Squeezebox Buying Guide
We are often asked what’s the difference between a melodeon and a button accordion, what is the difference between an Anglo and English concertina? Eagle Music demystify and explain all the different squeezebox types.
Whether you are looking to start playing English or Irish dance music, pop or general folk music, Eagle Music will help you to make the right choice. Eagle Music demystifies the main differences between a Melodeon, Button Accordion, Piano Accordion, Continental Chromatic Accordion, Anglo Concertina, English Concertina and Duet Concertina The types of music that are best suited for playing English folk music and traditional Irish music styles are all explained. Original article written by Steve Noon, founder of Eagle Music, 2004.
The different types of squeezebox explained and simplified
The notes below explain the Types of squeezebox and the kind of music that is played on them, these notes will help you choose the squeezebox that is the right model for you. We have many books, cds and dvds to take you from beginner to advanced player.
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. Please be aware that there are many retailers in the UK that don’t specialise in accordions, and out of their own ignorance they may sell you the wrong instrument.
The popular types of squeezebox that we shall explain are Melodeon, Button Accordion, Piano Accordion, Continental Chromatic Accordion, Anglo Concertina, English Concertina. and Duet Concertina. Please follow the links for technical details for each instrument.
Here we explain the squeezeboxes and the popular types of music suited to each particular squeezebox.
The Melodeon - Most favoured for playing English Dance Music, Irish Music, European Music and Cajun 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.
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 squeezeboxes 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 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 Accordion.
The Button Accordion - Most favoured for playing Irish and Scottish 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!
Note: 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.
The Piano Accordion - Versatile for all kinds of music
The piano accordion is a most versatile squeezebox, it can be found in the hands of players in most genres of music from classical to folk. Classical players will choose the larger size accordions that have the full range of 120 bass buttons, folk musicians tend to choose the smaller accordions that have either 48 or 72 bass buttons. If you have played upright piano or organ, you will find it easy to start playing music on the piano accordion.
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 player’s 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.
We describe here the differences of the three main types of Concertina. The Anglo Concertina, the English Concertina and the Duet Concertina and the music that each type is best suited for playing on Wheatstone, Lachenal and Jeffries type Concertinas.
All the way back in the year 1829 a gentleman by the name of Charles Wheatstone invented the concertina! The other great makers were Crab, Lachenal, Jeffries and McCann. In almost two hundred years the instrument and the way it is played has little changed. if you are lucky you may still find yourself a Wheatstone or other make vintage concertina …the restored old ones are still considered the best, but there are many modern instruments on the market that more than do the job.
The concertina is the smallest and most compact instrument of the squeezebox family, it was the type of squeezebox that was favoured by the sea going men in the early 19th century because it was easy to stow away in their small sea chest. You will often see modern folk musicians singing sea shanties and being accompanied by a concertina.
It is a lightweight and relatively easy-to-handle instrument and is both versatile for playing tunes, song or dance music accompaniment.
The two most popular types are the Anglo and the English and thirdly the Duet which is the least common and least available to find or buy in modern times.
On concertinas you play the higher notes with the right hand and the lower notes with the left hand.
The Anglo Concertina produces a DIFFERENT NOTE on the ‘push’ and on the ‘pull’.
The English Concertina produces the SAME NOTE on the ‘push’ and on the ‘pull’.
The Anglo Concertina is the one most favoured by Irish Music players. There are 20 key and 30 key models available. The G/C tuned instrument is the choice for playing Irish Music. The 20 key model is limited for the number of octaves that can be played on it, but it is fine for beginners. A 20 key Anglo Concertina along with the book ‘Absolute Beginners Concertina’ by Mick Bramich will soon have you on your way to playing Irish Music.
The 30 key G/C Anglo Concertina is the ‘must have’ concertina for playing Irish Music.
A 30 Key G/C Anglo Concertina box along with the Book ‘The Irish Concertina’ by Mick Bramich you have the best squeezeBox and tuition method for becoming a proficient
The English Concertina, as it is called, is the one most favoured by English Folk Music players. However, there are some great players of the English concertina that play ‘Irish Music’ So, it is not set in stone that it is purely an English Concertina! There are 30 key and 48 Key models available.
The instrument is chromatic and gives the player the note on the push and on the pull no matter which way the bellows are moving, the same as a piano accordion. for beginners, the Book ‘Handbook for English Concertina’ by Roger Watson is a good start, but check out all the other material available from Eagle Music.
The Duet Concertina is the least common and least available to find or buy in modern times. There are three duet ‘systems’ that were invented in the 19th century by Jeffries, McCann and Crane. Crane’s Duet Concertina ‘system’ was also known as The Triumph Concertina. The Duet is actually a versatile concertina which plays the same note on the push and on the pull in the same way as the English Concertina The high notes are played on the right side and the bass notes are played on the left side, the same as most concertinas.
The problem with playing Duet Concertinas, if it is a problem! is that all the three main makers laid the keys out in a different order.
From time to time we have some vintage concertinas in stock. Its always a good idea to check, you may find yourself a fully restored Wheatstone, Crab, Lachenal, Jeffries or a McCann Duet!
Here we’ve provided with you some Q&A’s to further assist your buying decision.
Q. I want to try before I buy, can I arrange a squeezebox demonstration in-store?
A: You can visit our shop at any time during our normal opening hours. You can make yourself at home here, have a cup of Yorkshire tea or coffee and spend as long with us as you may you need to make your choice. You will be able to try various brands and different squeezebox models at all price levels to help you make your choice. We have dedicated staff that are squeezebox specialists and can play all styles of squeezebox. We will help you to make the right choice of squeezebox and then continue to help you along your musical path after you have bought from us. We shall always be here for you at the end of the phone to help you with any technical questions.
Q. I’m on a budget, what prices do squeezeboxes start from?
A: Our squeezeboxes start from as little as £150.00! for a beginners model. Any squeezebox that you purchase from us will be set-up in our workshop by the same technicians that set-up our top end models so you will have no worries about its playability. Our ‘Starter Packs’ are exceptional value for beginners and include everything in the pack that you will need to get you started.
Q. I’m an accomplished player and would like to move to a professional squeezebox, what do you recommend?
A: Build quality and reliability is what defines a professional squeezebox. For example: Some Stephanelli boxes are priced at less than £250.00 and are excellent for beginners to improvers, on the other end of the spectrum many professionals play squeezeboxes from Saltarelle and Castagnari that are priced into the hundreds of pounds....Not only do Eagle Music carry many of the World’s top brands of quality squeezeboxes, we also have dedicated staff that play the squeezebox, teach squeezebox and ‘gig’ on stage with squeezeboxes! So, we are in the ideal position to give you professional advice and help you to make the right choice in upgrading your squeezebox.
Q. I want to play popular Music, what type of squeezebox is right for me?
A: Popular music can be played on any type of squeezebox. The most popular box types for most persons is the melodeon and the Piano Accordion. The Piano accordion is excellent persons that have had experience playing the upright piano or organ.
Q. What about after sales and maintenance if I have any issues with my squeezebox?
A: Here at Eagle Music we have an on-site workshop manned by squeezebox technicians, we set-up and repair squeezeboxes on a daily basis. We offer you our best service and a FREE Premier set-up when you purchase a squeezebox from us. We will look after you as a valued customer after you have bought your squeezebox and give you our technical support. We shall be here whenever you may need us in the future to service your squeezebox and will give you our best workshop price quotation for any work that may be needed.
Q. What sort of warranties do squeezeboxes come with?
A: If you are not completely satisfied with a squeezebox that you purchase from us, you can return the squeezebox to us for a full refund or a replacement. Every squeezebox that we sell has a makers and Eagle Music warranty.
Q. What about accessories, does Eagle Music sell squeezebox accessories too?
A: We carry a superb range of the highest quality accessories for all the squeezeboxes that we sell. Our range of world class accessories includes gig bags and cases, shoulder straps, back straps, tuition books , DVD’s etc.
Q. What about squeezebox spare parts, does Eagle Music sell squeezebox spares too?
A: We offer you a comprehensive range squeezebox spares and parts including bellows, bellows tape, springs, pins, reeds, valves, pick-ups etc. We work closely with all the squeezebox makers that supply us, and can also obtain any custom parts and retro-fits that may be available.
Q. Does the country of build make much difference to the quality of a squeezebox?
A: In short, yes it does. You have to take each instrument on its own values. Just because an instrument is made in the Far East does not mean that it is an inferior instrument. In general quality is relative to price. We choose the brands that we stock and sell very carefully, we would not ‘sell you a squeezebox that does not work’. It is true that a high priced hand built squeezebox will be a much higher quality than a low priced, low end Chinese factory made squeezebox.
Q. I want a hand built squeezebox, which brand should I choose?
A: You can choose from Saltarelle or Castagnari to mention a couple of our top class makers. Each one of these World Class brands has its own unique features and characteristics within its range of squeezebox models.
Q. Can I trade in my old squeezebox?
A: We can consider what you are wanting to trade in with us. we will offer you the best price and give you our best advice at the point of sale. In many cases you will get a better price by selling your squeezebox on ebay or by private sale.