is MIDI, and how does it work in relation to an accordion?
for Music Instrument Digital Interface.
This is a music industry standard language, used in most modern
electronic instruments. Accordionists have used this technology
since the mid 1980's.
a note is played on one MIDI instrument (the controller) a message
is sent to another instrument or sound generator (the slave)
to play the same note at the same time.To update a MIDI system
you only need to change the sound generator.
technology of synthesised sound is changing so quickly, electronic
instruments rapidly become obsolete. However, a MIDI accordion
can always upgrade to the latest in sound technology without
having to change the accordion itself. This is because you only
need to update the MIDI sound generator (the 'slave'), not the
MIDI accordion (the 'controller'). This is a huge advantage
over the older electronic (cordovox style) accordions, where
the whole instrument needed upgrading and the old accordion
advantage of the MIDI accordion is that you can have a MIDI
"kit" fitted to an existing accordion. MIDI fits onto
any accordion, new or old. You do not have to purchase a new
generators most commonly used within MIDI Accordions are 'multi-timbral
sound modules' (or expanders). These are the 'brains' of a synthesiser.
'Multi-timbral' means that the expander can generate more than
one sound at the same time, through the use of separate MIDI
channels. They work in a similar way to television channels.
Information sent on one channel can only be received by a unit
set to the same channel.
MIDI accordion, different channels can usually be set for each
of the accordion's three keyboards; right hand, bass fundamentals
and pre-set chords. In this way, an expander can play back different
instruments for each of these parts. For example, the melody
can have the sound of a wind instrument, accompanied by a string
bass sound and rhythm guitar sound for the chords. Some MIDI
accordions may have a second channel allocated to the right
hand, enabling two different right hand sounds (or the top note
or solo line in a right hand chord) to be generated from the
same expander. As MIDI is an industry standard system, it is
possible to use several different synthesisers and expanders
at the same time, so the choice of different sounds and sound
combinations is virtually unlimited.
information can be transmitted from the accordion in a number
of different ways. The two most common methods of turning an
accordion into a MIDI instrument are to have either a physical
contact attached to each of the keys and bass mechanism, or
a magnetic sensor on each key which sends a signal of the note
being pressed. Other methods of installing MIDI exist, although
they are not as common (for example, optical sensors).
requires only minimal wiring and a very small printed circuit
board, these modifications add virtually no weight to the instrument.
In order to make a MIDI transmit, it only requires a small amount
of voltage in the accordion. People use a separate power pack,
a battery housed on board the instrument, or (most commonly)
the same cable as the note information carrier, either through
a special power pack or a separate programmer.
system, the MIDI usually requires a standard 5 pin DIN cable,
although some wireless MIDI systems are now becoming available.
language can transmit more than just note information. For the
MIDI accordionist, the next most common message used is 'programme
change'. This allows the accordionist to change the sounds generated
by the expander at the touch of a button on either the accordion
itself, or through an external programmer. It is unnecessary
to reset the expander, which can often be a little more complicated.
accordions also use a small pressure transducer inside the bellows
of the instrument to sense volume and bellow direction. This
means that a volume signal transmits via MIDI to the sound generator
at the same time, whether the accordion is being played loudly
or softly. However, many MIDI accordionists prefer to use a
separate volume pedal for the expander sound, so that the bellows
control the acoustic accordion independently. This is personal
also transmit many other performance features (i.e. pitch bending,
touch sensitivity - making a note louder by how hard you hit
the key, and after-touch, changing the volume of a note after
it has been played by pushing the key harder, etc.) However
many of these features are not 'normal' playing techniques for
improves, and the weight of electronics decreases, it is now
possible to have multi-timbral modules (that weigh eight ounces)
fitted directly onto the accordion. This means that you can
have a self contained acoustic and MIDI instrument ready to
plug into an amplifier without any extra wiring or units. At
the same time, the accordion still has the ability to be able
to plug directly into any other expander, and use those sounds
the latest features of technology is the addition of dedicated
accordion sound sampler. These units have the real acoustic
sound of an accordion recorded and stored (or sampled) into
their memory, so that the sounds can be replayed from the accordion.
With a pressure transducer to replicate authentic bellows expression,
it is possible to electronically generate the sound of 128 different
accordions all in one expander, played from one accordion.
use of MIDI, the accordion should always be able to remain on
the leading edge of the musical world.
makes the accordion unique?
but the two of the most important are the bellows and the reeds.
The bellows allow virtually a total range of expression and
notes can also be sustained longer than most other instruments.
Bellows shakes may be compared to a violin when the player moves
the bow rapidly up and down. See
REEDS in Terminology for detailed information on them.
does the bass work on an accordion?
Stradella bass system, the pattern of buttons consist of
single notes and fixed chords (usually three notes to a chord).
In a Free Bass system, the buttons are all single notes, like
on a piano. This system is mainly used for classical music.
On Concertina's and Bandoneon's the bass only plays single notes.
See Types of Accordions and How
they Work for more detailed information.
do you find the bass buttons?
done by touch. Most bass buttons on accordions have an oval
shaped top to them, except for certain buttons which have either
indented or pointed tops. The player can find the other buttons
in relation to these indented or pointed buttons.
is the outside of the accordion made of?
it is cellulose over a wood or metal frame, but can sometimes
be made of other material.
accordions come in different colours?
can be made in any colour.
do accordions vary in weight and size?
and sizes differ due to the many different preferences, needs
and sizes of the player and the type of music they wish to play.
Generally speaking, the lighter the overall weight, the better
quality of accordion and the internal parts that have been used.
do the switches on an accordion do?
can be on both the bass and treble side of the accordion in
varying numbers. They shut off or open different banks of reeds
to change the octaves and sounds of the accordion. See
SWITCHES in Terminology for more detailed information.
are reeds in an accordion?
reed is a band of metal attached at one end to a metal plate
and free to vibrate at the other. Air from the bellows is necessary
to activate the free-reed in an accordion. See
REEDS in Terminology for more detailed information.
the difference in reed quality?
be machine made, hand-type or hand-made. Different quality raw
materials determine reed quality. See REEDS
in Terminology for more detailed information.
do some accordions have buttons and some have piano keys?
many different shapes and systems of keyboards in accordions.
This needs to be looked at from a historic perspective. The
first accordions used buttons on both right and left hand and
were mainly diatonic. As the accordion developed, accordionists'
wanted more notes so chromatic systems developed both button
and keyboard. They all achieve the same result; when pushed
down they open a valve to allow air to the reeds. All systems
have their good and bad points. See
Types of Accordions and How they Work for more detailed
is an accordion tuned?
achieved by removing weight from either the tip or the base
of the reed.
there only one way of tuning the musette on an accordion?
is the word used for the vibrato (tremelo) sound of some accordions.
This is achieved by tuning one clarinet (8 foot) reed higher
than 'concert pitch' and possibly a clarinet (8 foot) reed tuned
lower than 'concert pitch'. There is no 'fixed' amount of higher
or lower tuning to achieve musette. This is sometimes referred
to as wet (more of a musette sound) and dry (no musette type
sound at all).
are accordions manufactured?
are manufactured in many countries. Most production takes place
in Italy, Austria, Germany, France, Russia, Czechoslovakia and
China. Some small production is from the USA and other countries,
primarily using Italian or German components and assembling
many manufacturers of the accordion are there?
of manufacturers fluctuates all the time. They range from one
person hand-building an instrument at a time, to cottage industries
assembling components, to worker groups (co-operatives), to
fullscale factories. At one stage, manufacturers in Germany
and Italy were making approximately 750,000 instruments per
are famous composers for the accordion?
have been countless composers for the accordion. Some of the
most famous are Piazzolla, Diero, Frosini, Chaikon, Molinari,
there International Competitions for the accordion?
are many international competitions for solo, ensemble and orchestra's
all around the world. See "Annual
International Competitions and Festivals" for more detailed
which country did the accordion originate?
came from an instrument in China, called the 'Cheng'
(a free reed instrument), thousands of years ago. While the
accordion was patented in Austria, Italy was the first large
scale production centre. Refer to History
for more detailed information.
old do you have to be to start learning the accordion?
accordions available can be used by three and four year olds.
You can start learning at any age.
do you play both hands together and use the bellows?
It is a
matter of co-ordination between different parts of the body,
similar to learning other instruments. Anyone can learn to play
the accordion with the correct tuition.
sort of music styles can you play on the accordion?
play ANY style of music on the accordion, if you are proficient
I fix my own accordion?
not advisable, unless you are experienced. It is easy to create
further problems, costing more to get properly repaired when
knowledge is lacking.
do some accordions sound different to others?
many reed sizes (octaves) and tunings available and many different
qualities of materials used in construction. All these factors
affect the sound.
are the different tuning options available for an accordion?
treble (right hand side) of an accordion can be tuned to various
options. There are no tuning options for the bass (left hand
side). There are no set amount of tuning options and each brand
of accordion can be tuned differently. Each tuning gives a different
overall sound depending on the reed arrangement in the accordion.
is a tone chamber?
chamber (cassotto) is an internal cavity in some piano and chromatic
accordions, designed for selected reed sounds to pass through
before being heard by the listener. This gives the selected
reeds a more mellow sound.
can an accordion be microphone amplified?
several ways to mic an accordion. Choosing which way will depend
on whether it is for amplification or recording.
accordions need to be serviced regularly?
It depends on how the accordion is played, and how much. Some
reeds will go out of tune through over playing and incorrect
use. Generally, an accordion should be cleaned and serviced
approximately every two to three years.
far can bellows be stretched?
on the size and type of accordion. Generally, larger accordions
have more folds, which means the bellows will stretch out more.
The bellows will only stretch as far as the player's left arm!
accordion bellows be repaired or replaced?
can be overhauled and replaced. However,when they are replaced
the original wood frame from the bellows needs to be used to
align the new bellows properly. It is nearly impossible to fit
new bellows without the original wood frame.
they make left-handed accordions?
have been specially constructed with the keyboard on the left-hand
side. Most of these have been made for players that have lost
fingers in their right hand. It is sometimes thought that left-handers
have an advantage playing "right-handed" accordions,
because they have more touch in the bass (left hand).
is the most famous accordion player?
been many famous accordion players, playing various music styles.
To isolate one accordionist would be impossible.
many people play the accordion?
so it is impossible to say at any one time. The country that
by far has the most accordionists is China.