The accordion operates by air pressure and belongs to the aerophone family. Its origins are a source of debate among scholars. Many people credit C. Friedrich L. Buschmann as the accordion’s inventor, while others credit Cyril Demian of Vienna. The latter patented his accordion in 1829 and thus gave the instrument its name.

Demian’s design resembled contemporary accordions while having just a button board on the left hand, and making use of the right hand to operate the bellows. Demian also obtained a patent on one of the instrument’s main features: the ability to play an entire chord by pressing only one key. His instrument could also create two distinct chords in the same register, one for each direction of the bellows.

Other accordions emerged after Demian’s invention, such as those with only a right-handed keyboard for playing melodies. Charles Wheatstone, an English engineer, was the first to combine chords and a keyboard into a single squeezebox. His patent for the “concertina” in 1844 also included the ability to tune the reeds from the outside using a simple tool.

During the first decades of the twentieth century, the accordion began to gain popularity around the world. It was already well-known among the middle classes in France, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Russia, and the Americas. However, thanks to Italian emigrants, the middle-lower classes began to enjoy it as well.

Features of the accordion

Several different styles and configurations of modern accordions exist. Their right-hand features are the most noticeable distinction. For instance, button accordions use a button board, while piano accordions use a piano-style musical keyboard. The use of chromatic or diatonic button board for the right-hand action distinguishes designs even more.

Bisonoric accordions produce varying pitches depending on the direction of the bellows action, whereas unisonoric accordions produce the same pitches in all directions.

The bellows are the instrument’s most identifiable feature and the main means of articulation. The player’s motion of these bellows is proportional to the amount of sound produced by the instrument. They attach the two wooden boxes that make up the accordion’s body.

The reed chambers for the right and left hands sit in these boxes. Each side has grilles that aid in the transfer of air into and out of the instrument, as well as to improve sound production. The accordion’s reeds produce the instrument’s tones. These group into various sounding banks, which can then combine into different registers to produce a variety of timbres. For the smaller accordions, the switches govern which combination of reed banks sounds.

Left-hand action

The left-hand action, usually used for playing the accompaniment, has its own set of systems as well. Nearly all designs have distinct bass buttons and can house concavities or studs to help the player navigate the layout. There are three general categories for these systems. First, the Stradella bass system, also known as standard bass. Second, the Belgian system. Third, various free bass systems used for improved access to playing melodies and complex basslines.

Portability

The larger piano and chromatic button accordions are normally heavier than other designs. They come with two shoulder straps to better support the weight and improve bellow control while seated, as well as to protect the instrument from collapsing while standing.