Interesting instruments

The Tri-County Times is publishing a series on unique and interesting musical instruments played by local residents.

Fenton — Brody Stack, 16, plays several instruments — between 17 and 20. He started with the clarinet and piano. He picked up his grandmother’s old accordion when he wanted to keep branching out with his instruments. 

 “It’s a party in a box,” he said with a laugh. “It’s a lot of fun. You can take that full sound wherever you go.” He added that it’s also less common so it grabs attention when he brings it places.

 Accordions are called “squeezeboxes” for a reason. This unique instrument is hand held and powered by arm-actuated bellows, which force air across free reeds inside. The accordionist plays the

treble side with one hand, and the bass side with the other, squeezing the bellows to create sound.

 Once you coordinate those three actions, Stack said it’s straightforward to play. There are a few options for the tone, and it can be rather loud for its size.

 He said he brought it to school, and actually inspired others to pick it up

 “I think we are getting very funneled into just synthesizers and computers for making new sounds and new music and that’s why you don’t see unique and interesting instruments like these,” Stack said. “You can’t beat live music, you can’t beat live sound.” He believes that such instruments are under-appreciated nowadays.

How does the accordion work?

 According to squeezeboxstories.com, the reed blocks inside look like giant wooden harmonicas, which makes sense because both harmonicas and accordions are “free reed” instruments.

 These reed boxes sit inside the treble casing near the buttons, or keys. Each reed box has a series of reed plates, which include steel or brass reeds and leather valves. The reeds and valves are usually held in place by beeswax.

 The other side of the accordion is the “bass box,” which includes a different set of reed boxes operated by rods and levers. Like a piano, an accordion player can play the low-end accompaniment and the melody at the same time.

Origin of the accordion

 According to squeezeboxstories.com, the accordion was invented sometime in the early 1800s in Europe.

Britannica.com offers two early inventers, the earliest in 1822.

 Today, China is the largest manufacturer of accordions in the world, according to the New York Times.

 The first free reed instruments called Sheng are depicted in Chinese illustrations from 1100 BC.

What does an accordion cost?

 Smaller simpler models can cost approximately $25, while a more professional instrument can cost $600. Others can cost around $3,000 to $6,500 or more.

Level of difficulty

 The accordion requires coordinating the left and right hands. As the hands play the melody and accompaniment, the hands also move in sync to push air via the bellows.

 Stack said that if you can play piano and read chords and sheet music, it’s not bad. He said the biggest challenge might be finding one.

What does it sound like?

 An accordion can sound like a set of giant harmonicas. “It’s very folky,” Stack said, and that it’s best for upbeat music.

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