If you’re new to Slovenian popular folk music (from Slovenia) or American-Slovenian style polkas (from North America), you might get confused between the two (I sure did), so in this post I try to clear it up with the sort of information I’d love to have had available several years ago.
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Vilko & Slavko Avsenik’s ensemble from Slovenia were the creators of the ‘Oberkrainer’ sound and genre which took off in the alpine parts of central Europe. A typical band in this genre, following Avseniki, has three main parts: the vocal, melodic and rhythm sections. The rhythm section in the band is usually made up of the vital three instruments: accordion, guitar and double bass or electric bass which alternates with baritone.
The sound of Slavko and Vilko Avsenik’s ensemble (Slo: Ansambel bratov Avsenik, Ger: Slavko Avsenik und seine Original Oberkrainer) had many moving parts that contributed to the legendary sound which evolved throughout their career spanning from the 1950s to the 1990s. Technique, band members, advancements in sound engineering, arrangements by Vilko Avsenik and combinations of instruments evolved with each album and each decade. This includes the evolution of each accordion that Slavko Avsenik recorded and performed with.
Slovenian/Oberkrainer style accordion rhythm is a technique used by Slovenian and Austrian alpine style accordionists to complete the rhythm section in a trio or quintet, by playing chords repeatedly as semiquavers in polkas, or quavers in waltzes. In Slovenian it’s known as ‘tresenje‘ (shaking), for its ‘shaking’ sound, and ‘spremljavo‘ (accompaniment). In German it’s called ‘Oberkrainer begleitung‘ (Oberkrainer accompaniment). In trios with vocals, or quintets with a trumpet and clarinet, the accordion never only sticks to melody or rhythm, but fluidly alternates between melody and rhythm.
When I started my search for a piano accordion with a typical Slovenian (Oberkrainer) sound (see Avsenik, Alpenoberkrainer, etc), I had no idea what to look for. Further information was hard to obtain through research of my own, so I had to turn to contacts from central Europe who were happy to explain what they use and what makes the sound that we know and love (as well as using Google Translate on German and Slovenian accordion forums).
I hope the following information can assist anyone who is looking for that sound and not sure where to start, particularly outside of central Europe where it is difficult to find this information in English. Please note this also applies for chromatic button accordions.