Child Prodigy Piano Accordion

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artelagro
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Child Prodigy Piano Accordion

Post by artelagro » Wed Sep 07, 2016 7:25 pm

I came across this irresistible bargain on Ebay and must now spread the word.
I had to invest £17.96 but I could have saved a further 40p if I had been a wee bittie more careful – that’ll teach me. It was advertised as ‘Kids Children 17-Key 8 Bass Mini Small Accordion Educational Musical Instrument Rhythm Band Toy’

Part 1 – Unboxing.

It was packed in a close fitting 25 x 24 x13 cm. cardboard box with a nominal amount of bubble wrap sitting on top of the piano keys. Why? – Haven’t worked that out yet.
The included instruction sheet was written in pretty good Engrish identifying the main features, plus a fitting guide and overleaf is a method instruction covering an exercise for the right hand, an accompaniment exercise and our first full tune ‘Home Sweet Home’. In case you have difficulty following the above instructions, they are of course, repeated in Chinese.
Onto the scales now and it weighed in at 1.31 kg or almost 3 lbs, so no excuses accepted from our less able members.
The leather (so the book says) straps wouldn’t stretch to my frame size so the initial test run was very minimal. The bass strap was not adjustable.
From the outside this looks like a conventional accordion albeit a wee bittie smaller. The construction seems to follow traditional practice, the only obvious deviation being the bellows corners, which are not made from metal.
The piano keys are of a shorter length but their width, at 18mm, isn’t far off the standard so shouldn’t be a problem for an adult.
Only two weaknesses showed up in this very limited first test.
1) The return springs for the piano keys are very strong.
2) A lot of air is needed to sound the single reeds.

The quality of the sound is not as good as a single voice melodeon. I will try and find the reason(s) for this when I get the tools out.
The bass buttons were difficult (impossible) for me to operate because of the straps, however it sounds as if the basses are two-voice and the buttons look as if they will do their job as expected.

End of part 1.
I intend to completely strip this box to see if I can improve the sound and playability. If there is any interest I will publish my progress here. If on the other hand, members feel that this forum is not the place for a ‘toy’ then I will vanish into the background.
Ca canny
Garth.
Attachments
S73F1398.JPG
Brand spanking new. No 2nd hand stuff here
Last edited by artelagro on Fri Sep 09, 2016 10:44 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Child Prodigy Accordion

Post by Matt Butcher » Thu Sep 08, 2016 10:30 am

I think it would be worth hearing about especially in the style of the post above. I know some have turned toy melodeons into viable musical instruments although they may have replaced reeds, buttons, body, valves, bellows and straps... Good luck and I look forward to your rendition of Home Sweet Home.

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Re: Child Prodigy Accordion

Post by JerryPH » Thu Sep 08, 2016 10:58 am

It would be nice if you continued the story, I'd enjoy hearing about the progress. :)
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Re: Child Prodigy Accordion

Post by artelagro » Thu Sep 08, 2016 1:32 pm

Part 2 – The sound test.

I switched on my little chromatic tuner and feared the worst. Boy was I wrong! Every reed was within 4 cents of what it should be and by far the majority between zero and 2 cents sharp. Only 2 reeds showed minus (flat). To have all 34 reeds in that range is amazing.
On the bass side, my meter gave some unreliable, variable readings so it would be a waste of time publishing these.
Next step was to see inside. I removed 4 conventional bellows pins and all became clear. No chance of woodworm on this box – It’s all plastic.
Going back to the reeds. They appear to be brass fixed to an aluminium reed plate by 2 small rivets. Every reed is fitted with a thin (probably) leather valve. The reed plates are fixed to a normal shaped but plastic reed block with a burnt brown coloured wax, 10 on one side and the 7 black notes on the other. The reed block is clamped to the accordion with one clip at either end and a dense foam rubber sheet acts as the gasket. All well so far. On closer inspection of the reeds, it is obvious that the final tuning has been done by hand. I shone the flashlight into the void behind the reeds and they appear to be a reasonable (for the price) fit, the only bad gaps found were on the length which in a few instances were almost 1mm shorter than the slot. A couple of the valves also finished a similar distance from the end of the slot.

Moving to the base end, revealed 12 reed plates lying flat on the special plastic reed block. This block is also fixed by 2 self tapping screws and sealed to the accordion via another foam rubber gasket.
The bass is 2-voice and I can only guess how they made the ‘chord’ because I believe the tuner who did such an excellent job on the treble reeds must have taken a lunch break before the bass end was finished. The instruction sheet names the bass notes as F, C, G & D but instead of referring to the sound as ‘Oom Pah’ the Chinese seem to call it ‘Boong Sah’. It will be a 2-note chord so we can’t expect too much. I think there may be some jiggery pokery needed here to get an acceptable sound.

The tools used so far consist of pincers for the bellows pins plus a small Phillips head screwdriver. From what I have seen, these may be the only tools needed for the entire project.

At this stage I am very much impressed with the quality for the price and can find no unsatisfactory shortcuts the makers have taken. My thinking at this time is that I will replace the reeds with steel ones but that will be decided when the full stripdown is completed. Click the photos for an enlarged view.
End of part 2
Ca canny
Garth
Attachments
S73F1397.JPG
The bass reed block
S73F1396.JPG
The different orientation of the reeds.

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Re: Child Prodigy Accordion

Post by nagant27 » Thu Sep 08, 2016 7:11 pm

Are the reed blocks plastic or painted black??

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Re: Child Prodigy Accordion

Post by nagant27 » Thu Sep 08, 2016 7:13 pm

Sorry I take that back I didn't read your post totally yet. Plastic.

Double riveted reed tongues on bass side.

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Re: Child Prodigy Piano Accordion

Post by artelagro » Fri Sep 09, 2016 4:38 pm

Part 3 – The Bass Workings

Remove 2-small Phillips screws from one end of the bass strap allowing it to hinge back out of the road.
A further 4-screws, 1 in each of the feet, and the plastic bass soundboard can be removed, revealing an extremely neat arrangement of levers which operate the basses. There is no coupler mechanism to complicate things – Each rod is connected to a long pallet covering 2-holes proving that it is indeed 2-voice. The ’Oom’ buttons operate the four lower sets and the ‘Pah’ buttons serve the higher, staggered sets.


If you look at the bass block which was removed yesterday you will see three rows of (4) reeds. The four fundamental buttons (F,C,G&D) open the outer row of reeds and are coupled to similar (F,C,G&D) reeds in the middle row. The chord buttons will in turn connect these middle row reeds to the four inner row reeds which may be a third above (i.e. A,E,B&F). At this point I am inviting those with some musical ability to chip in. I say this because when I put my electronic tuner onto these individual reeds I found some totally silly results. The makers may have had a good reason for this or they may just have had some surplus reeds which had been cluttering their workspace.

When I tested the tuning before dismantling the accordion, the meter showed reasonable results for both the fundamental and the chord notes but they were not consistent and varied widely with the bellows pressure. When I tested the individual reeds these are the results obtained :-

Outer Row...……F..….…C..........C#…….NIL.
Middle Row….….F…….…C…......…G……..…D
Inner Row…….….B…….…C….....…NIL………A
These are on the ‘Press’ stroke – the ‘Draw’ stroke is far worse.

The face of each pallet is fitted with a 2mm thick Nylon type material as its seal instead of the traditional chamois leather. This works well and may be the modern practice but I am too old fashioned to accept these changes yet.

The bellows, which are attached to the keyboard end by 4–pins are glued in place at the bass end. Full marks for this because there is no need to introduce a potential leaky joint here.

I hope you managed to understand some of the above – I didn’t.

However, tomorrow I will tackle the keyboard end.

End of Part 3.

Ca canny
Garth
Attachments
S73F1399.JPG
Neat arrangement
S73F1400.JPG
the bass soundboard

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Re: Child Prodigy Piano Accordion

Post by artelagro » Sat Sep 10, 2016 9:03 pm

Part 4 – The Treble side (Failure)

The grille is fixed to the accordion by 5-little Phillips head self tapping screws.
When lifted off, we see the openings covered on the inside by a filter made from a triple layer of cheesecloth. Simple but effective.
The space between the bottom of the grille and the keys is sealed by a soft felt strip. This was an unexpected surprise and will help to keep the workings dust free.

Now we can see 10-aluminium levers joining the white keys to the top row of holes and 7-similar linking the black keys to the bottom row.
The pallets are thin plastic mouldings fixed to the aluminium levers by a clear adhesive. The pallet facings which form the seal against the body are made of the same nylon type material as used on the base end. Having only one hole to seal on the treble side, these pads are only 1.5 cm square.

On a conventional Italian or German accordion the piano keys normally pivot about a long wire axle which runs the entire length of the keyboard. A later invention and one commonly used by current Chinese manufacturers is to have individually removable keys. Unfortunately, neither of these designs look as if they are used here. From the current viewpoint it would appear that the entire keyboard has been assembled as a unit and slipped into place. I am not looking forward to dismantling this because, although there are only 7-fixing screws, I will also have to battle with the 17-springs and as I mentioned earlier, these springs are quite strong. I just hope the fixing screws are quite long to relieve the tension in the springs as I slacken each screw one turn at a time. I will keep the magnet handy just in case things go pop.

More surprises as I stripped this side. Firstly the seven screws which are only 1cm in length slackened the assembly until there was no spring force left. Phew! I changed screwdrivers partway through to a small watchmaker’s type because there was only little torque needed and the tip was magnetised, which would minimise the chances of me losing one.

Now the bad news :- I just couldn’t remove the assembly. The tips of the piano keys had to be lifted clear of the ledge them slid forward but it just refused to budge. A cup of coffee plus a few colourful Doric words didn’t help so after about half an hour, I gave up. I am going to look a right numpty if someone advises me of a simple little catch that I missed. Sorry boys and girls – I will try again at a later date.

End of part 4 (for now)
I am now going to search for some Italian reeds so it may be a wee while before the next update.
Again Just click the photos to enlarge.
Attachments
S73F1401.JPG
Grille & fixing screws
S73F1402.JPG
Dust prevention measures
S73F1403.JPG
Levers an Pallets
S73F1404.JPG
The keyboard fixing screws

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Re: Child Prodigy Piano Accordion

Post by Soulsaver » Sat Sep 10, 2016 11:04 pm

Hmm - the plate that the keys are attached to could be glued, too? Hohner did this on some 1980s models, but you could remove the individual keys too, by a sliding retaining peg.
Music Game full rules are on the original (first) post in its thread...viewtopic.php?f=12&t=444" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: Child Prodigy Piano Accordion

Post by kimric » Mon Sep 19, 2016 7:11 am

The wall you will run up against with this instrument is that the inside corner folds of the bellows are plasticized fabric not leather and they will leak after awhile,and there is nothing you can do for them..No metal bellows corners either and these will fail first as they get worn. You can revive those a little with a thin leather patch or a thin layer of flexible glue.
The reed valves a a sort of vinyl and are can be pretty stiff and affect the reed playability.
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Re: Child Prodigy Piano Accordion

Post by artelagro » Mon Sep 19, 2016 5:43 pm

Part 5

No, the piano key removal has not progressed. I have searched for a retaining peg as suggested by Soulsaver but can’t see anything. With the seven screws removed the edge of the baseplate nearest the reeds is loose but it feels as if there is one screw, positioned roughly in the middle of the piano keys still holding it. That’s a job for tomorrow.
There have been a couple of warnings from Kimric which are, of course, helpful but this accordion cost the same as a conventional mouth organ so we must remember that when I am finished, this will still be a toy.
However, I shall move on to the reeds and hope I can get some progress there. I have a couple of questions for others to hopefully answer.
I have looked out a replacement set of treble (clarinet) reeds which are physically slightly different from the originals. The widths are almost identical but the reed plate length of the four lowest notes (C, C#, D, & D#) is about 3mm too long. I can see 2-ways round this:-
1) I can extend part of the plastic reed block or
2) Can cut the reed plates by 1.5mm each end.
I bought a wee hot melt glue gun yesterday so am tempted to go for option 1) and build up the plastic.
Any suggestions?

I found the Youtube video mentioned by Matt Butcher earlier –here:-
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-k50pa8e0FY" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

The other query I have is a musical rather than practical one.
Looking at the bass layout in part 3, I am wondering whether to copy their idea or change to ‘single notes’? This could easily be done by blanking off the middle row but what would the effect be? If I keep to the Bass/Chord idea which notes should make up the chord.
I also have the option of making it fundamental row / counter bass row and do away with the chords.
I have a blank canvas just now and 8-buttons waiting to be joined to the reeds.

End of part 5, I will add some photos later.
Garth

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Re: Child Prodigy Piano Accordion

Post by artelagro » Tue May 30, 2017 4:01 pm

Part 6 – Treble Reeds

It’s been a wee while since I did any work on this but I have been jotting down my thoughts, so here is an update:-

Space inside the bellows is tight, the critical limiting dimension being the reed block height. The Italian reeds I have chosen are almost 3mm longer than the Chinese ones and when I measured the wooden Italian reed block where the ‘C’ & ‘D’ reeds had come from, this showed 53.8mm – The existing plastic moulding is 50mm - Work to be done!

I have given a fair bit of thought re how to fit the longer reed plates into this restricted space. Each idea I came up with seemed to have negative aspects so maybe the Chinese have hit the optimum solution by making their reed tongues shorter.

To find out just what the limit is I put a piece of Blu-tack (putty) on top of the highest part of the reed block, reassembled the accordion then fastened the bellows clips. When I undid the clips, the Blu-tack had been compressed to a thickness of almost 5mm. Unfortunately, this is not spare clear space because the bass reeds lie flat and their valves need room to move. This has made me think again and obviously the simple idea of just increasing the plastic reed block height is not an option.
WP_20170523_10_27_13_Pro.jpg
The Blu-tack measuring method.
I decided not to modify the original reed block and instead, make a complete new one. This would allow me to swap back and forth for comparison.
A search was made through my stack of pallets to find wood of suitable quality. Since my retirement, pallets have been the donor material for a coal bunker, hen coop, garden chairs, etc., etc. so why not an accordion?

The options I considered are:-
a) Reduce the length of the aluminium reed plates by 2mm
b) Set the reed plates at an angle instead of the (near) vertical orientation at present. (1mm saving)
c) Replace both the dense foam gaskets with chamois leather. (1 - 2mm saving)
d) Plane the top of the new wooden reed block to a minimum. (1 – 2mm saving)
e) Plane the bottom of the new reed block as above. (possible 2mm saving)
I think I may need to use a combination of all the above options.

I want to keep the accordion as near standard as possible so a simple act such as an extension to the bellows is ruled out. Similarly, modifying the internal parts should be limited to the new part only.

I have now made the reed block and pared it down to 50mm so I will next fit the reeds and see if it works. The photos show one reed plate which has been shortened and the construction of the new wooden reed block.

My apologies for the break in service - just hope you can remember what this project was about

Garth
Attachments
WP_20170530_14_09_04_Pro.jpg
Comparison 3
WP_20170530_14_05_47_Pro.jpg
Comparison 2
WP_20170530_14_04_37_Pro.jpg
Comparison !
WP_20170522_13_39_25_Pro.jpg
Start of the new bl

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Re: Child Prodigy Piano Accordion

Post by artelagro » Mon Sep 11, 2017 4:43 pm

Part 7 – Treble reeds continued.

I wasn’t happy with the finished appearance of the new reed block so it was time to make the mark 2 model using the experiences gained last week. This time I opted to make the entire unit from 1.5mm plywood with vertical sides. There are no fancy angles to be cut now, each part being a plain rectangle. The division walls between adjacent reed plates provide a locating surface for the reed plates. Using Charlie Marshall’s paintbrush method I applied a skin of wax to the front face to hold the reeds firmly in place awaiting their final wax seal. The reed plates are all of different lengths so I had to thicken the base or the roof locally to compensate.
WP_20170623_10_07_51_Pro.jpg
All Ply Reed Block
Now the good fun - trying to wax the reeds in place. I pressed the reed plates firmly into the wax coating then ran a seam top and bottom using a 6mm reed wax stick. This only left the sealing of the gap between each plate. The piano keys are 18mm wide and the reed plates are 16.5mm wide so you don’t need a calculator to tell that there’s only a tiny wee slot for the wax to run down. With my eyesight, a special tool is called for so I riveted a Stanley blade onto a rod which fits into the soldering iron and inserted this into the slot. The wax, when melted against this blade just ran nicely into the void.
WP_20170624_08_55_44_Pro.jpg
Shaky Hand Cure
Over to the scales now and the new complete reed block showed 150 grams against 159 grams for the plastic Chinese one. This was a surprise because the new block feels much bigger.

The first sound test and it’s good. I am working on a way to let you all hear both – bear with me.

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Re: Child Prodigy Piano Accordion

Post by JerryPH » Mon Sep 11, 2017 5:00 pm

Dang if nothing, you are displaying some skills there, Garth!!
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Re: Child Prodigy Piano Accordion

Post by artelagro » Wed Sep 13, 2017 9:18 am

Part 8 – More of the same?

Last week this one was on Ebay but no one showed any interest, so £6.99 and it was mine – a real genuine ‘Child Prodigy’. The seller was very honest with his or her description and the main fault turned out to be the reed block which had come off its mountings.
WP_20170911_13_48_22_Pro.jpg
The New & the Original
OK it’s not perfect but I have big plans for it.
Is it identical to my own? It looks bigger but surely they don’t make the world’s most popular piano accordion in different sizes!
A quick glance inside to confirm it’s built the same way then test to see that it makes the right noises. Lots of air leaks but it does play.
The grille came off next then the big shock - the main body is made from real wood with a celluloid cover, just like its big brothers. The piano keys also look and feel like normal accordion ones instead of the modern toy plastic mouldings.
WP_20170911_13_58_59_Pro.jpg
The naked front view
I had planned to use this one for tone comparison against the new reeds then later to sacrifice to find out how the treble keys are attached (they are still beating me), after that I would have plenty of spare parts but I can’t do it – it’s pleading with me not to scrap it. This is certainly going to change my plan of attack and put a spanner in the works.
WP_20170911_13_51_52_Pro.jpg
The Bass workings
Does anyone know how many of these have been made, how many factories make them or anything else about their history? Was the Hohner Mignon the starting point?

I just looked down at my bench and it’s now full again – Why do I keep doing this?

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