Question for Button Accordionists

I have a question for the button accordionists out there: I am learning to play button accordion (after having played piano accordion for 15 years) and have been having a really hard time playing (remembering!) the correct button fingerings when I change the direction of air flow to my bellows. When beginners (like me) are learning a song, how do you recommend we go about it? Is it better to learn via rote memorization, breaking the song down into two-measure chunks — playing two measures with the bellows pulling out, then two measures pushing in? Or is there another method you prefer? Thanks in advance!


  1. No Help:
    Get a chromatic button-accordion so the buttons are the same going in and out.


    Best line of the week,
    “Why do some accordions have piano keys, and some have buttons?”
    “Well, these are the boy accordions and those are the girl accordions!”

  2. It would help to know what kind of diatonic accordion you are playing — one-row Cajun style? two-row D-G? Irish two-row?

    With a one-row, the melody line dictates whether you’re pushing or pulling, not the measure. With a two-row D-G (or G-C or A-D), you can often shift rows to play the desired note without changing bellow direction. I understand with an Irish two-row (I don’t play one) that you are frequently shifting rows to get the note you want.

    I am in a similar situation, playing piano accordion, then falling in love with diatonic button accordions. You just have to think of them as entirely different instruments. After playing diatonics for a number of years, whenever I pick up a piano accordion I find myself doing bellows changes as if it was a diatonic!

    Good luck!

  3. thank you. it’s a 3-row (30 buttons) C-F-G, so i have a lot of buttons to choose from. i was working from a book trying to learn some basic songs but it concentrated on the one (middle) row and i was wondering if regular players really do concentrate on that row or rather branch out all over the place. i managed to teach myself a cute little italian song (by ear) venturing out past the middle row, and had a lot of obstacles along the way. fortunately i’ve perfected that song pretty well at this point and i think i will be able to tackle other songs. i guess i just needed to get one “real” song under my belt to get the idea of what works and what doesn’t. doing the one (middle) row ‘row your boat’ just wasn’t cutting it. ;o)

  4. I learned by playing scottish and canadian fiddle tunes and scandinavian accordion music.I copied the phasing and snaps of the fiddle tunes which helped me find notes going in appropriate directions and helped with bellows control.

    The oldtime scandinavian piano accordion music is best played by crossing the rows to get the smooth phrasing of the waltzs and the triplets commonly used in other tunes.The tunes are fairly easy to play and sound great.

    I’ve played one and two row but I love playing the three-row.Most of the notes are in both directions and there are more accidentals and basses.Try playing your GCF like it’s an ADG or FBbEb so that you have more music to play from.

  5. I learned to play a bunch of songs on my G/C accordion using the tablature on Bernard Loffet’s website: (Valse triste was my first). Unfortunately, even after learning a dozen or more songs, I don’t really know what notes I’m playing without the tablature. Common sequences are starting to feel natural, however, so maybe after a dozen or so more. Even if I learned only the songs on that website, I don’t think I would suffer for lack of repertoire.

  6. Hey Anna –

    Ah, the glories of the 3-row button box-every scale is different! I have not run into any system for playing. The conjunto players tend to focus on playing on the draw because more notes are available and some say the sound is stronger. They push in to get air or to end a line or song. But some people, like maestro Joél Guzmán just use whatever works, in or out. For some notes (Bb and G# on a GCF box like yours) you can only get them on the out. The only complete scale you can get on the push is C. So it behooves you to learn (memorize) scales and chords on the out, and as much as you can on the push.

    Francisco Rios’ “Señor Maestro” is the best system for learning scales and chords I’ve seen and it is free at:

    Francisco is a San José engineer and organizer of the Biblioteca Latinoamericana gatherings.

    Another good resource is “Acordeón Completo” from Mayas Music online. It’s in Spanish.

    It is confusing and difficult and just takes a lot of work to make sense out of it.

    Good luck,

  7. Hi – I recently relocated to San Francisco from Austin TX where I fell in love with Tejano music. I am looking for someone that teaches lessons on the diatonic accordion – I played a piano accordion as a kid, but really want to re-learn on this new instrument. Any recommendations are most welcome. Muchas Gracias! – lj