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Squeezebox Buyers Guide – melodeon, accordion, concertina

Eagle Music demystifies the main differences between a Melodeon, Button Accordion, English Concertina, Anglo Concertina and Piano Accordion. The types of music that are best suited for playing English folk music and traditional Irish music styles are all explained.

You may have heard someone playing a squeezebox at a festival, session or village summer event somewhere and thought  to yourself  ‘I would like  to do that’. However, to the beginner, the melodeon, button accordion, concertina and piano accordion all sound similar! Eagle Music helps you here and gives you specialist advice that will help you to make the right choice and not waste your money on the wrong squeezebox. We need to make  you aware that there are many retailers in the UK that don’t specialise in accordions, and out of their own ignorance  would sell you the wrong instrument.

The popular types of squeezebox that we shall explain are Concertina, Melodeon, Button Accordion and Piano Accordion. Please see the specific technical sheets for each instrument.

Here we explain the popular types of music suited to the squeezebox.

English Music

The most popular squeezebox that you will see in the hands of Morris Dance Music players is the two row Melodeon in the key of D/G (you will also see concertinas and piano accordions used by these players which we shall explain further on in these technical notes), the D/G melodeon will give you that rhythmic bouncy style which is achieved because you have to change the bellows direction to play notes that are the same as their accompanying chords on the bass end of the instrument.

There are also one row melodeons which are just as hard to learn to play, but are limited to the diatonic key on the single row. (for the one row melodeon,  the key of  D is the most popular) For English music players, the D/G Hohner Pokerwork has been the ‘industry standard’ if you like for beginners that want a tried and tested quality box, that has the ‘authentic strident sound’ at a fair price. On a D/G melodeon you can access playing in the major keys of A D E G and the minor keys of A minor B minor and C. Accomplished players can spider around the buttons, substitute notes here and there and play in more keys! For beginning to play the melodeon we recommend the Hohner Pokerwork Pack with detailed instructions from Dave Mallinson …a most respected English and Irish music melodeon player. The Hohner Pokerwork will give you the best value when you compare quality with price, nothing on the market can beat it. the Pack also included a deluxe Extreme Protection ‘Mally Bag’ which is the accepted way to carry a melodeon.

Its amazing how soon a beginner can get a tune out of a melodeon. Learning from the ‘Mally’ method book and CD you will soon be playing tunes and on your way to playing in the local sessions or joining your local Morris side! The amount of practise that you put in will decide how good you will become as a player.

The English Concertina and Piano Accordion is also used in English folk music, please see the separate sections for English Concertina and Piano Accordion

Irish Music

The squeezebox is a wonderful instrument for playing traditional Irish music, and there is a wealth of of brilliant players that have produced recorded music that you can listen to for each type of squeezebox. By listening to these recordings you will be inspired, and they will also help to develop your style and feel. The most popular squeezebox for Irish music is the B/C button accordion However, there are some great players using the diatonic D/G melodeon. The B/C system has been most  favoured since the 1940s and early 1950s when Irish players such as Paddy O’Brian started to develop the modern B/C playing system. The Hohner Double Ray Black Dot is an excellent B/C starter Button Accordion that is excellent value when you compare quality and price …the Saltarelle ‘Irish Bouebe’ is also one of the fair priced, best sounding Irish music squeezeboxes. Along with the book ‘The Box’ or one of our instruction tuition DVDs you will soon be on the ‘Rocky Road to Dublin’ as a player!

The Anglo Concertina the Piano Accordion and the Melodeon are also popular squeezeboxes for playing Irish Traditional Music. The English Concertina can also be used for playing Irish music. Please see the specific technical  sections for each specific type of squeezebox.

European Music

The most popular keys for melodeon in the rest of Europe is G/C and C/F …G/C being the predominant key. The keys of G/C and C/F are also typical and excellent keys for songs and many singers sing  in the keys of G C and F. The Hohner Pokerwork and many of the excellent squeezboxes in the Saltarelle range are available in the keys of G/C and C/F. Not books or tuition material is available here in the UK for playing European music. The book Bal Folk is also a great  book which contains 214 tunes, mostly from Central France and will be of interest to anyone who enjoys playing French music, or playing for French dancing. The tunes are suitable for melodeon, fiddle and accordion, and many will also fit within the range of bagpipes and hurdy gurdy. Dansons La Morvandelle! A Collection of Traditional French Dance Tunes From the Morvan is also available from Eagle Music. ‘Le livre du Débutant’ is a useful G/C tutor and can be obtained.

Cajun Music

Cajun music is often couple and mentioned at same time as  the Creole-based Cajun-influenced zydeco form of music  which are both of the Acadiana origin. This type of music is rooted in the ballads of the French-speaking Acadians of Canada and also is an emblematic music of Louisiana,USA.

The French Louisiana sounds of Cajun Music  have influenced American popular music for many decades, and can be found especially in country music. They have also influenced the pop culture and strains of the music can be heard in much pop music.

Cajun music can be played on a diatonic squeezebox, but a dedicated One Row, Four Stop is best suited for the Cajun sound and style of playing. The first choice would be a One row, four stop melodeon tuned in C. It is possible to play in the key of G on this instrument and you will find that the Cajun music player will often play in the Second Position which is the same as a blues harmonica player playing G over the main tune in the key of C.

The usual myths and folklore surround this type of instrument as it does with many instruments …The types of wood used to make a Cajun Accordion The layout of the reeds, design etc. are all said to contribute to its unique sound …For example a ‘Genuine Louisiana Cajun Accordion’  for example has two of its four reeds laid flat on the soundboard and two of them placed upright on a block. However, there are also many
lower priced One Row instruments available that will do the job. For tuition material, we recommend you buy the Dirk Powell DVD  ‘Learn to play Cajun Accordion’ – Starting Out’ this will give you an an excellent start to learning and playing Cajun Acccordion.

Continental Chromatic Squeezeboxes

In simple terms, you could think of this instrument as being a Piano Accordion that has buttons rather that keys because you get the same note on the push and pull. However, on the continental chromatic a greater number of notes is available to the player under the span of the players hand, this makes the instrument very versatile. The layout of this instrument is quite logical relatively simple to understand there are two systems and the systems are named  …The B System and The C System.

One of the smaller sized models such as the Four Row, Sixty Bass would be our recommendation for a beginner in either system B or C. Each system has its advantages for the player and none is superior to the other.