Instruments | Accordion | Keyboards

Like its close relation the concertina, the accordion is a glorified mouth organ, in which the ‘reeds’ (now generally made of tempered steel) are set in vibration by a rectangular bellows.

The bellows are operated by the left hand, which also – as in all keyboard instruments – manipulates the so-called bass keyboard, in this case a collection of buttons, rather than keys proper, which produce both single notes and certain pre-ordained chords. The right hand operates the treble keyboard, often though not always modelled on the conventional piano keyboard, giving rise to the term ‘piano accordion’. The instrument is suspended by shoulder straps, providing the hands and fingers with maximum room for manoeuvre.

History and Development

Though evidently invented by Christoph Ludwig Buschmann of Berlin in 1821, and further developed by Cyrillus Demian of Vienna in 1829, it achieved its first widespread marketing in Belgium and France, and is still most frequently identified with the popular music of those countries. This is particularly true of France, where it ranks to this day, in national stereotyping, just below bérets and louche moustaches.

Despite its association with popular music, it has quite often found its way into concert-hall compositions by, among others, Berg, Prokofiev, Mátyás Seiber, Paul Creston, Roy Harris, Virgil Thomson and many others. A music school exclusively for accordion teachers was established in Trossingen, Germany, in 1931, becoming a fully fledged state academy in 1948, and the British College of Accordionists has flourished since its inception in 1936, the American Accordionists Association since 1938. Accordions of one form or another are found in societies all over the globe.

Introduction | Keyboards
Instruments | Concertina | Keyboards

Source: The Illustrated Complete Musical Instruments Handbook, general editor Lucien Jenkins


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