Whacky accordion terms, Rows & Columns, Up and Down

Many aspects of learning a musical instrument can appear counter-intuitive and the accordion is no exception.

One of the first things many players find odd is direction. As a teacher, I regularly get confused looks as I ask someone to play one button or one key higher meaning the button or key nearer to the floor.  It may seem odd at first, but it is probably no more strange than being asked to play higher notes on a piano and moving your hand to the right. Because the notes get higher, in the musical sense, as you move from the chin end of the keyboard towards the floor it is common to refer to moving up the keyboard. On the right hand of the accordion, this makes the top of the keyboard the end nearest the floor with the bottom being nearest to your chin.

On the left hand side of a standard bass accordion, I have always thought of up and down as being the same as you would expect in the real world so the top is near the ceiling and the bottom near the floor. With free bass accordions it may be slightly different. I play a russian system free bass bayan and so the low notes are near the floor with the high notes nearest the ceiling so up and down are the same as for a standard bass accordion. On a C system accordion the free bass usually has the high notes near the floor and the low notes near the ceiling so things may be different in this case.

In everyday life, we normally think of columns being vertical running from top to bottom and rows being horizontal and running from left to right. On the accordion this convention is reversed. When it is strapped on, a single row of buttons runs from floor to ceiling.

There are usually up to five rows in the right hand and up to six in the left. When discussing the position of a row, it is usual to call row one the one nearest to the edge of the right hand keyboard, while row five would be the row nearest the bellows. Similarily, row one in the left hand keyboard is nearest to the bellows and row six would be at the left hand side of the accordion, nearest to the left hand bass strap.