Tango Argentino > Learning to Play Bandoneon

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by tangomonkey, May 7, 2011.

  1. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    I have this idea that I'd like to learn to play the bandoneon. Anyone play, or learning to play? If so, where did you get an instrument? Do you take lessons or are you self-taught? What resources do you use - can you recommend lesson books or some helpful internet sites?

  2. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    In my basement. Once I remembered that I use to play a squeeze box when I was a young student. We had a folk band, I played guitar till I found that a concertina would fit into the line up. On the fish marked of St. Pauli (red light district of my town, where the ships with all the emigrants left for BsAs in the last centuries) I saw an age old sailor offering an instrument. He only got this thing. So I think it was kind of destiniy to meet him there. When I started to dance tango I remembered that there was something in my cellar, and yes, it was no concertina, it was an bandoneón.

    Both. Try to walk on on your own and have lesson to get corrected.

    Sign up in the yahoo bando group and ask.. You can also ask if someone actually plans to sell his intrument. http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/bandoneon/

  3. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    Nice story!

    Do you play regularly? I've read it is a very difficult instrument to play. Did you find that to be true?

    Thanks for the links.
  4. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    Very difficult, jinxed, lets say its hermetic. May be only in the beginning. The button lay out wasnt made for students, is was designed to provide fast runs (right side) and knotted cords (left side). May be you know already, but the bandoneón wasnt invented for tango, nor made for folk music. It wasnt invented in the Ore Mountains between East Germany and Czechia, too, as you always can read. It was invented for church music and chorals in the coal mining districts of western Germany. A pedal harmonium was much to expensive for the small reformed parishes, so an organist invented a cheep alternative, and put it into the frame of an accordion. This is the reason why accordion and bandoneón sound differently and are so totally differently built inside, but on the other hand bando and harmonium share the same reed tongues and zink plates. The production of the new instrument was translocated to the AA-manufactory in East Germany, then. And thus the name changed from Bandonion to Bandoneon.
    Starting: The opening left, the opening right, the closing left, and the closing right all have a different button allocation. They are not symmetrically laid out. So you have to learn 4 instruments. As in tango dancing the first 2 years are made off getting theses patterns into your cerebellum. The next step is to play little melodies so that you learn to change from opening to closing, it means you learn to combine 2 of the 4 instruments. The same on either side. The next step is to combine left and right instrument, and so on. In the end you are able to play little folk songs. And that is how far I am. To come so far you do not really need a teacher. But to learn tango you actually do (air management, fingering, marcato, staccato). I have really talented players around and luthiers among my friends, but what about you? The crowd isnt that great. Try to find some contacts within the bando list. Good luck.

    Additionally, not everything that looks like a bando really is a bando. There is a small brother, called Chemnitzer. Inside bando an chemnitzer are identically built, but the button lay out is different. Mostly Chemnitzers are more colorful, but this isnt always the case, so beware not to buy the wrong instruments. Chemnitzers are really wide spread in America, actually more than in Europe. As the bando became simply the tango instrument, the Chemnitzer is the Polka instrument within the szech and polish communities in the midwest of the US. A lot of bando players have a chemnitzer as a resource for spare parts, because they are not that expensive as a bando.
  5. gyb

    gyb Member

    FWIW I just started as a complete beginner and started a blog about it. You can find it at balazstango . blogspot . com .
  6. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    Thanks OD. I knew the bandoneon came from Germany and was used there as a substitute for the organ. Thanks for the extra history. I know it is bisonoric -the keys produce a different pitch when the bellows is being opened or closed. I assumed that would be tricky to learn. I will ask some teachers around here if they know people who play/teach bandoneon. I'd need someone to do maintenance work and tune it now and then too.

    Thanks again OD.
  7. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    Thanks. Will take a look, gyb.
  8. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    Congrats to your bando, saw the blog photos.

    Different buttons mean nothing really important, because when an instrument was ordered, the musician could specify his wishes. It is only important that the basic lay out is rhinish (the original one that is still in use by tango bandoneonistas). Later on the lay out was changed in Germany to the so called unified lay out, differing in 8 or 9 buttons. I dont know exactly. In some respect argentinians are really old fashioned, in some respects not, because they change the tuning pitch from 438 up to 444 Hz.
  9. joegrohens

    joegrohens New Member

    TangoMonkey -

    We need more bandoneonists who can play tango. I encourage you to do it!

    GYB - congratulations on starting - and on acquiring what looks like a very nice instrument! And thanks for blogging about it.

    Open door -- amazing stroy, and good info.

    I bought a bando about ten years ago, and made extremely slow progress. I taught myself but only had time to practice about once a week. I used Pedro Maffia's method book, which starts with scales and arpeggios and lots of technique drills. I had no teacher (and couldn't fine one). And the lessons I assigned myself were full of over-reaching and unrealistic expectations.

    It was harder to learn that I had thought, and I grew discouraged at ever being able to find a teacher.

    At one point, when I changed apartments, I put the instrument in a closet and years went by before I took it out again.

    The teacher problem has been solved, people can give lessons now over skype (e.g., Ben Bogart, my teacher). And having a teacher makes a big difference when the main problem is not knowing where to start and trying to take on too much too fast.

    Instruments are pretty expensive (typically around $3K for a good vintage instrument and around $6K for a new one. I have played a few of the new ones. The new ones are fine instruments and well worth it, if you can afford it. If you are going to play professionally, I would seriously consider getting a new one. But for learning an old one in good shape is fine. Just get a standard keyboard (my recommendation) so you can take advantage of some of the literature that is readily available. (Contemporary 142 voice bisonoric.)

    Mine is a 1930s Premier, which has needed repairs, and continues to. And getting them repaired in the U.S. is about as hard as finding a teacher. I recently took it to Bs As to get a new bellows made and have the action and air valve rebuilt. My limited home repairs were holding back my learning.

    Resources: Look into tango jam com, christian mensing's bando site, and there are bando groups on facebook. Those are good starting points.

    I would be happy to share more resources, but I am not allowed to post links.

    I can put together a web page and PM you with it.

    Joe Grohens
    Champaign, Illinois

    Editorial aside. There are many threads where I have useful (IMO) links to post, but I can't post links, so I often don't participate. What happens is I write a message, include a link (even a disguised one), and then the message is never posted, but the edit window is closed.

    I usually never get back to rewriting a post that has been aborted and lost.

    This seems like a foolish restriction.... something about being able to post links after a certain number of posts.

    In these days when a lot of evidence for what we are talking about online can be found on the web, I would think you would want to encourage linking.

    I think you could raise the level of the discourse here if you allowed more people to link. (Maybe enforce a policy against trolling via youtube posts, but relax the link prohibitions for new members.)


    Or.... at least leave the editing window open

    Another resource: see Mandragora's website.
  10. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    Thanks very much Joe. I appreciate it!

    I agree about the links...I forget how many posts you need before being allowed to include links. I think it's about 30 or so, but really not sure. The solution is to post more often .:D
  11. gyb

    gyb Member

    Thanks opendoor and joegrohens for the useful info!

    I just added a blog-post about some bandoneon resources I found useful so far. In case you want to add links (or any other remarks), please feel free to add it to the comment section, it might be useful for others who bump into it via Google. You don't need to reach some unknown limits to do that, and registration is not required either.

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