AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE ACCORDION
History of the Accordion In New Zealand book
which was introduced to Europe in 1777, is generally credited
with being the musical instrument that initiated the ideas
that were used to develop the accordion.
Haeckel in Vienna and then Buschmann in Germany, invented
mouth blown instruments of the free reed family. Buschmann
added bellows and a button keyboard in the following year
to make his "Handaeoline," possibly the first clearly
recognisable forebearer of the modern accordion. In 1829,
Demian added chords in the bass and patented this as an "Accordion".
From 1830, Charles Buffet in Belgium and Fourneax and Busson
in France, manufactured an accordion that had 10 to 12 treble
and two bass buttons. Demian also manufactured a type of accordion
he called the "Hand harmonica". A tutor printed
in 1835 (by Adolph Muller) listed six varieties of accordions,
all diatonic in the keys of C, D or G.
that the accordion did not become chromatic in note range
until about the 1850's. Wheatstone in England had invented
his concertina in 1829 and he continued to develop it over
the next several decades, but he did not attach a piano keyboard
to it. Busson did, and called it the "Organ accordion".
By 1859 this had a three octave treble keyboard. Both the
Wheatstone Concertina from 1844 and then accordion had uniform
tone (ie were not diatonic or in one key only). It would appear
that the development and popularity of the Wheatstone Concertinas
actually slowed the acceptance of the piano type accordions
in England, at least until the twentieth century.
manufacturing began in the 1860's. Many of those brand names
are still familiar today. Steel reeds were introduced by Hohner
at their Trossingen factory in 1857. Soprani followed at Castelfidardo
in 1872, and Dallape at Stradella in 1876. By the beginning
of the 20th century, a bass system had been developed that
used notes and chords similar to the modern stradella bass.
development of the modern accordion continued and refinements
were steadily added, a number of variants were patented in
the late 1800's. The Chomatina, developed in Bavaria by G.
Mirwald, had four octaves and tone registers. The autophone,
patented in New York in 1880, ran automatically from cardboard
strips, somewhat like a player piano. The Bandoneon, a large
square type of concertina was developed by Heinrich Band in
the 1840's. It is still popular in Argentina and finding increasing
popularity in Europe today.
Flutina Polka, patented in 1851 by Busson had two ranks of
reeds. In 1854, Leterne of Paris patented a similar instrument
but with the second set of reeds tuned slightly away from
the first, which would appear to be the first musette tuned
may be interested to know, that the term "musette" is defined
in one comprehensive dictionary of musical instruments, as
"a generic term for small bagpipes." Several variants
and modifications other than those mentioned above were patented
in the late 19th century, even including a pedal accordion!
However the features that have lasted and been included in
modern accordions seem to be those associated with making
it a more versatile instrument. These features enable the
performance of more formal works written for the accordion
and transcriptions of works originally written for other instruments.
Of recent years the application of MIDI and electronics has
also been a significant feature of accordion development.
noted, the present piano accordion has its roots in what we
would now call a type of concertina, with first button, then
piano keyboards, applied to it. The stradella bass system
was invented with two vertical rows of single notes and four
vertical rows. Each button activates a preformed chord. In
due course this became the most widely accepted bass system,
being commonly known as "stradella bass" or "standard
bass". It is almost universally acknowledged to be one
of the best education systems on any instrument. The stradella
bass, when combined with the piano keyboard, requires players
to develop a knowledge of both the chromatic sequence of pitch
as on the piano keyboard and also the chord relationships
and chord types as arranged in fifths on the stradella bass.
This makes it unique among all musical instruments, having
both single notes and preformed chords available at one time.
of bass range
all this, the accordion was found to have some limitations,
particularly for those wishing to play transcriptions of music
written for piano or organ, or music written for accordion
that requires more than one octave range in the bass. Various
developments have been introduced, some even well into the
twentieth century, that augment the single octave bass range
extending it to many octaves. One such development is the
addition of several couplers on a stradella bass, each lifting
the one available octave (or twelve semitones) an octave higher.
With three or four such couplers, three or four octaves could
be realised, but only one octave at a time.
further solutions to this limitation have been offered in
accordion designs, referred to variously as free bass or convertor
bass. These bass systems convert the preformed chords of the
stradella system into single notes on certain couplers or
switches, giving a number of octaves of single notes available
at one time, and requires only the operation of a switch to
re-engage the stradella system.
most common solution to the one octave single note limitation,
has been to use a convertor accordion that retains the stradella
system in some of its couplers and converts to single notes
on others. This enables the musician to use the stradella
system where it has advantages, and also allows the use of
an extended range of single notes when required. At least
two systems of convertor bass accordions have been promoted,
one that replicates the stradella note arrangement in two
successive vertical rows that replace the four chord rows
with single notes. Each successive two rows are an octave
higher than the previous two rows. This system, often known
as the "stradella free bass" has the advantage of
the player no needing to learn a new system of fingering.
free bass system to the one just described has an arrangement
of single notes when converted, described as chromatic. This
system often has a few more notes available in the bass. The
chromatic system requires learning a different fingering to
that used for the stradella bass, and there are a number of
different arrangements of chromatic free bass in production.
Very few accordions are manufactured that have sufficient
bass buttons (180) for both systems to be used simultaneously
without a switch change. These have not been popular, because
they are large, heavy and expensive.
as several bass alternatives, there are two treble keyboards
available; the piano and the button. A number of different
button arrangements and music is available to suit all types
of accordions, regardless of bass or treble construction.
Some music may be more suited to a particular type of accordion,
and this can apply to tuning as well as fingering variants.
further accordion developments of the 20th century have been
the addition of a fifth set of reeds to the treble keyboard
with one set tuned a major fifth away from the other reeds
(similar to a five and a third foot stop on an organ). Besides
the usual hand switches, some have been added that are operated
by the players chin, and switches have been developed that
sustain a bass note until they are switched off.
were first applied to accordions before World War II, when
a few accordions were wired so they could be played through
an electronic organ. Soon after the war, electronic accordions
that had their own box of electronic sound generation, amplifier
and speaker were developed. Some were only electronic, with
no reed sounds available, but others retained conventional
reeds with the addition of electronically wired keyboards
plus an amplifier and speaker set up. Some owners added quite
sophisticated sound equipment such as Leslie speakers and
electronic rhythm machines.
recent development has been in the application of MIDI to
conventional accordions. With a minimum of modification and
weight increase, accordions can be fitted with MIDI contacts
to the treble and bass keys that enable them to be played
through any MIDI compatible sound equipment. This includes
synthesisers, organs, electronic sound modules or electronic
pianos. Thus equipped, an accordion may, become almost as
versatile as any synthesiser. Pressure valves have been developed
that enable the electronic sounds to be dynamically altered
and controlled by bellows pressure similar to the reed control,
where volume of sound is controlled by bellows pressure. The
MIDI accordion retains its reeds, so accordion sounds may
be reproduced either with or without accompanying electronic
reed accordions are still being refined in the areas of action,
tone and acoustic projection of sound, with ever lighter materials
being used for them. We are not sure where all this will lead,
but one thing is sure; the present and future accordion will
do a great deal more than the 19th century models from which
it has been developed.
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