Best instrument to play folk music?

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Inflammo
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Best instrument to play folk music?

Post by Inflammo » Wed Jun 20, 2018 7:03 pm

I'm a newbie to this forum and looking for some pointers on investing in a new instrument. I play occasionally with a ceilidh band and go to sessions. My current box is a Jonelli 96 bass 4 voice musette tuned but am liking the sound made by the likes of Jamie Smith from Mabon and the wonderful Karen Tweed..

Questions- are these 'straight tuned'? Should I be going for something smaller like a 96 bass? Any particular makes that follkies favour? And where do I go to find one as there's nothing in South Wales and I'm nervous of going down the eBay/gumtree path.

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Re: Best instrument to play folk music?

Post by jozz » Wed Jun 20, 2018 9:15 pm

a couple of things to consider maybe:

- simple folk tunes don't need a large instrument so I would say 72 bass (or even smaller, but it's a trade off between portability and available basses), but that's my personal preference, I play standing up a lot and the small size helps

- by straight tuned you mean MM or M? most accordions have this so it's hard to go wrong there

that said, I know several players who go to 72, play that for a period and then go back to 96

so I say first have a go with your Jonelli you will eventually notice its drawbacks (if any) then try out something else

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Re: Best instrument to play folk music?

Post by hais1273 » Thu Jun 21, 2018 9:42 am

"Best" is entirely a personal perspective. At the weekend I saw Becky Price and Nigel Eaton play an 80 minute set at a French "folk" dance in Kent. Becky Price plays a 120 bass Hohner

Many very good Morris players play a 48 bass. For most folky tunes a 26/48 is perfectly fine, but a 30/72 or 60 bass will give greater range and flexibility with out a huge increase in weight and or size.

I find my Fantini 30/72 is perfect for "folk" music, it does everything I need it to do, it isn't too heavy and it i isn't too big. Brandoni, Vignoni, Paulo Soprani, Pigini and Weltmeister make instruments in this size range as well. I wouldn't be surprised if one of the Chinese manufacturers made a 30/72. Try Black Diamond Accordions as well, they're somewhere in Essex.

Emilio Allodi in London is always very helpful,just search on Allodi Accordions. Additional information can be found at www.squeezydoesit.co.uk, they're based in Totnes and at Jolly Roger Accordions in the Andover area. They all have helpful websites. Trust this helps.

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Re: Best instrument to play folk music?

Post by Anyanka » Thu Jun 21, 2018 11:18 am

:) When I started coveting a quality accordion, I went for Pigini because my two accordion heroes played those at the time: Martin Green of LAU (still does), and Karen Tweed (doesn't).

Karen Tweed usually plays Italian 72-bass accordions, although I have seen her with something smaller than that. They are always musette-tuned but not TOO wet, standard Italian style probably. Whichever instrument she plays (Guerrini, Pigini, Fantini), the sound is inimitably hers! I don't think she has them tuned to her specifications, because she used to frequently play borrowed instruments.

I think Jamie Smith of Mabon plays a Piermaria - I have a vague memory that the man behind that make died a few years ago, but I might be mistaken. Not sure about the tuning, but you could try asking directly: folk players are very friendly usually. He may well be on Facebook ;)

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Re: Best instrument to play folk music?

Post by Anyanka » Thu Jun 21, 2018 11:23 am

hais1273 wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 9:42 am
"Best" is entirely a personal perspective. At the weekend I saw Becky Price and Nigel Eaton play an 80 minute set at a French "folk" dance in Kent. Becky Price plays a 120 bass Hohner
Becky's Hohner is an ancient Studio II, which is no longer available - she won't have anything else ;) Becky is less typically folky; I think she tends to play mostly on single reed; or maybe she's had the Studio tuned down. Her ambition is to sound like a melodeon rather than a typical accordion.

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Re: Best instrument to play folk music?

Post by Anyanka » Thu Jun 21, 2018 11:26 am

hais1273 wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 9:42 am

I find my Fantini 30/72 is perfect for "folk" music, it does everything I need it to do, it isn't too heavy and it i isn't too big. Brandoni, Vignoni, Paulo Soprani, Pigini and Weltmeister make instruments in this size range as well. I wouldn't be surprised if one of the Chinese manufacturers made a 30/72. Try Black Diamond Accordions as well, they're somewhere in Essex.

Emilio Allodi in London is always very helpful,just search on Allodi Accordions. Additional information can be found at www.squeezydoesit.co.uk, they're based in Totnes and at Jolly Roger Accordions in the Andover area. They all have helpful websites. Trust this helps.
Fantinis are very popular among folk players, because the price/quality correlation is very good. Fantini also make the Allodi accordions, but to Emilio Allodi's specifications: I prefer the Allodi make over Fantini, but can't quite figure out why!

Allodis is definitely the best place to go for a quality new or second-hand accordion - he is extremely helpful and massively respected.

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Re: Best instrument to play folk music?

Post by hais1273 » Thu Jun 21, 2018 3:20 pm

IMHO the most sensible size for "Folk" is 30/72 or 60, the make dosen't really matter that much. (If I wanted a second hand make X and it wasn't availble I would almost certainly buy make Y.)

I'm not sure if anyone who isn't an accordionist really notices the tuning, except for possibly the most painfully wet Scottish Musette. Ultimately, its the player and what the player does, that is important.

I though Price and Eaton at the weekend were damned good. The repertoire was very "French", bourree's, mazurka's, waltz, polka, chapeloise and a circasian cercle were played. As my own taste leans toward the Breton dance canon, I felt a touch let down. However, the two An-dro's they did were superb. The dances were driven along with some energetic bellow technique from Miss Price, the cunning funkiness they slipped in was brilliant. I don't know enough about hurdy-gurdy's to say what Mr Eaton was doing, but it was damn good.

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Re: Best instrument to play folk music?

Post by Stephen Hawkins » Thu Jun 21, 2018 9:58 pm

Hi Inflammo,

This is the "how long is a piece of string?" question.

Brenda & I play in Folk Clubs, though we don't always play typical folk music. Of course, as you would expect, we play quite a few traditional folk songs, but we also play popular music from the 40's 50's & 60's.

Your own musical preferences should dictate the range you require from an instrument, but a 72 Bass is good enough for most of the tunes you are likely to play.

I currently use my 120/41 Hohner at the Folk Club, though I have previously used my 72 with pleasing results. As the only regular accordionist in our club, I guess I could get away with playing practically any instrument.

I don't know if you intend playing in Folk Clubs, but I would strongly recommend that you do. They are such friendly and forgiving places, frequented by kind and generous people.

Kind Regards,

Stephen.

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Re: Best instrument to play folk music?

Post by JeffJetton » Fri Jun 22, 2018 10:39 pm

Anyanka wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 11:18 am
Karen Tweed usually plays Italian 72-bass accordions, although I have seen her with something smaller than that. They are always musette-tuned but not TOO wet, standard Italian style probably. Whichever instrument she plays (Guerrini, Pigini, Fantini), the sound is inimitably hers! I don't think she has them tuned to her specifications, because she used to frequently play borrowed instruments.
In the videos and such I've seen her in, seems like she's always playing a Pigini Preludio P36/3 72-bass (with the front cover off). Apparently that's a pretty popular model among trad piano accordion players? I've got a DVD with Murray Grainger playing one too.

It certainly sounds nice--although that may be as much the player as the instrument... I suspect Karen Tweed could play a rusty toaster and make it sound good. :D

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Re: Best instrument to play folk music?

Post by Geoff de Limousin » Sat Jun 23, 2018 12:31 pm

I suggest that whatever accordion you find that fits your criteria for Folk music playing in UK do check and make sure it is tuned to A=440hz. Many accordions these days are tuned a little higher , 442hz appears to be fairly standard and popular in the jazz scene but other fixed pitch Folk instruments are usually tuned to the International standard pitch.

Good luck with your search.

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Re: Best instrument to play folk music?

Post by Inflammo » Sat Jun 23, 2018 5:39 pm

Thanks for responses so far....ive been watching a pigini preludio p36 72 bass on Gumtree which at £1450 doesn't seem a bad deal. Having also spent some more time researching instruments and players on YouTube I've come to the conclusion that I've fallen out of love with my Jonelli because it's tuning is quite wet. I suppose an option would be to have it retuned dry? Would others recommend and where would I go in s Wales/ west England (and how much does this cost)?

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Re: Best instrument to play folk music?

Post by maugein96 » Sat Jun 23, 2018 7:06 pm

Hi Inflammo,

Don't know anything at all about folk music, but I would guess there aren't many folk players who use a big 4 voice box for the job.

If you don't like it I would be inclined to try and sell it as it is, with the wet tuning, rather than spend a lot of money trying to "fix" a box that doesn't seem right for your purpose. A wet tuned box is probably going to be easier to "shift" than a dry tuned one if the retune still doesn't sort the issue out.

Even if you could find a repairer/tuner in you area I would doubt whether you would get a retune for less than £500, and you could add to that depending on whether you needed valves or anything else replaced at the same time.

If you like the Jonelli a retune may be a viable option, but you'd need to be able to tell the tuner exactly how much wetness you need "taken off", and that could be difficult if you're not entirely sure. Also bear in mind that a Pigini tuned to, say 14 cents, will probably not sound the same as your Jonelli tuned to the same degree.

The music of Colombia will probably be uncharted territory for you, and they tend to favour little diatonic two voice Hohner "Corona" accordions with various degrees of "wet tuning." As such, I just can't listen to most of the music at all, especially when the accordion is being used to provide backing for a vocalist. However, every now and then you'll get a player who plays an instrument and in a style that you're not particularly keen on, but who is able to make the most out of not very much. We can all be "conditioned" into what we habitually hear on You Tube, and hopefully this clip will demonstrate that.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnL0fuYFqws

My point is try and persevere with your Jonelli until you're absolutely certain it's not the right one for you, or alternatively take a leaf out of this player's book and just play the hell out of it!

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Re: Best instrument to play folk music?

Post by Anyanka » Sun Jun 24, 2018 1:04 pm

The Pigini Preludio is an excellent folk accordion, in my opinion (Tweed played one for years, as mentioned elsewhere) as it's lightweight enough but with a big, warm sound. I think £1450 is good price; there's another one on ebay for £1600...

As for retuning the Jonelli - I completely agree with Maugein's take on that!

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Re: Best instrument to play folk music?

Post by Stephen Hawkins » Tue Jun 26, 2018 12:54 am

Hi Again Inflammo,

It may not be quite true that "any old box will do" for folk music, but nor is that statement too wide of the mark. Folk Clubs are very inclusive places, and members are far more interested in community spirit than any concerns about the make, model or tuning of your accordion.

I can almost guarantee that you will receive a warm welcome, whatever instrument you happen to drag through the door. Elitism is for other places; not Folk Clubs. Your current instrument will no doubt bang out a few folk and popular tunes, so would be a very welcome addition to any club.

Though I now use my 120/41 Hohner Arietta, this is a relatively recent change from my "folk accordion." Over the last couple of years, in a variety of folk clubs, I have used my Chinese made 72 Bass Chanson. It may not be the best accordion in the World, but it is perfectly acceptable and very well suited to folk clubs and folk music.

Please don't fret too much about getting the right accordion. As long as you like it, that's all that really matters.

Kind Regards,

Stephen.

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Re: Best instrument to play folk music?

Post by JeffJetton » Tue Jun 26, 2018 3:14 pm

Stephen Hawkins wrote:
Tue Jun 26, 2018 12:54 am
It may not be quite true that "any old box will do" for folk music, but nor is that statement too wide of the mark. Folk Clubs are very inclusive places, and members are far more interested in community spirit than any concerns about the make, model or tuning of your accordion.

I can almost guarantee that you will receive a warm welcome, whatever instrument you happen to drag through the door. Elitism is for other places; not Folk Clubs.
That's assuming that the OP will be visiting a "Folk Club".

There are other places one may play "folk" music, of course, and the OP did mention that they "go to sessions". I'm no session expert (being a Yank and all), but my understanding is that there are many traditional Irish sessions, for example, where one would want to think twice before showing up with a piano accordion of any make/model.

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Re: Best instrument to play folk music?

Post by Inflammo » Tue Jun 26, 2018 9:50 pm

So in the last week I've played out at a ceilidh and also at a session- to be fair the latter is very encouraging of all instruments and levels of proficiency but I am the only accordion. After learning on a 48 bass Parrot I switched from a lovely 120 bass Crucianelli (my first proper box) some years ago to the 96 bass Jonelli when I started playing folk more and to b fair it was a bit of an impulse purchase. With 4 sets treble reeds and 4 bass couplers its a weighty beast and it's a bit like a washing machine- I tend to only use 2 of the treble couplers. Interestingly the Piermaria Jamie Smith uses only has 2 treble couplers.

Still looking for the right instrument- have now seen a 'compact' 96 bass Pigini on eBay for £1750 (says it's the same size as a 72 bass but offers range of a 96) ....might be worth considering?

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Re: Best instrument to play folk music?

Post by Anyanka » Tue Jun 26, 2018 11:03 pm

Inflammo wrote:
Tue Jun 26, 2018 9:50 pm
Still looking for the right instrument- have now seen a 'compact' 96 bass Pigini on eBay for £1750 (says it's the same size as a 72 bass but offers range of a 96) ....might be worth considering?
Sounds good... any chance that you could try it before committing to a purchase? I bought my first Pigini off German ebay, no problems at all, but generally I like to play instruments before buying.

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