How to Play a Melodeon

Written by jessica taylor
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How to Play a Melodeon
(Photo by Paul Johnson, / CC BY 2.0)

A melodeon is a squeeze box-style instrument similar to an accordion, with buttons on the side and a bellows in the middle. The main difference between a melodeon and a standard accordion is that a melodeon plays a different note as the bellows are pulled in and pushed out, while an accordion produces a sustained note when pumping the bellows. Melodeons are also slightly smaller, with fewer buttons and no keyboard. Melodeons are popular in both Cajun and traditional Irish music, and produce a sweet, simple sound. Here's how to play one.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Melodeon

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  1. 1

    Unlock the bellows latch if your melodeon has one. Slide your left wrist through the wrist strap on the side of the melodeon and fasten the shoulder straps over your shoulders.

  2. 2

    Position your left hand so that your little finger can reach the farthest bass button. This should put your left thumb near the air button, which is used to move the bellows when not playing a note. Push the air button and pull the bellows from the left side. Try to keep the right side of the melodeon still.

  3. 3

    Press a few buttons while wiggling the bellows to get a feel for the sound of the instrument. You'll find that when you press a button while pushing in the bellows you'll get one note, and when pressing the same button while pulling out the bellows you get the next note on the musical scale.

  4. 4

    Locate your home notes. The buttons on the right side are the treble buttons, and they're used to play melodies. Depending on your melodeon, you may have one, two or three rows of treble buttons. The third button from the top on each row is usually the home note, meaning that it represents "Do" on the "Do-Re-Mi" scale.

  5. 5

    Play around with the buttons on the left side. These are the bass notes, and they are used for accompaniment. Squeeze the melodeon in and out while playing both the treble notes and bass accompaniment, and try to come up with a few simple tunes.

Tips and warnings

  • Always press the air button if you want to move the bellows in and out without playing a note.
  • Keep your melodeon away from water, which could damage the bellows.

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