Hacking an Electronic Melodeon

Electronic melodeonEyeing one of those fancy, but pricey, electronic accordions? Why not build your own? Lee O’Donnell did just that. He took a toy melodeon (diatonic accordion), replaced the keys and reeds with electronics, and wrote some software to generate sounds with every push and pull. The result is a very capable electronic accordion, capable of producing everything from the sound of a traditional accordion to a retro 8-bit video game.

(Found via Hack a Day)

Five Questions: Skyler Fell

Skyler FellIt’s time for another installment of “Five Questions” — our occasional interview series with notable personalities in the accordion world.

Today, we’re talking to Skyler Fell, owner of the Accordion Apocalypse Repair Shop in San Francisco. A professionally trained accordion repairwoman, Skyler offers repairs, parts, lessons, and free advice out of her humble shop in Hunter’s Point. Accordion Apocalypse has become a Bay Area accordion hub, hosting bi-weekly jams and shows by touring bands and wild circuses. She also plays in a couple bands herself: the Hobo Gobbelins and the Accordion Apocalypse Circus Sideshow.

When and why did you start playing the accordion?

I started playing accordion when I was around 20 years old, after walking into Boaz Accordions in Berkeley. Feeling inspired by live circus bands featuring fierce and independent women with a hardcore edge in Europe and the Bay Area, I decided to have a go at the accordion. What has happened since has been a truly magical and eye-opening journey.

Secondhand Smoke Bad For Accordions, Too

Three years ago, the Irish government banned smoking in all workplaces, including bars and restaurants. According to a recent survey, the ban has not only improved public health, but it’s also helped accordions as well. Dr. John Garvey of St. Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin talked to local accordion cleaning and repair specialists to learn how smoking affects accordions.

“Those interviewed noted that, when opened, accordions that had been played in smoke-filled rooms emitted a strong cigarette odor. Deposits of soot-like dirt were also found inside the instruments. One worker interviewed said that, in some cases, enough dirt could be deposited in the instrument to affect the pitch.

All interviewees said that both the cigarette smell from accordions and the dirt residue inside had improved since the smoking ban.”

Yet another reason to kick the habit!

Building an Accordion Tuning Table

Accordion Tuning Table“Uncle Bob” from the rec.music.makers.squeezebox newsgroup has an interesting project going; he’s building a tuning table for testing accordion reeds and reed blocks. Even better, he’s documenting the entire process on his website with plenty of photos. According tuning is a tricky (but not impossible) art, and this is a fascinating look at what it takes to build a solid test bench.

Be sure to check out some of his other photo galleries, too, including a series where he repairs an old Austrian Styrische accordion and some photos of a quirky Colombo that he recently picked up.