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Traditional Button Accordions

Jan 9, 2008
Button accordions may be traditional instruments, but they enjoy as strong a popularity as ever before.

The accordion family includes a wide variety of styles and forms. The piano, diatonic and chromatic accordions are just a few of the most popular choices. Another important branch on the family tree, the button accordion, has been popular since it was first developed in the late nineteenth century.

The button accordion is an adaptation of an older and more basic instrument known as the melodeon. The button accordion has a unique physical characteristic, with an extra row of buttons that have been pitched a semi-tone above or below those of the melodeon. Using the bellows, the musician can actually create two notes from one single button. This manipulation gives the button accordion more fingering economy and articulation.

There are variations within the family of button accordions. The widest variations can be seen on the basic construction, keyboard systems, action and tuning of the individual instruments.

The diatonic is one of the most notable styles of button accordion. A diatonic accordion has a melody-sized keyboard that is limited to the notes of diatonic scales. A small number of keys, or even just one key, provides these notes. It is interesting to note that the bass side of the diatonic usually contains the principal chords of the instrument's key, including the root notes of those chords.

Diatonic button accordions are generally bisonoric. This means that every button produces a couple of notes. One note is produced when the bellows are compressed, while the other is produced when the bellows are expanded.

However, there are few diatonic button accordions that are unisonoric. For instance, each button on the garmon produces the same note, regardless of the direction of the bellows. Other still have a combination of the two styles.

The chromatic is another popular style of button accordion, with a melody-sized keyboard composed of uniform rows of buttons. These buttons are arranged to provide an increase of the chromatic pitch along the diagonals. The keyboard on the bass side of the chromatic accordion typically uses a Stradella system, one of many free-bass or converter systems.

Some instruments in this class are simply called "chromatic" accordions, even though the other types, including the piano accordion, are also fully chromatic. Since the introduction of chromatic buttons, this type of accordion has become the preference of many classical music performers. The treble keyboard of this instrument is now denser than that of a piano accordion, allowing a much greater musical range.

Various cultures have developed their own versions of modern button accordions. They have also adapted these unique inventions to suit their own traditional styles of music. In Russia alone there are a number of accordion styles including the Garmon, Saratovskaya Garmonica, Livenka and the very popular Bayan.

If you love the unique sound that an accordion can bring to traditional and popular music, pick up a button accordion and try your hand at playing this age-old and ever-popular instrument.
About the Author
Writer Angelina Pyrkins is an author for numerous Internet sites, on my family and especially, traditional button accordions themes.
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