Category Archives: Blog

Things inside the Box #2

In this things-inside-the-box post, I will have to stretch the premise a tiny bit and move to things outside the box. This one is about a shoulder or thumb strap on the accordion and things in between. In between? Yes, apparently such a thing exists. But see for yourself:

I always thought that there are three ways one can hold and play the button accordion:

One shoulder strap

2018 Sharon Shannon - by 2eight - DSC3303

Two shoulder straps

Tony MacMahon

Only thumb strap

Whether the shoulder or thumb strap on the accordion is to be preferred is discussed by many (for example here) but seems to be a matter of personal preference in the end.

With this in mind, take a look at the following

That’s the first time I have ever seen a concertina-like hand strap on an accordion.

For me it feels awful to play and that’s mostly because the fingers are forced in such a weird position. I can imagine someone who is used to placing his hand behind the keyboard, like Mairtin O’Connor, might actually be ok with it…

It would be interesting to know if someone else has come across such a construction before. Or even more so, if someone is actually playing like this?

What do you think?

➡ things inside the box #1

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Top 5 Best Irish Accordion Albums

We all have a soft spot for top lists and to my surprise I couldn’t find a ” Top 5 Best Irish accordion albums ” online, so here it is: My favorite accordion albums of all time.

My personal taste in accordion sounds tends towards more tremolo and slower more old-school kind of playing. However, this has not always been the case, so later on I will follow up with my favorite non-old-school button box records. If you have some nice suggestions feel free to drop me a note.

I think its very important to support the artist by buying their music. Therefore I have attached links below to where you can buy this music. Some of the artists can also be found on streaming sites, others don’t.

The amazon links below are affiliate links, if you choose to use those, you support me and this site.

#5 Notes from the Heart – The Mulcahy Family

Mick, Michelle and Louise Mulcahy have recorded this fantastic and much praised album in 2008 and I lost count how many times I have heard it since. Such a lovely flow.

Tip: check out the set that starts with – The Leitrim Lilter –

#4 Up and Coming – Oisin & Conal Hernon

A cool Banjo/Box album by Oisin and Conal Hernon – this one deserves much more attention than it currently gets. The two have recorded multiple albums together but this is the only old-school sounding one as far as I know.

Tip: check out Micky Quinn’s.

#3 Martin Quinn & Angelina Carberry

Really tight Banjo/Box playing by two masters! The tunes are quite interesting non-standard tunes or at least I have not heard them played so often. The opening set – McCarthy’s and McGann’s – is a firm favorite of the Amsterdam Session’s two box players.

#2 In Retrospect – Danny O’Mahony

Danny O’Mahony’s fantastic first solo record. In my opinion one the best if not *the* best box album ever made. Created by an exceptional artist. I have not found any place where one can buy the digital album online, but it’s possible to order an actual CD (that’s also what I did).

For example from Claddagh Records.

…and here comes the number 1:

#1 The Kitchen Recordiongs – Sean O’Driscoll & Larry Egan

Hands down the best Banjo/Box album. Love the sound and playing of Larry Egan, the selection of tunes and the laid back feel this record has. Have they or maybe Larry Egan made any other recordings? I’m only aware of this one and I would love to hear more!

Tip: The Cuil Aodha/Nettles in the Soup

I hope you enjoyed my Top 5 Best Irish button accordion albums! If your favourite album is missing or you have some nice suggestions feel free to drop me a note.

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Things Inside the Box… (New mini series #1)

I get to experience the evolution of accordion technology first hand while working on old accordions. Often times I find myself smiling over dirty hacks or creative solutions after opening up a box. In this loose mini series I will showcase some fun and interesting things I find inside old accordions. I hope you enjoy these as much as I do.

When asked to fix an air leak on an old Hohner Club, I noticed a considerable leak on the bass side of the instrument. To my surprise the cause was not the usual misalignment of the bass mechanics but a very creative repair of a broken air release valve spring

The construction worked surprisingly well for a surprisingly long time (talking years, not days). Eventually, one of the rubber bands gave in and the loose orange end got caught below a flap preventing it’s full closing.

I replaced the broken spring but if I should ever face a broken air release valve spring and I am in the middle of nowhere without a proper spring at hand, I might revert to this temporary fix…

➡ things inside the box #2

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What’s up next?

I have some very interesting boxes coming up soon! This is a look behind the curtain of the workshop.

Almost done: Antique Hohner – 3-voice C#/D

An old, stylish box, fitted with brand new super dural reeds. A longer lasting project is finally nearing completion.

In the past weeks we have been fitting new reeds, new feltpads, cleaning metal parts and adjusting keyboards. Yesterday I played a first tune on it, today I put it on the tuning bellows for the first time. I can’t wait to hear the sound of it once properly tuned…

soon finished: 3-voice C#/D

Work on the Hohner Liliput is making progress. The first Liliput has entered the workshop for an overal check-up. The original reeds in the moody key of Bb/Eb are in good condition. It seems they can be used for the restoration…

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The hohner Liliput: war veteran or hiking buddy?

The star of this blog post is small, very small, tiny one might say… -at least for a full 2.5-row/2-voice button box. This is what we are talking about:

The Hohner Liliput went into production during the Nazi-era as early as 1935 and was produced until 1940, it’s sibling the Preciosa was even produced until 1943. It’s commonly believed that these accordions were made for soldiers:

Accordions accompanied German soldiers and officers to the front. To this end, Hohner designed instruments that were small and lightweight for soldiers to stow easily in a rucksack. Today, the Preciosa and Liliput are much sought after accordions.

http://gumshoearcana.blogspot.com/2009/09/honking-basses-silent-witness-to.html

While that surely reads spectacular, it should be kept in mind that the war started in September 1939. So quite a bit after the initial production in 1935. I personally believe that – though these accordions were surely taken to war by some soldiers – they were initially made for hiking…

A much more reconciliatory story about Liliputs can be found on the Blog Mellisa’s Melodeons:

I recently played my little Hohner Liliput to my mother who is 83. She immediately recognized the instrument and came up with an interesting story.
Just after the war in the late 40’s she went on a walking holiday in the Swiss and Italian Alps guided by a former member of the French Resistance. Apparently whenever they met German hikers in chalets and inns, the German’s produced little accordions out of their rucksacks just like the Liliput and played and sang. Given that at that time in history Germans were not the most popular people in Europe, these little accordions did a lot to break down ill will and establish friendship between people who only a year or two before had been killing each other. 
Now that’s a nice thing to know about melodeons.

http://melissasmelodeons.blogspot.com/2017/02/the-hohner-liliput-that-is-on-way.html

Either way, isn’t it exciting to think about what these little boxes might have seen and where they might have been?

I have been looking for Liliputs for some time now and am happy to have found a couple that I am going to carefully restore and convert to modern day keys and tunings.

If you are interested in the fate of my Liliputs, or even want to buy a restored one, you can subscribe to my newsletter and be the first to know when it hits the shelf…

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Tip: De Harmonicahoek – worth a look for every button accordion player

Eduard Bekker’s fantastic site gathers all sorts of background information on melodeon music and culture (mostly C/F, G/C, A/D and the likes but he also links to this site :-) for example):

  • Events: Gatherings, concerts, workshops, etc…
  • Background information
  • Sheet music and teachers
  • A listing of accordions currently for sale on the dutch craigslist
  • Many, many more

Have a look for yourself: www.harmonicahoek.nl/

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