Types of accordions

Before diving into the variety of accordions, one must know what an accordion is!

An accordion is a box-shaped musical instrument. It has creases or folds in the central part. These folds or creases are bellows. Each accordion has a piano or a button keyboard, reeds, and bellows. Rows of buttons are present on the right side. The approximation and separation of these folds produce sound. Bass notes and chords are different depending on the direction of bellows movement. The style of music that generates is according to how the reeds are tuned.

The credit for the invention of the accordion goes to C. Friedrich L. Buschmann. He patented his handaoline in 1822 in Berlin.

Folk musicians used different kinds of accordions. Musicians use accordions in traditional folk, pop, jazz, classical, and many other music genres.

There are many types of accordions based on their construction and usage.

Unisonoric and bisonoric type of Accordion

Out of many types of accordion, unisonoric and bisonoric accordions are of key importance. The

difference is in their notes and pitches. These notes and pitches produce as the air moves through their reeds.

Unisonoric accordions, as the name sounds, create single notes. The notes or sound produces, regardless of the direction of bellows that widen or contract.

Bisonoric accordion produces two different pitches or notes. The notes and pitch depending on the direction of movement of bellows. The note or pitch changes as they contract or expand.

Diatonic button accordions

A diatonic accordion is a button accordion. The diatonic accordion is used in traditional folk music. Classical music lovers also play the diatonic accordion. This accordion is also heard in pop music, ethnic and pop-rock. Reeds are bisonoric.

Diatonic accordion is designed to produce specific keys. A diatonic accordion with three strings of buttons usually comes with C, F, G keys or E, B, and F keys. Other keys may also be available.


Concertinas have free-reeds like various other types of accordions. It consists of compressing and expanding bellows. Other accordions have rows of buttons on the front. While in contrast, it has pressing buttons on both ends.

The credit of the invention of the concertina goes to Sir Charles Wheatstone. He invented the English

version of the concertina in 1829. And Carl Friedrich Uhlig created the German version in 1834.

It has widespread usage in music like polka and tango. Traditional and classical music lovers also love to play this accordion.

Based on history and construction, this instrument has the following types:

German concertina

It is bisonoric and has a square or rectangular shape. These have one reed per note, which produces a vibrating effect.

English concertina

English concertina plays both chromatic and unisonoric ( produce single notes). English instruments are smaller than German ones. Unlike German concertina, it is hexagonal.

Anglo concertina

Anglo is a hybrid of German and English instruments. It has hexagon-shaped ends and a bisonoric system. Anglo concertina is played in Celtic music.


The name Franglo incorporates the words French and Anglo. The Luthiers C & R developed the Franglo system concertina, in association with Emmanuel Pariselle. It has a bisonoric system.

Digital accordion

The digital accordion is an electronic gadget that may or may not have reeds. It uses the features of a traditional accordion to trigger a digital sound module. This module produces a sampled accordion and a wide range of non-accordion sounds.

An Italian company, Farfisa developed the first digital accordion in the 1960s. There are buttons on the digital accordion and a manual on the right-hand side. An air valve allows the air to flow through the bellows. This does not produce any sound. The digital accordion has sensors to detect the bellow pressure. The sensors control the loudness of sound.

Digital accordions have a power button, program and sound buttons, and a volume knob. This type of accordion also has buttons that control effect unit settings, sound buttons, and buttons for sound and notes. Some accordions have chin switches to change programs.

Button accordion

In the button accordion, the treble side consists of buttons instead of piano keys. Single note buttons are on one side, bass and chord buttons are on another side. This accordion needs four buttons or eight reeds to sound a diatonic scale.

Cyril Demian made the first button accordion in 1829. Sound produces through the vibration of air in the reeds. Button accordions have ‘stops’ to change the tone of the sound. Stops generate different types of sounds in different situations.

Some trendy examples are the three-stop accordion and the German four-stop accordion. Traditional music lovers love to play the button accordion.  Many European countries use various types of button accordions. This accordion was famous in many cultures for traditional music. The button accordion is also used in the classical style of music.

 Piano accordions

A piano accordion has a keyboard like a piano. Thus for a pianist, it is easier to play the piano accordion.

Bouton of Paris introduced the first piano accordion in 1852.

In contrast to the piano keyboard, the keys on the piano accordions are round, small, and light to touch. However, the keyboard of the piano accordion has the same design and layout as a regular piano. The treble keyboard of the piano accordions is a piano-style keyboard, and the left side consists of a board. The treble keyboard is a B system or C system. Board has bass buttons organized in Stradella or French 3-3 style or free bass.

A piano accordion usually has 120 piano keys, but some varieties may also have 140 keys. It needs eight keys or sixteen reeds to sound a diatonic scale. Fresh students start from a 12 bass piano accordion having two octaves of keys and 12 bass buttons. A full-size piano accordion can have more than 3 octaves of notes on the treble keyboard.

The piano accordion is popular in Italian, German, and Balkan music. The piano accordion is also played in the folk style of music like Sertanejo and the Forro. Classical music lovers love to play the piano accordion. Musicians also play piano accordion in pop music.

The great thing is that the piano accordion is very versatile and has universal applicability. Musicians

play the piano accordion in various kinds of music.

Chromatic accordions

Franz Walther constructed the first chromatic accordion as early as 1850. The chromatic accordion has buttons on both the right-treble and left-bass sides. Buttons configuration on the bass button side is the same as that of piano accordions. It is bisonoric like the diatonic accordion. Usually, it has a Stradella-bass system or convertor-bass system. Free bass accordion is also available.

Chromatic accordions provide better fingering positions and a great range. The buttons on the treble key-board allow for a variety of notes. Key-board holds about 4+ octaves.

The treble side has three to five rows of vertical treble keys. It usually includes B-system or C-system. The arrangement of the B system and the C system is in a different order on the keyboard. Where C is in the first row of the C-System and the third row of the B-system.

Chromatic accordions are used for the classical style of music, Balkan music, and Russian folk.

British chromatic accordions

This type of accordion operates in Scotland. Jimmy Shand has been playing this instrument for about thirty years. The right-hand side consists of three rows in the keys of B, C, and C♯ and is bisonoric. The left-hand side follows the Stradella-Bass system.


Bayan is a hybrid type of accordion. Russia introduced this type of chromatic button accordion in the

early 20th century. It has broad, rectangular reeds, convertor switches, and many other keys.

In Bayan, the melody side keyboard is in the middle of the body. While in the western chromatic accordions, it is present on the rear side. Reeds are not turned in with tremolo, thus imparting it an inimitable sound.

Many other differences lend it unique and richer sounds as compared to the western chromatic accordion.


Trikitixa is also a hybrid type of accordion. Italian settlers introduced Trikitixa/trikiti in the late 19th

century. It is the national instrument of Basque and is typical of Basque culture.  Also known as trikiti, it is a two-row diatonic melodious instrument.

The right treble side and the left bass side, are bisonoric. Trikiti has a bisonoric right treble side and unisonoric bass side. There are twenty-three buttons on the right side and twelve buttons on the left side.


The Schwyzerorgeli has a unique voicing. This type of accordion finds use in Swiss folk music. The earliest accordion carried on in Switzerland was the Langnauerli.

These accordions were one- or two-row diatonic accordions. The right diatonic treble side has three rows of buttons and, the left unisonoric bass side has 12 buttons.

Russian garmon

Russian accordionists introduced different types of garmons in the 19th and 20th centuries. Russian garmon is a free-reed button accordion. Two rows with twenty-five buttons are on the right diatonic treble side. The left-bass side has at least three rows of twenty-five buttons. Many instruments have additional right-hand buttons.

Garmons with additional left-hand chords and a row of free bass buttons are also available. They help the accordionist to play the flexible melodious sounds. Russian garmon can be both unisonoric and bisonoric.

Apart from Russian folk music, garmons are an important tool for the Ural regions and Caucasians.

Types of Russian Garmon include:


Khromka was originated in 1870. It gained so much importance in Russia that today all Russian garmons are khromaka. Khromka was a unisonoric, diatonic accordion. It came as a chromatic instrument because it had two or three chromatic buttons on the right side.


The livenka is a specific type of accordion used in folk music. Livenka emerged in the factories around the town Linvy in 1860-1870.

Saratov garmon

Garmon rings when the bass and chord keys are playing. It is a bisonoric, diatonic instrument.


Schrammel was named after a quartet. The quartet was a combination of two violins, an accordion and, a contra guitar. Altogether, they made Schramellquartet.

This type of accordion has a diatonic bass keyboard. The keyboard has twelve buttons and the treble side has the chromatic button accordion.

It is much smaller and lighter than modern chromatic button accordions. It produces a very light sound. The hand-made reeds are used to add sound.

Steirische harmonica

This type of harmonica was originated in Styria in 1878, after the invention of the helicon bass reed. Steirische harmonica is famous throughout the German state of Bavaria, Italy, and Austria.  It is renowned as folk music in Slovenia.

It is a type of accordion that is bisonoric, diatonic. It has richer bass notes and one key per row. The key produces the same pitch regardless of the movement of bellows.


Bandoneons are free bass accordions that are bellow-driven free-reed instruments. The credit of bandoneon creation goes to Heinrich Band in the 19th century. He designed this instrument for religious and popular music. Now it has found its vital popularity in tango music.

Astor Piazolla is one of the best bandoneon players. He revolutionized tango music. Astor integrated the elements of music and jazz into the music style.

The instrument is large enough to provide knee support during performances. Bandoneon comes in different forms and styles. It does not produce chromatic or diatonic sounds with full ability due to its basic shape.

The bandoneon finds its use in many genres of music like jazz, classic, and musette waltz. Accordionists also play bandoneon for Celtic music.


Hohner invented melodica in the 1950s. The Melodica accordion is a versatile musical instrument. It is a light, small and portable instrument. Apart from being the choice of beginners, it is used in almost all musical genres.

It is a free-reed instrument that has a musical keyboard on top. Air flows through the reed and music produces when air blows through the mouthpiece. The keyboard has two or three octaves.

Melodicas are divided into a wide range of musical instruments. These wide ranges may also vary in shape.

Tenor melodica

It is a low-pitched accordion. Right-hand plays the keyboard and the left-hand holds the handle.

Soprano and alto melodica

Soprano and alto are high-pitched instruments. Black and white keys are so designed that

both hands play at the same time. Right-hand play the white keys and, left hand play the black keys.


It plays on a similar mechanism as that of traditional melodicas. The keyboard arrangement is the same as that of chromatic button accordions.

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