Each single brand of bandoneons has a history. Many instrument makers
produced on demand, that is the client explained what he needed
and the result was a more or less custom instrument. THe big producers
often simply scaled up a work shop and that was the factory.
Bandoneon related Biographies
The Arnold Family
The bandoneons exported to South America were distributed by a
single retailer. This unique privileged representative could decide about
the final consumer price. Since this system made the instruments
more expensive, Alfred Arnold created new brands for his bandoneons.
This way he could bypass exclusive
distribution treaties made with the importers,
and deliver the new brands to competing importers.
The main importer in turn reacted by numbering each sold
instrument and engraving it visible from the outside. This number
suggested to be a serial number being at the same time the proof
original instrument. Not numbered bandoneons were then
considered not original being less considered.
On the second hand market false numbers were then common.
However with some routine they may well be recognized
Inside the instrument you'll find in most cases a hand written numbers,
later they where stamped.
These numbers again are not real serial numbers. They were used
during production to keep parts of one instrument together.
You may find them on reed boards
or on the bellow frame. The bass side with a
B prefix, the treble
a D (Diskant) In fact, the numbers were not current.
They are not related to any production year or about the number of produced
instruments. Many instruments were exported as kits to be assembled at
destiny, a way to circumvent the high taxes applied to ready-to-use
Alfred Arnold 130 voice dual Reed double action
Alfred Arnold 130
By far not all sold models had all the same number of voices.
Models of type
used to have 130 voices
152 voice layout
which was the last design of 1860 given by Alfred Band,
up to an ELA with 176 voices (1933),
and possibly more.
Alfred Arnold 142 Louis XV
Alfred Arnold, 142-voice, model Louis XV
Bandoneons are expensive today and were also in the past.
For some musicians buying a bandoneon was scarifying many month earnings
and were lucky to gather one of the cheaper plain versions
without any decoration. On the other side the rich owned bandoneons
as a piece of art or for representation. Often they even did never
play them. There was a market for the as expensive as possible.
The instruments were basically identical, except the cabinet.
Molded head covers look like French baroque furnitures.
and are nick named
in South America. They added a rich mother-of-pearl decoration and
used the far more expensive aluminum reed boards.
The model is seldom and collectors are market.
Alfred Arnold PREMIER
Alfred Arnold Premier
Alfred Arnold - Carlsfeld
label in golden letters on the belly frame as seen on the
picture, additional relief stamp with the same text on the
right handle (players side) and AA circle relief stamp on
the same handle (front)
inside left hand cover and belly frame
(violet stamp) B35253
the same on the reed plate #1 of the left side with pencil
inside right hand cover and belly frame (violet stamp) D35253
244 x 232 mm (depth by height), 340 mm width with closed belly
approx. 5,5 kg
plywood, black, relief number 10099 below the fretwork
(series number of the bellow frame maker?)
damper case curved (seams to be important to determine the age)
left 36, right 40; makes 152 tones and is an extension
of the 142 tone system 'rheinische Lage' used at the
La Plata (bisonoric)
zinc, each 2 x 12 reeds; system: 2 chorus, 4 buttons
of the right hand: 1 chorus (total 296 reeds)
the 5 additional buttons are original, most levers easily
removable, belly (3 x 5 folds) replaced on march 1995
Alfred Arnold Campo
Alfred Arnold Campo
Campo was a sub brand of Alfred Arnold
sold in Uruguay focused on the low end price range.
The finish is always plain, minimalist and directed to students.
The high end bandoneons like
PREMIER with all
luxury options, were distributed by an other importer. This model has
10 additional voices, (see 152 voice layout)
Alfred Arnold ALFA
Alfred Arnold Chromatic
Alfred Arnold AcA
in the AA Brand indicates a chromatic (unisonoric)
bandoneon. It was created by
and produced by Alfred Arnold
to satisfy the needs of French accordionists urged to play tango.
As already mentioned, Alfred Arnold simply replaced the sound boards of the
regular bisonoric bandoneon. That way they could not be distinguished
visually from the bisonoric model and it was a cost effective solution.
The shown instrument appears to be in a very good conservation state.
It is not common to see engraved button key codes on a unisonoric
bandoneon, since they make sense only for the bisonoric bandoneon.
Probably this happened while the instrument was
refurbished. The finish looks handmade.
Do not consider modify an existent bisonoric into a unisonoric one.
The reed chambers are not the same and it would require their
replacement as well.
So far, no original Heinrich Band instruments were discovered.
Instead, Alfred Band was the well known established Brand.
The Band Dynasty to know more.)
The Alfred Band, a son of Heinrich Band, established his
company in Krefeld A mention is of 1886.
During the first decade of the new century, the commerce with bandoneons
was exposed to a strong competition and forced him to resign.
Alfred Band died in 1923. It is known of a company's representation
in New York.
I know on an other Alfred Band instrument dated June 1902 located
in an argentine museum.
Read about The Band Dynasty
This antique instrument belongs to
Ricardo Roucau, a professional magician and tango fan
living in Miami.
A stamp inside reads:
Fabrik v. Bandonions
Verlag v. Musikalien f. Bandonion
Cataloge und Preiscorante gratis
Unfortunately, there is no date inside and I believe it was made before
The height of the shown instrument is 21 cm,
depth 24 cm and (with closed bellow) 53 cm wide.
The bass consists of 25 keys, the treble has 29 keys (bisonor)
corresponding to the original
130 voice, rheinische Lage.
130 voice keyboard
Inside the bass cover and on one treble reed plate
there is an inscription saying
which means that the 108 voice instrument has all its 108 voices with
double reed, octave tuning.
The instrument was bought by the actual owner in an antiques shop in
North Miami in 1986 being originally from Wisconsin, a State with a
certain bandoneon tradition inside the USA.
Though the Alfred Arnold company and the Ernst Louis Arnold belong
to the same roots, they were competidors. The section
The Arnold Family will clarify the relations.
But the foundation of the ELA factory has a curious story and which
indicat the relations to the Band roots: read about
Carl Friedrich Zimmermann
Model Louis XV
Most brands had a baroque model to offer. The molded shape of the
keyboard covers remembers French baroque style furniture, therefore
they nick named it
instrument in it's case
Louis XV model
is a 152 voice, rheinische Tonlage (argentine type), dual
reed instrument with aluminum sound boards
The ornaments are typical for Ernst Louis Arnold and might
be from the end 1930ties. It is in a mint condition and looks like
Ernst Louis Arnold America
ELA 142 voice
This instrument, approved and signed by Pedro Berto,
is of approx. 1930. Its reed plates are made of aluminum, a light metal
introduced in 1923 for this application. While it was highly appreciated
in Germany, particularly for the larger multi register instruments keeping
the weight low, the tango musicians preferred the heavier and cheaper zinc.
The heavy reed plates have an advantage for managing the bellow.
The technique consists in using the own weight for opening and closing
with the leg movement while
the bellow heads rest on the knees.
Many bandoneonists insist in zinc because they find a better sound.
Please note, this instrument has bellow edges. They may be considered
a decoration or enforcement. The final total weight of 5240g is the same
as a zinc /no edges instrument.
The heavier bellow may be slightly slower.
Meinel & Herold
Meinel & Herold Harmonikafabrik und Versand
was a (handheld-) harmonica manufacturer in Klingenthal and
distributor of musical instruments. I do not know details about
bandoneon models they offered.
The dual reed instruments in Argentina
which were imported by Luis Mariani, Buenos Aires,
are considered to be more brilliant than AA or even
They were sold under the brand 3B, BBB, or Tres B
Mr. Werner Meinel, a former owner of the Meinel & Herold
Company explained that the company's philosophy was always
to sell directly to the customers, at least for the domestic market.
As he confirmed, the offered bandoneons were manufactured by AA, ELA,
and particularly the quadruple reed instruments by Gebr. Meinel,
Klingenthal. In spite of the name of the latter,
they were independent and had nothing to do with each other;
in Klingenthal there are about 400 families with the same name.
After World War II the Meinel & Herold company was nationalized,
like all the other companies, and controlled by the
VEB Klingenthaler Harmonikawerke. At that time the bandoneon market
was already insignificant. During the early 1970s M&H
was integrated into the Gebr. Gündel, Klingenthal
company and the bandoneon production definitely vanished.
Mr. Yoshiro Kido, who owns a BBB (Tres B),
confirmed this behavior and considers it tasteful.
The dimensions are close to an ELA instrument.
However, the fret work and other details remembers of an AA.
Wolf & Co
Wolf & Co. is known to exist
for at least since 1911. The mother factory
was located in Klingenthal (Saxony) and a second one was in Markhausen
The shown instrument is a
single reed instrument in original
rheinische Lage with zinc reed plates
mounted on box shape reed chambers for the bass, and flat board chambers
for the treble. The size is smaller than regular
dual voice instruments: 20 cm height and 21 cm deep. The closed instrument
is about 27 cm wide without the handle and buttons and 37 cm over all.
In extended state it measures about 67 cm. The reduced dimension
of the instrument is possible since only one reed acts per note.
The pencil written serial number (156) is
found inside each instrument cover. A round swiss customs
ZOLL I-28 and indicates
presumably the time the instrument was imported.
The buttons are made of
wood and are partially capsuled with metal caps (original) like those
used until World War I. Some of the buttons are simply painted with
aluminum paint and have metal plates glued to the tips. Other buttons
are not original and remade of aluminum with the advantage to having
no friction with the wooden
cover. The average button distance is 22 mm and indicates that it
is not a children's study instrument.
The bellow has 10 folds each 26 mm deep and which are devided by one
bellow frame (10/1). The
bass dumper case is straight (no wave shape).
The instrument sounds very similar to an english concertina due to the
single reed construction and the large volume of the reed chambers.
It is far less agressive but sweet and a bit dull.
A sound example
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The owner of the bandoneon is Beat Muggli, Switzerland.
Danielson 142 voice
build on August 22, 1961
by Danielson Bandoneon Sr. Arno Goettems, serial # 161.
It is a 142 voice, double reed instrument (octave) with aluminum
reed plates and a keyboard like that used in Argentina.
owns a Danielson built on February 9th, 1962 (serial # 212).
He says, up to 1996 a total of about 1200 instruments were built.
The Danielson Company
historical abstract of by
In contrast to the established free-reed manufacturing centers like
Saxony, or Black Forest, the harmonica makers in Bavaria were very small
manufacturers producing hand crafted instruments on demand
for the local market.
The name Wiesner is known for many free reed instrument makers
However, there is no evidence about their parentage.
Maria Dunkel refers to
Willibald Wiesner, Harmonikamacher,
est. 1859, but also to Carl Wiesner ,
mentioned first in 1869. A company named
Gebr. Wiesner, Konzertina und Harmonikamacher
is known as of 1906
and which possibly belonged to the brothers Wilhelm and Josef.
This manufacture survived World War I.
Josef Wiesner made bandoneons under his sign during
the time from 1925 to 1942.
He was known as very inventive, owning lot of registered
patents concerning improvements of musical instruments.
He constructed a bandoneon with a piano keyboard, presumably even before
World War I. Also a disposal to play any bandoneon free hand, in a similar
way to a symphonetta, is of his authorship.
The keyboard layout of the model shown below, is characterized as
Schrammelbandoneon. The Schrammel music has it's
origin in a folk music style created by Johann and Josef Schrammel
during the second half of the 19th
century in Vienna and which influenced the folk music style of the
surrounding regions including Slovenia, Hungary, Bavaria among others.
Like the rheinische, of the ELA and AA instruments, the
Münchner Lage is based on the
130 voice rheinische Lage
but in additional voices are arranged in a slightly different way.
Most instruments of this type are double reed, double action
keys. However they differ from the
argentine type in the way they are
tuned: INstead of exacct octave tuning, the prefer the tremolo. This is
in tuning the dual reads one octave +/- 6 cent apart. Depending on
the performer's taste, the amount of tremolo may differ and goes from
extra dry (octave tuning) to musette.
The bass instrument side
differs from the usual instruments in the lack of a dumper box.
The dumper mutes the high partials of the bass and produces
a soft sound similar to a cello.
The sound of the overlapping range of notes from the left and right side
does not differ significantly.
The large dimension of the cabinet compared with other dual simplifies
the building of instrument
variants with 3 or even more reeds per note. Also it
may have influence on the sound color comparable to a damper case.
Furthermore the tuning is done
with a pronounced tremolo, for at least all the bandoneons I heard in Bavaria.
The softer sound is requested not to disturb other silent instruments
used in Bavarian ensembles, typically formed by two violins, double necked
counter guitar, clarinet, double bass.
The pictures below are taken from a
instrument belonging to Alois Scheungrab of Ampfing near Mühldorf am Inn
(Oberbayern), the last living pupil of the virtuoso Georg Weinschütz
of Munich (died in 1948).
The last two pictures are basically also a Wiesner instrument,
but the cabinet was rebuilt by his owner, Alois Scheungrab.
Note the heavy construction and the covered valve lever at the treble side.
Lange - Uhlig
Carl Friedrich Uhlig
general view of front and top
the open bellow
view of the bass keyboard
(observe the missing dumper)
view of the treble keyboard
the treble mechanics
the treble reed chamber blocks
(observe both reeds in perpendicular position)
a new box containing Wiesner reed boards
the rebuild Wiesner from the treble side
The Chemnitzer is not subject of this site. However
it is important to know about, since the bandoneon is in fact
a modified Chemnitzer Concertina. The first instruments date from
This gallery shows one of the oldest concertinas. Typical are the
three button rows.
Bert Smit's Chemnitzer
Alfred Arnold Chemnitzer Concertina in "Scheffler'sche Lage",
build in 1932.
Three reeds per button on the right side, two or three per button on the
bass-side. In total there are 52 buttons and 104 tones.
General view of the instrument from the treble side
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Close-up of the reeds and the leathers
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View from the top showing 'Alfred Arnold' metal plate
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General view on the reeds
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Front view on the belly
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General view on the wooden mechanics under the buttons
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View on the inside of the belly
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Close-up of the buttons
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