Whether you dub accordion music annoying or enticing, you cannot deny the instrument’s persistence. The earliest version of the accordion emerged in the early 1800’s and one can still find it on many street corners today. Certain universities, museums, and soloists have assisted in the accordion’s longevity. We’ve assembled 10 facts about the instrument that may satisfy our enduring curiosity about the instrument.
1. Accordions are free reed aerophones, which produce sound through the expansion and contraction of folded bellows. Pitches are controlled by keys or buttons manipulated by the fingers while the bellows are moved.
2. Accordions can be either diatonic, which are controlled by buttons and typically used in folk musics, or chromatic, which are controlled by what looks like a piano keyboard and used in a wider variety of musical genres, including jazz and concert music.
3. Castelfidardo, Italy is the preeminent center of accordion manufacture. Numerous companies producing accordions and their parts are based there, including Borsini, Bugari, Castagnari, Excelsior, Menghini, Pigini, Scandalli, Victoria, and Zero Sette.
4. Franz Walther from Vienna created the first chromatic button accordion in 1850.
5. The first chromatic button accordion had 46 buttons for the right hand, arranged in three rows of minor 3rds, each row a half-step apart. The bass section had eight diatonic buttons divided between single bass notes and two-note chords.
6. By the early 20th century, the accordion was associated around the world with traditional music, cafés, dance halls, and music halls.
7. Hugo Herrmann composed the first piece for a solo accordion entitled Sieben neue Spielmusiken in 1927.
8. One of the most important composers of new music for the accordion was Wolfgang Jacobi (1894–1972).
9. Ernst Hohner founded and directed the Harmonika-Fachschule in Trossinge in 1931 with the help of Hermann Schittenhelm, Armin Fett and Ly Braun. It was probably the first official state academy.
10. Accordions are found across the globe. China, where the free reed aerophone the sheng has been known since the 2nd millennium BCE, has become a major manufacturer of the instruments. But the accordion has a particularly long history in Africa, where the instrument first arrived in coastal cities in the 19th-century with European and West African sailors, merchants, and settlers, and was carried inland by migrant workers.
Did we leave out any fun facts about the accordion?
Featured image credit: “Accordion playing boy in Rome” by Per Palmkvist Knudsen. CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.