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Cultural Traces Around the World

Traditional Music Instrument: The Bandoneon, Part 1 of 2

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“In ancient times, the spiritual practitioners who are connected to Heaven, at times tried to replicate the mesmerizing, wonderful music of the celestial abode by creating instruments. So, many of the instruments we have – like the harp, the piano, the violin, the flute, the Scottish bagpipes, etc. – they all correlate with the sounds of real Heavenly realms, except the real ones are much more incredibly uplifting.”

The bandoneon is a type of concertina that originated in Germany but is especially popular in some South American and Eastern European countries, such as Argentina, Uruguay, and Lithuania. The bandoneon falls into the category of bellows-driven free-reed instruments known as squeezeboxes, and is an essential instrument in most tango ensembles in Argentina and Uruguay, and in Lithuanian folk music groups.

Being a portable aerophone instrument, the bandoneon consists of two square wooden boxes with buttons on the sides connected by a folding bellows. Each of the wooden boxes contains a small reed organ operated by a few rows of buttons. The bellows consists of three panels of six slices. Similar to other concertinas, it is held between both hands. By pulling and pushing, players expand and contract the bellows, providing air to the reed organs which then produce the sounds. Pressing selected buttons directs air to specific reeds. The full tonal range of the bandoneon is five octaves. The left-hand keyboard is set at three lower octaves from C2 to B4, while the right-hand keyboard is set at three higher octaves from A3 to B6. The bandoneon is like a combination of two different instruments with the left sounding like a cello’s warming sounds, while the right is closer to a trumpet’s sharp timbres.

One of the most important aspects of bandoneon playing technique is posture. Developing a good technique allows a player to achieve maximum results with minimum effort. The relationship between the hands, arms, legs, and torso is of vital importance. Hence, a good posture can give a player countless possibilities for expression, dynamics, and control over the instrument. The bandoneon can be played sitting or standing. The former, being more common, allows the player to use one or two knees to support the instrument, and is also the recommended posture for practicing. Standing is good for certain types of music and concerts as it gives stronger effects.
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