An accordion basically is a musical instrument that had gained popularity throughout its history. It belongs to the handheld bellows-driven free reed aerophone family and is sometimes known as squeezeboxes. It is played by compression and expansion of a bellows, which generates air flow across the reed. It also has keyboard controls which reeds receive air flow and therefore the tones are produced.
The accordion of today’s world consists of a body in two parts. Each part has a rectangular shape and generally separated by bellows. On each part of the body, you will find a keyboard that contains buttons, levers or piano style keys. It is these buttons, when pressed, that travel in a direction perpendicular to the movement of the bellows, which is towards the performer. Well, it is worth noting that most of the modern accordions also have buttons that are capable of producing entire chords. This feature basically what sets concertinas’ buttons from the modern accordions as the former produce only single notes.
Speaking of concertina, it is interesting to know that this instrument is just a variation of accordion, but it differs from the modern accordion as its buttons never produce chords and travel parallel to the motion of the bellows, which is then towards the opposite end of the instrument. Between concertinas and the modern accordions, there are also differences when it comes to the internal materials, construction, mechanics, and tone color, but the most interesting fact is the basic standards of sound production are identical.
Types of Accordions
Accordions generally come in a number of different styles and key-note systems. These mainly include the Diatonic, Concertinas, Chromatic, and Piano accordions. I have here below brief specifications to these types.
Diatonic: This type is frequently used by many folks and dance groups because of its great sound output, simplicity, light weight and low cost, making Diatonic one of the most popular accordions in the world. Perhaps it is nice to know that the note pattern of its keyboard is typically similar to that of the mouth harmonica.
Concertinas: This instrument is noted for its unique shape, ranging from four to twelve sides, in cross-section. It has two keyboards, one at every end of the bellows. All of the buttons are individual notes, thus there are no fixed chords on concertina. Also, the different notes and systems vary so greatly that a performer of one system will almost not be able to pick up a concertina of a different system and play it without having to almost learn it from scratch.
Chromatic Accordions: This instrument could play a 46 note chromatic scale. Its button is not diatonic and has the greatest range of treble noted of any type available these days. Its size ranges from an accordion with 20 treble keys and 12 bass buttons to the modern chromatic models which have 6 treble button rows and 160 bass buttons. This is now very popular in Russia.
Piano Accordions: So far, this instrument became the first truly standardized universal type, since the development of the Stradella bass system. This then means that a performer can play any type without a change in system, making the piano accordion the easiest type to play.
The accordion has a fascinating history.
Its starts way back 4,500 years ago with the Cheng or Sheng in China, the first known instrument to use the free vibrating reed principle, which is the basis of the accordion’s sound production.
However, it was Cyril Demian, a Viennese instrument maker, who has often been credited with the creation of the first true accordion. According to numerous historical resources, he was the first to patent an instrument of that name, having received royal patronage for his invention in 1829. But later, reports have revealed that the first true accordion made its appearance in 1822 when Christian Friedrich Buschmann put some expanding bellows onto a small portable keyboard, with free vibrating reeds inside the instrument itself. He dubbed it the hand-aeoline and helped spread its fame in 1828 by touring with it. (admin note: but Buschmann’s bellows equiped keyboard instrument DID NOT PRODUCE CHORDS like Cyril Demian’s acCHORDion did. Demian’s akkordion had 5 buttons producing chords to accompany any signer include the accordionist himself! The accordion took his name after the chords it could produce when first invented.)
From then on, several varieties of free-vibrating reed instruments were developed. Some of them are still quite well-known today. As the instrument received a growing popularity, the demand for instruction manuals started to grow. According to certain historical resources, the first textbook featured both the original music and arrangements of familiar pieces written by A. Reisner and was published in Paris in 1832. Several textbooks were produced since then.
Meanwhile, from 1830 onwards, the development of accordion continued at a rapidly accelerating pace. Several varieties of instrument were further developed, such as the bandoneon, the harmonica and chromatic type which still exist today. Perhaps one of the interesting developments from this period was the introduction of what subsequently became known as the Schrammel that comprises an accordion, two violins, and bass guitar. This model was often used at Viennese gatherings and can still be heard today.
In 1863, the first piano accordion was introduced to the public, and many performers regarded it as a means of liberating themselves from being confined to their massive and immobile walls of pipes. That time, one of the artists, Pietro Diero brought his custom built piano accordion to the United States and earned a reputation for himself as the father of the American accordion playing. During the early part of the twentieth century, several manufacturers of this reed instrument began establishing their companies and thanks to pressure from professional players that the standard size and shape of the instrument was formed. (admin note: 1951 year of the standardization of the accordion as we know it today)
Today, the accordion is truly an international phenomenon. More and more manufacturers of this instrument in the United States were established, but their output according to some researches is small compared to their European counterparts. The large contemporary producers of this instrument are located in Italy, France, Germany, and USSR, not to mention to the other countries.