What Is a Piano Accordion?

The right-hand keyboard of a piano accordion is attached to the side of a traditional button accordion. When played, the instrument produces acoustics that are more akin to an organ than a piano, despite its name. Unlike a traditional piano keyboard, which is played horizontally with both hands, the keys on a piano accordion are played vertically with only one hand. The keys on this instrument are smaller and more rounded than those on a traditional piano. Although the instrument is usually presented in a right-handed manner, it can be modified or built to be used in a left-handed manner.

The bellows and the piano are the two main components of the piano accordion. The bellows are the wind instrument’s “squeezebox,” and they contain brass or steel reeds that resonate and produce sound when air is pushed over them. More reeds are contained in larger bellows, giving the piano accordion a wider musical range. The piano includes the seven traditional C scale notes — A, B, C, D, E, F, and G — as well as the sharp and flat notes found in the C scale range. The more octaves that can be played, the larger the instrument; most full-sized adult-sized piano accordions have three octaves.

An accordionist must continuously push or pull on the bellows with one hand while playing assigned piano keys with the other hand to produce music from the instrument. When the keys are pressed, valves in the accordion’s bellows open, allowing air to flow across specific reeds, which vibrate and produce sound. The instrument is suitable for a wide range of musical genres, including folk, classical, and even contemporary pop and rock.

The first piano accordion was introduced in Paris in 1852, and it was showcased Mattaus Bauer, a German piano accordion builder. The piano accordion was brought to the United States European immigrants and became a well-known instrument the turn of the century. Performers like Guido Deiro played the instrument on stage and on radio shows as Vaudeville grew in popularity. By the 1970s, the piano accordion had surpassed the traditional accordion in popularity, with musicians in the United States, Scandinavia, Scotland, Italy, France, and Australia using it.