Chromatic Button Accordion

CuimeanCuimean Los AngelesProdigy
edited November 2013 in Accordion Posts: 271
As I've been saving up for a C-system chromatic button accordion, I've also been looking for hints on technique so I can figure the dang thing out once I have it. Here's a bit of info for anyone doing the same.

This page clarifies that confusing-looking wall of buttons: ... ipher.html

Here are a couple of videos of a CBA in action:

I gather that the right hand method in the above videos is a bit modern; in most photos of '30's accordionists that I've seen, they keep the thumb on the edge of the instrument and only use their fingers on the keyboard.

Hope that helps the curious. Please follow up if you have any more info on these beastly but wonderful instruments.

- Rod


  • SoulShadeSoulShade NW Ohio, USANew
    Posts: 56
    Thanks for the info. How are you coming along?
  • CuimeanCuimean Los AngelesProdigy
    Posts: 271
    Well, I found a relatively affordable three-row C-system CBA online, ordered it, and returned it within a week. There were two reasons:

    1. The retailer was unscrupulous. The instrument was ten to fifteen pounds heavier than advertised on the website and had several sticky and horribly out-of-tune reeds, which again was inconsistent with the information he had provided.

    2. It was less intuitive than I initially thought it would be. I figured I could either shrug off the work I'd put into my piano accordion and spend several years becoming a bad CBA player, or I could just work harder to become a passable piano accordion player. I chose the latter option.

    I still think the chromatic button accordion is a fascinating instrument, and if you're serious about playing musette, you should think about investing in one. I agree with the assertion made by others on this forum that the keyboard layout of the CBA is closely linked to the way musette tunes are phrased.

    I found a local accordion shop that sells refurbished accordions and gives lessons. If I get another urge to splurge on an insturment, I'll probably go there so I can actually play a few before buying one.
  • SoulShadeSoulShade NW Ohio, USANew
    Posts: 56
    That sounds like the maze the world of accordians can be. I'm a guitar player, but casually over the last few months I've started looking into accordians because my wife would like to play. (Of course she's the lucky one with the musical up-bringing)
    There is a huge lack of info on the subject of accordians out there. I'm still gathering info, stuff like -brands, new/used, keyboard/button, size, maintenence, etc.
    I have found some useful things...I'll post some stuff when I have time to get back to the computer. Thanks for the response! -s
  • ViejoVatoViejoVato New
    Posts: 80
    Hey cuimean...
    i found this post on ebay .... are you familiar with the Morelli brand name by any chance ?? ... dZViewItem

    You'll probably have to cut and paste to get the whole thing in the address bar ...
    I have a 3 row hohner club model which is basically a 2 row diatonic (C - F) with an extra row of the accidentals ... but I love the Musette stuff and am thinking of buying one of these ...
    $700.00 ...

    "I don't know where I'm going but I'm on my way"
    my granny 'Meme' Foster circa 1998 at age 102
    Django Jerry Jam - home grown GJ & Dead Ahead pickin'
  • CuimeanCuimean Los AngelesProdigy
    Posts: 271
    I've seen Morelli accordions on eBay before and found out that they're made in China. I asked the folks at Dave's Accordion School in L.A. about Chinese-made accordions and they didn't have many kind words. Apparently, they tend to use junky reeds.

    I I mentioned before, switching to a CBA would set my playing back several years, and I'm already pretty bad. It sounds like you already have some experience with button accordions, so your transition to chromatic might be easier. In any case, I'm interested in your journey, so please keep posting on this subject!

    By the way, I've heard Will Holshouser from the band Brock Mumford and Fredo from Les Ogres de Barback both play musette convincingly on piano accordions.

    - Rod
  • brandoneonbrandoneon Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France✭✭✭
    Posts: 171
    I'd like to add some comments on playing the piano accordion vs. the CBA. While the CBA may seem well-suited to re-appearing themes in valses manouches (i.e. diminished runs) the piano accordion is in no way at a disadvantage. Just listen to Francis Varis on the Paris Musette albums and Romane's Ombre. There are other wonderful examples of piano accordionists playing in gypsy jazz groups, such as Ionica Minune on Tchavolo Schmitt's "Alors ... Voila" and Emy Dragoi, who plays with Philippe "Doudou" Cuillerier.

    I'll end with an interesting comment by none other than Richard Galliano, undisputed jazz master of the CBA. In the French magazine 'Jazzman' no. 112 (April 2005) he was asked if ideas come differently to piano accordionists and button accordionists. His response was not that one instrument is easier to play than another, but that the piano accordion is more close-fitting against one's body than the majority of button accordions, which gives it a unique 'breathing' and phrasing. I would agree with this assertion, owning both a Petosa piano accordion (which I love) and a Hohner Morino CBA (which awkwardly rests against my body and seems to have no design considerations regarding balance between treble and bass sides).

    Any thoughts?
  • lastkiwilastkiwi New ZealandNew
    Posts: 3
    Hi ,I am new to this forum & I see that some are playing the Chromatic Accordion . Some are changing over from Piano & having difficulty.
    I bought a Chromatic a month ago but have been playing the Piano system for 50yrs now. The first few days I found the keyboard awkward & daunting to say the least especially as all the treble buttons on my 5 rower are pearl white. I thought tis may be confusing to navigate the buttons . I was given a great TIP . " Mark the edges of all the C buttons red & mark the edges of all the F buttons blue."
    On a chromatic their is no need to have different coloured keys on the sharps & flats as all fingering patterns for all keys are the same.
    Anyway I am sticking to it & it has payed off I can play most of what I play on the piano acc although with a various amount of confidence but I am getting there. Mark those keys!!!
  • brandoneonbrandoneon Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France✭✭✭
    Posts: 171
    Hi Colin,
    Glad to see another accordionist on the forum! :D

    In my earlier post I was more enthusiastic about the piano accordion, which may have had something to do with this junky Hohner button box I was using. :evil: About 6 months ago I invested in a better button accordion (Cavagnolo Vedette 5) and love it so much that I am gradually phasing out my piano accordion. The Cavagnolo has all pearl buttons too, but I was persuaded not too mark any of them. This made it slightly difficult at first, but the result now is that I rarely stare at the keyboard (something I do on the piano accordion) ... you'd be surprised at how good your "muscle memory" is after a while. Not to say that marking buttons is bad, just that there are other solutions. :wink:

    I was surprised at how quickly some of the piano repertoire transfers to button accordions, and now with some more experience in forming chords/arpeggios I'm starting to get more comfortable soloing on it, too.

    My one tip: you may have seen some videos on the web of chromatic button accordionists resting their thumb on the instrument and only using the other 4 fingers. My advice is don't do this ... it definitely comes in handy. Since you're coming from the piano also, you're probably used to playing with your thumb anyway, so keep it up.

    What kind of box did you get?

    Good luck!
  • vmollovvmollov Pittsburgh, PANew
    Posts: 4
    Hey guys. It is an interesting topic you have going here.
    I have played the piano accordion for about 19 years. At some point I started on a chromatic and I loved it. I could not afford a new instrument though (the CBA I had belonged to a friend of mine) so I switched back to piano. In my opinion there are benefits to both. For example I love the ability to transpose easily on the chromatic (which by the way one can do mostly of one uses 5 fingers to play instead of the observed and commented 4). I also love the fact that it provides a larger range for comparative sizes. I also agree that there is a certain closeness of the piano accordion and I can add to that that the piano keyboard brings a little different harmonic thinking (in the CBA the mathematical side of harmony tends to come more upfront).
    In my opinion it does not really matter - if you give it the adequate amount of practice time and thought you can create beautiful and virtuosic music with either one. However, I have to say that the tendency is towards the CBA. The russians (who are the best classical music performers) use mostly the CBA, also the best French accordionists use the CBA. Of course there are excellent piano accordionists at any style as well, but I feel that the tendency is to move towards CBA.

    Vladimir Mollov
  • lastkiwilastkiwi New ZealandNew
    Posts: 3
    Hi Brandon,
    Certainly is a great system we have with the Button Chromatic.
    I did find marking just the C's & the F's accellerated my ability to remember where i was on the keyboard.
    i am needing to look for the buttons less now as my fingers are starting to recognise the patterns of chords - scales etc.
    For instance I play a fair bit of irish jigs & reels & much of this is built around the pentatonic scales - so i have practiced these scales starting in all the 7 different modes.
    wow its so eay to start inventing your own jigs & reels on these things.
    Lets keep sharing on this topic.
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