16 Fun And Interesting Facts About The Accordion You Should Know

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When you hear the accordion being played you might be thinking of folk music bringing people together along. Maybe a hearty song or two singing along with the polka tunes. 

Well, there’s more to an accordion than meets the eye and ear. The accordion holds deep-rooted historic significance in the music world. 

Stick around if you’re interested in knowing some interesting facts about the accordion and what made it so special.

1. The Etymology of the Accordion

The word ‘accordion’ is derived from the German verb, ‘akkord.’ The term characterizes the accordion as a musical chord or a concord of sounds.

It also comes from the french word, ‘acorder,’ which translates to be in harmony and agreement.

Origins aside, the accordion also holds other names like the squeezebox, belly baldwin, kanootch, or button box. 

2. The Accordion Came From a Chinese Inspiration 

Although the origin of the accordion hasn’t been too clear it’s been speculated to be an inspiration from the Chinese musical instrument, the Sheng.

It has a mouthpiece, resonator box, bamboo pipes, and a wind chamber. The accordion is reminiscent of Sheng’s vibrating reed tones.

That being so, the introduction of the accordion came about in 1922.

German instrument maker, Christian Friedrich Buschmann, had constructed the keyboard containing free vibrating reeds. 

The bellows, or engine responsible for the sound, was named, ‘Hand-Aeoline.’

Nevertheless, in 1829, Cyril Demian was believed to have patented the instrument, coining the term, ‘akkordeon.’

3. How the Accordion Works

Parts of an Accordion

When you first see the accordion, you might be thinking about how complex it would be to play it.

Like all things, you have to break it down into simpler components. The are three main parts of an accordion.

There is the right side, which has the keyboard piano or buttons, the bellows located in the middle that function as a bow, and, finally, the left side containing the 120 buttons. 

To get any sound out of the accordion, you’ll need to pull the bellows and press the buttons and keyboards based on your notes of choice.

The bellows direct the sound, touch, and dynamics, while the keyboards and buttons are responsible for the pitch level. 

4. How Sound Comes Out of the Accordion

When you press the bellows, the air pressure passes, opening pallets, and produces vibrations coming from the free reed.

The design allows the reeds’ attached metal plates to create the sounds. The sound comes out from both sides of the accordion.

The surface of the instrument produces distinct sounds from each area. 

5. The Instrument is Used in Numerous Genres 

Contrary to popular belief, the accordion is played in more than a couple of genres.

You can find the instrument played in Cajun, Irish, Klezmer, Musette and Chanson, Tango, Zydeco, Conjunto, Tejano, and Norteno, classical, and dance-pop music. 

The large number of genres associated with the accordion is mainly due to its global popularity.

You can find countries such as Brazil, the United States, Columbia, and Mexico. 

6. There are More Than 15 Kinds of Accordions 

The two main kinds you’re likely to encounter are the piano and button accordions. But, that’s not all.

There are bisonoric, unisonoric, digital, diatonic, concertina, Bayan, and several other types of accordion to choose from. 

The difference in each one varies from the tone, material, form, size, design, etc.

For instance, the key contrast between a piano and button accordion is that the latter uses buttons, rather than piano keys to produce sound. 

7. The Accordion is Manufactured with Hundreds of Components

The raw materials used in making an accordion can include wood, plastic, and metal.

The most commonly used wood for the reed block, the pallets, and the frame is poplar wood.

The wood type is reliable and lightweight enough to support the foundation of the accordion.

The more intricate parts of the instrument are composed of metal, such as the rods.

The manufacturing process begins with developing the parts first. Afterward comes the assembly of the reed plates, casings, and keyboards. 

Then the final touches are exclusive to each manufacturer. It can comprise different painting techniques and finishes. 

8. The Accordion Made its Cinematic Debut in 1888

The accordion made its cinematic debut in 1888. In the same year, the accordion found its way in Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince’s ‘Accordion Player.’

During the first seconds of the short film, you can see Adolph Le Prince dancing playing a button accordion. 

That wasn’t the end of the accordion’s cinematic appearance.

After a few decades passed, the instrument’s music was orchestrated during live shootings of movies with era-famous actors and actresses like Gloria Swanson and Rudolph Valentino. 

9. The Accordion Had a Golden Age

During the 1900s, the United States and England initiated a ‘musical appreciation movement.’

The movement’s purpose was to revive the public’s interest in the musical classics with the help of music teachers. 

Notable artists such as Guido Deiro and his brother Pietro Deiro made waves in publicizing the accordion.

At the time, accordion enthusiasts and players believed that the instrument lacked enough notes. 

During the 1940s, their wishes were heard and a new ‘multishift’ accordion was developed, particularly to extend its bass range. 

10. The Accordion Moving Forward 

This instrument isn’t slowing down when it comes to following musical tech advancements.

The development of the electric accordion has proven its relevance in the digital era. 

The advancement comes with MIDI compatibility, new sounds available, and more range. Some models can offer over 420 integrated sounds to your music.

You can use an accordion to play a guitar, piano, trumpet, or violin sound.

The digital accordion can also reverberate your melodies. 

11. There Are Hybrid Accordions

Since the accordion is a globally used instrument, you can find several interpretations of its structure.

Take the Russian Garmon as an example. Both sides of the instrument hold around two rows of buttons. 

The right side plays on a diatonic scale, while the other side is used for primary chords and harmonic minor keys.

The Russian Garmon is not only limited to Russian accordion players.

Armenian, Ossetian, and Georgian players are also a fan of the hybrid accordion. 

The Russian instrument has also found its way to the United States and other European countries. 

12. Popular Accordionists to Know About

There are numerous well-known accordion players that and respected names in the music world.

One of the oldest names is Lawrence Welk. After taking music lessons from his father, he got a music degree. 

He rose to fame after starring in his show, ‘The Lawrence Welk Show.’ Welk frequently showcased his musical talent and dueted with another famous name, Myron Floren. 

Another noteworthy accordionist is Loreena McKennitt. She draws her inspiration from Celtic, Spanish, and Arabic backgrounds.

Besides being an accordionist, Mckennitt was also a singer and songwriter. 

13. The Top Accordion Pieces Played 

The accordion is a versatile instrument. It complements several genres and melodies.

One of the most compatible being classical music. Galliano’s Opale Concerto’s performance (above) highlights the technical skills needed to play the accordion.

The piece draws from jazz inspirations as well. 

Gubaidulina’s De Profundis piece values a more religious interpretation.

The music composition displays a wide range of notes and flaunts the instrument’s level of expression. 

Václav Trojan’s Fairy Tales accompanies youthful stories in puppet animation.

The movements of the characters are resounding with the accordion’s notes and registry.

It conducts a distinguished sound among other instruments playing, whether to describe the sleepy princess’ or evil dragon’s actions. 

14. The Most Expensive Accordion Made Is Over $40,000

The placeholder for the pricey title belongs to none other than the Pigini Mythos.

While the price is steep, its quality delivers its value. The accordion’s sound is rich and smooth. 

The Pigini Mythos was created with the company’s team along with some of the most talented accordionists out there.

With that price tag, you can only imagine the details and intricacies involved in crafting the wooden instrument. 

The value also comes from the high-quality components in the accordion which has the potential to deliver one of the most striking pieces played. 

15. The Largest Accordion Is 8-Ft Tall 

The Italian-made accordion is named, ‘Fisarmonica Gigante.‘ Its maker, Giancarlo Francenella, built it in 2001.

The dimensions are around 8 ft and 3.5 in height, 6 ft and 2.75 in wide, 2 ft deep, and packs a hefty 440 lbs. 

If you’re wondering whether you can play this enormous accordion, the answer is yes. 

16. The Longest Time Someone’s Played the Accordion Is over 40 Hours

That title belongs to a Finnish Anssi K Laitinen. In the summer of 2018, Laitinen played approximately an astonishing 610 pieces.

Unsurprisingly, he also held the title in 2010 playing for 31 hours and 25 minutes long. 

He played a range of Finnish and international pieces during his record-breaking event. 

To Conclude 

The accordion’s sound is wide-ranging.

Even though it’s not the easiest instrument to play, it’ll surely develop your manual dexterity.

Its history has placed it mostly in the classical frame of music. 

That being said, recent years have allowed the instrument to flourish and branch out into a plethora of branches that would interest a wider audience.

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Written by Dan Farrant
Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 10 years helping thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. Since then he's been working to make music theory easy for over 1 million students in over 80 countries around the world.