentioned in connection with the Soprano and Alto Registers.

Notation is in the bass clef, sometimes one octave below the actual basic pitch. Chord buttons are often given in abbreviated notation. It is sometimes convenient to notate the single note and chord buttons one octave lower using either the ottava alta sign (8 - - - -) or the clef alta sign (####).

Example 12 is a melodic excerpt from the Alan Hovhaness Accordion Concerto - Opus 174, played against an aleatoric background of multitudinously divided strings, which falls within the single note compass of the Tenor Register. The Tenor (piano) combination, sounding in octaves, is used; the unison doublings of the right hand add strength and solidity.

Example 13 shows application of chord buttons in the Tenor (piano) Register in an excerpt from Paul Creston's Fantasy for accordion and orchestra, Opus 85. Note the following points: firstly, the left hand accompaniment is consistently above the melodic line which has been assigned to the right hand in a low register. [The right hand will sound one octave lower]; secondly, each of the four note chords beginning at the penultimate measure of the example is achieved by combining two chord buttons which have two notes in common.

Example 14 demonstrates an application of the continuity in the basic pitch between single note buttons and that of the fixed chord buttons. Here, in a transcription for accordion and orchestra by Donald Balestrieri of Liszt's Prelude and Fugue on the name of Bach, the melodic shape of the left hand part has been preserved by being passed between the single note buttons and the lowest notes of the chord buttons. The upper harmony notes of the chord buttons unobtrusively double those in the right hand. Note that the left hand part will sound one octave higher than usual bass clef notation and that the right hand part will sound one octave lower than usual treble clef notation.

BASS REGISTERS

The Bass Register is established when the bass or lowest-sounding set of reeds (C to B) is operative for the single note buttons.

Three different reed set combinations are available in the standardized systemization. They are shown and described in the following paragraphs
  THE MASTER REGISTER (BASS FORTE)

All five sets of reeds - soprano, alto, contralto, tenor and bass - are open as shown by the five dots which mark the switch symbol. The contralto set of reeds is the lowest sounding for the chord buttons and it establishes the basic pitches for the fixed chords, while the bass set of reeds determines that of the single note buttons.

Example 15 shows which reeds are operative for the single note and chord buttons.

Here, as elsewhere, the blend of these upper octave duplications with the fundamental, pitch establishing set of reeds, is such that it is hardly more than amplification of the basic overtone series.

Example 16 illustrates the sound of the chord buttons, given again for C and B chord rows, for comparison.

THE SOFT BASS REGISTER (BASS PIANO)

Example 17 illustrates the bass set of reeds coupled with the tenor and contralto sets. These will respond for the single note buttons; the contralto alone responds for chord buttons in this register.

Example 18 shows the contralto reed set, which responds for the chord buttons, without doublings.

This register is exceedingly useful in balancing with certain registers of the right hand keyboard. In general, it provides a more subdued effect, by eliminating the soprano and alto sets of reeds.

THE BASS/ALTO REGISTER

Example 19 pictures this most exotic and seldom-used of the standard reed combinations. The bass, alto and soprano sets of reeds are open and respond for the single note buttons. Only the alto and soprano sets will sound for the chord buttons, as previously shown for the Alto and Tenor (forte) Registers. See example 6.

The two octave separation between the bass and alto sets of reeds results from the absence of the tenor and contralto sets and creates the "reedy" quality. The low-high relationship between the single note and chord buttons is the hallmark of the register.
  The range of the bass set of reeds (C to B) is used to notate the single note buttons in the bass registers. Different upper octave doublings are clearly shown by the standard register symbols.

However, the range - one semitone less than a complete octave - is sometimes exceeded in the notation (usually upwards), in order to avoid voice leading which appears awkward. Ambiguity of pitch placement results from the multiplicity of octave doublings and the overlapping of a portion of the tenor and alto reeds by the contralto set of reeds.

In fact, some ears may be convinced that a larger range is active. This notation practice, accompanied by the term bassi soli (b.s.) when the upper bass clef area is used, is easily abused. To guide in writing, awareness of the actual pitch range is necessary.
The pitch is readily recognizable in all registers other than the Master Register. The limited range of 12 semitones is audibly obvious and, written melodic or harmonic intervals involving tones beyond the actual compass of a register will sound inverted.

Examples 20 and 21 are excerpts which utilize the single note range in bass registers. The first (20) from Henry Brant's Sky Forest for four accordions, involves an imitative duet between two accordions in the same left hand register.

In the second example (21), from Alexander Tcherepnin's Partita (1962), the dynamically reduced effect of the bass (piano) Register might perhaps be better suited than the Bass (forte) Register. The absence of the two highest sets of reeds in the Bass (piano) Register will also give the illusion of greater depth since, in fact, the overtones by octave duplication will have been reduced.

Upper notes of the chord buttons are delineated more distinctly when sounded without duplications - as in the Bass (piano) Register. By contrast, the confusion caused by the unison and octave doublings obscures these top notes in the Master Register.
  Example 22, from the second movement of the Concerto for accordion and orchestra by Anthony Galla-Rini, uses chord buttons in the Bass (piano) Register to double a melodic motive and provide a harmonization one octave below the right hand.

Numerous dance-derived rhythmic patterns of bass/chord are often used idiomatically in the bass register. The low bass and medium chord provide the characteristic relationship.

Example 23 shows several patterns: a) Concerto for accordion and string orchestra (1941) by Hugo Herrmann; b) Threnody by Arthur Carr; c) Prelude and Dance, Opus 69, by Paul Creston; d) Divertimento in F, Opus 59, by Hans Brehme.

The proximity of the switches allows the buttons and these levers to be activated simultaneously. Instant octave changes and chord inversions are possible at slow to moderately fast tempi.

Example 24 illustrates this technique: a) Overture to Zampa by Ferdinand Herold (Galla-Rini); b) Concerto for Accordion by Eugene Zador; c) The Rosary by Ethelbert Nevin (Galla-Rini); d) Sonata (in one movement) by William Kuehl (arrangement by the composer for two standard accordions); e Un Larme by Modeste Moussorgsky (Balestrieri).

 
Review of: Teach Your Students How to Practice
Mar., 16, 2007
Written by:Jean Donaldson  Submitted by: Kevin Friedrich - Accordion Pedagogy Class University of Missouri of Kansas City, Conservatory of Music  Publication:Clavier Magazine, Vol. 22, NO. 8,  Date written:October, 1983 If you are a teacher and also a performer who spends many hours practicing each week, you know without a doubt that there are two factors beyond genetics that make you a competent musician. (1) you must practice many hours and (2) you must use your time wisely. If this applies to the teacher it also applies to the student, they must practice enough and must practice effectively.

No matter how good the lessons are the student is unsupervised almost 90% of the time. Teach your students to use their time wisely and they will find that practicing can be fun. In fact, efficient practice may well lead to more practice. Listed now are ten basic rules considered to be necessary for concrete constructive home practice.

(1) Note the key signature and the time signature before you begin to play.
(2) Work on the piece in sections or phrase by phrase at practice tempo.
(3) If the rhythm is tricky, count!
(4) Use correct, comfortable fingering, writing in any necessary changes.
(5) Mark your music wherever you find you are making errors such as missing accidentals.
(6) Test yourself. Three times right in a row, and you probably know the phrase or section.
(7) Do a healthy amount of slow practice.
(8) Make sure you allow time for thought and work on expression, phrasing, tone quality and bellows changes.
(9) Listen to yourself, and try to match the sound you are making with the sound you are striving for.
(10) After applying the above rules to new or difficult music, play some music you know well, do some sight reading, or play by ear, and have fun!

Of course these rules should not be handed to a student without discussion. The average student is set in his practice method, and that method, nine times out of ten, is to play the piece straight through, back up a few times for missed notes, then play it again backing up for the same missed notes. This type of practice virtually assures that the student will never play the piece well, especially if the music is a challenge to his ability. It is important that as you give the rules to a student, talk about them; write them in his notebook. Time will be well spent on offering a short course to your students on "How to practice effectively."

An idea suggested in the article in relation to the first rule is as follows; a pianist, (or in our case accordionist), like an acrobat, must look before he leaps. No more plunging into a piece and missing a B flat or an F sharp in the first measure because you forgot to pay attention to the key signature. You may also expand on the rules a little. Teach students to watch for internal key changes, formal structure, tempo markings, and dynamic markings. This will give an idea of the style and mood for the piece before those fingers are set loose.

To help remind your student to work on a piece in sections, mark "Thursday" at one spot on the music, "Saturday" some lines later etc… Tell a student you would far rather hear the first part of the piece played well than the whole piece played badly. Praise students for quality, not quantity.

You should also praise accuracy first, speed later. Students love to play fast. Persist in your efforts to get them to slow down. Demonstrate to the child how the passage goes when he plays it well, slowly. At the lesson prove to him that after many slow repetitions, he will be able to speed up and play the passage perfectly. There is no shortcut to learning difficult music.To help your student learn phrasing and beautiful expression communicate how much these aspects of music matter to you. Point out the markings on the music, expect your students to follow them and praise them when they do. A teacher must also encourage curiosity and scrupulous attention to every little indication on the music.

These rules listed in this article are, in a sense, guideposts that encourage your students to pay close attention to what they are doing.

This following paragraph I feel sums up the article quite effectively as it highlights the importance for the teacher to be constantly aware that they are practicing what they are preaching.

"Try these rules on yourself when you practice. You will find there is a bonus beyond more effective learning. Not only will you play better, you will also find it easier to stick to your work. Time flies when you are concentrating fully on what you are doing. Anyone who is practicing successfully will resent interruption and feel a wonderful sense of achievement at the close of the practice hour. Foster this in your students, and you will foster that positive attitude towards your instrument that leads to a lifelong love of music."
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Symplexophon
Mar., 16, 2007
This is a Symplexophon that came up on Ebay last week. Take a good look because I genuinely don't think there are many of these around. It sold for just $114 US (60) so somebody got a great bargain and a piece of history too.This Symplexophon is an early instrument made in around the 1870's.  It was called a harmonica with keys or Wind Accordion.  This one is red colored wood with leather around it.  The word Symplexophon and the numbers 1-10 are gilt, along with Made in Germany and Registered. There are two white metal keys each imprinted with Germany and on the other side are 10 keys.  Two are missing the white glass and black leather parts.  Please see pictures.  There are cracks in the wood and some of the leather is beginning to peel.  The tops of the keys have stuck to the leather in places.  I don't know how this works but it has a wonderful look and is unique.
Play a Playasax !
Mar., 16, 2007
I featured a Rolmonica a while back, the instrument that combines the harmonica with a player-piano. Well here's a variant of a Rolmonica... a Playasax ! It just sold on Ebay for $152 (87).There's a Rolmonica in the photo too.Link: How to play your Playasax
The Return of Mickey Mouse
Mar., 16, 2007
It's been a while since Mickey Mouse appeared on Squeezytunes, but here he is again this time playing a concertina ! Link: Previously on Squeezytunes - Mickey Mouse plays Accordion
Paolo Antonio
Mar., 16, 2007
Accordions like this Paolo Antonio are generally pretty worthless because they're usually in pretty bad condition. They're good enough for playing around on, but not much else.However this one is slightly different, because it has actually been restored. This means that it was worth the 41 that it sold for on Ebay.
5 Row Organola
Mar., 16, 2007
This is a  pre-war 5 row Organola Artiste VI B and it's on Ebay with just two days bidding to go.Link: Ebay auction - 5 Row OrganolaUpdate: sold for just 117
 
Shanghai Triad
Mar., 16, 2007
I recently returned from a holiday in Hong Kong, where I picked up some brilliantly cheesy local music. None of it featuring accordions though.I was therefore interested to stumble across a band in Montreal called 'Shanghai Triad' who play Chinese jazz, blues and folk from the 1930s and 40s on erhu, accordion and guitar.The erhu mixes wonderfully with the accordion as you can here from the 3 tracks they have on their Myspace site.Link: Shanghai Triad on Myspace
Exhibition of Antique Accordions in Scotland
Mar., 15, 2007
Over the last 12 years, Caroline Hunt, from Avoch, near Inverness, has been gathering photographs of accordions made between 1850-1960 for a new reference book on the instrument.                     As a spin-off from this, she has also now gathered together an amazing collection of nearly 200 accordions from all over the world – ones with unusual keyboards, many early ones made of wood and highly decorated with wood, mother or pearl and abalone inlay.

Caroline now travels around Scotland (and beyond) to music festivals with a selection of her accordions. She would like to hear from any festival organisers who would like her to bring along her touring exhibition. A pdf of Caroline's brochure is available here.

Despite this very popular touring exhibition, Caroline feels it is a real pity that she is only ever able to show a fraction of her collection at any one time. One of her major ambitions is to establish a permanent home for her collection — especially as there is no museum in the UK covering this particular subject. If anyone knows of a venue that might be suitable, or can offer her exhibition or storage space for her collection, she would love to hear from you.

The Grantown Museum in Grantown-on-Spey will be hosting an exhibition of 100 of Caroline's accordions from the 2nd May - 14th May 2006.
Link: More information here
Celebrate May Day
Mar., 15, 2007
Interestingly although today May Day is associated with the Soviet Union, it actually started in the USA.Link: Wikipedia acticle on May Day
Cute Overload
Mar., 15, 2007
Happy Easter
Mar., 15, 2007
The reason I'm so late with this one is because some thieving chicken stole my accordion !  Grrrrrr.Take that you naughty chickens !
Accordions & Beer
Mar., 15, 2007
What a great combination !
Nice Hat
Mar., 15, 2007
'hey, this monkey has got fleas!'
Accordions in the Indian Ocean
Mar., 15, 2007
The brilliant African music blog 'Benn loxo du taccu' has just posted some excellent music from the islands of Reunion and Rodrigues. You should definitely listen to the Rene Lacaille track.Link: Click here for the tracks 
Accordion Roundup
Mar., 15, 2007
Some nice accordions I've recently seen on Ebay...This early Italian accordion sold for 250.This pre-war Scandalli sold for 115.99. I was quite tempted to have a punt at this one myself, it is a great looking beast.At first glance there is nothing particularly special about this accordion. However take a closer look at where the left hand buttons are... Yes they in quite an awkward place to actually play. Perhaps the diminuitive size helps though...I rather like this Russian accordion made by Kazan. It's got an interesting layout of the left hand buttons, and the whole thing is quite neat and tidy. The auction says that it sounds like a diatonic accordion which would be quite nice too. It's priced at 85 but is located in Armenia which puts me off a bit.Link: Ebay auction - Kazan Accordion
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