About Diatonic Accordions

About Diatonic Accordions

Diatonic Accordion in Europe

There remains debate concerning the origin of the diatonic button accordion. Some scholars maintain that it was invented in Germany in 1826, while others maintain its origins are in the Vienna of the early 19th century. In any case, over the following 120 years, this wonderful and easy to learn instrument was successfully integrated into folk music across Europe. In Germany, it has been the classical musical instrument of the working population for many generations. Hans Albers played the accordion throughout his cinematic career. Today many old men in the Sorbian Areas around Bautzen still play ”La Paloma“ with passion. In France, the diatonic button accordion is a mainstay of traditional dance music along with the violin and flute. In Ireland and England, special tuning techniques were used to modify the sound of the accordion to suit regional tastes. The diatonic button accordion revitalized the dance music scene in Austria as seen with the influences of the band “Hotel Palindrone” in world music. In Germany, the band “Laway” has also become a leader in excellent accordion-driven dance music.

History of the Accordion in North America

It is believed that the accordion came to America with travelling German merchants, and gained popularity in various communities, including Germanic regions of the northern Midwest, French Louisiana, and the Texas/Mexico border area. The legacy of the accordion is still evident in the genres of folk music that remain in those regions. One of these merchants was Fritz Veerkamp, a HOHNER employee. In the early 1900s, Veerkamp travelled extensively through New York City, Louisiana, Texas, and into Mexico, taking the button box accordion with him. Although the accordion had been in North America for some time as German families immigrated to the US and Mexico with their instruments, Mr. Veerkamp was the first to establish direct channels of distribution between Germany and North America. He purchased accordions directly from HOHNER for sale to both dealers and individual musicians. It is clear that the button box made its way into the US and Mexico simultaneously.

History of the Accordion in Colombia

Vallenato originates from farmers who mixed the tradition of Spanish minstrels or Juglares with the musical customs of the West African inherited griots (African version of juglar) that travelled through the region with their cattle in search of pastures or to sell them in cattle fairs. Because they travelled from town to town and the region lacked rapid communications, these farmers served as bearers of news for families living in other towns or villages. The only form of entertainment during these trips was singing, and playing guitars or indigenous gaita flutes, known as kuisis in the Kogi language. In the Kogi tradition, news were transmitted through songs. 

It is said that troubadours from Aruba and Curacao probably introduced the accordion into the region. According to one legend, a shipwreck brought the accordion to Colombia. The ship was enroute from Germany to Argentina when it wrecked in the Magdalena river off the Colombian coast of the Atlantic. Even though there is much speculation when and how the accordion made its way into Colombia, we know for a fact the three-row button accordion has become the national symbol of this country.

Three-row diatonic accordions are similar to the two-row diatonics with the third row either a semi tone higher than the original (now middle) row, or a fourth above the second row. The bass notes and relevant chords are the root of the scale for the in (pushing) bellows and fifth of the scale for the out (pulling) bellows. The chart shows all of the notes for both pulling and pushing on the bellows. It also displays the placement of the octaves as well as a numbering system for ordering reed parts from HOHNER.