Andi Nöß from Steingaden is an instrument maker, musician – and young Bavarian Original. In his workshop, he creates hand-crafted “Ziacha”, or diatonic accordions. We visited him in his workshop. Text and photos from Klaus Mergel
Andi Nöß, Ziacha maker
Where Allgäu meets Upper Bavaria, the language changes to “Lechroanerisch”. And it seems that some locals have also taken the best features from the mentality of both tribes: the sunny disposition of the Upper Bavarians and the energy of the Allgäuer.
This is certainly true of Andi Nöß from Steingaden: full-blooded musician and instrument maker. And a true Original. Can someone who is only in his mid-twenties really be an “Original”?
He certainly has a natural wit, which is plain to see. And he is without doubt an original “Siach” (the Allgäu word for a dude). According to those who know him. And there are plenty of those.
Oktoberfest gigs in Sri Lanka
Nöß is well-known all across Bavaria, wherever he plays his music. Either with his dance band “Schreiner Buam” or his brass band “Wamba Brass Club”. He has travelled three times to Sri Lanka, where he and his band “Edelweiß” appeared at the local version of the Oktoberfest, making the billing as Munich’s “Wiesn stars”. The fact that the musicians actually come from “Stoagada” (Steingaden) rather than “Minka” (Munich) was neither here nor there.
The Ziach: the ultimate Bavarian folk instrument
Nöß plays trombone, guitar and Ziach: the diatonic accordion is the classic instrument of Bavarian folk music. Not to be confused with the piano accordion. He has an intensive relationship with the Ziach, as he makes them himself in his workshop, which is situated in his home. In fact, it is just a tiny room. “But it’s big enough, after all I’m the only one in it,” he says.
One of his first customers was Stofferl Well, the youngest of the “Biermösl Blosn” Well brothers. While on tour for his BR radio programme, Well ended up on a shoot at the royal castles. That’s where he came across Nöß. They got along well and found they had a lot in common. And Well ordered a customised Ziach from the newly-trained squeezebox maker.
“That’s the dream clientele for any craftsman,” says Nöß. Well comments: “You can’t go wrong when you buy an instrument from someone who plays it himself.”
The squeezebox maker comes good!
Six months later, Well was able to collect his accordion in Steingaden: made of maple, three rows of buttons, the fingerboard in walnut. The buttons are made of antler, as specified. 13 bass buttons, tuned to C-F-B. “Simple, slim, exactly how I wanted it,” says Well.
The sound is crisp and lingering. Nöß has made the Ziach to sound the way accordions sounded 80 or 100 years ago. And he says: “Schia, dass’ Dir gefallt.” (I’m glad you like it.) You notice straight away that Nöß does virtually everything in the Lechroaner dialect - including his WhatsApp messages.
The 25-year-old learned his craft at the legendary Manufaktur Öllerer in Freilassing, whose accordions are all made to suit their customers’ personal measurements. “When I applied for a position as an apprentice, there were no apprenticeships,” Nöß recalls. “Start by learning carpentry,” recommended the boss of Öllerer, Hans Kirchhofer.
From trainee joiner to apprentice accordion maker
And so it happened: as a newly qualified joiner, he finally got his coveted apprenticeship. And became state champion. He then added a master craftsman qualification to his credits. “It really was the right way to do it, as I learned a great deal about wood, tools and machines,” he says about his circuitous career path. And grins. “But I don’t want to be a carpenter.”
That’s logical, as for Nöß it’s all about the music. Anyone who wants to make a squeeze box with such a variety of tones, needs more than just skilled craftsmanship. You need a good ear, because tuning the accordion is half the work. “And you need a feel for what timbre - humming, singing or thundering - will suit the customer.”
Up to 150 hours’ work for one Ziach
Nöß set up on his own in autumn 2019. His master let him go with a heavy heart: Nöß has great skill as well as his aforementioned feel for his work. Now in his own workshop he works on his models, which can be identified by their stylised “N” logo. He spends between 100 and 150 hours on a hand-crafted Ziach. It’s clearly not something that goes for a song.
And since as a trombonist, he also has a good understanding of brass, he also repairs tubas, trumpets and trombones for a small musical instrument shop in Marktoberdorf.
For him, the best thing about it is: “That I’m back where I belong,” he says. And beams. In his years in Freilassing, he would come home to Steingaden every weekend: not least to see his girlfriend, Mirjam, who he now lives with. And naturally because of his close ties with this unique spot between Upper Bavaria and the Allgäu.