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Accordion/Melodeon name

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GUEST,John Hill 30 Dec 00 - 05:40 AM
Bernard 30 Dec 00 - 05:49 AM
GUEST,John Hill 30 Dec 00 - 07:24 AM
Bob Bolton 30 Dec 00 - 08:07 AM
GUEST,John Hill 30 Dec 00 - 08:21 AM
Zebedee 30 Dec 00 - 09:17 AM
Frank Maher 30 Dec 00 - 09:19 AM
GUEST,John Hill 30 Dec 00 - 09:41 AM
GUEST,Mac Tattie 30 Dec 00 - 10:44 AM
Bob Bolton 30 Dec 00 - 10:33 PM
GUEST,John Hill 31 Dec 00 - 05:46 AM
GUEST,Mac Tattie 31 Dec 00 - 08:39 AM
Bob Bolton 31 Dec 00 - 08:43 AM
Bernard 31 Dec 00 - 11:12 AM
richardw 31 Dec 00 - 11:32 AM
Alice 05 Aug 01 - 12:00 PM
JohnInKansas 05 Aug 01 - 03:18 PM
Alice 05 Aug 01 - 04:05 PM
Liz the Squeak 05 Aug 01 - 04:49 PM
GUEST,Ronan, Galway 05 Aug 01 - 05:37 PM
Geoff the Duck 05 Aug 01 - 09:52 PM
GUEST,old poster .... way back 05 Aug 01 - 11:02 PM
Bob Bolton 05 Aug 01 - 11:33 PM
Alice 06 Aug 01 - 12:50 AM
pavane 06 Aug 01 - 03:47 AM
GUEST,Thom 06 Aug 01 - 03:56 AM
Brian Hoskin 06 Aug 01 - 06:31 AM
GUEST 06 Aug 01 - 06:48 AM
Brian Hoskin 06 Aug 01 - 07:23 AM
GUEST 06 Aug 01 - 07:31 AM
Brian Hoskin 06 Aug 01 - 07:43 AM
Uncle Jaque 06 Jan 02 - 02:02 AM
pavane 06 Jan 02 - 06:48 AM
Bob Bolton 06 Jan 02 - 08:15 AM
Nerd 06 Jan 02 - 02:05 PM
Tattie Bogle 06 Jan 02 - 07:15 PM
Bob Bolton 06 Jan 02 - 07:20 PM
Nerd 06 Jan 02 - 07:45 PM
Bob Bolton 07 Jan 02 - 12:36 AM
GUEST,Ole Bull 07 Jan 02 - 10:18 AM
Bob Bolton 07 Jan 02 - 09:41 PM
GUEST,Ole Bull 07 Jan 02 - 10:27 PM
Bob Bolton 08 Jan 02 - 12:47 AM
curmudgeon 08 Jan 02 - 08:57 PM
wes.w 10 Jan 02 - 08:44 AM
Dave the Gnome 11 Jan 02 - 07:45 AM
Bob Bolton 11 Jan 02 - 08:01 AM
GUEST,Ole Bull 11 Jan 02 - 09:52 AM
Bob Bolton 12 Jan 02 - 02:18 AM
Nerd 12 Jan 02 - 03:06 AM
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Subject: Accordion/Melodion name
From: GUEST,John Hill
Date: 30 Dec 00 - 05:40 AM

Where and when did this word melodion come from. I can't find the word in any 19th cent dictionary.... they are all called accordions. The original (Austrian) spelling was akkordion ...but we seem to have adopted the french spelling. Now the word accordion seems only to be used for the instrument that has the same note in as out.. whether it be piano or button. But who is this person that had the audacity to re-name the original accordion as a melodion?


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: Bernard
Date: 30 Dec 00 - 05:49 AM

I was once told, though I've no proof, that this is an example of vacuum cleaners being called 'Hoovers' - Melodeon was a brand name used by M. Hohner for their button accordions.

I can't remember who told me, but I think it was during a workshop session at Sidmouth Festival... Maybe someone has something more accurate?


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: GUEST,John Hill
Date: 30 Dec 00 - 07:24 AM

Yes could be... but isn't a "button accordion" one that has the same notes in and out .. same as a piano accordian. The "melodion" is like a mouth organ... and is the original (I think) accordion"


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 30 Dec 00 - 08:07 AM

G'day John Hill,

Hohner use the name Melodion for their simple German style instruments which have only 2 bass / chord buttons or "spoon" valves for accompaniment (the sort that have pull-up 'stops' for changing voices. This is not their name - it was used by firms like "Regal" (all of whom probably got absorbed into Hohner in the years around WWI). They call their other push-pull button accordions Diatonic or Chromatic Buttonkey Accordions.

To confuse the issue, the British in recent years have called all push-pull boxes melodions. I like to use accordion for any box that permits choice of chords and then use an appropriate descriptor to differentiate playing schemes.

It is difficult to try to lay a claim for "original" names. There were different names used by everyone for their versions in the early days of development. Damien certainly used Akkordion for his improved model of 1829, but that was one of many (and I have seen the name accordion in British contexts used before the free reed era ... for some instrument that I have not yet identified). Melodion has also been the name for an American lap organ.

Regards,

Bob Bolton


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: GUEST,John Hill
Date: 30 Dec 00 - 08:21 AM

I have a dictionary that is about 1850 or so. It says that the accordion was invented in Vienna in 1529. (I think that was the year.. I dont have it here in the office). The point I'm trying to make it that the instrument seems to have survived about 350 years or so without this name of Melodion so why does it have to be used now?


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: Zebedee
Date: 30 Dec 00 - 09:17 AM

John,

For some information on the history of the accordion, try here

I'm not sure what your trying to get at regarding the use of the term 'Melodeon.' Language evolves...

Ed


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: Frank Maher
Date: 30 Dec 00 - 09:19 AM

Who cares what It's Called!!!!!! A Rose by any other Name, etc.etc.


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: GUEST,John Hill
Date: 30 Dec 00 - 09:41 AM

Some might not see it as a Rose.. haven't you heard all those Accordion jokes...


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: GUEST,Mac Tattie
Date: 30 Dec 00 - 10:44 AM

The TMSA (Traditional Music and Song Association of Scotland)have distinct clasifications for button accordion and melodeon in their instrumental competitions. The deviding line being - if the bass buttons play different notes when pushing and pulling the bellows then you have a melodeon and if the bass buttons play the same note pushing and pulling then you have a button accordion. What ever version of button box you should find yourselve playing, congratulations on your good taste and judgement and continued avoidence of those nasty piano key monsters and their instruments.


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 30 Dec 00 - 10:33 PM

G'day again John Hill,

You say: "I have a dictionary that is about 1850 or so. It says that the accordion was invented in Vienna in 1529."

Two points: 1. Damien patented his instrument in 1829 in Vienna. 2. Damien based his instrument on Buschmann's 1821/2 German instrument.

All this development of "free reed" instruments followed the Chinese expulsion of Catholic priests in the late 18th century. One of the things they brought back was a Chinese Sheng ... a sort of mouthorgan, which introduced Europeans to the 'new' principle of sound production, the 'free reed'; a springy metal tongue vibrating in a slot in response to wind pressure (the Chinese may have known about this for up to 4000 years!).

Anyway, apart from the British aberration, the term melodion is a useful distiction in a very confusing bunch of superficially similar instruments. (OK ... I am a 'splitter', not a 'lumper'.)

BTW: When I played my German button accordion (I started on melodion nearly 40 years ago and progressed) for some Croatians they called it an armonica Triestina, their nation's name for it ... throwing in a mis-credit to the Italians to boot!

Regards,

Bob Bolton


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: GUEST,John Hill
Date: 31 Dec 00 - 05:46 AM

Thanks Bob, I guess my old dictionary has a misprint for the year..... but can you tell me why so many have a down on the Piano Accordian. It seems a valid instrument to me. Especially as it allows someone who plays the piano to easily swap to a free reed instrument. Most Melodions are very limited as to what key you can play in.


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: GUEST,Mac Tattie
Date: 31 Dec 00 - 08:39 AM

Yes,Guest John Hill, too manny piano key players find playing easy. So easy that they will play allong to anything and anyone, usualy with as much tunefull expression as a mobile phone. I have been at many a session dampened by the pressence of overeager piano accordianists. A fair amout of skill is required to "knock out" a set of tunes on a button box and indeed one of the finest and more skillfull players of this instrument, Tony Mac Mahon, has recently released a CD entitled,"Mac Mahon from Clare". If anyone is looking for music played with comitment and control mixed in with passion and good humour then seek this recording out.


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 31 Dec 00 - 08:43 AM

G'day John,

I don't know the answer to that: piano accordions are perfectly valid piano accordions - and they can play an astonishing range of music - if the player knows what he or she is doing.

So why don't I play one? (Everyone tried to talk me out of button accordion 37 years ago.) I have no problem: I am trying to play in a 19th century style, so the piano accordion doesn't come into the question - it didn't really come into wide use until well into the 20th century.

The old Australian players played button accordion and the really old ones played concertina ... and I want to explore just what that does to the sound and style of what I do. But there are a lot of people who play the resulting music well on piano accordion. My group, Backblocks Musicians just wants to feed a really Australian style and repertoire into an area that filches far too much from inappropriate traditions, but we don't say anyone has to do it the same way as us.

In my hardworking band days, I used 3-row diatonic button accordions - Hohner Coronas in A/D/G and G/C/F. The A/D/G covers anything that the fiddler was going to play: A, D & G obviously, as well as F#m, Bm & Em and B, E and A Dorian modes ... as well as C major and E major with some sacrifice of chording (but adequate for folk music). (And, of course, a bunch of other modes, starting with the Scots Myxolydians of E, A & D.)

The Piano accordian plays everything - equally and without accent or style of its own ... but it's a lot of weight to carry to play keys no fiddler is prepared to entertain! (And I love the accent of the button box ... and fighting with it.)

Regards,

Bob Bolton


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: Bernard
Date: 31 Dec 00 - 11:12 AM

I agree! The first thing anyone should be taught about any instrument, not just the piano accordion, is when to shut up and listen!

Guitarists seem to be even worse than piano accordionists in that respect (or lack of it!

Given that I'm both guitarist and piano accordionist, I suppose I've just shot myself in the foot...!!

Worse than that, I also play banjo and melodeon! (and mandolin, English and anglo constant sneezers, flute, whistle, yawn........!!)

I like to think I can judge when people want you to join in, or leave them to it... I just wish people would afford me the same courtesy!

Whinge, whinge, moan, whinge...


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: richardw
Date: 31 Dec 00 - 11:32 AM

The word Melodeon depends in part on the time period. In the 1850s to 1880s the Melodeon was what we now call a harmonium, the lap organ--usually pumped with one hand and played with the other. Occassionaly it was on a stand that allowed the feet to be used for pumping. It is about 24 inches long and 12 inches deep and wide. Most commonly used in East Indian music, where it was introduced by European missionaries. We have lots of references to Melodeons of this time period and they certainly are not any form of accordion so somewhere the name shifted.

Richard Wright


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: Alice
Date: 05 Aug 01 - 12:00 PM

I have been searching the 'net for a used Hohner button accordion like the one played by John the Yank Harrington.click here There seem to be alot in bill's home area (Yorkshire), but if anyone can refer one available in N. America, I'd appreciate it.

Alice


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 05 Aug 01 - 03:18 PM

Alice:

The Hohner shown in your click looks much like the one I salvaged from a flea-market/garage sale recently for $40.
Mine is marked "Hohner Melodeon" and is in C/F.
As is typical for ones I've seen, the board backing up the buttons was almost completely broken out (it is quite thin), but I made a serviceable (and removable, if needed) repair with wood dough.
After scraping a fair amount of rust off of some of the reeds, I have "noise" from all of them, but I'm afraid anything approaching "tuning" is something for the future.

New Hohner Melodeons apparently are still available from Hohner. They have a web site, but the information there seems to be limited pretty much to the piano accordions.

I have seen a couple for sale on ebay recently, asking/bid about $800, but I believe that is probably close to the "new" factory price.

Put "Hohner" in your search engine, and look for their list of dealers? With any luck, the guys may take trade-ins.

John


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: Alice
Date: 05 Aug 01 - 04:05 PM

Yes, I did search with search engines and also searched sites like netinstruments.com, and other sites for instruments (as well as Hohner) before posting this message here. I did find something in New Mexico at netinstruments, but got no reply from the seller. Most hits are with UK sellers, but I'm looking for something in N. America, because of shipping costs. Cajun and Tejano music bring up bandoneons and button accordions... I'm looking for one tuned for Irish session tunes.

Alice


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 05 Aug 01 - 04:49 PM

All those dictionary entries and you still can't spell it... it's melodeon, spelt B A S T A R D.

LTS


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: GUEST,Ronan, Galway
Date: 05 Aug 01 - 05:37 PM

In Ireland we call the ten button, single row box the melodeon. The double row is the accordion, although we use two row melodeons in C and D.


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: Geoff the Duck
Date: 05 Aug 01 - 09:52 PM

And I thought that this thread was one alongside the <>What is your Jedi Name and What is your gigolo name threads.
I assued that if your surname began with G D or A you had a melodeon nems and if it began with any other letter you were an accordeon?
Quack!!!!!


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: GUEST,old poster .... way back
Date: 05 Aug 01 - 11:02 PM

Hi Phoaks, this tread got me going again :) Thanks

I don't know too much about the origin or the name of it but what Ronan said is accurate.

Those of us who were spoiled by hearing the great Box players even on record, Tony MacMahon, Joe Cooley etc would probably prefer the Diatonic style. After all the B/C rarely produces such interest.

Alice I think you might easily get a Cajun Box in D and have it tuned before they send it you. A Cajun Box maker in LA told me ...years ago.. that he does do it for Melodeon players who want the 'dry' sound. It does not cost any more same price.

Last time I looked the basic box was 400 bucks

Re Hohner, first you'd be very lucky to find one in D and still working, second you'd have to pay a very high price. The instrument was rare even before 1939 in Ireland though in the 20's it was common.

Hohner now make the D /4 Voice 10 key but it is not anywhere as good as the old prewar models.

I own a 1920's D 4 Stopper and it still plays great. I got it way back in the early 80's.


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 05 Aug 01 - 11:33 PM

G'day Alice:

The Instrument that John the Yank Harrington is playing is simply the real "Pokerwork" model.

The modern "pokerwork" model (Hohner #2915) is painted black and printed with gold paint patterns ... nothing at all like 'pokerwork'. Up to WWII (~1939)they had better wood ... worth looking at ... and the pattern was pressed in with a hot die - giving an effect like hot poker work on blond pine. I play one of these as my main traditional button accordion.

It was originally in C/F ... the most common key of its day (often played against fiddles tuned down one tone - to ease the strain in hot climates?). I have made mine G/C, by transferring reed blocks from a newer accordion with disgusting 'mother of toilet seat' red perloid finish. There is no real technical difference between this and a '50s - 80s Hohner #2915 ... but more recent models have lowered production values: paper bellows tape, plastic bellows frames &c.

The main virtue to the older, blond, 2915 models is that they look nice. After the war, thje timber was pretty dodgy and they swithed to a black paint finish to cover it up.

Blond Hohner accordions from this period turn up, not infrequently, but they are often if 'unsociable' keys ... and showing their age badly!

Regards,

Bob Bolton


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: Alice
Date: 06 Aug 01 - 12:50 AM

I got a reply from the seller in New Mexico, with a photo attached of his accordion. It is a new Hohner, B/C tuning, one he bought for Irish tunes, It has a look of plasticky red, called a "Double Ray". I'm still searching. It may take me a very long time.

Thanks for all the input, especially the description of what John the Yank is holding in the photo.

Alice


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: pavane
Date: 06 Aug 01 - 03:47 AM

I have heard that recent Hohner models are not as good as the ones made as recently as the 1970's - does anyone know if this is true? My main box is an ERICA in red (unusually, as they all seem to be black nowadays), purchased new in 1979, without the accidentals which now seem to replace the lowest two (bass) notes. And does anyone know what vintage my wooden finish Hohner Club Model III in C/F may be?


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: GUEST,Thom
Date: 06 Aug 01 - 03:56 AM

Hobgoblin Music - www.hobgoblin.com - now have a US shop. Might be worth an enquiry


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: Brian Hoskin
Date: 06 Aug 01 - 06:31 AM

Or you could try here Wesson Accordion Company for some advice.

Brian


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: GUEST
Date: 06 Aug 01 - 06:48 AM

Read the thread, Brian!

"but I'm looking for something in N. America, because of shipping costs"

Wesson isn't exactly there, is it?


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: Brian Hoskin
Date: 06 Aug 01 - 07:23 AM

I did read the thread, if you read it more carefully you'll see that there are a number of different enquiries. Perhaps I should have specified exactly which ones I was trying to suggest help on. I know that Rees Wesson is quite knowledgeable and thought it might be worth asking his opinion on Hohners. I suppose I should have made it clear that I was directing my comments to Pavane. Whatever, GUEST needn't have been so rude in response.

Brian


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: GUEST
Date: 06 Aug 01 - 07:31 AM

Apologies, for what you perceived as 'rudeness'

The run of the threads suggested that yours was a follow-on from the previous 'US' reply. Your use of the word 'or' suggested that to me.

Sorry again if you thought me rude - too many people here post without reading or thinking, apologies if I lumped you in with them


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: Brian Hoskin
Date: 06 Aug 01 - 07:43 AM

Sorry, my response was a little strong, and looking again, you're right, my message did appear to follow on from the previous one. I do understand where you're coming from, because I also find it irritating when people post without reading through the thread. I was just being a little defensive - no one likes criticism!

Brian


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: Uncle Jaque
Date: 06 Jan 02 - 02:02 AM

I've been looking for an Anglo Concertina for some time now, to go with my "Sea Chantey" endeavors, as well as occasional Civil-War Reenacting gigs. Needless to say, pickings have been slim.

In a local "Sell-&-Swap" publication recently, there is an ad for a "Civil-War period Melodian" for $150. Inquiring "What the H@!! is a Melodian?" of a fellow field Musician, I was advised that it's a small, portable pump-organ of about 3 octaves and no stops. Not much I'd be interested in. But if it's "like a concertina", relatively portable, and might be appropriate for Sea Chanteys & campfire sings.... What do ye think?


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: pavane
Date: 06 Jan 02 - 06:48 AM

I seem to remember reading that the term Melodian in USA sometimes describes a different instrument to the MELODEON in the UK. You may well find the pump-organ is the correct description, and it would not be what you wanted. The Melodeon in the UK (also sometimes described as a button accordeon) is portable, but not really totally appropriate for Shantys, I think. Concertina is best. You can get both new and secondhand anglo concertinas mail-order from various suppliers, who DO export. Have you tried Hobgoblin?


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 06 Jan 02 - 08:15 AM

G'day Uncle Jaque and pavane,

If you look at my post of 30 Dec 00, way above, you will see several variant uses of the term melodeon/~ion/~ian. Each of these has validity in its own area. I cleave to the Hohner usage, because it is useful and defines a specific style ... but I have to put up with the broader sense in which the Poms (Brits ... UK ... mostly English) use it for a range of button accordions such as the Erica and #2915 models I play and love.

At one point, the Oxford Concise English Dictionary only listed the "American Lap Organ" definition ... but things have improved in recent editions.

Regards,

Bob Bolton


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: Nerd
Date: 06 Jan 02 - 02:05 PM

Just to throw a wrench into everything, the other instrument that I've seen referred to as a Melodion here in the US was not precisely a pump organ but a free reed organ. It had a keyboard on top and a spring-loaded bellows underneath that was hinged on the left edge. While you played, you'd let the bellows open, then press it shut again, which put the air through the reeds. So your right hand would go up and down a lot while playing the thing. I've only seen one of these once, in rural Pennsylvania. It had the word Melodion printed on it. I wonder if this the "missing link" between the pump-organ melodion and the button box melodeon...


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 06 Jan 02 - 07:15 PM

I was given the same definition as Ronan, i.e.single row of buttons = melodeon, two or more rows = accordion. What I couldn't understand when first starting a B/C two-row accordion was why all the tunes in my accordion tutor book were written in D! It seemed to my simple mind that C would have been more logical. Tattie B


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 06 Jan 02 - 07:20 PM

G'day Nerd,

"... I wonder if this the "missing link" ..."

No! Melodeon is good name ... and, long before ®, ©, &c got used by a lot of different people for different instruments.

The direct ancestor of the various windchamber /keyboard /free reed organs seems to have been the Melophone ... a really weird, French (need we say more ... ) device that could be best described as a free reed vielle or 'hurdy gurdy'. It was shaped like a fat, deep guitar, pumped with a stirrup at the bottom end, instead of a crank and had fingerboard button-keys connected by a mess of piano wire.

One of the partners in the firm (Brown et Cierle, Rue des Fosses, Paris ... ?) took along hard look at it, around 1850 (20 years after the button accordion /melodeon was 'perfected') and decided that it would be a bloody sight simpler to sit the bellows and windchamber above a treadle, and play the thing with organ keys.

The various reed organs all came in a rush after that ... and the American use of Melodion was for a fairly small one - aka 'lap organ' - that appealed in the pioneering areas, being relatively portable and amenable to music-readers that played piano or organ. What it probably did spawn was the first piano accordions, as the work on piano keyboard versions of the accordion seems to have started, in Paris, at much this time.

Regards,

Bob Bolton


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: Nerd
Date: 06 Jan 02 - 07:45 PM

Thanks Bob. What you say makes good sense!

Tattie, it's not really just two or more rows that makes a melodeon an accordion; as Ronan says, they have two-row melodeons as well. The usual difference in Irish terminology is that, on an accordion, the two rows are a half-step apart (B/C or C#/D, usually), so the instrument is chromatic. On the Melodeon, you can have three rows, and play in several keys. But if they're too spaced out you'll never have all the notes in a chromatic scale.


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 07 Jan 02 - 12:36 AM

G'day again Nerd,

There is no consistency at all in the use of the term melodeon. Your Irish definition is pretty close to the Scottish definition I saw on another thread a while back ... but it doesn't do much for me. I have this unfortunate streak of the philologist about me that wants to see words retain the sense of the words that spawned them.

That's why I prefer the Hohner use of melodeon as a simple button accordion ... distinguished by the lack of choice in chords (it has only a pair of buttons ... or even older "spoon valves" that are operated in time to produce a tonic chord on blow and a dominant on the draw.

As soon as the instrument offers a controllable choice in chords ... say the point when a single-row from Hohner is a Vienna-style accordion instead of a German-style melodeon because it adds another pair of chord buttons for the sub-dominant ... it starts to qualify as an accordion, because it is capable of accord. Multiple-row button accordions are capable of surprisingly complex chording ... listen to Brian Peters some day ... even better, watch him and see how he achieves them!

Anyway, the point is this: the instrument qualifies as an accordion by virtue of its ability, or otherwise, to play selected, appropriate, chords ... not its melody arrangements (although these are designed to facilitate right-hand chord styles. Here in Australia, we can still see some of this right hand chord style among regional groups with a "Germanic" background ... mostly those who migrated in the 19th century to escape Bismarck's conquest of the free states and duchies ... euphemised as "The Unification of Germany".

BTW: What you play on the damned thing is a bloody sight more important than what you call it!

Regards,

Bob Bolton


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: GUEST,Ole Bull
Date: 07 Jan 02 - 10:18 AM

Uncle Jacque;

The free-reed piano bellows melodian/Harmonium would be most approapriate for your Civil War reenactments- more proper than a concertina, for they were common to the period. Check out the Hutchinson Family who traveled with one. If you dont like that then maybe you should condider using a period accordian (also more approapriate than concertina); the kind with levered valve openings. I don't play one but I suspect that the set-up may be just the same as the button-type. And you may be able to find a copy of Elias Howe's instruction manual c.1850.


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 07 Jan 02 - 09:41 PM

G'day Ole Bull / Uncle Jaque,

Wheatstone's work on the English System Concertina was patented 1827 and (~)1844 ... and Wheatstone were making high quality concertinas from 1840.

The Germans had been developing the button accordion from 1821 ... Damian's 1829 patents in Vienna more or less defined the completed design ... and they saw that the right hand end could be split to create a very handy little concertina ... totally different in system from Wheatstones's, but very pretty - and basically the instrument we now call a 20-key Anglo (German).

Wheatstone's Swiss toolmaker, Lachenal, went off on his own and started producing cheaper instruments, from (~)1850, including high quality instruments in the German system (about 2 or 3 times the proce of a cheap and nasty German instrument). There are records (quoted in a thread about sailors and concertinas) of Confederate sailors buying such instruments in London during the American Civil War. There are legitimate doubts as to whether a sailor would have carried an expensive English concertina in the corrosive atmosphere of a ship ... although a cheap German model with brass reeds would not have been a great worry ... but the popularity of these new and inexpensive instruments on dry land is undoubted.

The cheap German instruments would have been far more common (maybe 10:1), just as they were here in Australia. We began to get them in our goldrush era, starting in the mid 1850s and the same immigrant groups were common to Australia and America. I have instruction books for the German Concertina that can be fairly precisely dated to the late 1840s ... so, Ole Bull, how can concertinas not be as appropriate as lap organs ... instruments that were only beginning to be developed (read: invented ...) in the 1850s?

Another point: a soldier could carry a concertina in his blanket roll or pack. A lap organ is another story ... an officer, who could commandeer some space on the wagons might cart such a big box (approximately the size of a medium piano accordion) about between camps but it would be very difficult for the lower ranks.

Regards,

Bob Bolton


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: GUEST,Ole Bull
Date: 07 Jan 02 - 10:27 PM

I would be interested to see any reference to the use of concertinas in a CW setting. I have not yet found any. It is not that they did not exist but rather how popular they were in use. It is well documented that these melodians were in wide use at that time. They were designed for portabilty, for travel. Do not think that all a soldier did was march. Many spent extended periods in camps. Many entertainers and merchants followed these camps and there was also plenty of teamster hovering about. There is an awful lot of furnature in some of the photographs! I do have several photographs of soldiers posing with the period style accordians. These can also be seen as part of fiddle and banjo bands which was the big musical trend.


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 08 Jan 02 - 12:47 AM

G'day Ole Bull,

The reference to Confederates sailors (in London to man a British ship purchased by the CSA) buying a concertina was quoted in someone else's thread about sailors and concertinas vs. accordions. I didn't bookmark it and I don't remember any key words to search on.

I would have thought portability to be a strong factor in choice of anything carried by a footslogging soldier ... I am sure I have heard that the mouthorgan became popular as a result of wartime exigencies (as did the cigarette, apparently!). I would expect the lap organ to be a smash hit with the military chaplain ... who would have access to the right amount of approved use of transport spaceand jsut the right tone for the job. Folding-framed harmoniums, not much bigger, remained in use in British Navy vessels well into the 20th century, for the same reasons.

Of course, local taste and availability are big factors and do considerably skew usage between countries. In Australia, the small instruments - cheap concertinas and melodions from Germany - came first with Germanic immigrants of the goldrush era and quickly became popular. If the American Lap Organ was an endemic product, coming from American developments and made locally in America, it would have had a running start in the popularity stakes ... but I'm damned if I can see myself carting one around a battlefield.

Of course, we need to consider just what we do or don't learn from the photographic record (I am a photographer and have worked in archaic processes). In your civil War period, photography was tied to the cumbersome and demanding wet-plate process. The photographer could not get more than a few metres away from his processing darkroom ... usually a wagon, in any sustained field work. The wagon was an easy target for cannon fire, so he stayed well out of the front ... and that means the camps seen would be the well established ones.

Propaganda motives would also dictate the content of photographs presenting the best possible image ... even the trappings of domesticity ... not the gritty life of the poor grunt at the front. It's your war ... but I have read commentaries on the surviving Civil War photographic record that remark on quite puzzling omissions from the period ... determined by all sorts of factors that would never occur to us, raised in an era of ubiquitous, simple cameras.

Anyway, if I were putting money on the most popular soldiers' musical instrument in that era, I think my bet would be on the fiddle! (For the same reasons that made it the basic 'folk' instrument in the Australian bush.)

Regards,

Bob Bolton


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: curmudgeon
Date: 08 Jan 02 - 08:57 PM

As an aid to solving these many mysteries, allow me to cite some information from an article/editorial in Concertina and Squeezebox Magazine, Numbers 14 &15.

"The free reed of chioce here (New York City) was the melodeon. In the original meaning of the word, a pedal pumped reed organ..." BTW Uncle J., there's a nice restored one available at an Antiques shop in Cape Neddick for under $300.

As to Confederate sailors and concertinas, the article continues with an excerpt from the journal of William Passmore, Federal agent sent to Liverpool to gain information on ship #290, later yclept the Alabama.

"Met the seamen, say thirty in number, on Saturday (26 June) coming down Canning Street from the ship, playing 'Dixie's Land' on a fife, concertina and cornopean and they all took the Woodside boat for Liverpool."

While I cannot vouch for Mr. Townley's scholarship, this all makes perfect sense.

"Comprimere in Aeternum" -- Tom


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: wes.w
Date: 10 Jan 02 - 08:44 AM

Ole Bull,
I think the CW thread Bob Bolton refers to leads eventually to http://hmi.homewood.net/alabama.html which is similar to what curmudgoen has quoted. There other articles on the Alabama which refer th the concertina, but I can't give you any links.


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 11 Jan 02 - 07:45 AM

Glad this thread re-surfaced - I had not seen it before and it was a good read! Thanks guys.

My 2 penn'orth. I believe that Prof. Wheatstone also invented the linkage system that we now have on the bass side of the standard piano accordian. Prior to that there had been just one note per button rather than chords. The linkage made it possible to have the bass/counter/major/minor etc that the current models have without doubling up on any of the reeds and thereby keeping the weight down.

I also heard the bit about the concertina being the preferred instrument to tuck up in bedrolls but the story I heard was that the cowboys used them on the big cattle drives. Makes more sense than lugging a flimsy guitar about like Roy Rogers anyway;-)

Cheers

Dave the Gnome
Maker of strange noises on both anglo concertina and piano accordian. Unable to play either!!!


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 11 Jan 02 - 08:01 AM

G'day Dave the Gnome,

I had not heard Sir Charles's name connected to the piano Accordion bass system. As far as I see, the work on getting a bass system for a piano keyboard accordion starts in France, about 1850 ... and seems to really start working in Italy, about 1880. Certainly, the system is named Stradella, presumably for the town in the north of Italy, which was a centre for accordion production in the late 19th century.

It may well be that he did invent the system of linkages ... probably a doddle after his telegraph system, developed at exactly the same time as his work on the concertina! Then again, it may just be the effect whereby already famous people attract the credit for the work of others ... like the "Wheatstone Bridge", which he didn't invemt ... although he did set out most of the ways to make it work.

Part of the worry is the dates, since he died somewhat before anyone had the Stradelle bass system working ... but that does not mean that he didn't invent the components.

Regards,

Bob Bolton


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: GUEST,Ole Bull
Date: 11 Jan 02 - 09:52 AM

Agreed. This is a great topic and I hope that I do not bore you if I carry the discussion further.

Thank you Wes for the link to such an excellent article. The author seems to affirm my theory on the rarity if the concertina in the American Civil War when he goes on to say;

"…if all three instruments actually did make it aboard when she slipped down the Mersey on the 29th, then the Alabama had likely the only concertina in the Confederate Navy -- the instrument was almost unheard of in America before the Civil War, when it was brought to the North by Irish and German immigrants imported to help fight the war. "

Please understand that we reenactors are a bi-polar lot. One school; the hard-core authentics, say that if you can't prove it then don't do it. The more liberal minded (the ultimate unauthentics are designated as "farbs" in our parlance) say that "if they could have then they would have." I, myself, prefer the challenge for it spurs research (there is a previous thread of interest on the subject of CW musical authenticity).

Bob, for the most part your comments are right on. But I would like to comment on some of your examples as they help to make the point.

Serious researchers have concluded that cigarettes, while certainly in existence, were deemed unfashionable by North American men (they were for girls). Sales records clearly support this. And maybe this is how the epithet "fag" originated as to refer to one who is effeminate; a "faggot-smoker."

Harmonicas were reported as import items and are common relic finds. Yet they are almost never mentioned in published or private writings! The conclusion is that they were considered a novelty, a toy and not a serious musical instrument. Nor can they be found in records of stage performance or in ensemble of that period.

This was the heyday of the musical publishing business. Publishers such as Howe and Ditson were anxious to capitalize on any trend or fashion to publish. If an instrument were to have an Instructor published then you can assume that it has made it on the charts and met the public's acceptance, a good indicator of it's popularity. The earliest Harmonica instruction manual I have uncovered is late 19th c. Can anyone tell us when the first concertina book was published? When we try to apply this same level of proofs and sureties to the Mandolin, for example, we suggest that they be left at home.

New information can surface at any time and can add to and modify these findings and as such should be encouraged. Hopefully Mudcat is a good forum for such dialogue.


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 12 Jan 02 - 02:18 AM

G'day Ole Bull,

As I said somewhere above, "It's you war ...". I can only compare with Australia, which has many resemblances but, ultimately, was a far more British place in 1860. I look at what was popular in our 'bush' areas - and how that was predicated by the need to carry things in a pretty light kit.

I would make a few points in return:
Your quote ... my emphasis (and I will try to get the html right, this time): " ... the instrument was almost unheard of in America before the Civil War, when it was brought to the North by Irish and German immigrants imported to help fight the war."

The apparent arrival in Australia of widespread (cheaper ... German ...) concertinas seems to be in our Gold Rush period ... the years after 1855. This is roughly in line with the period leading up to the American Civil War ... and the big influence seems to be the Germanic immigrants, fleeing Bismarck's "unification". The Irish (especially the poor, fleeing famine and British oppression) may well have been a secondary factor, as they seem to have taken to the concertina fairly early on. I just suggest these are the sort of people who would have brought the instrument to the CW ... and the sort of people who are pretty transparent to the record ... their letters home are in Hamburg or Dublin, not the Smithsonian.

The lack of an early tutor for the mouthorgan may also be tied to the fact that you don't need one ... certainly beyond what you could pick up in 5 minutes watching (or even talking to) one of the bigger kids. Certainly they were less played by (white) adults (although I have a definite buzz at the back of my brain that keeps repeating someone's assertion that mouthorgan was played by Abraham Lincoln ... who does not date very long past the American Civil War).

The earliest concertina tutor I have is printed in England and covers "The German Concertina ... not the 'Anglo-German concertina' of 1850 and beyond. The instruments shown are of the earliest type of concertinas made in Germany ... rectangular (almost square) bodies and two rows of buttons ... sometimes a third row to provide accidentals. Various textual references to accordions, mouth organs and such, suggest the text was written about 1845 and this accords with the illustrations. This would have been sold in the UK. Since America was pirate territory, they probably didn't even bother exporting it ... that would have been inviting a rip-off copy by return ship!

Cigarettes are not an area of concern or study for me and your take on contemporary attitudes may well be right. It is noticeable that wars are often the points at which such attitudes are tested ... and often changed.

I have in mind the fact that men's watches were always large pocket watches, up to WW I ... wristlet watches being female or effeminate. The number of officers nailed by snipers' bullets, in the act of consulting their polished silver hunter, quickly recommended the wrist watch ... with an all-encompassing brown leather case! This flowed over into post-war attitudes - and the universal acceptance of the wristwatch by younger men.

Regards,

Bob Bolton


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Subject: RE: Accordion/Melodion name
From: Nerd
Date: 12 Jan 02 - 03:06 AM

Just saw this thread resurfaced...

Bob, my "Irish" definition of melodeon versus accordion is how the words were used by the community of Irish musicians in New York while I was living there, and it's pretty well accepted in the Northeast US Irish community generally. I'm not arguing that it's good or bad, just that this is how the words are used in my neck of the woods. Of course, etymology does not always determine how words are used in the world.

Your reasoning makes pretty good sense. Of course, there is a continuum from an instrument that can (theoretically) play no chords but only melody, to one on which many complex chords are possible. Where one draws the line between melodeon and accordion is thus essentially arbitrary. But I agree that using etymology as a guide, the chromatic nature of the B/C or C#/D instruments is essentially irrelevant.

Of course, I still need to use the terms as I described them if I go out to my local, 'cuz that's how my locals talk!

Thanks for some really interesting stuff on this thread, Bob, Bull et al!


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