school of music

145 Main Street Port Washington, New York

A modern course for

ANTHONY ARETTA, pioneer in method·writing

for accordion; composer, arranger, professional

pianist and accordionist; and nationally respected as an

authority on teaching, is the author and arranger.

All instructions, illustrations, examples, music

arrangements, and many original compositions were

specially prepared for this Course by Mr. Aretta.

Entire Course including music copyright MCMLXIV b)' U. S. SCHOOL OF MUSIC. International cnpy-lg'ht secured, All rights reserved. Manufactured in the U.S.A. Printed by the U. S. SCHOOL OF MUSIC PRESS.

u. S. S C H 00 L 0 F MUS rc « 145M a; n S t r e e t, Po r tWa 5 h in g ton, N. Y.

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ACCORDION - Lesson 1


Page 1

Congratulations on your decision to learn to play the accordion!

lt is indeed a most fascinating instrument Compared to many other musical instruments, the accordion is not difficult to master; and it's a lot more fun because, almost immediately you will be able to play songs that everybody knows.

You can take your accordion with you wherever you go you will be especially welcome because your music will give pleasure to everyone. And all of this will be much sooner than you think!

To succeed in your ambition, you don't need special, natural talent, nor a musical background. You need only the habit of regular practice, a workmanlike attitude toward the lesson instructions, and a sincere desire to learn.

You're anxious to get started-and so are we. So let's get acquainted with the accordion itself.

Compare your instrument with the photograph at the left; familiarize yourself with the various parts and their functions.

Shoulder straps must be adjusted to fit you. The left strap should be shorter than the right, as much as four incbes, because the heavy part of the mechanism is to your left.

Bass strap should be adjusted to fit snugly over your left wrist. so that you do not need to bend your wrist when you pull open the bellows. However, the strap should not be so tight that your wrist is wedged between the instrument and the strap.

Bellows clasps are located at the top and bottom of the bellows (or there may be a lock in the back of the bellows). These leather or metal Clasps (or the lock) hold the bellows closed when the accordion is not in use. When you are taking off your accordion, lock the bellows first. Then it won't dangle awkwardly while you are slipping the straps from your shoulders.

Piano keyboard, with black and white keys, is for the right hand.

Bass keyboard, for the left hand, is composed of buttons which produce bass (or low) tones. Bass is pronounced "base."

Front grill covers the right hand mechanism.

Bass plate covers the left band mechanism. It is located on the left side of the accordion, under the bass strap.

Air button is pressed to release, or take in, air wben you want to close or open tbe bellows without playing. It is located near the top of the accordion, protruding from the bass plate.

Metal reeds vibrate and produce musical sounds when air, circulated by the bellows. is forced past them. Each reed in the accordion is tuned to produce just one special tone.

Sets of reeds: there are high reeds, intermediate reeds, and low reeds. Accordions vary as to the number of sets of reeds. A minimum, standard instrument has two sets of reeds for each right hand tone and four 'Sets for the left hand.

Switches, which are sometimes called "registers" or "shifts," control metal slides that close off the air from various sets of reeds, thereby regulating the tonal quality of the instrument. Accordions vary as to the number of switches; it depends on how many sets of reeds there are.

Bellows is constructed of a strong. pleated material, and should be air tight. Air is released from the bellows either by pressing a key, a button or the air button.

Pressure on the bellows determines the volume of sound. If the bellows is moved easily, the tone is soft. Pulling or pushing the bellows harder produces louder tones. When playing the piano, you can produce more volume when you strike the piano keys hard. Force on the accordion piano keyboard brings no sound at all, unless you are moving the bellows, so the bellows is actually the heart of your instrument.


It is assumed that you have a standard piano accordion in good working condition. The keys and bass buttons should move easily and quietly. The bellows must not leak air. Its tone should be rich and sweet. The instrument should always be wiped with a soft cloth before being put away in its case after performance. Musical instruments are like people in that they are grateful for considerate treatment-treat your accordion like a friend. It is important that you have the instrument tuned and checked over-at least once a year. Keep it in a dry place. Moisture will make it warp, and is not good for the reeds.


The 120 bass accordion is considered the full, or standard instrument (120 bass buttons; 41 black and white keys). However, there are many accordions that are not full, with fewer basses and a shorter right hand keyboard.

Copyright MCMLXIV by U. S. School of Music

TOP DimInished Chords

Major Chords

This chart shows al'l the buttons of the 120

bass accordion in a "mirror view"-giving the positions of the buttons under the fingers of your left hand as you play them, with the first row at the bellows side toward the right. The buttons will look like this if you face a mirror while wearing your accordion.


This is a ch art of the bass buttons of the 120 bass


accordion. Accordions are classified by the number of bass buttons, such as ]2 bass accordions, 48 bass, 60 bass, etc. Count the buttons on your instrument and compare the number of black and white keys. Then you'll know which type of instrument you have.

The basses will be taken up a few at a time and in logical order-e-sc there is no need to attempt to memorize this chart! The same applies to the black and white keys.

4th Row

5th Row

6th Row


ll/us. I.

ACCORDION - Lesson 1



25 keys

when instrument is in playing position

Treble keyboard of 12 bass accordion Compass of this accordion is from Middle C up two octaves. Compare with the 120 bass instrument.


lllus. 2. Treble keyboards for the righ: hand, showing compass of the full 120 bass accordion and a 12 bass accordion.


Page 3











ACCORDION - Lesson 1

Page 4

lllus, 4. The lower comer of the keyboard rests against the inside oj the right leg; this adds stability to the accordion. The upper comer of the keyboard should be inside the lip of [he shoulder.

ACCORDION - Lesson 1


Page 5

First, sit down. Put your arms through the shoulder straps. The accordion should be moved enough to your left that the piano keyboard (righ t) side is resti ng on yourrighlleg.Your chin should be almost in direct line with the front grill, as it meets the piano keyboard (see Illus. 4).

The piano keyboard should be straight up and down, not slanted to the left or right. Your right ann should be held away from your body, and your elbow should be bent at a right angle (see III us. 4). Astra ight J ine can be drawn from the elbow to the fingertips. If your wrist is bent, or your arm is twisted, your accordion is too far to the right.

So-take it off. Lengthen the right shoulder strap and shorten tbe left. Now try it again.

A back strap helps to hold the accordion in a firm position (see I!J us. 5). A short piece of rope will serve if you don't have a back strap.

Unlock the bellows ... top and bottom. We're ready togo!

lllus. 5a. Back strap adjusted in co rrectly, II is too high, and the accordion is too far to the right, which causes the back strap

10 shifl too milch to the left.

lllus .. 5. Back strap adjusted correctly,

ACCORDION - Lesson 1

Page 6


here's more 10 opening and closing the bellows than you might think. The object is to contra! the bellows motion and to avoid tiring your left arm. So practice as follows:

I. Depress the air button with your left thumb and pull op n the bellows by drawing out and d wn with your

left aim. The back of your left wrist is pressed against the bass strap, but your entire left forearm should be the lever. Open the bellows about half-way (too far out and you 10 e control). The bellows is now open like a fan: wid at the top and almost completely closed at the bottom (llJus. 6).

lllus. 6. Bellows being opened-pulling from the top

ACCORDION - Lesson 1

Page 7

2. With the air button still depre sed, close the bellows by lifting the left top and tilting it toward the right top. The bellows will now look like an upside-down fan, with the top closed and the bono In IV ide (J 11 us. 7). Com pi ete the closing by pushing against the bass plate with the left hand until the bellows is closed tightly. Closing the accordion correctly is more of a problem. Think of it a an "up and over" motion.

3. Repeat this pening and closing of the bellows until it becomes easy. Count out loud: open 1-2-3; close 1- 2-3· open 1-2-3; close 1-2-3.

Important Point: Always start playing with the bellows completely closed. Finish playing with bellows also in a closed position.

Illus. 7. Bellows being closed-s-i'up and over"

1II/,/s. 8. Corresponding note tor every while key


There are only seven basic musical tones and they are named with leiters of the alphabet: A, B, C, D, E, P, and C.

On any keyboard instrument, these same tones (white keys) are repeated over and over, starting with the lowest tone and moving up to the highest. The lowest tones on the accordion piano keyboard are at the top of the instrument, and the highest tones are at the bottom.

Above is a pictu re of the standa rd 120 bass accordion piano keyboard. There are 4 A's, 3 8'5. 3 C's, 3 D's, 3 E's, 4 F's, and 4 C's. Each of the A's, for insta nee, is the same tone but each is different from the other in how high or low it is. •

Notice that every C on the keyboard is to the left of the two black-key grouping. Every F is 10 the left of the three black-key grouping. Study the picture of the keyboard and find all the A's, 8'5, C's, etc, Then find them on your accordion.


When a composer writes a song and he wants to finish it on a high "C;' he must show this in the music. If we want 10 play his song, we must be able to read the notes that he has written and. follow them correctly.

So there is a note for each key. These notes are written on a music staff, which is simply five Jines, with four spaces between the lines. The position of the note on the staff, 011 a line or in a space, tells us where on the key. board we should play this note. We count the lines and spaces of the staff from the bottom 10 the top;

·Whil." it is COmmon knowledge that sounds are caused by vi brat ion of the ai r wa ves, it is in t ercs n ng to n 01 e lila t music al sounds (that is, the sounds whose pitch we can distinguish) are caused by waves of 20 per second for the lowest tones to as high as 10,000 per second.

Below 20 We hear a rumble. Above 10,000 is a scratch, the chirp of insects, high door squeaks, and such

What is even more interesting is the fact that the number of vi bra t i ens per second dcubles as we go from one C to th e next higher C. The first Con the accordion (near the top of the right ha nd keyhoard)is produced by 256 vibrations per S I:CQnd, the n ex I C by 5 12 vi bra lions, and th e It ighest C by 1024 vi bra I ions per seco nd.

This numerical relaticn produces no clash if all the C's are sounded at once. However, if you should sound two notes not in numeric" t relation, such' as £ and F, the clashing of the two waves would be immediately obvious and distasteful to you.


A note represents a musical sound. How long the sound shou Id last is shown by the kind of note it is:

A whole note (0) is held for 4 counts; A half note (d) is held for 2 counts;

A dotted half note (d') is held for 3 counts; A quarter note (J) is held for I count.

Notice that the whole 110le is oval. By adding a stem to this oval. we have a half note The dot after the halI note gives it an extra count. The quarter note is drawn the same as a half note, except that the oval is filled in, so that the body of the note is black.


Look at the sra fT (illus. 8) on wh ich is written the corresponding note for every White key on the accordion keyboard. Every note is either exactly on a line or in a space. AI.I notes written above or below tile staff are written on (orin the space between) short lines which are called leger lines.

The symbol at the beginning of the staff is the treble clef. It indicates that the music is written for the rigl: I hand.


Below (Illus. 9) is an empty staff. Measure bars divide the SIB ff into measures.

A music measure is a standard unit of time found in

all printed music. I

The double bar indicates the end of the piece or song.


The numbers to the right of the treble clef are the time signature, and they tell us the time of the music. Tbe 3 means that there are three counts to each measure. The 4 means that a quarter note receives one count,

lllus. 9. Sraf] divided by bars into measures.



ACCORDION - Lesson 1

Page 9









llius. 10. Here (Ire the firs: five notes you will play, and where 10 find them on the keyboard. Use the fingers of your riglu hand as shown by the numbers under the notes.


C is resting on the first leger line below the staff.

D, the next note. is written in the space under the first line of the sta ff.

E, the third note. is placed on the first line of the


F is in the first space of the staff.

G is written on the second line of the staff.

Fingers arc numbered, and the fingering is shown under the notes, to help you get started. However, learn to recognize these live notes as soon as possible.

Play them over and over. Now play them without looking at your fingers' (Did you ever see an accordionist perform with his head bent down over the keyboard so that you could see none of his face but on.ly the top of his head?) You can feel these keys under your fingers ... no need 10 look at them. Look at your music and read the notes as you play them.


This is probably the best time to talk a little about how we are going (0 approach our music study, so that you wiII know what to expect-and, also, what will be expected of you!

L Because the lessons move ahead in smooth, easy steps, you may not be aware of how much you are actually learning. However, you can be sure that everything offered or recommended in each lesson is important. Unnecessary information that might lead to confusion has been eliminated so that the lessons present only what is needed at the time.

2. To add color and interest to your study of the accordion, a certain amount of technical, educational, or

cultural information will be, offered. This "background" material will be added in footnotes (starred and in smaller print). Read these footnotes for extra enjoyment and a broader education, but don't worry-you won', be asked for any of this information in your quizzes and examinations!

3_ Now that we've mentioned the tests .. _

(a) the Music Quiz is for self-testing; important fundamentals arc stressed; you can check yourself on your progress.

(b) the separate Examination Sheet must be sent to the School, however. It will be corrected, graded, and returned to you with any necessary suggestions-a great help and we urge you to use this service.

4. When we ask you to count out loud, we have a good reason. Once you are under way and have begun to "feel" rhythm, counting won't be necessary. So, when we indicate a count, please follow through-it will help you tremendously.

5. It must be remembered that it takes just so much practice before any function can be performed without effort. Until eyes and mind and muscles and fingers all work together, performance will be anything but smooth.

6. How and how much you practice will establish your nne of progress. (At leas! a half-hour a day, please! Missing a day now and then is nota serious default, but it slows up you r progress in almost dou ble proportion.)

7. You should spend about a week on each lesson. If you stay with the lesson long enough so that you can play the music smoothly and fluently, you will gain more than those who rush into the next lesson without adequate preparation.

ACCORDION - Lesson 1


Page 10

open close
1.1 1 2 3
Ex. 2 J. J. j;
Count 1 2 3 1 2 3
open close
~ 5 4 3
j. rJ. j.
open close
~ 1 3 5
I j. j.
open close
~ 1 5 1
J. j. I
4' 4








Above are four lines of music for the right hand.

Read the music from left to right. from one line to the next, until you come to the double bar.

The words "Open" and "Close" above the staff refer to bellows motion, They will help you to establish a regular pattern of opening and closing the bellows. Otherwise you'll lind yourself neither opening nor closing completely, or extending the bellows so far that it becomes difficult to control.

Each of the notes is a dotted half note and is to be held for the count of 1-2-3. Count out loud; play slowly


2$ 2 j




Count 1
~ 2
~ 3
~ 2
J 2



J. J.









and evenly. Remember, the measure bars are units of time and not stopping places between notes. Play through from the beginning to the end of the music exercise without any break in time.

Example 2 is a melody with which you are familiar.

We are asking you to play it now because it is such a good example of the importance of note values. If you hold the quarter notes longer than one count, you'll spoil the melody, Play slowly and evenly; count as indicated.

Half note: J hold for 2 counts; quarter note: ~ hold for r count.


2 3
J I j
3 1 2
2 1
J J. J.


j I j.
3 1 2 3
J j. 2




ACCORDION - Lesson 1

Page 11


a shiny stone or an indentation of the button itself, so it is easy to find by touch (second row from the bellows).

Press C bass button with your third finger. C major chord is slanted a little behind and above the C bass button; press it with your second finger.

Now you have the two buttons with which you are to start. Practice at first without music, to get the feel of pressing the buttons, releasing them. and moving the bellows at the same time.

I. Start with the bellows closed. Play C bass, while pull-

lltus. 11. Finding the firs! bass buttons you will play.

When you look at all the buttons of the bass keyboard of an accordion you probably say to yourself, "How can anyone ever learn what they all are?"

Perhaps if we compare the bass keyboard to a typewriter keyboard it won't seem so hard to understand. A typist uses the "touch" system and does not look at fingers or keys. Through practice, the typist has learned to locate the proper keys and doesn't have to stop to think or look. We are going to have to use the "touch" system, too, beca~se we can't see the basses.

Probably you already know that some of the bass buttons will produce a single tone (each is called simply a bass) but other buttons will produce a combination of tones. These latter are called chords. Running lengthwise from top to bottom of the standard 120 bass instrument are six rows of buttons. The two rows nearest the bellows are basses; the other four rows are chords.


Locate C bass on the bass chart (Illus. 11). C major chord is the button right next to C bass, in the major chord row (third row from the bellows).

C bass is always marked on the accordion, either with M

ing open the bellows.

2. Release the button.

3. Play C major chord, still opening the bellows.

4. Release the button.

5. Play C major chord again, opening the bellows.

6. Release the button.

7. Repeat pushing the bellows closed this time. Third finger once; second linger twice. Practice this pattern over and over until it becomes easy to do. Be sure 10 use the correct fingers.

What you are actually doing is playing what is called a "waltz-time" bass. The count is 1-2-3, and you should count out loud while you are playing. Your touch on the buttons should be short and quick. Otherwise, the sounds will run together and your basses will be • smeary."

Move up to the bass and chord buttons directly above C bass and C major chord, using the same fingers as before. This is G bass and G major chord. Practice the same waltz-time pattern on these two buttons.

Now you are ready to study and read the music for the left hand.


The symbol indicating that the music is written for the left hand is placed at the beginning of the staff, and is called a bass del.


M above the chord means "major," to distinguish it from other kinds of chords. The M is written only once above the first chord and does not appear again until the chord is changed, or until a new line of music is started.

C bass and C major chord in the waltz-time pattern are shown in Ilius. 12; G bass and chord are shown in lilus. ] 3. Fingering for the buttons is shown-this is exactly what you were practicing without the music. The notes are quarter notes, which receive one count




3 3

/ ~3 Count )l ~3

C bass and C major chord G bass and G major chord

lllus.l2. llfus.13.


ACCORDION - Lesson 1 Page 12
open M close
Ex. 3. "ty 2 J F F r J r r I J r r I J r r II
Count 1 2 3 1 2 3
open M close
;r 2 :r F ~ I :J r r I :J r F I :J uF • It
Ex .. 4. f
3 open M close
Ex. 5. :r ! J r r I J r r I J F ~
3 3
open M close
J r r r r M
5): I J I J F r Notice that the basses have sterns thai go up from the body of the note. and rho stems of the chords go down from the body of the note.









Practice Examples 3.4, and 5. counting out loud, and moving smoothly from measure to measure. Watch the "open" and "close" markings for the bellows-two measures open and two measures close.


One measure of music for both hands is shown in lIIus. ! 4. Notice how the tre ble and bass staves are joined by a brace. and how the measure bars run through from the top of the treble staff to the bottom of t he bass 51 aff .

The dotted half note. for the right hand. should be held for three counts. but the bass is written in quarter notes, which are held for one count each.

Be sure you start with both hands together at the



3 Count 1



count of "one." Strike the key C exactly at the same time as you press the C bass button. Holddown the right hand note while you play chord-chord (on the. counts of "two" and "three" J. Be sure to release the right hand note after the count of "three." You'll be inclined to want to leave your thumb implanted!

Practice this measure over and over; then practice the measu re in! 11 us. 1 5. Theil you'll be ready for the first song: Dips), Doo,

tlfus. 15.

I f"l


3 Count 1



ACCORDION - Lesson 1

Page 13



" 3
I I!. 4'
, Count 1 2 3 1 2 3
~ M
~ -JfI:_ .L ~ ~ ~ --- 1#-- ---
.. open 1


close 5




close 1

\ ,
I!. -61-' 4'
, M
~ --- --- ~ .,. .,. .,. .,. .,.
On the next song (Ensy Does It) you will have to change from C bass and chord to G bass and chord, and back again. Be sure to play slowly, counting out loud. Aiter you become more familiar with the notes, listen

to what you are playing. Are you hesitating between measures? Music must flow smoothly and rhythmically, from measure to measure and line to line.


I I"l
, .
. ,
, I! 4' ~
( Count 1 2 3 1 2 3
t M
~ -~ ~ --- .,. .,. .,. ~
open 1


close 5


open 4




, I!. U· .g' 4'
M .. --- I .,. .,.
- - ACCORDION - Lesson 1

Page 14

open 3


close 4


I .
. . .
, ~
t ~. ~ 1 1fI:_ .,..
L.... - Ex. 8.

open 3


~ 1 2
I .
, ~ -9" V' V'
) M M
I .",. ~ ~ ~
.. - - / 11
. .
) M M
~ ~ ~ -~
t .

- open 3

open. 3


close 4



I fl· 1
, "
, II!, U· 4' -9'
Play bass and
( M chord together
t M M
# ~ M 'fII- ._. ".
.. - -

Test yourself! See how many of these questions you can answer without having to go back and look them up. (This is not an examination that must be sent to the School for correction.)

I. How many lines are there in the staff? How many spaces?

2. To which hand does the treble clef refer? The bass clef?

3. What divides the staff into measures?

4. What areleger lines used for? What does the double bar indicate?

The las! measure of Music Tillie has a new form of bass. C bass and C major chord are written one above the other, connected by the same stem. This means that. you should press both buttons together. holding the notes for the three full counts.

5. What does the time signature teU us?

6. How many counts does the dotted half note receive? The half note? The quarter note?

7. On the treble staff, where is C located? D? E? F? G?

8. M above the chord means that it is what kind of chord?

9. What is the function of the air button?

10. Why is it important that we immediately learn to play the accordion without looking at the keyboard?

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