How to Play the Ten Button Accordion

Updated April 17, 2017

The ten button accordion is often referred to as the Cajun accordion. The ten button accordion is also popular in Irish music and Tex-Mex accordion music. The ten button accordion is a diatonic instrument similar to the ten hole harmonica. Each button produces two notes. However, instead of the blowing and drawing technique used by harmonica players, the different notes are produced by pushing and pulling the bellows as you press the buttons.

Adjust the accordion strap so that the accordion feels comfortable. The strap helps to hold the accordion in place even in the sitting position. If you are sitting, rest the treble side of the accordion comfortably on your knee. The right hand plays the ten buttons on the treble side of the accordion. Place the thumb of your left hand through the thumb strap on the left side of the accordion. Place your index finger on one bass button and your little finger on the other bass button. Hold the accordion so that you can easily reach the buttons with your fingers and so that you can comfortably push and pull the bellows.

Push and pull the bellows and finger the buttons on the accordion. At this point, the goal is to simply develop a feel for the push and pull technique while playing the individual buttons. Do this several times until it feels comfortable.

Learn the major scale on the accordion. Ten button accordions are tuned to a specific key such as C major, D major or A major. The numerical relationship between the note is exactly the same on all button accordions. Once you learn the C major scale on a C major accordion, playing the same buttons on a D major accordion produces a D major scale. The major scale is played with buttons 3, 4, 5, and 6. Each button plays two notes. Using C major as an example, finger button 3 and push the bellows to play C. Continue fingering button three and pull the bellows to play D. Button 4 is E/F. Button 5 is G/A and Button 6 is B/C.

Play the bass buttons. Push one button with the index finger and the other button with the little finger. On a C accordion, the bass buttons play a C root note and C chord when the bellows are pushed and a G note and G chord when the bellows are pulled.

Learn the other notes on the accordion. A ten button accordion has two octaves of the major scale. The first button starts on the major 3rd of the scale. Using a C major scale as an example again, the arrangement of the notes is the following: 1 (E/G), 2 (G/B), 3 (C/D), 4 (E/F), 5 (G/A), 6 (C/B), 7 (E/D), 8 (G/F), 9 (C/F), 10 E/B).

Build a repertoire of accordion songs. Accordion music and instruction books are available at acoustic music stores. Online lessons and video are other helpful resources. Find an accordion mentor to show you songs and accordion tips.

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About the Author

Robert Russell began writing online professionally in 2010. He holds a Ph.D. in philosophy and is currently working on a book project exploring the relationship between art, entertainment and culture. He is the guitar player for the nationally touring cajun/zydeco band Creole Stomp. Russell travels with his laptop and writes many of his articles on the road between gigs.