What is an accordion anyway?


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.

Physical Features

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.

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