About the Accordion
The accordion is a musical instrument played by compressing or expanding bellows
which forces air through a set of steel reeds. Buttons or keys allow valves to open to
The most common accordion in the United States is a piano accordion.
The right hand (treble) keys resemble piano keys. The left hand plays a series of
"bass" (pronounced "bayse") buttons ranging in number from 12 to 140, but 120
buttons is the standard. The buttons are arranged in the "circle of fifths". This
arrangement is known as the stradella system. The sound is generated from the push
and pull of the bellows.
The chromatic accordion is more popular in Europe. Rather than piano keys on the
right hand, a series of buttons on the right generate the treble sound. (The left hand
generally includes the same "bass" buttons as a piano accordion).
The early accordions were "diatonic", meaning that the push and pull of the belows
generates different sounds, like a harmonica. The simple European "melodeon" found
its way to the United States at the turn of the century and became the "Cajun" accordion
with a single row of treble buttons and a single row of bass buttons
Diatonic accordions with two or three treble rows on the right side are often used for
Tex-Mex or conjunto music.
Accordions are found in nearly every corner of the world. In China, accordions were
promoted as an instrument of the people. It Italy and German, craftsmen refined and
then manufactured accordions. In 1953, each exported 200,000 accordions to the
United States. The German "bandoneon" found a home in Argentina where it became
the symbol of the tango. Russia promoted its form of chromatic accordion known as
the "bayan" but also saw the spread of the garmoshka or folk
Accordions generally were used in folk music. Although commonly associated with
polka bands, accordion styles include classical, jazz, and country-western. Many
contemporary rock music bands have incorporate the unique sounds of the accordion.
In the 1960's, the Cordovox, an electronic mid accordion, was developed and
distributed by Chicago Musical Instruments. Bell Accordions developed a similar
In the 1990's., Roland Corporation developed the "V-Accordion" which brought the
accordion into the digital age. Abandoning traditional reeds, these accordions are
capable of producing high-quality multiple accordion sounds (i.e., musette, jazz,
classical, Tex-Mex) as well as orchestra sounds and drums without relying on and
external midi or sound machine.
[Roland's Latest V-Accordion: FR-8x]