BANDONEON Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I find a bandoneon and how much does it cost?

That's the most frequently asked question. I think Argentina and Uruguay are the best places to find bandoneons, (Argentinean -"diatonic"- system only se explications below)

In France very few old good bandoneons are to be found, mostly "chromatic" system. Post 1945 instruments are frequent and bad

Be careful in Germany because there are many different systems there which do not belong to Tango tradition, have different sound and tuning and nobody knows how to play them.

Prices vary a lot following luck, ignorance, quality, decoration (mother of pearl inlays) and condition of instruments. Among musicians bandoneon are between 2000 and 4000 US$ (4000 is really a maximum for a good old and well tuned instrument in good shape.
(Tuning is expensive and good tuners are extremely rare)

What do Diatonic, Chromatic, Bi-sonor, uni-sonic, Argentinean mean?

People traditionally call diatonic bandoneons which play two different notes with one button, one note when the bellows opens and another note when the bellows closes. They are sometimes called Bi sonic
People traditionally call chromatic bandoneons which play the same note when you open or when you close the bellows. They are sometimes called unisonic.

On a strictly musical point of view all bandoneons are Chromatic, which means that they cam play the twelve notes of the octave.
Diatonic instruments (folk harps, folk flutes ,folk accordions, blues harmonicas etc.) can only play seven notes per octave. Diatonic accordions generally play a different note when you open or close the bellows, therefore the popular musicians called diatonic the bisonic bandoneon. In the popular tradition diatonic means bisonic and this language ambiguity will last forever, we will have to live with it and explain it every time.
Bandoneons that cannot play twelve notes per octave are not bandoneons although they might look pretty much alike, they are German Concertinas.

What type of bandoneon should I choose?

The two systems described above are the only one to have still a tradition. The Argentinean/diatonic/bisonic (choose the world you want) is by far the most used. The chromatic/unisonic is mostly played in France since 1930 but only a handful of professionals use it.

The unisonic (chromatic) one is more logical and easier to learn (if not easier to play). It is convenient for one who is isolated and wants to learn by himself. It is also better adapted to improvised music because it has logical and rather symmetrical keyboards (the same fingerings can often be used on the right and left hand. Good chromatic bandoneons are very rare and bad ones are frequent.

The bisonic (diatonic) system is indeed terribly difficult, and more so if you do not have a teacher and a tradition. but it is more convenient to play written Argentinean virtuoso music (fast tango variations for instance) because it has been written for that system. Diatonic are much more common, they were made in huge quantities in the first half of the century and are the only ones found outside France-Belgium-Swiss

Goods bandoneons were made by Alfred Arnold and ELA (Ernst-Luis Arnold, father of the former) factories before world-war two, specially when they have zinc reed plates which makes them heavier and better. ELA used mostly aluminum
Arno Arnold brother of Alfred put up a factory in West Germany and used Hohner accordion reeds so they don't have a bandoneon sound. The secret is in the reeds!

Most post war instruments, including Arnolds are mediocre.

Are there bandoneon makers today

Uwe Hartenhauer

He builds he bandoneons which are the close to the old Alfred Arnold's.
Totally traditional wooden mechanic and steel reeds on zinc plates.

He builds both Argentinian and Peguri ("chromatic) systems

Bandoneon & Konzertina Fabrik

Postal address:
Krummer Weg 1a
D-08248 Klingenthal

They make exact replicas of old Alfred Arnold bandoneons,including original wood and materials.

They also use the original trade mark AA in agreement with the Arnold family

they build both Argentinian and Peguri ("chromatic) systems

Klaus Gutjahr

He was the first to rebuild bandoneons in the 80's he is also a bandoneon player

Premier Bandoneonbau,
PREMIER Bandoneonbau Peter Spende Berlin
Tel.: +49 30 44 35 86 15
Fax.: +49 30 44 35 86 17

Harry Geuns
restaurations, repair, tuning
NL-6096 Grathem (Limburg)
Loorderstraat 1
Tel: +31 47 545 27 75

for a more complete list see:

Who can tune and repair bandoneons?
Usually accordion tuners can repair and tune bandoneons but to get the right sound it is better to see a specialist who will have adapted equipment and spare reeds made for bandoneon

The very best in europe is

Rocco Boness,
D-20253 Hamburg
Eppendorfer Weg 166
phone +49 40 422 57 65

for a more complete list gto the maintenance page

contact other bandoneon enthousiasts and connoisseurs at the bandoneon list
and a french speaking forum at
more complete informations at Christian's Bandoneon Page by Christian Mensing
see also

back to Olivier Manoury