How Does an Accordion Work?

1. The Bellows

The bellows is the main part of the accordion that controls air flow. The bellows, held by one hand on each side of the accordion, is typically made up of flexible material like cardboard and cloth. When the accordionist squeezes the bellows, pressurized air is forced to find a means to escape, namely any valve openings. The harder the bellows are squeezed, the louder the notes.

2. Buttons and Reeds

The valves that the air is forced out of pass over different sets of reeds on either side of the accordion box. Each reed inside the box is exposed to this air when the accordionist presses a button that allows the exposure. Buttons are laid out on either side of the accordion. The reeds vary in length and width, giving the accordionist the ability to play different notes. Thus, an accordionist must simultaneously control pitch and volume by squeezing the bellows, and press varying buttons to play one or more notes.

3. Playing A Piano Accordion

The piano accordion uses a piano-like lay out for the right-hand side of buttons. They resemble piano keys, except shorter and rounder. The keys encompass more than three octaves. The left-hand side of buttons are arranged to play bass and chord accompaniments.

4. Playing A Diatonic Accordion

The diatonic accordion looks like a piano accordion, but the button lay outs are very different. The diatonic accordion buttons are arranged in columns that extend vertically towards the bellows. Each one is specific to a musical key and actually plays two different notes: one note for when the bellows are squeezed and another when they are extended.

How to Clean an Accordion?

Accordions come in many shapes, sizes and styles.

Accordions, like all musical instruments, require proper care and maintenance to keep them in good working order. From the reeds to the bellows to the keys of the case: Each piece is part of an intricate design that must be properly attended to. Whereas everyday maintenance should be tended to by the owner, interior endeavors and tunings require the careful touch of a professional. Neglect and damage will also require the skilled hands of an experienced craftsman to return an accordion to full working order.


1 . Take your accordion out of its case by lifting up on the straps. If the lining of your case has gotten dirty or collected animal hair, use a lint roller or a slightly damp cloth to remove the spots. Make sure the case is completely dry before putting your accordion back in. Most accordions require air from time to time anyway.

2 . Wipe down the outside of the accordion with a chamois or cotton cloth. Wax-less furniture cleaner can be applied lightly to add a sheen. Avoid heavy polishes that will leave a residue.

3 . Pay particular attention to the keys, which will accumulate oil from your fingers and turn yellow. Wipe down each key carefully. If you develop the habit of wiping down the keys after each use, it will help prevent them from yellowing.

4 . Use a leather conditioner on the straps. A mix of lanolin and silicone (often referred to as mink oil) will help keep the leather strong and supple. Apply a liberal amount to each strap and use a rag or your fingers to work it into the entire strap.

5 . Take your accordion to a professional for care if you suspect there is a hole in the bellows or a damaged reed.

Tips & Warnings.

• Always store your accordion properly. Avoid extreme temperatures, moisture and dusty areas as these will all affect the reeds. A properly cared-for instrument that is wiped down after use will only need to be tuned every five to seven years. During these tunings the accordion will be opened, the reeds will be inspected and replaced if necessary and new wax will be poured.

• Never attempt to open your accordion unless you have a great deal of experience. There are many parts that vary from instrument to instrument, and unless you are a professional the chances are far greater that you will do more damage than good.

How to File Reeds of a Diatonic Accordion?"

A diatonic accordion produces sound when air is pushed over its reeds by hand-operated bellows. Each reed is made up of a flat plate with two slots. Attached to each slot is a steel or brass strip, which vibrates. This strip is the reed tongue. Each reed plate has two strips or reed tongues--one for when the accordion is squeezed, and the other for when it is pulled. Accordion reeds are tuned by being scratched or "filed." This is a difficult and skilled job as too much filing, or filing in the wrong place, can flatten the reed in pitch and damage it permanently. Tuning accordions is often difficult and may be best left to a professional.

Things You'll Need.

• Cloth
• Beeswax and rosin
• Fine-grade sandpaper
• Handheld electric grinder toolElectronic chromatic tunerShow (2) More


1 . Inspect the accordion for rust and other dirt. Before your accordion can be tuned the reeds will need to be cleaned and maybe re-waxed. Moisture causes corrosion or rust on the reeds. This is one of the most common reasons for an accordion to go out of tune, so try to avoid touching the reeds with bare hands.

2 . Remove any corrosion from the reeds by wiping with a dry cloth. For heavy-duty rust removal, use a fine-grade sandpaper.

3 . Check which scale the accordion is tuned to. Diatonic accordions play within a given key. For example, a diatonic accordion in the key of C will play all the notes in the key of C, but will have no sharps and flats.

4 . Raise the note created by the reed by removing material from the tip of the reed tongue using an electric grinder tool. This is known as "filing." Avoid overheating the reed as this may negatively affect the sound output.

5 . Flatten the note created by the reed by removing material from the base of the reed tongue using the electric grinder tool.

6 . "File" each reed until it is at the desired pitch. Be careful not to overfile or alter the shape of the reed as this can affect the sound output. Consult a professional if you are unsure about correct pitch, or are inexperienced with reconditioning musical instruments, as there is very little room for error.

7 . Use the electric tuner to re-check that all the reeds now play notes in the desired scale in the correct order.

How to Play a CF Button Accordion?"

Shown is a button accordion similar to a Cairdin.

CF button accordions are manufactured by Cairdín in Moneygall, Ireland. First produced in 1996, they are popular for beginners because they are smaller and simpler than larger piano accordions. Rather than a two-octave keyboard, they have a series of buttons that play different notes of the scale depending on whether you're pushing or pulling the bellows. It will take you an hour or so to familiarize yourself with the basics of the instrument.


1 . Go to Treelight's Play Accordion page (see "Resources") and right-click on their accordion legend. Click "Print," and follow your printer's instructions. This is optional--it's just a helpful addition to have a visual representation of the buttons, especially if you have musical experience.

2 . Put the printed page on a music stand or on a table in front of you and sit in a chair, preferably an armless one. Put the shoulder strap over whichever arm is most comfortable, and rest the button accordion on your right thigh.

3 . Put your hands through the leather wrist-straps on both ends of the accordion. Set the fingers of your right hand on the "keyboard" buttons, and your left hand on the bass buttons. Hold down one of the bass buttons and begin to push and pull the bellows with your left hand. Do this slowly, and whenever possible, begin with holding down one of the buttons to make it easier on the bellows.

4 . Press buttons with your right hand while holding down one of the bass buttons. It won't sound like a song right away--just get used to playing notes while moving the bellows. Once you feel comfortable with the motion and the tonal changes, start to figure out a short tune such as the alphabet. Look at the sheet printed from Step 1, or just experiment by ear. Be patient, and if your hands start to get tired, take a break for a few minutes.

5 . Try different combinations of the bass buttons and the right-hand buttons and piece together different melodies you like. Practice for 10 or 15 minutes every day for the best results.

Music Lessons on How to Play the Accordion.

The accordion is easy to learn but challenging to master.

1 . Sit down on a chair and place the accordion over your head so the strap rests on the back of your neck. Depending on whether the accordion has a right-hand or left-hand mechanism, the keys should sit on one side of your body, while the bass buttons (a series of round buttons) should sit opposite. Rest the keypad of the accordion on your knee.

2 . Slip the bass button hand inside the strap and expand the bellows by pulling the hand away from the other hand; keep your elbow by your side. The accordion will naturally move the bellows downward. Contract the bellows by pushing the hand toward the keyboard hand. The motion should be smooth and moderate. Practice this a few times, experimenting with fast and slow movements and comparing the volumes and sound qualities.

3 . Expand and contract the bellows while playing a few keys on the keyboard. Play the white key directly to the left of the pair of black keys. This is C. Play each white key down the accordion until you reach another white note directly to the left of the pair of black keys. This is a C major scale. Practice playing the C major scale up and down while expanding and contracting the bellows.

4 . Reach with your button playing hand to the middle of the second row of buttons. It will be marked with a dimple or a crosshatch. This is a bass C meaning that when depressed the accordion will play a bass note while the bellows expand and contract.

5 . Press the C button and play the C-major scale with the keyboard playing hand. This is the basics of the accordion which is a bass tone accompanying a melody.

6 . Experiment with the other buttons along the same row as the C bass. These are the fundamental tones (bottom note) in a chord.

7 . Consider buying a book or more importantly, taking a class to further your knowledge of the accordion. Ask at a local music store if they recommend any accordion teachers. While it is possible to learn the basics of the accordion online or from a source, getting hands-on attention and learning elements like reading sheet music, music theory, and technique are invaluable in becoming a proficient player.

How to Play Accordion Instruments?

The accordion was invented in 1822.

Accordions have been used in popular music since the 1800s. The instrument spread throughout the world over the next two centuries. It's used in many different musical genres, including folk, polka and rock. You can play accordions by holding down the keys on both sides of the instrument while compressing and expanding the middle of the device. Use this quick tutorial to get started with your playing.


1 . Sit upright in a chair and hold the accordion in your lap. Move the accordion so that the piano keys face away from you on your right side. Put your arms through the left and right straps attached to the instrument. Wearing an accordion is similar to wearing a backpack backwards.

2 . Look at the circular buttons on the left side of the accordion. Find the button that stands out from the group. This button will be a different color from the rest and have a different texture. Place your left middle finger on this button. Press and hold this button. Push the right side of the instrument inwards slowly. You will hear one sustained music note.

3 . Place your fingers on the two buttons to the left and right of your middle finger. Each of these notes will harmonize and sound good together with your first note. Press and hold down on the three notes. Relax your arms and let the accordion expand. You will hear three notes harmonize as one sound. Push the accordion back together with your right hand and then relax again to let the accordion expand. Continue this motion until you're comfortable with the in and out motions. Keep your left fingers in position.

4 . Place your right middle finger on any white key on the accordion's right side. Push and hold this key. Relax your arms and allow the accordion to expand outwards. Push the left side of the accordion inward. You will hear one high pitched note playing alongside the three bass notes on the accordion's left side. Move your right finger to different white keys as you continue contracting and expanding the accordion. You will produce different musical notes as you do this.

Button Accordion Instructions

Button accordions are very similar to harmonicas. The sound is produced by air flowing back and forth over a reed. One reed produces two notes. For example, holding the third button on a C accordion while pushing the bellows in produces a C note. Holding the same button while drawing the bellows out produces a D. The buttons on the button accordion are arranged in a row of 10 buttons. Button accordions are available in three styles: single row, double row, and triple row. Single-row accordions are very popular in Cajun and Creole music.


1 . Develop a feel for the accordion. The accordion is an awkward-feeling instrument when you first attempt to play it. Place your thumb in the thumb strap on the left side of the accordion and hold the accordion with the left and right hands. Push the buttons on the right side of the accordion while pushing and pulling the bellows. Don't worry about the particular notes at this point. Concentrate on developing a comfortable feeling with the accordion.

2 . Learn the treble notes on the right side of the accordion. Button accordions are diatonic. This means that they are tuned to a particular key such as C major. On a C button accordion the buttons on the right side of the accordion are tuned to the C major scale, which is C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C. Start with the third button, which is C. Push the button with your index finger and push the bellows in. This is C. Pull the bellows to play a D. Push the second button with the middle finger while pushing the bellows in to play an E, and so on. Accordion players use all four fingers to play the keys.

3 . Master the bass notes on the left side of the accordion. The left side of the button accordion has two to four buttons. The buttons play the fundamental bass notes of the tonic and dominant chords. All songs are played in a particular key. The tonic chord, also referred to as the I chord, is the is the primary chord. If a song is in the key of C, then the tonic chord is C. The dominant chord, also referred to as the V chord, is the second-most-important chord in a piece of music because it always leads the music back to the I chord. In the key of C, the dominant chord is G.

4 . Practice scales and chords. Each row of a button accordion plays a particular major scale.

5 . Create a song repertoire. Select a few songs that you are interested in learning. Many button accordion players learn their songs by ear or by having someone show them how to play the tune on the accordion. Listen to a recording of the song. Concentrate on the right hand. Figure out the melody. Add the chords and bass notes with the left hand. Another option is to find sheet music for the song.

How to Play the Toy Accordion?

Toy accordions are also called button accordions.

An accordion is a box-shaped instrument with free-reeds that vibrate the air from the bellow or slink structure in between the two handheld boxes. Popular instruments in pirate songs, toy accordions are smaller versions of the German-derived instrument. Toy accordions usually have seven buttons that play 14 notes and make musical gifts for children ages 3 and up. There are a few websites that sell toy accordions as well as music for songs playable on these smaller instruments. Using the buttons on the left and right, you can play melodies such as "Amazing Grace" or "Auld Lang Syne."


1 . Learn the parts of your toy accordion with the instruction manual. Thumbs go through the thumb loops on either side. To the right are a set of 7 buttons, while on the left there are three buttons. The buttons on the left are for bass, chords, and air valve, which has no sound. The slinky-like material in between is called the bellows.

2 . Undo the snaps on either side of the accordion and place your left hand underneath the left strap. Insert your right thumb into the loop of the other end of the accordion. The fingers of your right hand play the 7 buttons on the right, while your left hand's fingers play the three buttons on the left.

3 . Play melodies with your right hand. The two buttons on the left play harmonies. Use the air valve when you want to open and close the accordion without making any sound.

4 . Note the seven buttons on your right have corresponding notes. From the first to last, the scale goes from C, D, E, F, G, A, B. The accordion plays 14 notes in all.

5 . Play the C Major scale to start by pulling the accordion while pressing the first button with your right hand's index finger, then pushing the accordion together after holding a beat. Then, press the next button as you alternate slowly between pushing and pulling the accordion. Note that as you follow the scale, you change from push-pull actions after button 3 to pull-push action until the seventh button or note B. See resources for full diagram and instructions on playing C Major scale.

6 . Press "bass" and "harmonics" buttons with your left hand to add variations in your songs. Reading accordion sheet music shows how to use bass and harmonics along with the note buttons to improve upon the accordion's sounds.

7 . Follow toy accordion music by pressing one of the seven buttons on the right, then pushing the accordion together when the number is not in a circle and pulling when the number is in a circle. See references and resources for instructions with diagrams as well as different songs to play.

How to Restore an Accordion?

Restore the original appearance of your accordion.

If you are interested in selling an old accordion that has been laying around the house, the first thing to do is to clean it up and make it presentable. Restoring an accordion requires patience and attention to detail. Dirt and grime are two of the biggest problems for an accordion. Carefully cleaning the different parts of the accordion not only helps to restore its original appearance, it also improves the overall sound and tonal qualities.


1 . Remove the shoulder straps from the accordion. Some shoulder straps are screwed onto the accordion while other straps snap into place.

2 . Clean the accordion with household cleaner, warm water and a soft cloth. If the plastic is discolored or stained, then use a mixture of baking soda and water or white toothpaste on the plastic part of the accordion. Remove labels and sticky residue with a spray gel product.

3 . Rinse the accordion with fresh water and clean cloths. Wipe the accordion several times until all of the soap residue disappears. Dry the accordion with a towel.

4 . Vacuum the interior of the accordion with a vacuum cleaner and its attachments. Brush the lint out of the accordion with a clean, dry toothbrush.

5 . Clean corroded metal parts of the accordion with a metal polishing or cleaning paste. Metal paste is available at auto parts stores, hardware stores as well as music stores. Follow the instructions and apply the recommended amount. Allow the paste to dry for the recommended amount of time before buffing with a cloth. If the metal is heavily corroded, then sand off the corrosion with light grit sandpaper or steel wool prior to applying the polishing compound.

6 . Repair or replace broken parts on the accordion. The House of Musical Traditions suggests repairing damaged corners or holes with black duct tape and filling in scuff marks with a shoe or leather dye. The House of Musical Traditions provides an online repair page that sells all the necessary replacement parts for an accordion.