Click to Visit Fisitalia
Click to Visit Orla
Click to Visit Paolo Soprani

accordion ...born 1822

Many people have requested basic information on the history of the accordion, so, while many of you are quite familiar with the background of the accordion, we thought we would provide this brief outline tracking the beginnings of the accordion.

While the accordion itself came onto the scene in the early 1800's, we can track the history of its components back much further. Thousands of years ago in fact, to China.

The SHENG is one of the oldest Chinese musical instruments. The instrument existed as far back as 3,000 years ago.

The Sheng consists of 13-17 bamboo pipes with different lengths that are mounted together onto a base. The base is traditionally a gourd-shaped, wooden wind-chest with each bamboo pipe having a free reed. Sound is produced by blowing and sucking the air through a metal tube connected to the base. From the base the air then rushes through the other pipes.

A player determines the notes to play by allowing the air to rush through selected pipes while pressing on selected keys near the base. By covering two or more holes on various pipes, chords are possible, being a typical technique used in most regional orchestras of China. The SHENG is used as both a solo and accompaniment instrument.

By virtue of its construction, this is the only Chinese musical instrument in the Chinese orchestra capable of playing up to six notes simultaneously. It is therefore commonly called as the "Chinese mouth organ" by westerners.

The Sheng is also the first musical instrument in the world utilizing a "coupled acoustical system," between an air column and a free reed.

While the Chinese were blowing their sheng, the Greeks and the Egyptians were pumping their bellows.

Archaeologists have unearthed sculptured representations of musicians playing bellow-operated instruments. One thing led to another, and by medieval times there were two well-known instruments called the Portative and the Regal. Both had bellows and a keyboard, and were in these respects, related to the accordion. Neither had the typical accordion sound however, which is created by the vibration of a free reed. It was from the Sheng that the free reed principle was derived.

The Sheng could have been brought to Europe by missionaries returning from the Orient or even by the Crusaders returning from the Holy Wars.

Whichever route it took, destiny would bring the Sheng to Berlin in 1822. It was here that the bellows and keyboard of the Greeks joined the reeds of the Chinese Sheng at the hands of one Christian Friedrich Ludwig Buschmann when he built a melodic instrument with button-type keys and a push-pull bellows which he called the Hondaoline.

By 1829, some seven years later, Cyrillus Demian from Austria was producing and selling an improved version, a diatonic push-pull instrument with two to four bass and chord buttons on the left side and up to 15 melody buttons on the right.

Demian patented his instrument with the name ...accordion.