Bending Notes With An Accordion

Accordion technology has come a long way since the days of Guido Deiro. MIDI accordions continue to grow in popularity and just this past weekend, at a Silicon Valley Accordion Society meeting, we listened to a brand-new Roland FR-7 electronic reedless accordion. But not all of the latest advancements are so high-tech.

Tom Tonon, for example, has developed an acoustic technology called BluesBox that allows accordionists to bend notes (or pitch) much like a harmonica player can. With Tom’s system installed, you can bend notes simply by pressing down harder on any key or button. Check out this video for a demonstration.

It’s not a far-fetched idea; after all, accordions and harmonicas are cousins in the free-reed family. Tom’s looking for musicians willing to give his technology a try, so if you’re interested, check his site to learn more.


  1. Bending notes on an accordion is an interesting idea….but on the other hand, you don’t have to bend notes to play blues….there are loads of good examples – Clifton Chenier and on button accordions, Boozoo Chavis are the obvious ones….and on other keyboards, Jack McDuff on Hammond B3, and countless piano players like Champion Jack Dupree and Memphis Slim.

    I could never figure out the draw of the electronic accordion. To me, the mechanics of using a bellows to force air through free reeds is the heart and soul of the instrument….

  2. I remember hearing about this guy a while ago. Cool idea (he wouldn’t let the reviewer see inside the box, very mysterious.)

    I’m not really a player (yet), but for me as a young non-conformist, the draw of midi and such things might be to play amplified without being overwhelmed with feedback. The accordion (big acoustic box) is a difficult instrument to amplify in a really loud space.

    There’ll be a chapter in my “Why’d the accordion disappear from Western pop-music” book about electric instruments (guitars!) forcing acoustic instruments to the margins. That doesn’t explain why the accordion got pushed so darned far, but I think it’s part of it.

    If you want to do that electric thing (I’d argue any mic at all forfeits your purity), you’re giving up some of the sound and attraction of physical/acoustic reeds. Somewhere on from there midi starts to be attractive. (I think micing has gotten much better, so there’s other answers now too.)

    The other thing with the Roland Button ones is that you can rearrange the button schemes. They’ve got what, seven different bass systems? An acoustic box like that would cost tens of thousands of dollars, if such things exist. Good as a learner until you decide which to spend cash on.

    The midi is basically a different instrument modeled after the accordion, like any electric keyboard is a variation on acoustic keyboards, each different and maybe with some unique positive qualities.

    Oh, and I guess some (misguided?) people want to sound like a french horn choir once in a while.

    peace b

  3. I understand the appeal of MIDI accordions but I prefer a good, wheezy set of bellows. Maybe it’s because I haven’t really mastered the art of making an accordion sound like an accordion yet and I want to do that before I move on to making it sound like other things.

    The guy we heard on Sunday spent most of the time playing his Roland in the harmonica (not bad) and saxophone (ugh) voices.

    This might be worth a post, but I’ll try asking here: does anyone have a good recommendation for miking an acoustic accordion? Anna may have some more gigs with the Corner Laughers coming up and we really need a better solution than taping a mike to a music stand and sticking it in front of her…

  4. I too remember hearing about this guy years and years ago. Personally I’d be interested, a little touch of pitch bend can work wonders in the right place.

    I used to play midi keyboards, but they are just so much trouble compared to an acoustic accordion that I can’t imagine a midi accordion would be worth the hassle.

    As for miking an accordion, I generally just use a single SM57. Plenty of sound men have tried miking up both sides of my accordion, but to be honest I don’t think it makes a lot of difference.

  5. Thanks for the suggestion, Squeezyboy. We’ll give that a try.

  6. My son just bought an accordian and I have no idea how to help him out. It has seven keys on one side, not piano looking but rather saxophone looking…it has three buttons on the other. Can someone out there tell me what type of accordian it is and how I can find a diagram of notes/keys to begin to accompany guitar for Mexican folk music. Thank you in advance

  7. Gary, it sounds like it’s a toy accordion — like this Hohner or this one made by Hero. I’m guessing that the seven keys are treble and the other three are bass, but without hearing it I couldn’t tell you which notes are which (or even what key it’s in). Sorry!

  8. Thanks Chris,
    It is in fact the HERO model… Appreciate the lead…will investigate from here. Thanks again.

  9. If concerned about bending notes on accordion, and as an FR7 owner, I can tell you that you can hook up reedless accordions to a pitch bending pedal, similar to the wheels on a keyboard for the same purpose. I’ve heard accordionists who use these pedals live with convincing results. The problem is finding a dealer. Most likely, these pedals are DIY projects, or could be.

  10. i just purchased an Americana 120 bass and need to know some info on them cause it needs a few new reeds on the key side. plus it might be nice to know a little about it concidering i cant find even a web-site w/ info. thanks

  11. Hi There, Seeking a pedal for an Electronic Accordion. Much APPREACIATED. jOHN

  12. Hello, I’ve just got a hohner ariatta IM and its driving me crazy because I can’t find any information on them. I’ve tried micing it up for a few gigs. As i’m only just learning, and I don’t believe I play in a particular style yet I’m really inquisitive into the idea of bending notes. Why not just play harmonica? What other accordion technology is there out there to use with an acoustic accordion? Thanks

  13. i have a vintage Hohner Ariatta IIM acordion and would like to sell it. Anyone interested or know a good place to list it?

  14. i have a vintage Hohner Ariatta IIM acordion and would like to sell it. Anyone interested or know a good place to list it?