How to choose a diatonic accordion

Choosing a new diatonic accordion is always a complicated exercise. Is there a brand better than the others? How many rows are necessary? What are the right selection criteria.

To begin with, there is no need to spend big money for your diatonic accordion. It is best to make sure that you really like that instrument and want to continue playing for a few years. There are hire-purchase solutions that allow you to start with a good basic accordion in the form of a monthly rental and then acquire it, the amount of rent is usually deducted from the sale price.


The question of renewal will come, a few years later, when you start to find pleasure with your accordion and look to go further, explore more advanced techniques and want to get your own sound.

So, how do you choose your new accordion? How to feel comfortable with your diatonic accordion?

Here are some tips to help you make up your mind.

Size and weight

First and foremost, the most important thing to consider is the size and weight of the accordion. There are 3 row -18 bass diatonic accordions that look great and have it all. But their weight and size mean that not everyone can easily play with such an instrument. It will depend on the age of the musician, the gender. A young girl will have a hard time standing for 45 minutes with a box of nearly 6kg on her shoulders! It is also necessary, for the youngest, to pay attention to the back pain that it could cause.


Size is also something to take into account. The instrument must be easy to handle so that there is no discomfort and to feel at ease when playing. The depth of the body must be taken into account so that the left arm can easily reach the basses. The difference can go up to 6 cm which is very important depending on the build of the player.

The number of rows: right hand

Even if in places like Quebec they play a lot with single row diato, it is necessary to choose at least a 2 rows, eight basses to play the Breton repertoire. And that's more than enough to play alone or with another diato.


So why do some accordions have more than 2 rows in the right hand?
Simply because by adding all or part of the third row, you will benefit from new buttons which will facilitate your performance. For example, you can find a G pulled or A pushed that you do not have on the 2 first rows. It also makes it possible to have new notes which are semitones (we call this accidentals) like Bb or G sharp. However, you should know that these notes are rather useful if you play in a band or if you leave the Breton repertoire, but why would you?


Thus, it is what you intend to play with your diato (repertoire, enriched accompaniments, band performance) that will determine whether you need to go beyond 2 rows (either 2 rows + 2, 2 rows + 5, or 3 rows).

The number of rows: left hand

We find the same logic with the basses/chords on the left hand. 8 buttons are enough to accompany tunes. With 12, you would benefit from new bass chords like the Bb or the G sharp. With 18 buttons, you would enjoy more combinations such as A pushed while it is only pulled in other configurations.


Voices and registers : right hand

Depending on the diato model you choose, you will be able to modulate the note according to one, two or three voices. A 3-way diatonic accordion will benefit from a Bass, Medium or Flute sound.


The registers combine these voices which enrich the sound of the accordion. For example by using only the deep voice or the flute voice or by combining a deep voice with a medium or medium and flute voice. When all 3 voices are engaged, the diato has a richer sound. There are several systems for operating the different registers. Some are located on the accordion body as a drawbar, others above the notes. Finally, there are systems where the registers are levers located behind the body which are operated by the thumb.


It is above all a question of taste and musical choice. You have to listen to several to get an idea. Once again the diversity of sounds will be a plus for playing in a band and differentiating yourself from other instruments (such as a fiddle for example).

Voices and registers: Left hand

The left hand chord is made up of the root, 3rd, and 5th. The A chord is thus made up of 3 notes: A, C and E. The bass is made up of the note A.


It is possible to change this combination by removing the 3rd from the chord (C in the example) and / or adding the 3rd to the bass. This allows in the first case to lighten the chord and in the second, to enrich the bass.


In Breton music, it is common to remove the 3rds from the chords so as not to overload the whole. On the contrary, they can be put back when the right hand and left hand are in tune to give fullness to the whole.


There are several possible combinations depending on the diatonic accordions: no 3rds at all, 3rds everywhere or 3rds on bass and not on chords or vice versa. The systems to modify them can be above the body or above the bass row, operable by the left hand during the game.


The brands

There are many brands of diatonic accordions out there and there is no shortage of model choices. Fashion or contagion effects must be avoided. There is not a good model but the model that meets your expectations.


Go chat with the sellers. Some are very good advisers and they can help you make your decision.


In any case, sit down and play several tunes. Listen to the sound and ask yourself if this is the sound you are looking for, if the right hand - left hand volume balance is right for you.
Play standing up to see if you are comfortable with it, if it suits your body type. Do not particularly go for a 3 row, 18 bass if you haven't the need for it.