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I got myself a 2nd hand Bayan for 200$, made good progress quite quickly (I am a professional pianist), but I am middle aged, and find the instrument a bit heavy to carry / operate (and yet it's a small one, only 3 rows, but still 20lbs).

The repertoire I am after is French musette - Russian/Jewish folk - Paso doble / Tango, and I love Irish music as well. I can play all of these on the piano so it's just a question of practice to get the same on the Bayan.

I am still tempted to get a lighter instrument, like a bandoneon or a button accordion, but I have no idea how versatile these instruments are. I have no real issue of budget, I am just more concerned about not investing time learning the fingering for a given instrument if it's not going to lead to anything.

An alternative is to get a MIDI accordion - would these actually be lighter than an acoustic one?

Questions

  • What are the pros and cons of these various choices (very superficially)?

  • How hard is it to switch between the various instruments? (going from the piano to the Bayan was faster than I expected, but it's still a massive and tiring mental adjustment, and it can be frustrating to not be able to do on one instrument what flows so easily on another one).

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A bayan is a button accordion (there are several others of course). But 20lb is not likely a real bayan (which is a converter instrument with large reed plates for multiple reeds). The weight is not all that relevant since a bayan is played while sitting down. A bandonion is somewhat lighter and a full size bandonion is pretty universal for playing but the notes are distributed chaotically, completely different for left and right hand and for pull and draw (imagine a typewriter which uses Dvorak layout for uppercase and qwerty for lowercase). Generally, expect 15 years until the system has become second nature to you.

Bayans are tuned with almost no tremolo. That's not the style of French music. The typical musette accordion, however, is C griff while a bayan is B griff.

So particularly on the market for used instruments, you are likely in a bit of a dead end with a bayan if you aim for musette music. Of course, new instruments can be bought with any system.

A typical French accordion will be lighter than a full bayan (though 20lb again would be light for a large instrument) but for playing upright, you probably do not want more than 2 to 3 reeds, 3 reeds of course in musette tuning (all 3 reeds at the same fundamental pitch, but one somewhat flat and one comparatively sharp).

Tango, however, wants an octave reed. Personally, I'd lean towards going C-griff, with one 2- or 3-reed instrument just for musette and most folk, and a nice 3-reed completely without tremolo for other stuff.

If you want to pick up classical and/or piano music, that calls for a large instrument with converter (available both for B and C griff). Which is a bit bulky for folk but sort-of feasible. But not playable realistically while standing up.

So basically, for folk/stage music I'd lean towards smaller boxen, and you'll likely not end up with just a single instrument. Of course it depends on the country you are actually living in, but if musette music is likely going to be an important part of your repertoire, C griff might be the somewhat more feasible option if you have not yet invested too much time in B griff. I would not recommend trying to play both systems: it would slow you down.

  • Thx for the detailed answer, loved the dvorak keyboard analogy:) I guess I need to not underestimate the difficulty of the badminton, and of switching. You focussed a lot on the importance of sound (I thought more about the keyboard), so I think that a MIDI keyboard might allow me to have more choice on a single instrument. As for 'button' I guess I meant chromatic (as opposed to diatonic). – joelhoro Jun 13 '16 at 13:35
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well as for bandoneon and concertina, concertina unless you get a duet system will not always be that versatile however anglo's have 20,30 or 40 buttons some people will learn how to get around the limitations of the instrument and play like this

however alot of the time the music people play on the instrument are melodies with little accompaniment and the songs with accompaniment are alot of old tunes like oh Susanna, some where over the rainbow etc.

as for bandoneon apparently they are quite a difficult instrument do to the fact that alot of them are the 142 bisonoric layout and so each direction you get a different note and so you have to learn each side twice. versatility wise alot of the time they are used for tango music however I've had a look at them (not played though) too see how versatile they are and they are quite impressive I would imagine you could play katyusha and other 3 chord songs however as for how difficult I think it may be a little more difficult.

I would suggest given the music you want to play avoiding concertina unless of course you want to buy one for the Irish music part then would suggest the anglo as described above or perhaps the duet. (duet is the idea of an concertina that can accompany. although to be honest my knowledge on concertina's is limited and accordion however if you can all the music you'd like to on accordion then I'd suggest an accordion as versatility wise it's got it all. as for weight I'd suggest getting a digital one.

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