The accordion is an instrument that is often overlooked by aspiring musicians. However, despite its reputation as an unusual choice, the accordion is a very beautiful instrument that produces a unique and haunting sound. Sometimes known as a squeezebox, the accordion is a member of the free-reed aerophone family.
An accordion looks like a medium-sized box and is driven by bellows. These bellows work as you expand and contract the instrument, whilst simultaneously pressing keys or buttons at the ends near your fingers. This action makes the valves inside the instrument open up, letting air run over the reeds. The reeds vibrate, producing the accordion’s wonderful and original sound.
The buttons or keys at both ends of the instrument are different: the melody is usually played on the right-hand side, and the accompanying parts are played on the left. The buttons on the left are usually chords and bass, giving the instrument a one-man-band feel to it. Older versions of the accordion include the khaen and the sheng, which are also members of the free-reed family, and are said to have inspired the accordion’s design. One of the earliest designs dates back to 1822 and originates from Berlin, Germany. Early models only had the left-hand board; the right hand simply controlled the bellows.
Within ten years, and despite the bad reviews of the instrument in the press, the accordion had become popular in Britain, and within another twenty years, it had sailed the Atlantic and grown in popularity in America, particularly in New York.
The Accordion in Music
Traditionally, the accordion is most famous for its use in folk music. And you’ve probably seen one or two on the streets, as they’re commonly used by buskers. But they’re also used in some mainstream pop music tracks, as well as being part of the full orchestra in some classical pieces. Nowadays, the accordion’s design continues to be developed, particularly the keyboard system and the button boards. Modern designs can also change between octaves during performance by the simple push of a button. These newer models also tend to me much more durable than their dated counterparts.
It’s an instrument that really spans the genres. If you’re looking into buying an accordion, you might like to start with a piano accordion. This type of instrument has keys along the side, much like a piano. As it is more familiar to the eye, they tend to be easier to play. But if you’re looking for more of a challenge, try the chromatic or the concertina accordions. If you’re looking for one for a child or young person, baby accordions are available, as well as compact models, which are ideal for musicians on the move. Whichever one you choose, do your research. And above all else, make sure the one you buy is in tune.
Buying an Accordion
Accordions prices start from as little as fifty pounds from lesser-known manufacturers. For full-size, top-of-the-range models, you’ll pay anything up to a few thousand pounds. Alternatively, you could shop around some local flea markets and try and bag yourself a bargain.