Coincidentally I am waiting for a French flutina accordeon to arrive in the mail from an ebay purchase I just made. It was described and pictured as being in very good condition, especially the bellows, and I spoke by phone with the seller. Although I am skeptical as to whether or not something this old can be played on an eveyday basis the seller did give me the right to return it if I am not satisfied with the condition. This instrument is a 10 key Busson, with the drones, exactly like the diatonic one described in Howe's. I plan on incorporating it into my minstrel ensemble, the Camptown Shakers. I've also communicated with an accordeon shop in Philly who no doubt will be getting some business from me over the years. If it turns out to be just too old and fragile for everyday practice and performances than I would at least like to use it on some recordings.
I had started practicing on a German 10 button diatonic I had laying around, circa 1920's, a few months ago and really feel in love with the sound of the reeds, but my casual research showed that this construction didn't appear until a bit later in the century than the sound we are after in our band. The German accordeon seems to be pitched between C# and D according to my 440 based electronic tuner. I was going to have to convince my band mate Renny to tune down from D. Although I don't know what key the flutina is in yet , I am thinking it will be C, and I suppose going down a few more half steps on the banjo will be doable. I just hope its real loud!
Is it out of the question that I could ask a bellows instrument player to moderate loudness? Or is that not possible with such an instrument?
As a side, I've been playing many of the pieces from Howe's on the richter harmonica. Most of the tunes are within the gamut of a 10 hole richter.
I have been shopping around for a ten button accordion for awhile now (not historical correct, just one for fun) and the tuning is the same except for 1-pull. This is on what is being marketed as a "cajun" accordion today. These are similar (but not perfect by any means) to what is described in late 19-early 20th century catalogs. I guess that the accordion is much like the harmonica, the latter being thought of today as exclusively a "blues" instrument.
Here is another tutor showing the "modern" gamut on page 8...
Then there is the Accordion/ Melodeon name debate. Funny that all the catalogs called them "German Accordions."
On another thread Trapdoor has just mentioned that he has collected all of the reprints, and many of the originals, of the early banjo tutors. I blush to disclose that I've also done that with "Accordeon" tutors, as I've found them for sale. There is a good bit less competition (e.g. on eBay auctions) -- and therefore I've found generally lower prices, for the squeezebox literature. But I'm not sure it's significantly less important to the minstrel show tradition.
Anyway, this is the earliest one I know of, and it's a few years before Howe started calling himself Gumbo Chaff:
I have no idea when to date this Howe item -- later, anyway. Maybe as late as 1880 or thereabouts... but maybe not:
To my taste, this Winner 1864 is the best of the lot:
And I have another, later (1873), and I think somewhat inferior product from Sep Winner:
All of the accordion methods that I have, later than this, spell it "accordion;" and they deal with the larger, more versatile chromatic instrument -- whether with a piano keyboard, or some arrangement of buttons for the right hand.
I'm sure that they will tell us to shut up if they feel we are inappropriate.
On the dry wet tuning issue. How were the 19th century counterparts tuned. The Monkey Wards and Sears' descriptions point out that some models have a "vox humana" attachment for tremolo. Most do not. This leads one to believe that prior to the 20th "dry" was the norm. Any thoughts?
The listings for harmonicas have "tremolo" models, but they are the exception. By far most are "concert" models, tuned without tremolo.
The early 1900s show more tremolo models.
I can justify only about a grand to spend on one, if it aint' enough then I can live without one. I really don't care for cajun music, it's kinda loud. I'd like to just play from the Winners tutor.
I saw that the NAA's convention is next weekend just down the road from me, I may stop into the trade show. They are mostly piano accordion players, so my hopes of finding a single row are not high.
It seems that the Hohner's are Chinese now.