Do you like folk music? If you've ever wandered along the Appalachian Trail, you may have heard some local music that features a unique instrument. What are we talking about? The accordion, of course!
With roots deep in the heart of Germany, the accordion is now loved the world over as a favorite instrument, especially amongst those who love folk music. Accordions have also been popular in polka music, as well as some modern pop music, and even the tango in Argentina!
Because of how it's played, the accordion is often known by a special nickname: the squeezebox! If you've ever seen a musician play the accordion (called an accordionist or accorionista!), you know that the instrument is played by squeezing a box-like part known as the bellows to force air across reeds to make sound. Each hand can manipulate a set of buttons or keys to produce a wide range of sounds. The free-standing reeds that produce sounds are similar to those found in a harmonica.
The person usually given credit for inventing the accordion is Christian Buschmann. He invented an instrument similar to the modern accordion in Berlin in 1822, which he called the "Handaeoline." Of course, earlier prototypes existed before that, so it's fair to say that the accordion evolved over time from several variations.
The name accordion comes from the German word Akkordion, which in turn comes from the German word Akkord. That term means “musical chord" or “concord of sounds." That accurately describes what the accordion can do!
Accordions can carry both the melody and the harmony parts of a song. Because of the accordion's design, an accordionist can play chords with one hand while the other hand plays the individual notes of the melody. This has led to another popular nickname for the accordion: the one-man band. If you've ever seen a one-man band perform, an accordion is often a key instrument in the collection.
Accordions can be easily recognized by their bellows, which are pleated layers of cloth and cardboard that can be squeezed to generate air flow across the reeds found inside the instrument. The bellows can also sometimes contain leather and metal.
The bellows stretch between the two wooden boxes that form the body of the accordion. The right-hand box usually contains the keys or buttons that play the melody, while the left-hand buttons or keys are responsible for the accompaniment. Accordions can be very valuable hand-crafted works of art, and they're not easy to make. Accordions are assembled from hundreds of different pieces!