McNeela’s Top Five Button Accordions for Intermediate to Advanced Players
Have you graduated from the beginner stage of Irish button accordion playing? If so, it’s time to look for a new instrument that will showcase your skill. With such an extensive range of button accordions available today, accordion players are spoiled for choice.
At this stage of your playing, it’s important to have a good quality instrument in hand. It’s also important to choose the right one!
There’s no shortage of luxury button accordions available, handcrafted by talented makers. Many of these instruments can be incredibly expensive, ranging from €2,000 for a second hand model, right up to €4,500 for a new model. How do you know you’re investing your hard earned cash in the right one?
I’ve put together a handy list featuring my recommendations of some of the best accordions on the market. Each of these instruments would be a worthy investment. Most of the accordions I’ve listed also come in around the €3,000 price, putting them in the more budget-friendly price range for accordions of this standard.
These are affordable, high end button accordions from some of the best instrument makers in the world. Importantly, they’re all available in the key of B/C. (Several are available in C#/D tuning too.)
So keep reading to discover my ‘Top Five Button Accordions’.
1. Paddy Clancy Mini Celtic from €2,000
Paddy Clancy is one one of the best Irish makers of high quality button accordions. He was originally a partner in the iconic Cairdín brand! A skilled craftsman, Paddy really knows his way around the instrument.
Paddy offers a full line of handcrafted custom made accordions using only the highest quality, carefully selected materials. His style is heavily influenced by the old tradition of accordion manufacturing.
One Clancy model in particular stands out however. The coveted number one spot on my list goes to the Mini Celtic Accordion.
The Mini Celtic is a lightweight, two voice, 21 button model with standard 8 bass keys. This is a top of the range instrument, fitted with highest quality handmade reeds.
Paddy offers a choice of wood finishes on the wooden casework: walnut, cherry, mahogany and maple. Ornate metalwork covers the grill and fingerboard, featuring an intricate Celtic design. This decorative venting allows plenty of sound out of the accordion. So, while it may be small in size, it’s big on volume.
The lavish grill has a high quality finish and lies flush against the wooden casework. The wooden casing itself is rounded on the edges, giving the box a soft, sleek appearance. As you can imagine, this requires a lot of additional careful handwork.
As the name suggests, the Mini Celtic is small in size, measuring 25cm x 14.5cm and weighing just 6lbs. Its lightweight build contributes to its ease of playability. You’ll barely have to move your arm to play this accordion.
This is an accordion that offers great responsiveness and playability. The bellows provide smooth action with no stiffness. The pearl buttons have a smooth finish and fast, quiet action with no audible button clacking. Your fingers will glide across, making rolls and triplets effortless. You can also set the mechanical action (weight and height of buttons) to your requirements.
The high quality features and superb craftsmanship combine to create a beautiful, smooth sound. Why not have a listen for yourself?
Despite its size, this accordion has a powerful voice. The handmade reeds offer plenty of volume and a beautiful tone. The high notes are bright, responsive and easy to play.
Paddy Clancy is an expert tuner who offers his accordions in a variety of tunings. I would argue his preference errs on the wetter side though. (Nothing wrong with that.) He will happily tune his instruments to customer specifications however.
Prices start as low as €2,000 for used models, but I would highly recommend ordering directly from Paddy himself. He does occasionally offer his own models second hand. A fully customised box can still come in cheaper than some of the higher end Castagnari or Saltarelle accordions which can cost upwards of €4,000.
Contact Paddy himself for his most up to date rates, but know that if you have the money to invest, a Paddy Clancy accordion is an excellent choice. These handmade Irish instruments can rival any of the high end Italian models.
Paddy Clancy accordions are a joy to own and to play.
2. Beltuna Sara 3 from €3,200
Beltuna make beautiful accordions that easily rival Castagnari in terms of sound. The prices are usually lower too, as you’re not paying for such ornate woodwork. Beltuna button accordions are still a thing of beauty however.
The Beltuna Sara 3 is no exception. This three voice, 21 button accordion is a little bigger and heavier than the Mini Celtic, though not by much. It measures 28cm x 17cm and weighs 8lbs.
The Sara 3 features quality Tipo A Mano reeds which provide a powerful sound. The featured tuning is usually swing, though you can specify which you’d prefer when ordering. Swing tuning is ideal for playing Irish music however.
The Sara 3 offers rich, warm overtones that will add real depth to your playing. This powerful bass sound is characteristic of Beltuna accordions:
One of my favourite things about this accordion is its rich bass sound. Many button accordions designed for folk music offer excellent tone on the treble reeds, but can be lacking in depth in the bass tone.
That being said, the treble side of the Sara 3 also offers a strong, distinct sound. In my opinion it’s a little bit punchier than the high end Castagnaris while still offering a sweet sound:
Well Balanced Instrument
Despite being larger and heavier than some of its contemporaries, the Sara 3 offers great playing action. The smooth finish pearl buttons are perfect for fast playing. This is ideal for Irish traditional music.
It’s worth noting however that the Sara 3 features a stepped fingerboard. If you’re used to playing an accordion with a flat fingerboard, you might need to adjust your hand position slightly.
While not as ornate as some of its counterparts, the Sara 3 features a beautiful carved open grill which contributes to its full sound. It’s an attractive, well finished instrument. If you can get your hands on a walnut model, they really are a thing of beauty!
Larger Beltuna accordions can be quite heavy, but this is a well balanced instrument. Overall, this is a wonderfully responsive accordion that offers exceptional value for money. Beltuna accordions are stocked by the best accordion dealers. Prices start around €3,200 and can vary depending on customisation options. I recommend contacting Beltuna directly for the best offer. Beltuna’s two voice model, the Sara 2 is also an excellent alternative which will come in at a slightly lower price level of €2,800 upwards.
3. Paolo Soprani Jubilee IV from €3,000
Irish accordion maker Martin Quinn describes the Paolo Soprani Jubilee IV as the ‘Rolls Royce’ of four voice accordions and I have to agree with him.
Paolo Soprani is famous throughout the world for its legacy of accordion making. These Italian experts craft accordions for every possible genre of music and style of playing. It’s no surprise that they’ve been a stalwart of Irish accordion playing.
Despite their popularity, many accordion players can struggle with smaller accordions due to their own physical stature. If you find compact accordions uncomfortable to play, then the Jubilee IV could be the perfect option for you.
The 23 button Jubilee IV measures 32cm x 18cm and weighs 11lbs. A bit of a change from those I’ve listed so far! Believe it or not this is actually the Jubilee’s newer more compact size. Older models will be larger and heavier again. The new style Jubilee is a gem of an accordion however.
Fitted with Voci Armoniche Tipo A Mano reeds, this sleek four voice accordion has the high build quality expected from Paolo Soprani. It produces great volume and a full, rich tone:
The Jubilee IV looks and sounds like an older Paolo Soprani, but the difference lies in the bellows which offer freer movement than its predecessor. Overall it’s a well balanced instrument and its size and weight don’t make it cumbersome to play.
New & Improved
As a result of its reduced size, the action is also greatly improved. The pads are smaller and lighter and the pearl finish buttons easily facilitate smooth fluid playing. As with all Paolo Sopranis, players will find their way around the fingerboard with ease.
Paolo Soprani accordions tend to be tuned on the wet side, but, as with all top quality accordion makers, they will happily accommodate your tuning requests and customise to suit.
It would be rare that a Paolo Soprani would struggle to achieve volume and the Jubilee IV is no exception. The well vented metal grill allows plenty of sound to escape.
With four voice options and bass stops to remove the third, you’ll be spoiled for choice with the range of sounds available from the Jubilee IV.
With prices starting around €3,000 this beautiful accordion is very reasonably priced indeed. A Paolo Soprani is always a worthy investment. Not only is the Jubilee IV a sturdy reliable instrument of the highest quality, it’s a dream to play! I’m also a huge fan of its iconic pearlescent celluloid grey finish.
4. Castagnari Sharon from €3,000
Castagnari is one of the leading Italian accordion makers. Their intricately designed wooden boxes have taken the world of Irish music by storm. Most notably, they’ve garnered fame as the instrument of choice of Irish button accordion virtuoso, Sharon Shannon.
This accordion comes pre-approved by one of the best accordion players in the world. Sharon Shannon has played a Castagnari Tommy for over 20 years. As a result, the expert Italian makers have designed an instrument in her honour.
Like the Tommy, the Castagnari Sharon is a compact, three voice, 21 button accordion with 8 bass keys. This lightweight model also measures 24cm x 15cm and weighs 7.5lbs.
The most important difference however, is the fingerboard. The Tommy features a tiered stepped fingerboard. The Sharon however, features a flat fingerboard for ease of playing traditional Irish music.
The Sharon produces the same great sound as the Tommy. As with all Castagnari accordions, it features highest quality Tipo a Mano reeds which produce an exceptionally clear, bright yet powerful sound:
While Sharon Shannon opts for a dry tuned accordion, Castagnari offers the Sharon in a range of tunings. The treble side features one stop or register, allowing two different sound effects. The bass side can also feature an optional register to remove the third from the chords. To achieve Sharon’s characteristic punchy sound, you’ll want to opt for dry or swing tuning.
Packs a Punch
Due to its smaller compact size, the bellows deliver air to the reeds at a higher pressure. This makes it easier to play at a louder volume and also means you won’t have to work as hard moving the bellows. Combine this with the instrument’s light stature and you have an accordion that’s incredibly easy to play.
Castagnari accordions are beautifully crafted instruments with highly intricate fretwork on the decorative grill. While masterful, this laborious craftsmanship definitely adds to the price. The Sharon comes with a beautiful natural wood finish and is available in either walnut or cherry.
Castagnari accordions are a thing of beauty. This beautiful accordion costs just €3,000 or $3,595 on ButtonBox. Though you can also buy accordions directly through Castagnari themselves. Alternatively they will direct you to your nearest accordion dealers.
While the ornate framework is one of the reasons that Castagnaris cost more than other models, there’s no denying they’re a worthy investment. The Sharon is a high quality accordion that won’t steer you wrong.
5. McNeela 3 Voice Premium Accordion €1,250
If you’re more intermediate than advanced and a little daunted by the prices listed above, never fear. I have a budget friendly option that won’t compromise on playability or sound quality.
Inspired by the great Italian makers, the brand new McNeela 3 Voice Premium Accordion is designed with playability and affordability in mind.
This is a beautiful three voice, 23 button accordion featuring the standard 8 basses. Measuring 28cm x 16.5cm and weighing 8lbs, it’s a well balanced instrument that’s easy to manage.
The McNeela 3 Voice features Czech Tipo a Mano dural reeds which produce a strong tone and excellent response. These high quality reeds offer a clear, bright, powerful tone that manages to retain a sense of sweetness and softness. The accordion comes with one treble stop to add or remove the lower octave.
The beautiful cherrywood frame comes in a natural finish with soft rounded edges. The grill is decorated with intricate fretwork. This venting allows the accordion to produce plenty of volume.
This model features a flat fingerboard for ease of playing, with fast action and effortless response from the keys.
Luxury on a Budget
One of the most exciting features of the McNeela 3 Voice is its value for money. Priced at just €1,250, you might be wondering why it’s so much cheaper than its competitors. Don’t worry. There’s no compromise on materials or quality.
The difference is simple:
With most other makers you are paying extra for customisation options. At McNeela Instruments we’ve simplified the process for our buyers.
This accordion comes with B/C tuning which is the most popular option for traditional Irish music. We’ve also opted for swing tuning which, again, offers the best sound for Irish music. The bass layout is Paolo Soprani – a tried and tested layout approved by the greats themselves.
The McNeela 3 Voice Premium Accordion is a worthy investment, suitable for intermediate and advanced players alike.
For further information or to browse our full range of button accordions, simply visit our online accordion store.