What is an Accordion?


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Of all the musical instruments out there, the accordion is surely one of the weirdest, yet the most wonderful. It bellows. It breathes. It looks like horizontal window blinds, or an expandable deck of cards. Played poorly, it can be extremely annoying; played properly, it can be enchanting.

If you’re planning to learn how to play the accordion, you have picked something that will forever make you intriguing, unique, and potentially beloved. You can start your journey by reading this article and finding out everything you need to know about an accordion.

What is an Accordion?

Accordion (Italian armonica a manticino, German Handharmonika or Akkordeon, French accordéon) is a box-shaped, free-reed portable musical instrument comprising a treble casing with external buttons or piano-style keys along with a bass casing (generally with buttons) attached to the opposite sides of hand-operated bellows.

Today’s standard or classical accordions are the results of lots of evolution starting from the 1800s.

Structure of an Accordion

An accordion has three key parts, known as the bellows, the buttons, and the keyboard. The largest accordion might have 47 keys and 120 buttons. However, there are smaller versions available that are also way easier to play.

To help you gain deeper insight into the structure of an accordion, here are some of the accordions parts along with their functions.

1. Bellows

Bellows are the soul of an accordion. These are the folds on an accordion that are generally made up of cloth, cardboard, or paper with either metal or leather used for strength. The primary function of bellows is to supply air and make sound production possible.

2. Melody Keys

Melody is produced by either pushing the keys or squeezing the buttons located on the ride side of the accordion.

3. Couplers or Register Switches

When you press these switches, you will find yourself listening to a different tone on your accordion. Generally, there is a switch on both the left and right sides of your accordion.

4. Air Valves

Air valves let air escape from the bellows without making a sound.

5. Button Keys

Button keys located on the left side of the accordion produce the harmony you hear when you’re playing or listening to an accordion.

When you press a button, a pallet inside the accordion allows air to move across a reed and create sound. Depending on the type of accordion, you might see two types of buttons – bass and treble.

The bass buttons that come on all kinds of accordions produce basic bass chords and notes. However, the latter is only available on the diatonic or chromatic accordions and is used for playing the melody.

How Does An Accordion Work?

You need to play the accordion by expanding and compressing the bellows and pressing the keys or buttons simultaneously. If you do not pull the bellows and only press the keys, your accordion is not going to produce any sound.

Types of Accordions

There are essentially two types of accordions – piano accordions and button accordions. The type of accordion you choose depends on your personal preferences, the style of music you wish to play, your previous musical experience, and the availability of teachers in your area for that kind of accordion.

Button Accordions

Button accordions are generally lighter and smaller, and they have round-shaped buttons. There are two kinds of button accordions – chromatic button accordions and diatonic button accordions.

Chromatic button accordions are those that play the same note when you’re pulling and pushing. Conversely, diatonic button accordions play a different note depending on whether you’re pulling or pushing.

The type of button accordion you should pick depends on the style of music you wish to play. For instance, chromatic button accordions are perfect for classical or jazz music. On the other hand, Diatonic button accordions are perfect for styles like traditional Irish music.

Piano Accordion

The piano accordion is a popular type of accordion. The key part appears like a mini piano. This type of accordion usually has more keys. A single key can play a single note at a time. These accordions are heavier and larger in comparison.

Is It Hard to Learn How to Play the Accordion?

The accordion isn’t that difficult to learn. Like other musical instruments, learning how to play the accordion requires practice, time, and patient to get comfortable with.

It might seem challenging to use both your hands independently to press the buttons and keys while moving the bellows simultaneously. But no need to sweat about it – through regular practice, you can synchronize both your hands and make the task easier for yourself.

Nevertheless, the final answer depends on the type of accordion you wish to learn. For instance, if you’re good at playing piano, the piano accordion will be an easy and better option for you. Button accordions might be harder to play than piano accordions as they require you to memorize all the buttons. But once you get familiar with the buttons, you will find the button accordion easier to play than piano accordions.

How Long Does It Take to Learn the Accordion?

To learn how to play basic songs on an accordion, you might need to practice for six to eight weeks. As a beginner, you should practice for twenty minutes to one hour every day. Remember, there’s no particular time limit when it comes to practicing.

In order to get comfortable with playing relatively more difficult songs, you might need to practice for a couple of years. By this time, you can possibly reach the intermediate level.

Lastly, if you wish to become an advanced accordion player, you might require three to five years. At this stage, you’ll be able to play quite well and have mastery of more genres.

It’s assumed that it takes nearly a decade or more to reach the advanced stage. By expert, we mean you’ll be able to play a larger number of genres with near perfection.

Best Beginner Accordions

Here are some accordions that are perfect for beginners. They’re lightweight, cost-effective, and designed to last. Any of these accordions is going to make your journey to learn the accordion quicker and more fun.

1. Hohner 3100GB Panther Diatonic Button Accordion

This accordion is a lightweight and compact accordion with 12 bass buttons and 31 treble keys that allow you to play in F, G, and C keys. It can be your ideal companion while you’re in the beginner stage, thanks to its simple design and low weight.

2. Wal Front Beginner 22-key, 8 Bass Piano Accordion

As the name suggests, this accordion is easy to play, and therefore, it’s perfect for beginners. It has eight bass buttons and 22 keys and weighs approximately 7.5 lbs. Moreover, it is made with light maple wood and is available in various colors like green, blue, and red.

Last Few Words

The accordion is an incredible instrument to learn and play. If you’re a beginner or just about to purchase your first accordion, we wish you good luck on your journey of becoming an accordion player! You’ve made an excellent choice.