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How to Play the Accordion

Three Parts:Getting To Know Your AccordionHolding Your AccordionPlaying Your Accordion

You might think that playing the accordion requires extensive knowledge of musical notation. But guess what? It actually doesn't. So if you're a beginner, and would like to find out more about how to play the accordion, read on to find out helpful tips.

Part 1
Getting To Know Your Accordion

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    Get the right kind of accordion. There are variety of different accordions out there, but some are more well-suited for beginners than others. The more information you gather the better equipped you will be to successfully learn to play the accordion. Here is the most suitable option for beginners[1]:
    • Piano Accordions. These are the most popular kinds, with the power of a regular piano in a highly portable size. They have between 25 and 45 piano style treble keys on the right hand. On the left, they are equipped with a bass-chord keyboard. This accordion system is called the stradella, and typically has 120 brass buttons.
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    Familiarize yourself with the instrument's structure. Your accordion is composed of several parts, all crucial to the accordion's sounds[2]:
    • Melody Keys. These are buttons on the keyboard part of the instrument.
    • Bellows. These are the folds on the instrument that allow it to expand and contract.
    • Harmonic, Base, Air Valve. These buttons provide air to escape, adjusting the tone of sound.
    • Right Hand Strap. This is the main strap of the instrument that allows you to secure it onto your chest.
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    Use the right size. Children and teens or adults will need to start off with different sizes due to the difference in hand and general body size[3].
    • Children should start with the lowest number of bass buttons, 12 bass and 25 treble keys.
    • Teens and adults should start with a 48 bass accordion. This amounts to 48 bass and 26 treble keys.
    • The 48 bass Piano Accordion is very light weight, and easy to use and handle. Plus, you can play lots of different music on it, which will make you want to hang on to it even if you outgrow it.
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    Place your accordion on your chest with the key buttons facing away from you. When you begin handling your instrument in the next section of the article, your left arm will move horizontally and vertically, while your right hand will only move vertically. For now, just hold it and see how comfortable or uncomfortable it is [4].

Part 2
Holding Your Accordion

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    Sit or stand while holding your accordion. Some people prefer to stand while playing and others like to sit with their instrument. All that matters is your sense of comfort and confidence, so try out a few different positions until you feel at ease.
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    Don't slouch. Your body posture is very important when playing this instrument and slouching will cause you to be inaccurate in your balance and consequently in your performance[5].
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    Learn proper balance. The accordion is relatively large and requires a little bit of familiarity when holding it. Being able to maintain proper balance is crucial. The more evenly balanced you manage to keep the accordion's weight, the better you'll be able to play because of the added control. And the more control you have, the less uncomfortable the weight will feel[6].
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    Secure the instrument onto your chest. Slip your left arm under the strap of the instrument. You'll want to hold it as if you were putting on a backpack on your chest. The piano keys should be to your right and your left hand goes underneath the bass strap - the small strap on the left side of the instrument[7].
    • Note that there is usually a thumb wheel on the left side to adjust the strap.
    • Make sure that your accordion fits tightly enough not to move at all while you move.
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    Try a back strap. An additional strap can be very useful. The back strap keeps the shoulder straps together so that the accordion doesn't move[8].
    • Note that if the back strap is too far down it alleviates weight from the shoulders, making the straps loose on top. This, in turn, causes your straps to move and slide.
    • Keep the back strap higher up, or secure it diagonally.
    • Remember that when the straps stay in place, so does your instrument.
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    Undo the safety buckles. The buckles can be found on the top and bottom of the instrument. Take care not to push or pull the accordion yet.

Part 3
Playing Your Accordion

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    Hold your wrist parallel to the keyboard. Don't bend your right wrist while keeping your elbow close to your side. It'll be a bit awkward at the beginning but you'll be able to achieve better accuracy as your hand's circulation won't be impeded[9].
    • This applies the right arm only.
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    Slip your left hand through the strap that lies below the bass button board.You'll be able to curl your fingers up and over the bass buttons. You right hand should be free and resting above the piano keyboard[10].
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    Push down on the lone button on the left hand side near the strap. Press the button down softly, and pull your instrument with your left arm. You'll hear a hissing noise as the air goes into the accordion and the bellows open.
    • Note that it's important to use this button when you open and close the bellows while they're moving.
    • Don't press down on the keyboard while you're opening and closing the bellows.
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    Focus on playing bass first. No matter how many bass buttons your accordion has, you'll soon notice that they produce the chords, or vamps, automatically. This is due to the accordion's mechanism[11].
    • The term chord refers to the sound produced by a group of notes played together.
    • Keep the bass buttons pressed for only a short time. Imagine they were on fire, and take your finger off quickly.
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    Try not to look at where your fingers are going. This will be quite difficult at first, but do your best not to look at where your fingers go, or need to go[12].
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    Find the note C. This button is usually a bit buried or recessed, but can be found on the top rows of buttons 8,12, 16, 24, 36 of all bass instruments. If your accordion is a larger model, then look for the note C in the second row.
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    Don't focus on the piano keyboard yet. For now, your only concern should be getting comfortable with your instrument, and focusing on the first two rows of bass buttons[13].
    • Regardless of how many bass rows your accordion has, you'll only be looking at the first two rows.
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    Place your index finger on the C note. Then, tuck your thumb under your index finger and push on the button right below the note C. This button will be slightly off center, but right below the button that your index finger is pressing.
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    Pull the bellows out. Then, press the two buttons alternately to produce a chord. You'll generate a sort of of oom-pah sound.
    • Try to pull the bellows smoothly for the best sound effect.
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    Attempt a Waltz rhythm. The beat for the Waltz goes 1, 2, 3--1, 2, 3. Play the C note on the the first beat, and push the button right below the C on the second and third beat[14].
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    Play the corresponding two buttons on each side of the two you've just learned to play. This is how you can generate a simply accompaniment, or vamp.
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    Add the bellows. Now try to pull the bellows in as you alternately press the four buttons you just learned. Repeat this several times to practice.
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    Practice with little exercises. Let's try another easy scale exercise that will help you produce your first, controlled sound sequence[15]:
    • Expand the instrument's bellows.
    • Softly and evenly push it back together, and hold the 1st key down.
    • Keep pressing the note key while you change directions by pulling the instrument in opposite directions.
    • Go to the next key, push in and pull apart.
    • Jump to the next key, and you have now played Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So, La.
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    Try a more difficult exercise. This exercise has two chords, and you can leave your fingers on the keyboard. Place your thumb on the C, and pinky on the G: begin with the third finger on the E[16].
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    Continue practicing. Coordination might seem a little difficult at first, so it's important that you become very familiar with the necessary movements. Repeat the above exercise until you feel confident and can move on to more advanced practices.


  • Never push or pull on an accordion unless a key or the bellow-release button (a button at the top of the bass side of the accordion, where the hand strap is, that allows you to move the accordion without making sound) is pressed - this could damage the reeds making the accordion sound out of tune.
  • Keep it in moderate temperatures.
  • Always keep your accordion stored upright, whether it's in a case or not.
  • There is wax in the accordion, therefore it can crack if it's too cold and melt if it's too hot.
  • Don't keep it in the car, since the temperature can easily be boiling hot or freezing cold.

Article Info

Categories: Musical Instruments