There are many excellent websites that offer in-depth explanations of all things accordion - just typing ‘accordion FAQ’ into any search engine will produce a plethora of fascinating web pages.
But here are a few Greg's come up with for our [still under construction] website:
- What is a piano accordion? A musical instrument of the aerophone family of free reed instruments, where sound is generated by the movement of air across steel reeds, producing vibrations or sound waves.
- When was the accordion invented? The cows will be home and in meat pies before this argument is settled! The first free reed instrument was the sheng, a Chinese instrument not dissimilar to pan pipes. The free reed was developed in the nineteenth century in Germany and Italy, and the world centre-of-excellence was established in Castelfidardo (near Ancona on Italy’s Adriatic coast). The most astonishing feature of the modern piano accordion is the Stradella bass system, an extremely complex series of rods and levers in the bass end of the accordion that could lay claim to be the world’s first computer.
- How does a piano accordion differ from a melodeon? Think of the accordion as a vertical piano, and the melodeon as a mouth organ/harmonica. Basically, the accordion plays the same note (when pressed) whether the bellows are squeezed or pulled, and the melodeon is diatonic (two toned) which produces a different note on the draw than the push of the bellows. The piano accordion is a far more versatile instrument (well, I would say that, wouldn’t I?!) because it can play in any key, whilst the melodeon is restricted to two or three keys
- How long have the Chinese been making accordions? In our factory, the oldest-established in China, since 1952. The accordion is the most popular instrument in China, and expensive imports from Germany and Italy were soon copied for cheaper domestic production. The BDA factory employs craftsmen and women that have perfected their craft for longer than probably any other factory in the world.
- What’s so great about Black Diamond Accordions, then? Good question. I have played many modern and older Chinese accordions, and they differ markedly. The older ones had extremely dated designs, looked ghastly but played well. The ones that sounded bad were frankly let down by their players. The modern ones look a lot better, but many have cheaper, mass-produced reeds and take a lot of air to produce sound and subsequently don’t have fast playing action. Many modern Chinese accordions have bogus Italian-sounding names (anything ending in ‘i’ will do!) but have few reeds, don’t weigh much and don’t deliver a pleasing player experience. Let’s face it, if money was no object, we would all have a brand new Castelfidardo squeezebox every year. But as the old song goes, it’s too tight to mention, so what’s the next best thing? Finest Italian hand-made reeds , put into a quality frame by a time-served craftsman in China, covered in a modern shell that pleases the western consumer eye. In other words, the best of both worlds, the sound and look of the west, but at the cost of the east.
- How come they’re so cheap? They’re not, relatively speaking. The same factory produces accordions for the domestic Chinese market at roughly half the price, which use domestic mass-produced reeds. These are top-end accordions, played by professional classical musicians in China who are every bit as demanding as their western counterparts. Our instruments are affordable because of the disparity in labour rates for craftsmen in Europe versus China.
- What do they sound like? We'll soon be posting recordings on the website of the top Chinese accordion orchestra that plays exclusively Black Diamond Accordions, and they stand their ground against the world’s finest players and manufacturers. Beauty is in the ear of the beholder, but we think they’re outstanding.