How to play the 12 bass accordion

Updated July 20, 2017

Learning to play the accordion has many benefits, including increased concentration, coordination and musical appreciation. The 12 bass piano accordion is an excellent model for children to start with if they are interested in playing the instrument. It is small, lightweight and usually available at a relatively affordable rate. Due to its minimal amount of left-hand buttons, the 12 bass is also an efficient beginner's introduction to the Stradella bass system, which is expanded on larger models such as the 48, 96 or 120 bass. Though there is a limit to its musical capabilities because of its size, this makes the 12 bass easy to master in no time.

Take the instrument out of the case and try it on. The piano keyboard should be on your right side and the bass buttons on your left. Reposition the shoulder straps so the accordion fits comfortably. Adjust the left-hand strap by finding the dial on top of the bass side and turning it.

Prepare a steady posture, whether standing or sitting. Either way, keep your back straight at all times and both feet planted on the ground. Extend your right elbow as far out to the side as possible, leaving the right hand plenty of room to glide up and down the keyboard through movement of the right forearm. Keep the fingers on your right hand rounded, as if you are holding a baseball. Place your left hand and wrist through the bass strap, resting your wrist on the inside of the strap and keeping your left hand free.

Feel around the keyboard on the right side. This side is set up exactly like a piano. There are repetitive formations of black keys in sets of both two and three. The note immediately preceding the first black key in a set of two is C. The rest of the white keys continue upwards from here--C, D, E, F, G, A and B--until reaching another C note. The black keys are the corresponding sharp and flat notes of the white keys, starting with the C sharp/D flat key above C, then D sharp/E flat, then F sharp/G flat, G sharp/A flat, and A sharp/B flat. All of the keys are set up in this pattern on this side and contain different notes in different octaves.

Feel around the buttons on the left side. You should feel an indent on one of them. This is the C bass button. It is part of the bass row, which is the row closest to the bellows. The bass row is set up with B flat at the bottom (closest to the floor while wearing the instrument), then F above it, then C, G, D and finally, A. The other row is the major chord row. The buttons in the major chord row diagonally correspond to the buttons in the bass row: B flat major at the bottom, followed by F major, then C major, G major, D major and finally, A major at the top.

Unhook the latches on the top and bottom of the bellows. Produce sound by pushing in and pulling out the bellows. Experiment with volume by pressing or pulling them harder or softer. Practice the technique of bellows control by playing a few continuous notes while pushing and pulling and so on. Should you need to close the bellows shut again without playing any notes, use your left thumb to press the air button, which is located on the top of the left side near the bass strap.

Begin lessons immediately with an accordion teacher in your area. Listen to other accordionists on tape and in concert and try to adapt some new techniques. Most importantly, don't forget to practice, practice, practice. Eventually, work your way up to a larger bass size. Soon enough, the squeeze will be a breeze.

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About the Author

Eric K. Auld has been writing since 2004 and has had work published on McSweeney's Internet Tendency and in "The Independent." He has a Master of Arts in English/writing from the College of Saint Rose in Albany, N.Y.