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Jax RCFB Button Accordion Page

See also our Free Reed Musical Instruments page.


Verdi (later Hohner) 2-row Button Accordion
Verdi (later Hohner) 2-row Button Accordion

Button Accordion Fingering Systems

Buying a Button Accordion

Three-Row Tex-Mex Accordion / Acordeon Tejano / Acordeon Conjunto Norteño

Here's some advice I gave in email: wrote:

>What brands would you recommend. I want it to accompany songs, but also to play dance tunes.

If you want to see the tops in tex-mex 3-row button accordion,
go to Reyes Accordions ( ) and
window-shop the Hohners and Gabbanellis. Expensive but good!

If you want a medium-to-very-good 3-row Hohner Corona II Classic
(the made-in-Germany one, not the made-in-China) is about $1200
I think. Talk to Lark In The Morning (

If what you want is a quick and economical entrée into 3-row,
buy yourself a Hohner Panther from some place like Boaz Accordions, $395-$450.

If you're brave and knowledgeable, shop eBay. I picked up an el-cheapo
Chinese made 3-row, brand new, for $165. Though it was brand new,
I had to do some repairs and tune it to make it playable, but that done,
it's an okay instrument and I'm performing with it.

Good luck!

What and Why Button Accordion?

A correspondent asks some rather important basic questions:

>I am curious why there are two types of right hand keys/buttons? There
> appears to be certain types of music that 'encourage' the use of a
> particular design over another but I am not clear as to the reasoning...
> For example: Orchestral music -- mostly(only) piano key,,, Polka
> --(except for the 'traditional' Harmonika) piano key,,, TexMex/Norteno
> -- Button ,,, Zydeco(not Cajun) -- piano key........
> Very rarely does one see a 5 row Chromatic in these example positions.
> I ask this because I once had an accordion(piano key) and made the =
> mistake of getting rid of it and now finding myself looking to get =
> back... Yes, I was young and stupid.... When I did play, I had heard =
> that there was such a thing as a 'Button' accordion, but no one ever had =
> or saw one. In Europe, button accordions seem to be very popular almost =
> to the point that they are the rule...
> CAn you please enlighten me about this subject. I love TexMex, =
> Zydec, and Cajun accordion music.. I am in the market for a couple =
> accordions. I have the cajun accordion pick out and being made. I =
> would like to roll the TexMex and Zydeco box into one if I could for the =
> sake of money!
There is probably at least one variant of accordion for each European ethnic group!

The three main categories are:
These are very broad categories. Many diatonic systems approach chromaticity from one direction or another. Addtionally, one may perhaps categorize certain instruments, such as the Bandoneon and the Club System accordion, as "quasi-chromatic".

Now, why and what for each type? I have concluded as follows; other opinions may reasonably be held:
  1. Button action is really more satisfactory for accordion finger for purely physical and mechanical reasons.
  2. Thus the "real" chromatic accordion is CBA.
  3. PA exists because it's easy for persons who have exposure to the piano to learn.
  4. Diatonic button accordion exists for a few reasons which may or may not apply to your music:
  5. Music styles which require a great deal of key modulation and chromaticity will of course require a chromatic instrument, either CBA or PA.
  6. Music styles which value cute diatonic riffs will of course favor BA.
Tulskij Bayan with reed block out
Tuljskii Bayan, a Russian B-system chromatic button accordion made in Tula Tulskij Bayan reed view
Reed block out
Tuljskii Bayan, a Russian B-system chromatic button accordion made in Tula Another reed block view

Concertina vs. Accordion

Adapted here are some comments I posted on Concertina.Net when someone asked which was preferable, concertina or diatonic button accordion. The questioner was primarily interested in Latin-American music.

Teaching Yourself Button Accordion

Here's a message excerpted from an interesting email conversation with a theory-oriented musician who was buying himself a button accordion and getting started:
Subject: Re: Accordion sheet music
Date: Mon, 20 Oct 2003 16:41:41 -0600

Thomas wrote:

> Since my last question to you,
> I have purchased two accordions(taking your advise to "just get the bo
> and start squeezing!") a three row TexMex(GCF)(about three weeks, still
> getting 'acquainted') and a single row from Louisiana (coming next week!)


> Having previously played piano key accordions, and now having =
> only buttons is a tremendous change. The 'nonlinear' aspect of the =
> button layout is,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,confusing. And yet it seems =
> to be layed out in such a fashion to accomodate an ease of play not yet =
> understood!.

That is precisely the case. You describe the paradox well.

> To learn as much as I can about the Keyboard layout and bellows =
> effect(diatonic), I have been trying to work with some simple tabing or =
> get some sheet music to get started.

Start easier than that. Work out "Dixie" on each row, then play it cross-row
in several keys. "Oh, I wish i was in the land of cotton ..."

These are not music theory instruments. These are folk instruments. PA is
an orchestral instrument. GCF is not.

Look, the Zen of it is this. It all started with folk sitting on the front porch
and winkling melodies out of single-row melodeons.

Step one: Pretend you've got a single-row C melodeon. Work out every simple
tune you know on the C row alone. Frere Jacques, Row your Boat, Listen to the
Mockingbird, etc.,etc.

Step two: Try the same tunes on the G and F row.

Step three: Play the same tunes in G, C and F but do it cross row, first
all draw, then as much push except for the forced draw notes, then any
mixture of push and draw that pleases your fancy.

In all this, NEVER LOOK A NOTE UP ON A CHART. Just grope around until you
get what you want.

Club System

Among the bisonoric, diatonic button accordion systems, I like very much the quasi-chromatic Club System.

Hohner Club II Hohner Club X (photo courtesy Martin Damus of Ontario)
Hohner Club II Hohner Club X (photo courtesy Martin Damus of Ontario)
One of my favorite performing instruments.
Martin Damus writes about the Club X above:
Here's another club accordion photo for your web page if you like. It's a Hohner Club X. It has ten bass buttons, with the extra two being the dominant 7ths of the respective bass chords. This one is tuned to the typical C-F, so the 7ths are the C7, the F7 and the G7. I wish they would've added two more buttons in the gaps to put in the thirds (A for the F chord, B for the G chord and E for the C chord), but they didn't.

Anyways, this also has two levers for the treble side, one engages the tremolo and the other adds the octave below. On the bass side one lever adds the octave below. It can boom nicely. It seems to be more common in Austria -- at least all the music that I have that is specifically written for a ten-bass Hohner is Austrian music.

Garmonika (Garmoshka)

A Garmonika (diminutive Garmoshka) is a unisonoric (both bellows directions produce the same note for the same button) diatonic (it's a major scale, not a chromatic scale) folk accordion of Russia and the Ukraine. The G in Garmonika and Garmoshka is pronounced "H".

The right-hand side of a typical Garmoshka has 2-2/3 octaves of the instrument's chosen major scale (often A major) plus three helper buttons (C/F/Eb). Thus you can play tunes in the keys of A major, F# minor, B dorian (e.g., the Jefferson Airplane's "Somebody to Love"), E mixolydian (e.g., "The Silkie"), etc.

The left-hand side has basses and chords. In the chart below of the Garmoshka left-hand side, the bold letters are bass notes and the italics are chords.

B min
F# min
C# maj
G# maj

D maj
A maj
E maj
B maj

Here is a picture of a nice "Marichka"-brand Garmoshka Ukranian button accordion in good condition with which I have done studio recording.
Garmoshka front view
<== front                        in case ==>
Garmoshka case view

Garmoshka grill view

Garmoshka playing view
<== playing              back ==>
Garmoshka back view

Barynya is a folk group whose instrumentation features the Garmoshka.

Reuther Uniform Keyboard System

The Reuther Uniform Keyboard System is a fully chromatic fingering system for accordion. It proceeds from an idea similar to that behind the Hayden Duet Concertina: two complementary rows of six whole steps to span the whole twelve-tone system. The inner and outer rows of the right (keyboard) side of the Robotti Italian-made instrument shown to the right are linkage repeats of each other. The outer rows are C#-D#-F-G-A-B with the sharps being the two dark keys. The inner row is C-D-E-F#-G#-A# with the sharps being the three dark keys.

Read the web article Brian Hayden on the Reuther Uniform System and other self-transposing systems.

Robotti Reuther Universal Keyboard System Accordion
Patent acknowledgement on the Robotti
Hans Palm's Accordion Pages: the Universal System is an informative series of pages dedicated to this system.

The images of the Italian-made Robotti accordion employing the Reuther Universal Keyboard System were provided by Thomas Mayers & William Pavone of Tonawanda, NY; Thanks, guys!

Harry Geuns Hybrid C-System Bandonion

Harry Geuns, Free Reed Maker supplies us with the following images of a C-System Hybrid Bandonion which has the physical form and construction philosophy of a Bandonion with the three-row minor-third chromatic layout of a C-System Chromatic Button Accordion.
Click on an image to see it larger.
Harry Geuns Mini Hybrid C-System Bandonion
Harry Geuns Mini Hybrid C-System Bandonion
Harry Geuns Mini Hybrid C-System Bandonion

Button Accordion Resources

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