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Chromatic Button Accordion (CBA)





Welcome the newest member of the family! These instruments are decidedly chromatic and neutral by design (the Major scale is not built in). If you familiarize yourself with the Cipher Systems chromatic numbers (semitone value translations of music’s diatonic number formula ) you should understand what’s going on here.

Chromatic button Accordions (called Bayans in the Russian states), are hardly known in the United States, but they’re very popular in both Eastern and Western Europe, and have been for over 100 years! These instruments have largely replaced the Piano Accordion in many countries. They’re the preferred instruments of today’s accordion virtuosos and world competition winners.

These instruments are similar to in some respects to fretted string instruments, similar in a way that we string players will appreciate. A single fingering pattern (interval, scale, or chord voicing) can be moved anywhere on the keyboard to change keys or tonics (otherwise known as transportable patterns). Piano and  piano accordion, of course, make it necessary to learn 12 different fingerings for any given material, one for each key or tonic.

Be prepared for sticker shock though. These instruments, like any quality accordion, run in the thousands of dollars.

More later.

B and C systems compared

C and B System chromatic steps diagonals: C-sys B-sys
C and B system spellings and fingering layout compared
C and B System Basics compared
C and B System Triads compared
C and B System Seventh chords compared

C System

C System keyboard spelling (5 row model)
C System Basics
C System Scales: Major and 3 minor
C System Triads and Seventh chords

B System

B System keyboard spelling (5 row model)
B System Basics
B System Scales: Major and 3 minor
B System Triads and Seventh chords

Blank keyboard grids PDFs

PDF of 5 row CBA blank keyboard grids, assortment


Tonic in any row (Row sets)

To do this right, I would have to do thorough coverage of four CBA machines: 3-row C and B system, 5-row C and B system (and I haven't even begun to cover progressions yet.) One thing to keep in mind is that no matter which system you use, C or B, your tonic can be placed in any row (1, 2, or 3 if a 3-row CBA). Illustrations thus far have only given patterns for one of the three possible rows (hence only one of three possible fingerings on a 3-row box). This is to say, there are more fingerings available on both B and C system accordions, any of which may or may not be more comfortable for you to play, but you just haven't seen them yet.

If you print out some blank CBA grids you can plot those fingerings out for yourself to get a better idea of what I'm talking about. The point is, remember to approach (and exploit) any CBA as a true isomorphic instrument (all patterns movable, tonic in any row). The more rows you have (e.g. 5-row) the more row-duplication you get and consequently the more isomorphic the instrument will be. Although a 3-row box is isomorphic, you still have to to think a little more about keys because there's less row duplication. Ultimately, if you picture any three rows, you'll have to know how to construct any pattern no matter which row your tonic/root note is located. Meaning, on a three row box, you should be able to construct a Major scale lets say, with tonic in row 1, 2, or 3 and if you can't, or if it's impractical to finger, you'll need to know which, and where, and why, which keys, etc.

So far, I've only shown one of those three tonic-in-row-X options  (just to get you started). CBA's are isomorphic, so you really should treat them that way (tonic anywhere, transportable patterns, and freedom to do as you please). And remember, you'll probably upgrade to a 5-row accordion some day. When that day comes, this "tonic on any row" pattern familiarity and learning/exploring/testing strategy (i.e. many many options) will make more sense to you. Once you get a 5-row box, the "which keys where" issues will become less restrictive (there'll be more redundancy, more row duplication) and the instrument will be even more isomorphic. Also remember, the "which keys where" issues are different on C and B systems. So again, for me to do this right would require an entire separate book. [note; 6-row boxes also exist all three rows duplicated!] The important thing is to have enough understanding and tools to be able to build your own. The old, "teach a man how to fish" principle. You’ll have to be self motivated though.

Again, print out a couple dozen pages of the appropriate blank CBA grid from the PDF (I've included 3 row grids), and start mapping out all materials (intervals, scales, triads, sevenths) on each of the tonic-on-row-X options. You'll be surprised at how quickly you'll be able to do this. Go ahead, reinvent the wheel, explore, see what's in there. There are no rules, only options.

Start with three blank (3 row) grids. Using chromatic numbers 0° - 12°, number one octave of tones with:
0° in row 1
0° in row 2
0° in row 3

Now take three more blank grids and isolate a Major scale from each of those "theoretical" options.
In each of the three theoretical options (tonic/root in row-X):

  • Is the pattern useful (fingerable) for the scale (or parts of it)?
  • Is the pattern useful (fingerable) for the contained intervals (or some of them)?
  • Is the pattern useful (fingerable) for the contained root position Triads, Sevenths, (any, all, none)? How about the inversions of same?

Be methodical and systematic, do much of it at one sitting, get it over with, get the big picture, the gestalt, get familiar and comfortable.

The Plates: tonic or root in different rows, top, middle, or bottum of three adjacent rows.

I'll get you started here, with some tonic-on-row 1, 2, and 3 patterns (or top, middle, and bottom row of three adjacent rows), begining with scales, Major and natural minor, and then some selected triads and seventh chords. Both systems, C and B, are covered.

B System Row sets, Major scales
B System Row sets, minor scales
B System Row sets, triads
B System Row sets, seventh chords

C System Row sets, Major scales
C System Row sets, minor scales
C System Row sets, triads
C System Row sets, seventh chords















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© Copyright 2002   Roger Edward Blumberg



All  text, images, system components, devices, key terminology* and logos, on this web site are copyrighted [physically at the U.S. Library of Congress]. Reproduction in any form without written permission from the author and creator is prohibited. Thank you.

Roger E. Blumberg 
















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