Cajun accordion

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Cajun Accordion
An Acadian brand Cajun Accordion
Other namesdiatonic button accordion, melodeon
Classification Free-reed aerophone
Hornbostel–Sachs classification 412.13
(Reeds vibrate within a closely fitting slot)
Developed19th century
Related instruments
Accordion, Bandoneón, Harmonica, Harmonium
Joe Falcon, Iry LeJeune, Amédé Ardoin, "Bois Sec" Ardoin, Nathan Abshire
More articles or information
Cajun Music, Cajun, History of Cajun Music

A Cajun accordion (in Cajun French: accordéon [1] ), also known as a squeezebox, is single-row diatonic button accordion used for playing Cajun music.



Many different accordions were developed in Europe throughout the 19th century, and exported worldwide. Accordions were brought to Acadiana in the 1890s and became popular by the early 1900s (decade), [2] eventually becoming a staple of Cajun music.

Many of the German factories producing diatonic accordions for the United States market were destroyed during World War II. As a result, some Cajuns, such as Sidney Brown, began producing their own instruments, based on the popular one-row German accordions but with modifications to suit the nuances of the Cajun playing style. [3] Since the end of World War II, there has been a surge in the number of Cajun accordion makers in Louisiana, as well as several in Texas. [4]


Shop in Iota, Louisiana where Larry Miller builds his Cajun accordions. Cajun Accordion Shop.jpg
Shop in Iota, Louisiana where Larry Miller builds his Cajun accordions.

The Cajun accordion is generally defined as a single-row diatonic accordion, as compared to multiple-row instruments commonly used in Irish, Italian, polka, and other styles of music. The Cajun accordion has multiple reeds for every button, and the number of reeds that sound is controlled by four stops or knobs. The standard number of melody buttons is ten, with two buttons on the left-hand side: one for the bass note and one for the chord. The tonic note and major chord of the key play on when the bellows are pushed, and the dominant note and major chord when pulled (for instance, C major and G major respectively in the key of C). [5] Louisiana-constructed accordions are usually built in small backyard shops like Marc Savoy's Acadian brand and Larry Miller's Bon Cajun brand. Clarence " junior" Martin of Lafayette Louisiana is a Master Craftsman who also builds accordions in his shop.


The most common tuning utilized is the key of C, although the key of D is also relatively common. [6] Some rarer accordions are constructed in the key of B flat. Cajun accordions are traditionally tuned to a Just Intonation.

Notable players

Although the instrument is called a Cajun accordion, both zydeco and creole musicians play the Cajun accordion with a zydeco and creole sound respectively. Each musician below is considered important in influencing accordion technique and image.

Manufacturers and builders

See also

Related Research Articles

Accordion Bellows-driven free-reed aerophone musical instrument

Accordions are a family of box-shaped musical instruments of the bellows-driven free-reed aerophone type, colloquially referred to as a squeezebox. A person who plays the accordion is called an accordionist. The concertina and bandoneón are related. The harmonium and American reed organ are in the same family, but are typically larger than an accordion and sit on a surface or the floor.

Zydeco is a music genre that evolved in southwest Louisiana by French Creole speakers which blends blues, rhythm and blues, and music indigenous to the Louisiana Creoles and the Native American people of Louisiana. Though distinct in origin from the Cajun music of Louisiana, the two forms influenced each other, forming a complex of genres native to Louisiana.

The music of Louisiana can be divided into three general regions: rural south Louisiana, home to Creole Zydeco and Old French, New Orleans, and north Louisiana. The region in and around Greater New Orleans has a unique musical heritage tied to Dixieland jazz, blues, and Afro-Caribbean rhythms. The music of the northern portion of the state starting at Baton Rouge and reaching Shreveport has similarities to that of the rest of the US South.

Cajun music, an emblematic music of Louisiana played by the Cajuns, is rooted in the ballads of the French-speaking Acadians of Canada. Cajun music is often mentioned in tandem with the Creole-based zydeco music, both of Acadiana origin, and both of which have influenced the other in many ways. These French Louisiana sounds have influenced American popular music for many decades, especially country music, and have influenced pop culture through mass media, such as television commercials.


The garmon is a kind of Russian button accordion, a free-reed wind instrument. A garmon has two rows of buttons on the right side, which play the notes of a diatonic scale, and at least two rows of buttons on the left side, which play the primary chords in the key of the instrument as well as its relative harmonic minor key. Many instruments have additional right-hand buttons with useful accidental notes, additional left-hand chords for playing in related keys, and a row of free-bass buttons, to facilitate playing of bass melodies.

Button accordion

A button accordion is a type of accordion on which the melody-side keyboard consists of a series of buttons. This differs from the piano accordion, which has piano style keys. Erich Von Hornbostel and Curt Sachs categorize it as a free reed aerophone in their classification of instruments, published in 1914. The sound from the instrument is produced by the vibration of air in reeds. Button accordions of various types are particularly common in European countries and countries where European people settled. The button accordion is often confused with the concertina, however the button accordion's buttons are on the front of the instrument, where as the concertina's are on the sides and pushed in parallel with the bellows.

Flutina Free-reed musical instrument

The Flutina is an early precursor to the diatonic button accordion, having one or two rows of treble buttons, which are configured to have the tonic of the scale, on the "draw" of the bellows. There is usually no bass keyboard: the left hand operates an air valve. A rocker switch, called a "bascule d'harmonie" is in the front of the keyboard. When this switch is thumb activated, it would open up a pallet (a pad that covers a tone hole, at the other end of the key button, for a simple Tonic/Dominant drone: Tonic on the draw and Dominant on the press, e.g. Tonic notes C/g, and Dominant G/d, without any major or minor thirds.

Diatonic button accordion

A melodeon or diatonic button accordion is a member of the free-reed aerophone family of musical instruments. It is a type of button accordion on which the melody-side keyboard contains one or more rows of buttons, with each row producing the notes of a single diatonic scale. The buttons on the bass-side keyboard are most commonly arranged in pairs, with one button of a pair sounding the fundamental of a chord and the other the corresponding major triad.

Schrammel accordion Musical instrument

A Schrammel accordion is an accordion with a melody keyboard in the chromatic B-Griff system and a twelve-button diatonic bass keyboard. It is named for a traditional combination of two violins, accordion or clarinet, and contraguitar known as a Schrammelquartet – a group that played Schrammelmusik in the Vienna chamber music tradition.

Alphonse "Bois Sec" Ardoin American Creole accordionist

Alphonse "Bois Sec" Ardoin was a Creole accordionist who specialized in the Creole music called "la la music" or "la musique Creole" and was influential in what became zydeco music.

Canray Fontenot American Creole fiddler

Canray Fontenot was an American Creole fiddle player, who has been described as "the greatest Creole Louisiana French fiddler of our time."

History of Cajun music

Cajun music has its roots based in the ballads of the French-speaking Acadians of Canada, and in country music.


The Schwyzerörgeli is a type of diatonic button accordion used in Swiss folk music. The name derives from the town/canton of Schwyz where it was developed. Örgeli is the diminutive form of the word Orgel (organ). Outside of Switzerland the instrument is not well known and is hard to find.

Pine Leaf Boys

The Pine Leaf Boys is an American Cajun and Creole band from South Louisiana, United States. Members include Wilson Savoy, Courtney Granger, Drew Simon, Jean Bertrand (guitars), and Thomas David (bass).

Steirische Harmonika

The Steirische Harmonika is a type of bisonoric diatonic button accordion important to the alpine folk music of Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, the German state of Bavaria, and the Italian South Tyrol. The Steirische Harmonika is distinguished from other diatonic button accordions by its typically richer bass notes, and by the presence of one key per scale row that has the same tone on both compression and expansion of the bellows, called a Gleichton. The bass notes earn the distinction Helikonbässe because they use bigger reeds with duralumin reed frames and a special chamber construction that amplifies its bass tones to give it a loud sound reminiscent of a Helicon tuba.

Cedric Watson

Cedric Watson is an American musician. He has been nominated four times for Grammy Awards.

John Delafose American zydeco musician

John Irvin Delafose was an American French-speaking Creole Zydeco accordionist from Louisiana.

Andre Thierry is an American Zydeco musician. He leads the band Zydeco Magic.


Khromka is a type of Russian garmon. It is the most widespread variant in Russia and in the former USSR. Nearly all Russian garmons made since the mid of the 20th century are khromkas.


Miller, Larry; Miler, Mike (1988). You Can Play Cajun Accordion: Designed For Beginners. Point Au Loup Pub. Co. ASIN   B00071SMMA.

Savoy, Ann (1986) [1984]. Cajun Music a Reflection of a People . Eunice, Louisiana: Bluebird Press. ISBN   978-0-930169-00-8.

  1. Albert Valdman; Kevin J. Rottet (2009). Barry Jean Ancelet (ed.). Dictionary of Louisiana French: As Spoken in Cajun, Creole, and American Indian Communities. Richard Guidry, etc. Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 8. ISBN   978-1-60473-404-1.
  2. You Can Play Cajun Accordion 1988
  3. Dôle, Gérard (1977). Traditional Cajun Accordion (Vinyl). Gérard Dôle. New York City: Folkways Records. 8363.
  4. List of Cajun accordion Makers
  5. Savoy 1984, p. 2.
  6. Savoy 1984, p. 1.