Soprani Midget Grand: Tiny Titan from the Golden Age of Accordions
I just got this interesting little Soprani, a “Midget Grand.” It is the same size as my daughter’s little 12-bass beginner’s instrument, but has 90 basses and quite a few other features that seem rare for such a small instrument. I’d love to learn more about it.
Comparison with another full-size Soprani discussed on this page with some similar features, suggests that this Midget is from the 1940s. At that time though manufacturers weren’t making many full-featured small instruments. Nowadays we hear from lots of folks looking for smaller ones to travel with (or help their aching backs) so I suspect I’d have no trouble finding a home for it.
It has swell little mute-flaps with a switch on the front giving a bright/mute lead option. Fun! And instead of outside fasteners, these Sopranis have bellows-lock knobs on top (with the arrow) that works fine but feels a bit flimsy to me. (Ironically of course, the idea didn’t catch on). Mine also has nifty register-indicators that show which reeds are playing (i.e. the right hand one shows “2” or “3”; the bass indicator is stuck on “4”.)
I’m assuming mine is a mid-level instrument. The reeds seem good (a few leathers and valves need help), the bellows may need repair or replacement, but they function well enough to play around with. The left-hand bass register doesn’t work, so I have to open that up and hope it will be a simple fix. The narrow “ladies'” waterfall-type keyboard is physically longer than my daughter’s little red accordion, but the “Midget’s” body is less deep than the beginner’s. It weighs a bit more as well.
Meanwhile inside, the “little-soprano-that-could” has 15 reed-blocs! My daughter’s by comparison has 4. The Soprani’s little blocks are packed in sideways and I suspect they’d be a pain to service. Look cool though.
On the front it has the label “Soprani Inc.” and then “Midget Grand” with a little initial or something I can’t figure out, maybe “Midget Grand H2”? What would the “H” be for? No Idea, but look, I found an advertisement! And yes, it’s from 1941.
I wonder why we don’t see more older accordions of this size? I’ve heard that dealers then sold (or even loaned out) bare-bones beginners’ models and later encouraged/pushed customers to buy full-size 120 base instruments. No price is listed in this ad from 1941. I wonder if it was at all cheaper than a larger instrument with similar features? At any rate, nowadays little ones with extras like this are quite uncommon.
Now if only it was a chromatic button accordion instead of piano keyboard, my accordion dreams would be realized! Still, such a neat little guy. Which reminds me to mention that of course “midget” isn’t the friendliest thing to call anybody these days (if it ever was). Not making fun of people should be considered basic good manners.