Saturday, September 5, 2009

What Is That? It's A Hybrid.

"OMG," I said, "What is that?" And the answer came by return email, "a hybrid."

Perhaps others did not notice but when I clicked play on today's video, there was a trio playing Retrato de Milton: a piano, a guitar, and - "OMG, what is that?" On the lap of Miguel Ángel Rumbo was, at first glance, a bandoneón but, at second glance there were no buttons on the visible face of the instrument. Normally one finds 33 buttons on the left hand face of the bandoneón and 38 buttons on the right hand face. Rumbo was working buttons on an angled panel on the front of the instrument. Furthermore, his leisurely bellows motions suggested that the instrument was unisonic - a single button plays the same note whether the bellows is expanding or compressing. Bandoneóns are duosonic - a single button plays one note as the bellows expands and another when it compresses (a devilish feature shared with the Anglo concertina). The duosonic nature and seemingly random button organization create a very steep learning curve for the bandoneón. Essentially no accordion skills are transferable to the bandoneón. A quick note to Rumbo provided the answer - he is playing a hybrid designed by Norbert Gabla and built by Harry Geuns. Buttons have been moved to the front and a logical, accordion-style button pattern has been adopted but the body shape and bellows of the bandoneón have been retained. It appears to be a clever and well executed design.

And he plays it well. There are some sonic problems in the video including a strange metronomic dripping sound and a mix that seems to lose the guitar in much of the piece. These detract from the enjoyment of the piece but the Geuns/Gabla hydbrid does, so far as one can tell from a YouTube video, have a timbre similar to a bandoneón.

I am hoping that Rumbo will provide us some solo examples on YouTube so a better comparison with a true bandoneón sound can be made. Perhaps Pedro y Pedro, Mr. Rumbo?

If the video does not appear below, click here.

To learn more about Piazzolla videos, visit the Piazzolla Video site.


  1. Hello-

    The "hybrid" design bandoneon you see is indeed from Harry Geuns. That one however is his "student" model. I can tell by the number of buttons and by the release valve button. I have that model myself, and am considering upgrading to his "professional" model. The student model has 31 buttons per side, and a valve button on each side. It is a much cheaper model designed by Harry (to a layout propsed by Norbert Gabla) built in China. It has accordion type reeds (in octaves, like a bando) and doesn't have a true bando sound. The pro model has 39 buttons per side and a valve lever on the right side only (more like a traditional bando). It has real bando reeds, mounted on zinc plates. Harry uses the same reeds in the pro model as he uses in his traditional bandos, and builds these himself. The student model is a good starter for someone not sure if they really want to go with this system or not. I made a few pdf files to show the differences, etc.:

    78-button professional model: (173KB)
    62-button student model: (146KB)
    comparison of the 2 models: (182KB)

    Harry's site is:

    Hope that helps,


  2. Hi Clayton, have you upgraded to the professional model yet? I am an accordion player who has always harboured a desire to learn the bandoneon, and so I got a student model of Harry's hybrid a few months back. I love it, and am interested to find anyone who has gone on to upgrade.


  3. Hello Phil- I have ordered a professional hybrid model, but am waiting for Harry to build it yet. He builds standard and hybrid bandos, and concertinas, as well as restoring and repairing others, so it's no surprise it takes awhile. I'll post some info on here when I do get it. I did try out a friend's standard design bando he purchased from Harry, and I can say it was really well built.

    -Clayton Murray

  4. i am interested in your comments.I play a 5 row c system with converter free base and was always interested in finding a particular style of music to play .This is difficult with the accordian as it can play almost any style which can be confusing as to which really suits the instrument.The hybrid bandoneon concept sounds good.I would be interested in purchasing the student model if anyone wants to trade up for example.John from dublin