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I really love the sound of tango and I'd like to buy a bandoneon.

With the relationship but seeming distinct existence from the Concertina, I don't know how to identify which kind of Concertina/Bandoneon would be able to give me that Tango sound. Can a 20 key C/G do it? a 30 key? Is the 142-note bisoronal the only choice? Which characteristics are required and acceptable?

Also, are these characteristics available in a non-professional instrument? I am an amateur player and can't justify a $3000+ purchase for an instrument I'll probably never be any good at. Yet, I don't want to buy the wrong kind that has a more Irish sound.

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This was running the risk of being closed as a shopping rec question. I've attempted to bring it on-topic without changing the original intent. – NReilingh Aug 27 '12 at 15:11
up vote 5 down vote accepted

i am an argentinian bandonion pleyer. for sound of tango you need a "Alfred Arnold" or "AA" type. another type you can buy is "Premier". These both are from Germany but now, you can get those in Argentina too.

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The term concertina has come to be used for two different families of instruments, both of which evolved out of earlier free-reed instruments.

By 20 (or 30) key C/G you refer to is an Anglo concertina; this style of concertina (along with English and Duet styles) are most closely associated with Irish traditional music (as well as other Northern European folk styles). These instruments are not traditionally used for playing tangos, and it may be difficult to achieve all of the expected stylistic features of tango music with this class of concertina.

The bandoneon, which is closely related to the chemnitzer concertina, are essentially a completely different type of instrument. (a Chmnitzer site) has a nice timeline of free-reed instruments which gives the pedigree of these types of instruments.

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For argentine tango what is most important is to have the range necessary to perform the pieces with the tango sound which is characterized by the sound of two reeds played in octaves. There are more bandoneons then 142 button layouts that have this characteristic. There are bandoneons known as chromatic bandoneons ( a misnomer as all bandoneons are chromatic ) meaning in this context that it plays the same notes opening and closing. These can be found in octaves and much cheaper then the 142 argentine layout. Other alternatives are the much cheaper einheits bandoneon with 144 buttons. Be careful though on this one as many come with reeds tuned in tremelo instead of octave.

Since a good one can be had for $1000 though you can afford to pay to have it tuned in octaves with the leftover cash. I recently went this route and am very satisfied with the sound.

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