A strolling accordion player offering to serenade diners is one of the most common images associated with fine Italian restaurants. But the accordion is not just a standard instrument found at the best Italian eateries, it is also a favorite instrument beloved all around the world. This resource is designed to give a brief overview of the accordion and provide resources for those interested in learning more about the instrument.
History of the Accordion
Although accordions are often associated with Italy and Italian music, many accordion historians find the origin of the instrument in China over 4,000 years ago. There many played an instrument known as the Cheng, which used air to vibrate a reed and produce a sound. What is now known as the accordion was first patented in 1829 in Paris by Cyril Damian. His four-octave instrument formed the basis for the accordions later produced in Italy in various factories, and men such as Luigi and Georgio Savoia, Pasquale Ficosecco, and several others became well known for the quality of their instruments at the end of the nineteenth century.
During this same period, many Italian composers began writing music for the accordion, and fondness for the instrument and its music grew around the world as Italians emigrated to other countries, bringing accordions with them. By the middle of the twentieth century, the numbers of accordions produced in Italy alone numbered into the hundreds of thousands. Electronic components were added to the accordion and it became accepted at music conservatories all around the world. Today, especially in the United States, accordions are also appreciated as works of art in their own right, as various materials are used to make them aesthetically pleasing via the incorporation of decorative designs and more. Accordions also have a huge fan base in Eastern Europe, even as they are increasing in popularity across the globe.
The most familiar part of the accordion is, of course, the segmented section of bellows that lie between the two blocks of wood held in the hands of the accordion player as the instrument is held. Within the bellows, which are made of cloth, cardboard, leather, and metal are the various reeds that make sounds as air is forced across them via the compression of the bellows. The volume of sound and other similar effects are all controlled via the squeezing of the bellows; the keys and buttons only determine the notes that are played as the bellows are compressed and expanded. All accordions share this same basic construction.
The accordion block held in the right hand is known as the right-hand manual, and it is typically used to play the melody. Some of these have buttons to play the notes, while others have a keyboard that looks much like that found on a piano. The accordions with such keyboards, unsurprisingly, are called piano accordions. The left block of the accordion is the left-hand manual, and it is usually used to play the accompaniment for the melody. These generally have many bass buttons that are designed to help the player make use of them without watching them as they are pressed.
For more information on accordion history, construction, and music, please consult the following resources:
• Accordion Billboard — Accordion Billboard is a comprehensive accordion page that allows users to find information on accordion clubs, music, and more.
• Accordion ID, Evaluation, and Appraisal — This music dealer website has some good, thorough information on identifying, appraising, and evaluating an accordions.
• Accordion Music — Some brief information on the accordion, with a particular focus on its use in the American southwest is available via this link.
• Accordion Online — This site has free accordion sheet music and other resources available for free downloading.
• Accordion USA — On this page, users can find listings of the major accordion clubs in the United States.
• Accordion Yellow Pages — The Accordion Yellow Pages has information on accordion clubs, teachers, events, and many other accordion-related categories.
• Accordions Worldwide — This is a comprehensive news site on current accordion events, musicians, and much more.
• Accumulated Accordion Annotations — A variety of information on accordion history, purchasing, and much more can be found here.
• American Accordionists' Association — The American Accordionists’ Association is a national group dedicated to the accordion and accordion music.
• Cajun Accordion Project — This is one person’s record of his attempt to build an accordion from scratch. Pictures are included.
• CHICO Instrument Encyclopedia: Accordion — Users can read a brief history of the organ and learn more about the instrument on this site.
• Cleveland Accordion Museum — This is a homepage of a museum in Cleveland, Ohio, that is dedicated to the accordion.
• Cross Sound: The Accordion — This Alaskan-based music page has a thorough description and history of the accordion.
• Hans Palm's Accordion Page — One accordion aficionado has put together this page full of good information on accordions and accordion construction.
• Henry Doktorski — Henry Doktorski is a top accordion player, conductor, and is otherwise known for his proficiency with the instrument.
• History of the Accordion — Here readers can get a good short history of the accordion from an accordion dealer.
• How to Play an Accordion — This page from an accordion links website explains how to get started on playing the accordion.
• Las Vegas International Accordion Convention — The Las Vegas International Accordion Convention is an annual convention dedicated to the accordion and accordion music.
• National Accordion Association — The National Accordion Association is dedicated to the promotion of the accordion and the performance of its music.
• Squeeze Box Health Tips — This page has 15 tips for those who want to maintain the health of their accordions.