It is a very rare thing for me to be tempted by another accordion but this weekend I have been tested and failed completely!
Whilst at Chippenham Festival I was lucky enough to come across the most wonderful accordion. Built by the renowned French factory Maugein this accordion is a 4 row C system chromatic 80 bass accordion. With a 2 voice right hand its sound is so vibrant and crisp and unlike anything else you meet.
The significant difference comes from its construction, normally reeds are mounted agaist the blocks by wax but in the Maugein they are pinned against cork. This gives it such a different sound and is something you just dont get from the normal Italian accordion. It is a sound you dont even get from my wonderful Pigini… so I had to buy it!!! Have a look at the photos and tell me you could have resisted….! Click here to have a look!
One of the biggest challenges for accordionists is how to amplify the sound. Well I have long struggled with this and have finally found a solution I am happy with! This does not mean I am not looking at other ideas but for now I am happy!
Lets look at each hand separately. Although internal mics are easy and convenient they are in my opinion a poor sound, muffled and not a true representation of the sound. Now theright hand doesnt really move too much so a stand mounted mic is ok. But with so many mics on the market what do you choose?! Well I have tried many and as you might have guessed have settled an a rather special mic! Not cheap but gives a great sound. I now use a Neumann KM185, hyper cardioid mic but with such a pure sound. It always gives me a great sound and I just love the freedom it gives me. You might say that being stand mounted restricts you but I find the opposite, if I need a close mic sound I can move close, but can also move away for more subtle mic effects. Give it a try with the mic of your choice!
Now we can’t do the same with the left hand as it moves all the time. Again internal mics sound muffled and boomy so that is not for me. What I have settled on is 2 AKG micro mics. They now make the C516 mic but I have the older C416. Both work fine and can be used with a battey pack called the B29l. I however prefer to get away from battery and rely on phantom power so I use the MPA V L phantom adapter. I have installed this in the left hand internally, wired in to two small XLR sockets for each mic, giving my the convenience of easy plugging but retaining the separation of the AKG boom mounts.
Well that’s my solution, if you would like any more information or help, drop me a line!
As some of you may know my main piano accordion has been back to Pigini in Italy for some repairs but also for some work to develop the instrument. The standard model P36/3 that is my accordion is perhaps the finest 72 bass accordion available but the best is always open to tweaking and I am most grateful to Massimo Pigini for his help and assistance in tailoring the accordion to my specific needs.
So what has been done? Over all all the reeds have been replaced with the absolute finest hand made reeds giving an amazing sound and feel but that is just the start. Lets look further!
Lets start with the right hand. The normal accordion comes with 3 voices, 2 tuned at pitch and one tuned an octave low. Not only that but one of the ‘at pitch’ reeds can be tuned anywhere from the same tuning to up to about 16 cents sharp for that famous tremolo sound. Now my accordion has always been tuned ‘dry’ or totally in tune. However I have had that need for a slight tremolo, maybe about 4 cents sharp. Well on this new accordion I have all three reeds tuned at pitch! One is a wonderful mellow sound, the second is exactly the same to add power and definition. The third reed is a really hard sounding reed for penetration, but of course it can also be added to the first for a mellow tremolo sound.
Moving on we now look at the grill. The purpose of a grill is to give protection to the accordion but of course this is in conflict to the sound, the best sound being no grill at all. Pigini has managed to make the finest grill possible with as little material as possible and a very open weave grill cloth. This is the perfect compromise as it gives you some protection but also does not block the sound at all. The result is the most open and expressive sound you have heard!
Now the left hand! The first obvious thing is the two sound scrolls at the front of the instrument. Normally the sound escapes from the left hand from the plate by the wrist, facing to the left of the player. This is not really ideal as the right hand sound projects forward. What we have acheived is a focused sound projecting forwards by placing a solid wood left hand plate with no holes, thereby forcing the sound out through the two holes at the front, resulting in a great balance between the hands.
My left hand has also been replaced! Not personally of course but on the accordion! Now the obvious difference is that we have changed from 72 bass to 96 bass. Now in honesty this is more because we could than need to but the 96 bass stops any possible restrictions when playing the more complex chords. The much more exciting change is not visible but is with the dominant seventh row. Now for may years I have felt this row to be pretty useless as you can play exactly the same notes with the adjacent diminished seventh button, for instance a C dom 7 plays C E G Bb, but if you play a C with a G dim 7th you get C E G Bb!! So why have the dom 7th row?! So on my new accordion we have dispensed with it and replaced it with a row of open 5ths! This has let me explore all sorts of new sounds, sustained 4ths, minor 9ths without the 7th etc! This to me is one of the most exciting new possibilities my accordion gives me!
I must give many thanks to Massimo Pigini and all his staff at Pigini for the work they have done on my accordion. It is now in my opinion the finest compact accordion I have ever played and I am proud to play it!
Well finally it is out. It has taken a load of effort but has been well worth it! 10 tracks of quality music, mixed with comedy moments and the ultimate in Euro Dynamite! Soon to be on the shop page of the site so keep on eye out! For more info visit www.heretique.co.uk
Two Heretique gigs coming up. The first is at the accordion and melodeon event happening at The Music Room in Cleckheaton. We are playing from about 17:30 for an hour so if you are free come along! Visit www.themusicroom-online.co.uk for more details.
We are also playing at the Cheltenham Folk Festival on Saturday 14th February, at 12pm in the Main Hall, and an acoustic set at 14:45 in the Library. For more information visit http://www.cheltenhamtownhall.org.uk/folkfestival-geninfo.asp
Well today I am playing with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic’s Ensemble 10/10 in a concert of a music connected to China. The work I am performing in is Raymond Yiu’s haunting Night Shanghai, inspired by a tango-flavoured song made famous by the legendary Shanghai-born singer Zhou Xuan. A very unusual blend of the contemporary classical style with Argentinian tango this is a fun piece to play.
I am actually writting this from the Green Room at the The Cornerstone, Hope at Everton. As is usually with orchestral work I have arrived for the 14:30 rehearsal but of course my piece isnt till 16:30! Oh well, it gives me a chance to catch up on a few things on the old Apple Mac!!
Well we had a wonderful two days between Christmas and New Year recording the new album at a top secret location! Working with fantastic engineer Andy Bell we had a very intense two days of playing, and so far the results are sounding great! Once Andy has worked his magic on them I am sure the album will sound amazing!! Watch this space for release information!