Chinese Piano Accordion-Good or BadbySusanJillParker©
There are no underage characters in this story. All characters are over the age of 18-years-old.
Buyer beware. Are Chinese piano accordions any good or are they all bad? The good, the bad, and the truth about Chinese accordions.
Something you may or may not know about me from reading my stories but I used to play piano and my four, much older brothers all played the 120 bass, piano accordion. Being that the 88 key piano isn't that far removed from the full sized, 41 key piano accordion and vice versa, with both having a keyboard, my brothers taught me how to play the accordion but none of them were interested in learning how to play the piano.
"Too awkward for me," said one of my brothers. "I can't play the piano unless I lift it and hold it up against my chest sideways."
No doubt, my brothers were all strong enough to do that too. A very musical family, with us playing music together, those were some of the best days of my life.
Long story short, I didn't have a piano to practice on or to play. Too expensive of a luxury back then in the 70's and early 80's with the recession and Nixon's wage freeze over the oil embargo keeping wages stagnant while corporate America pocketed huge profits, we couldn't afford to buy one, even a used one. Even if we had the money to buy a piano, with the six of us crammed in a small, three bedroom apartment, we didn't we have the room for one.
I had a small keyboard in my room while always keeping the dream of having a piano in my own house when I was married with children. Only, none of that ever happened for me and that's another long, sad story for another time. Instead, I received my brothers' hand me down accordions whenever they bought new ones which seemingly was all the time. Somehow they always found money enough to buy a new accordion or a new car. Not so terribly bad, all of their accordions were great boxes and if I still had them today, they'd be worth a lot of money, thousands of dollars, on eBay.
* * * * *
Handmade and hand assembled, I had a grey pearl, Cruccianelli piano accordion with seven treble switches made by PAN Italia. Made in the best place in Italy that made accordions, Castelfidardo is the piano accordion capitol of Italy and the mecca in the world for accordions. Then, I had a shiny, liquid black, PAN Italia piano accordion, just like the one that Myron Floren played on the Lawrence Welk show but without the dual tone chambers. Last but not least, I had a flat black, Philharmonic piano accordion with 13 treble registers and 7 bass registers and dual tone chambers. Wow! Especially with the sweet sound of the musette, that accordion was so richly mellow.
Not as good as the legendary Scandelli Super Six, but the Philharmonic accordion was nearly as good for thousands of dollars less. Keep in mind, at a time before Craigslist and eBay, these were all my brother's accordions that they left abandoned standing up in their cases in the back of the closet whenever they bought and brought home a better accordion. With the four of them always buying a new accordion, they went through accordions in the way that men their age go through women. My brothers were all very, big men, born from solid, beefy, Eastern European, Czech stock. With their hands too big for the keyboard, they looked like contestants in the world's strongest men competition than they did accordionists. All of these accordions were full sized accordions with the Philharmonic being a heaviest at 29 pounds. It was a cumbersome albeit strikingly beautiful, extra-large accordion that sounded better the louder it was played with the bellows fully opening and closing.
Later, with my life so filled with sexual abuse, another even longer story, I was no longer thinking about pianos or accordions, when I finally fled my house at 18-years-old to live with my girlfriend. Beginning a new chapter in my life, I had more important things on my mind than pianos, accordions, and music. Now more than twenty years later, still unable to afford a piano, even a spinet piano, and with no room to put one even if I could afford one, I'm back to thinking about accordions. I miss playing them. Something that none of my girlfriends could do or understand why I played the accordion over the piano, they marveled at how I could play a musical instrument that had so very many buttons. Especially with all the different switches and sounds that it could make, such as clarinet, oboe, organ, violin, piccolo, just to name a few, playing the accordion was fun.
By the same token, there was an added benefit to my playing the accordion. As if the accordion was my built in shield with something that my four brothers routinely did, always grabbing at me, touching me, and pawing me, men couldn't grope me and feel my tits while I played my accordion. I was safe so long as I had that big box strapped to my chest.
A neat little, full range instrument, that can be put away, stored back in its case, and placed standing up in a corner of the room when not in use, accordions are the perfect musical instrument. The bottom line is whether I play a piano, a piano accordion, or a melodica, I miss playing music. Writing feeds my passion but music feeds my soul and my soul has been hungry and gone unfed for years. If there's anyone who has a used, Italian piano accordion they'd like to give me, one in good condition with seven or more registers, with a musette, and in tune, write me. In exchanged, I can pay you by writing you a custom, creative, personalized series of stories.
* * * * *
Recently, just for fun, I started perusing eBay's long list of used, Italian, piano accordions up for sale and offered for auction. Just wanting to look to get an idea of prices, who in their right mind would ever buy an accordion, a musical instrument that's so delicate and that can so easily go out of tune, sight unseen or sound unheard? Don't get me wrong, just as there are some really good accordions on the eBay list, there are some really bad accordions on the eBay list too. Yet, to buy a used piano accordion, one needs to not only hear it but also play it. One not only needs to hear the sound of the accordion but also to feel the fit of the accordion before buying an accordion that they won't play if they hate the look, the sound, and the feel of it.
After perusing the used, Italian, piano accordion prices, how can an accordion that's fifty or sixty-years-old, antiques really, still be so very expensive? With prices too highly unrealistic, how can fifty or sixty-year-old accordions be worth the money they're asking for it. Surely, all fifty or sixty-year-old accordions need some repair, maintenance, and/or tuning. With the repair of an old accordion an expensive proposition to take on, it's too risky to buy such an old accordion without hearing and playing it first
For me to buy a decent, used, Italian piano accordion, one with a musette and more than five, treble register switches, at the very least, I'd have to spend around $800 to $1,200 and more, as much as two to three thousand dollars, way out of my budget. From what I could discern on eBay, every one of those accordions but for a few, those that sold very fast, are overpriced. Easily, for a fairer price, I'd take what most are asking for their accordions and cut the price in half. Yet, even more important than price, the question that comes to mind is, even though they all state that the accordions are in good condition, are they in tune? Time consuming and expensive, to tune and/or repair a used, Italian accordion may cost as much as the used accordion itself, especially if the reeds need to be retuned and re-waxed and/or the bellows need replacing.
* * * * *
While wondering my options and thinking about buying a kazoo, the only musical instrument that I can afford to buy except for a small harmonica, I discovered that the Chinese made accordions.
"The Chinese make accordions? Oh, oh. No way. Accordions? The Chinese? Seriously? Are you kidding me? Wow!"
Why not? The Chinese make everything. Yet, the Chinese making accordions is akin to the Chinese making a Chinese incarnation of my beloved Ford Mustang GT. Somehow, especially after having learned to play the accordion on a handmade and hand assembled Italian accordion, a Chinese accordion is not nearly the same. Even though I never played a German accordion such as a Hohner or a Weltmeister, I've heard more than a few and I've always looked down on German accordions as being inferior to Italian accordions. Now, if I looked down at German accordions, not even giving them a chance by listening to and/or playing one, you can only imagine my dislike for Chinese accordions.
At the thought of their beloved Italian, piano accordions being made in China, Pietro Deiro, Charles Magnante, Lawrence Welk, Art Van Damme, and Dick Contino must be rolling over in their graves. If only he were still alive, I can just see Mao Zedong playing his beloved, Chinese made accordion while reading his little, red book and laughing at all of us Italians, Italian-Americans, Germans, and German-Americans who always truly believed that they cornered the market on manufacturing and selling piano accordions. If only I knew the Chinese were taking over that segment of the musical market too, as well as the financial markets, I may have studied Chinese instead of wasting my time studying English Literature and Creative Writing in college. Yet, somehow, I don't think erotica translates as well in Chinese the same as it does in English. Then again with all of the Asian porn that proliferates the Internet, mostly Japanese, maybe erotica does translate well in Hong Kong in the way it translates in Tokyo.
As further evidence that the manufacture of accordions are going to China and to the Chinese, who do you think manufactures the most piano accordions in the world? Go ahead and take a guess. I'll give you a hint. It's not the Italians or the Germans. The Chinese manufacture the most piano accordions in the world?
When I think about it, the Chinese making the most piano accordions in the world makes perfect sense being that they have the most people in the world. In the way that the preferred instrument in America is the guitar, the preferred instrument in China is the accordion. Moreover, the Chinese look down upon the guitar as evil and, specifically electric guitars, as the musical instrument of the Devil. A little, gem tidbit that I happened to read on the Internet when researching this story, I didn't know the Chinese were so offended by guitars, especially electric guitars. Who knew? Yet, now that I think about it, I don't ever remember seeing a Chinese person playing the electric guitar.
Oddly enough and according to Charlie Daniels and now in complete opposition of his song, The Devil Went Down to Georgia, I thought the violin was the Devil's instrument of choice and not the guitar. Who knew the Devil played the guitar? Maybe the Devil, being that he's the Devil, can play all musical instruments. Who knew Satan was a virtuoso, a rock 'n' roll electric guitarist, and not a classically trained violinist? Move over Slash, B. B. King, Keith Richards, Erick Clapton, Prince, and Jimmy Paige because definitely, Satan must play a mean electric guitar. Interesting enough, I wonder if Jimi Hendrix was responsible for teaching the Devil how to play.
Now that I discovered that the Chinese not only make piano accordions but also make the most piano accordions in the world, in hopes of getting a bargain, I scoured the Internet for Chinese piano accordions. I was curious to know not only how much a Chinese accordion costs and how to buy one but also which Chinese piano accordions are the best ones. To my dismay, except in personal blogs bashing them, there is very little written about Chinese piano accordions on the Internet. Why is that, I wondered? What's written are those Italian, piano accordion owners, accordionists who never even heard or played a Chinese accordion, freely discrediting Chinese accordions in the way that Americans bashed Japanese cars that were imported in the early '70's.
Yet, through extensive and exhaustive research, I found a number of Chinese accordions. Making it more difficult to discern Chinese accordions from Italian or Spanish accordions, to hide the origin of their manufacture, instead of giving their accordions Chinese names, such as Charlie Chan, Lucy Liu, Kung Fu, or Master Po, the clever Chinese give their accordions Italian names. They used names such as Rossetti, Bonetti, and Morelli, and Spanish names such as Barcelona and SofiaMari. Not difficult to discern when seeing them all together, these five accordions are all made by the same accordion factory in China. By far, other than the toy accordions that can be purchased at toy stores, the Rossetti, Bonetti, Morelli, Barcelona, and SofiaMari are the cheapest and the worst accordions on the market. They are junk and not worthy of consideration, especially when comparing them to used, Italian accordions.
Yet, if you're on a tight budget and want an accordion to play and don't care about the tone, if the accordion is in tune, or if the accordion works at all, get out your checkbook or credit card because these Chinese accordions are for you. For $300 to $500, you can buy a brand, new Chinese accordion on eBay. Even Wal-Mart stocks these five accordions in their inventories. Who knew?
* * * * *
Allowing everyone else to do the research and the development, the Chinese are masters of replicating things that they didn't invent, just copied after illegally stealing the patent rights, and mass produced their accordions under different names. Along with cheap labor and by manufacturing things with less stringent quality control, items that may have been unaffordable by most, are now more affordable because of the Chinese. By reverse engineering, they can make a Rossetti, a Bonetti, or a Morelli piano accordion look like an Italian piano accordion and can make a Barcelona or a SofiaMari piano accordion look like a Mexican box, even resplendent with the colors of the Mexican flag. Only and unfortunately, because of the cheap reeds that they use and the terrible quality control in their manufacturing processes, they can't make their accordions sound like a handmade and hand assembled, Italian, piano accordion, a Germany accordion, or a Mexican box. That is, until one of their other accordion factories developed the Parrot piano accordion, the Excalibur piano accordion, and the Black Diamond piano accordions.
With the Black Diamond the best of the three and the Parrot and Excalibur duking it out for second place, the Parrot accordion, much like the Hohner comes in a no register, three register, five register, seven register, and thirteen treble register versions. The Excalibur piano accordions, as does the Parrot accordions, come in twelve bass, twenty four bass, forty-eight bass, sixty bass, eighty bass, ninety-six bass, and one-hundred-twenty bass versions. Two variations of the Excalibur accordion are the Classic and the Imperial. Being that I grew up playing Italian accordions, the Excalibur Imperial sounds a little more Italian than it does German and the Classic sounds much more German than it does Italian. The Excalibur also makes a more expensive Super Classic, Super Classic with musette, Professional Artiste, Super Classic with tone chamber, a Crown Series with triple musette, Crown Series with double tone chamber, and a Crown Series, much like the Cordavox of old, with 400 sounds and a Midi. Unfortunately, in the way there are very few places to buy a Parrot accordion, one in Texas and another in California, there is even less places to buy and Excalibur accordion, just one place in Wisconsin.
According to Excalibur, they use Russian reeds in the Imperial and Swiss reeds in the Classic. Now, I'll freely agree that the Russians can't be beaten for making vodka and fur coats and the Swiss can't be beaten for their Chocolate, watches, and cuckoo clocks but accordion reeds?
"C'mon. Is this a joke? Are you kidding me? Give me a break."
Russian and Swiss reeds over handmade, hand assembled, bees waxed Italian reeds is like trying to play a kazoo as if it's a trumpet. The sound just isn't there, I don't care how good of a kazoo player you are or think you are, you can't make a pig fly.
* * * * *
The Chinese manufacture the Parrot, the Black Diamond, and the Excalibur accordions. They are the very best Chinese squeezeboxes available to buy in America and the accordions sound surprisingly good. Good enough to buy, good enough to own, and good enough to play in private or in public, yet, they are still a very distant second from owning any Italian accordion new or used, and a distant third from owning a German accordion for that matter. Yet, when you factor in the money, especially for the money, with these three accordions the top of the line Chinese accordions, they give accordionists another option. If buying a Chinese accordion is the only way to afford an accordion, then I don't think there's anything wrong with buying a Chinese accordion, so long as you don't expect a Chinese accordion to last 50 or 60 years. If you get 10 carefree years out of a Chinese accordion, consider yourself lucky.
When unable to afford a new, Italian accordion and reluctant to buy a used, Italian accordion on eBay or on Craigslist, now there's a third option of buying a brand, new Chinese accordion. China has come a long way in learning how to manufacture fine accordions. Just imagine what they'll be putting out on the market ten years from now. In the way that the Excalibur does too, the Black Diamond accordion sells one that has a dual tone chamber or double cassotto for a quarter of the price that you'd have to spend to get a double tone chamber on an Italian accordion.
Especially for the money, for $900 to 1,200 I can buy not a used fifty to sixty-year-old Italian accordion or a used Chinese accordion but a brand, new Chinese accordion. For a quarter to a fifth of what it would cost to buy a new Italian, piano accordion, I can buy a new shiny black or pearl red Parrot or a black, white, blue, red, or grey Excalibur accordion. Even those critics who claim that Chinese accordions are junk, have never played or even heard a Chinese accordion. If they played or heard a new Chinese, Parrot accordion and heard the master and the musette on their seven register or thirteen register accordions, they may become believers too. Granted, the Chinese accordions don't have the fit, the finish, and/or the feel of a new Italian accordion and the action of their keyboards aren't as fast as an Italian accordion. Further some of the Chinese accordions don't have full sized keys but narrower keys, something it takes getting used to, but unless you're a professional accordionist used to Italian handmade and hand assembled musical instruments, few could tell the difference from one over the other.
When listening to them and not knowing where they were made, I'd think the Chinese accordions were German piano accordions rather than Italian piano accordions. They all have that bright tone of the Hohner, only not as bright as the Hohner but more like the German Weltmeister piano accordion than they do any Italian accordion. Sadly, with some still made in Germany, even the great Hohner and Welmeister accordions are now made, not in Germany, but in China.
Let's all have a moment of silence for the death of not only the handmade and hand assembled Italian accordion as we know them but also for the German accordions too. May they rest in peace. Long shall they live and happily play in China.
"Wait. Hold on. Not so fast."
Before you go headlong, rushing out to buy a more affordable, brand, new Chinese accordion, what about the warranty?