Accordion newbies help choosing an instrument

weechimpyweechimpy New
edited October 2010 in Accordion Posts: 15
THis is my first post on the forum. I come from Scotland and play guitare but my son is more interested in taking up the accordion and he would like to join in some manouche swing.
I know nothing about accordion. It would be great if you could give me some guidance on the kind of instrument to buy.
I have done some research about it but I am rather confused by the wide difference in instruments.
I narrowed down to
- Chromatic
- BUtton in C
- Musette tuning (not sure what that means or how to check this)
- minimum of 72 bass.

How much should I spend on a second hand

Your help is much appreciated


  • brandoneonbrandoneon Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France✭✭✭
    Posts: 171
    Welcome to the forum!
    The C buttom system is indeed ideal especially if your son wants to play musette waltzes, but another factor to consider is if there are teachers in your area who play this type of accordion, where he could get instruction. I'm not familiar with the chromatic accordion in Scotland, but just to point out there are other systems.
    Musette tuning refers to how the 2 (or sometimes 3) sets of 'middle' reeds are tuned relative to each other. The more out of pitch they are from each other, the more 'wet' with vibrato the sound will be - think of the sound of stereotypical French waltzes from old movies, etc. There may be a register switch on the right hand side of the instrument labelled 'violin', and if the accordion has musette tuning you will hear it when this register is selected. One word of caution: an accordion with a register switch labelled 'musette' doesn't necessarily have musette tuning. It's just how the reed selection of 2 middle reeds and one high reed is referred to. Confused yet? :wink:
    Anyway, unless your son is interested in playing some musette waltzes that are sometimes part of the gypsy jazz repertoire I don't think musette tuning is something necessary to have.
    To play some jazz on the accordion, there should also be a set of bassoon reeds (the low reeds). It's likely that most accordions will have this, but not necessarily. It's a typical sound used in accordion jazz.
    72 basses is the minimum you will find, but it's not common. You're more likely to find 120 bass instruments (the full size) but there are also 96 basses.
    Price can really vary depending on options, size of the instrument, quality of materials and construction, etc. I'd say a beginner student model would be around several hundred dollars.
    Don't be afraid to do alot of research into accordions first, and go visit multiple stores - an informed decision will be much better than buying 'blindly' from eBay.
    That's about all the advice I can give, maybe some other members will chime in about their experiences?
    best of luck!
  • weechimpyweechimpy New
    Posts: 15
    Dear Brandon

    Many thanks for all this info, very helpful. I had not clocked onto the teacher issue, may be this is a place to start.
    Diving into more research.

  • ReneRene New
    Posts: 4
    Try looking at the Hobgoblin Music site. They've usually got loads of new and 2nd hand piano accordions, but not the Chromatic Continental button system. They're pretty hard to find in the UK.
  • Lango-DjangoLango-Django Niagara-On-The-Lake, ONModerator
    Posts: 1,857
    Wow, this thread is the perfect excuse to (ahem) share my "Accordion newbie choosing an instrument" joke.

    This fella goes into a music store and tells the clerk that he's always wanted to play the accordion, and now he's saved up his money to buy one, so what kinds does the store have?

    The clerk says, "Well, hmmm, depends on your budget... see that black one on the counter? That's a student model, made in China, that'll run you about three hundred bucks. Then they go all the way up from there... see the red sparkly one in the display case? That one was custom made in Italy; top of the line--- $7,000."

    The customer says, "Oh, I see... well, I really can't spend that much.. so how much would it be for that big white one over in the corner?"

    The clerk replies, "You really don't know much about accordions, do you? That's a radiator."
    Paul Cezanne: "I could paint for a thousand years without stopping and I would still feel as though I knew nothing."

    Edgar Degas: "Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things.... To draw, you must close your eyes and sing."

    Georges Braque: "In art there is only one thing that counts: the bit that can’t be explained."
  • molesavermolesaver New
    Posts: 4
    Here's the text from an ad I used recently on craigslist. It is about piano keyboard, but I would think a lot of it applies. One more note before I get to that - having a musette tuned box makes playing with other people trickier. You really have to be sensitive about staying way away from whoever is soloing or playing the melody and vice-versa because your intsrument is obviously, deliberately, and sometimes disastrously out-of-tune. That may be a layer of complication you don't want to deal with at an early stage:

    You've been thinking about taking up piano accordion because you dig Jason Webbley or tango or polka or zydeco or whatever. But you are not really sure if it is for you. And then you PRICED some accordions and thought "OMG, that's a LOT if I'm not sure I will stick with it. Plus, I don't really know what to look for."

    So, I bought a student model about six months ago and loved it. I just upgraded to a MUCH nicer instrument (and a MUCH steeper price tag, but then I now KNOW I'm going to play).

    My instructor said I lucked out, finding an older, used instrument in good repair - everything works, nothing sticks, nothing rattles, the bellows don't leak and it is in tune. So there you go. THIS is what you need to find out whether you want to go any further with the accordion.

    This is an Emilio Roselli (and, yes, they DO all come from Italy - unless they come from China, and even those have Italian names). It is a 41/120 meaning 41 treble keys (the piano part) and 120 base keys (which is about as many as they ever put on an accordion unless you are WAY into custom, and paying custom prices). And, yes, it is Stradella Bass and if you don't know what that means, it means it is like 99% of the piano accordions out there. As far as reeds are concerned it is 2/2 meaning two on the treble side and two on the base which means your variety of sounds is limited BUT you are mostly interested in learning what to do with your fingers, right? Who needs dozens of sounds to distract you? Again, it is in good repair - you do not need to take it to the shop for ANYTHING before you start taking lessons or using that video you bought or working your way through those Palmer-Hughes books you found at a garage sale or whatever else you plan to try. (I REALLY recommend finding an instructor - they will save you a lot of time and headaches.) It is also smaller than a pro model which means it is easier to handle, lighter to carry, and so on. So, anyway, if you THINK you want to learn to play, this could be just the ticket. If you think your kid might want to learn, this could be just the reasonably priced way to find out for sure without worrying about repairs needed to make it useable.

    If you just want to read this and carry-on looking elsewhere, here's some stuff I learned over the last six months that might help you:

    Make sure the used accordion you do end up buying does not smell like mold. (Pump air in and out while you sniff the bellows.) The reason that used accordions smell like mold is because they are moldy. Mold is bad for the bellows and just about every other part of the box. It can be fixed but that will cost WAY more than you are paying for the box and the total probably won't be worth it unless you really know what you are looking at. (And if you are reading this, you don't.)

    If somebody tells you, "these keys stick a little but that is a really easy/cheap thing to fix." Oh yeah? How come THEY didn't fix it? All accordion repairs are expensive. There are around 600 parts in a 41/120 box. And right now, everyone who works on accordions is 80+ and is turning away work.

    Don't expect to buy a lovely sound for less than a mortgage payment or two, seriously. Student model should mean, 'everything works, nothing leaks, it is pretty well in tune and it will get you through the first year without spending a bunch of money.'
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