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Glossary of Terms
bandoneon ( bandonion)
A bisonoric concertina member of the free-reed family of musical instruments . It is called bandonion in Argentina, where the late virtuoso Astor Piazzola popularized the instrument.
bellows release The button found on most bellows-driven free-reed instruments used to open a valve which permits air enter and exit the bellows without passing through a reed. It is found on the left side of a Club System instrument, near but not adjacent to the bass buttons.
Presenting two different notes on press and draw .
Pertaining to the right (melody) side of the instrument. Same as descant .
Arranged to suit the requirements of the full twelve-tone scale (as opposed to diatonic ).
companion key The key in which is pitched the companion row .
companion row A diatonic row other than the home row; on the Club System, the middle row; on the International System , the innermost and outermost rows.
descant Pertaining to the right (melody) side of the instrument. Same as canto .
Arranged to suit the requirements of a scale other than the chromatic scale, such as a major scale.
Pulling the bellows apart to draw air in through the reeds whose valves are open.
A written musical note when notated as a sharp, flat or natural foreign to the conventional notation of the key in which the note is played. For example, that note which may be alternatively expressed as Eb or D# is found in the key of B. Denoting that note as D# is harmonic to the key of B, but expressing that identical note as Eb is enharmonic to the key of B .
fingering system
The arrangement of the buttons on an accordion and the order of assignment of notes to those buttons.
free-reed instrument
An instrument which produces sound by allowing air to pass across and cause to vibrate a reed which is mounted in such a fashion that it may vibrate in a narrow gap without striking anything. The designation free-reed is by contrast with reed instruments such as the clarinet, in which the reed beats against the mouthpiece, and the oboe, in which twin reeds beat against each other. For more information on the family of free-reed instruments, please visit Jax RCFB Free Reed Musical Instrument Page .
helper accidentals
Buttons with assigned notes which fall outside the diatonic system, notes often needed by players but which either
  • do not appear in the diatonic system
  • or appear only in one bellows direction
helper row The row closest to the bellows on the Club System instrument. The helper row contains only helper accidentals .
home key
The primary major key of the instrument. The home row is in that key.
home note
The note which is the tonic of the home key , e.g., C on a C/F Club System instrument.
home row
The row of a multiple-row button accordion which is in the home key , the row central to the diatonic arrangment of notes on the instrument. On a C/F Club System accordion, the home row is the C row. On a G/C/F International System accordion, C is the home key and the C row is the home row.
International System
The fingering system used by the Acordeon Conjunto Norteño (Tex-Mex Accordion). It is a diatonic system similar to that used by the harmonica, replicated thrice. The International System is discussed in the Musician's Guide to Acordeon Conjunto Norteño .
Pressing the bellows together to force air out through the reeds whose valves are open.
relative chord
That naming for a chord which refers to the diatonic step number of some scale instead of the key name. See relative note .
relative note
A note expressed as the roman number relative to the first step of a scale, or, by extension, relative to the home key of the instrument.
Stradella bass system
The left-hand bass button system used by classic 120-bass piano accordion and its variants. Invented by accordion (fisarmonica ) makers in Stradella, Italy in the late 19th century, the Stradella system consists of twenty (20) columns of six (6) rows each. The columns represent the 12 tones of Euro-American music (with four columns at each end for wrap-around, so that the hand need not take sudden jumps) arranged in a cycle of fifths. The rows represent:
  • two individual notes, a bass third and a bass tonic for the key represented by the given column
  • four chords based on the tonic note corresponding to the given column:
    • major triad
    • minor triad
    • flatted seventh chord
    • diminished triad
That is,
Bb Major
F Major
C Major
G Major
D Major
Bb minor
F minor
C minor
G minor
D minor
... etcetera.
Presenting the same note on both press and draw .
wet tuning
Tuning paired reeds which sound for a single note some small interval apart to create an audible beat or vibrato. E.g., if two reeds sounding at once are tuned 4 Hz apart, there will be a 4 Hz vibrato between the two.

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Copyright © 2003 Jacques Delaguerre