Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length
Advanced search  


Welcome to the new forum

Information - Melodeon Terms

This page will attempt to describe the various terms used by the knowledgeable and less knowledgeable members of to lead others into confusion. The page is maintained by Lester so please PM him any suggestions/corrections.


1 RowA 1 Row melodeon has, unsurprisingly, a single row of buttons on the treble side. One row boxes come in two varieties, either a standard box with 4 basses or a 2/3/4 STOPS with two basses.

2 RowThis is what could be considered the standard melodeon with two treble rows and, normally, 8 basses. They are either configured as FOURTH APART or HALF STEP.

2.5 RowSome 2 row type boxes also have a short HELPER ROW to provide additional accidentals or reversed reeds. The helper row can have anything from 1 to 7 buttons.

3 RowAn instrument with three rows of buttons on the treble side, each row playing a DIATONIC scale. There are many different combinations of keys used on the three rows. In continental Europe three row boxes commonly have two DIATONIC rows and the inside row a complete row of accidentals/reversals. See also BCA

AccidentalsMost melodeons have buttons providing notes that are not in the instruments keys. On a D/G melodeon these are normally Ab/Bb and Eb/F. These buttons are placed either at the chin end of the row or as an extra half row (HELPER ROW) of buttons to give more options.

AccordionGeneric term for large bellows instruments. Generally it will not be a melodeon. However a melodeon is called a diatonic accordion in parts of northern continental Europe, and a button accordion in Ireland.

ActionThe action (either treble or bass) is a term used for the mechanical items between the buttons and the PALLETS. It is also used to refer to amount of travel of the buttons or the height of the buttons above the fingerboard.

Air ButtonThis is the button that lets air either in or out of the bellows as the player requires. It is used at the start of playing to open the bellows and, during playing, if the tune has runs of either push or pull notes which cause the bellows to extend or close to an unplayable position


BandoneónHeritage German instrument popular in Argentina/Uruguay (for Tango) - though square ended it is not a melodeon, it is considered a concertina relative

BassesThe bass notes generated when a bass button is pressed will have a number of reeds that sound. These reeds will usually be in different octaves. Different models/makes of melodeons have varying numbers of reeds to generate the bass notes.

BassoonBassoon is another way of referring to L reeds.

BayanRussian term for CBA

BCABritish Chromatic Accordion - A large 3 row semitone tuned Diatonic accordion, usually in B/C/C# and with unisonoric Stradella bass from 12 basses to the full 120. it`s popularity in Britain is largely in Scotland.

BeatsA 2-voice instrument will typically have its two sets of reeds tuned slightly apart from each other, which creates the characteristic, pulsating tremolo sound. These pulses are known as beats. See Voices and Tuning

BellowsThe bellows on a melodeon are used to generate either positive or negative air pressure to sound the REEDS. In the image below the reed is shown on the far right.

Bellows FrameA bellows frame is normally fitted to each end of the bellows to provide a method of connection to the CASEWORK using BELLOWS PINS

Bellows GasketUsually a neoprene foam gasket that is stuck to the BELLOWS FRAMES to form an air tight seal between the BELLOWS and the CASEWORK

Bellows PinsBellows pins are the most common method of fixing the BELLOWS to the CASEWORK. The pins pass through holes in the casework into holes in the bellows frames whilst compressing the BELLOWS GASKET

Bellows TapeThe outer edges of bellows folds are covered with bellows tape to protect them against wear. Hohner bellows are renowned for the poor quality of the bellows tape and the amount of wear, usually on the rear of the bellows where it rubs against the player.

BisonoricProducing a different note whether the bellows is compressed or expanded. See Unisonoric

CaseworkThe term casework is used to refer to the basic construction of the bass and treble ends, the woodwork of the melodeon.

CBAContinental Button Accordion -Despite appearance, in fact a far closer relation to the PA than the Melodeon due to being Entirely Unisonoric

ChordsThe chords generated when a chord button is pressed normally contain 3 notes to form the chord. Some melodeons have stops to remove the THIRD from the chord to make the chord ambiguous as to whether it is a MAJOR CHORD or a MINOR CHORD.

Club SystemThe club system differs from a standard melodeon in that it has a unisonoric reed in the centre of the inside row. For example a C/F Club would have the following layout starting on the key note F/G - A/Bb - C/C F/E. The basses differ as well in that the lower pair of buttons nearest the bellows, which on a melodeon play the same bass and chord in both directions, have a different bass and chord on the pull.

ConcertinaSmall frame instrument played with the hands, often hexagonal. Differs from the accordion/melodeon family in that its buttons are axial to the bellows whereas on the accordion/melodeon the buttons/keys are at right angles to the bellows.


Cross RowingPlaying a tune segment by holding a chord or bass on the left end of the and walking your fingers between the rows of a melodeon. This tends to produce a gentle legato style well suited to continental music. It is most effective with helper buttons to provide reversals of notes found on the main rows only in one direction.

DeclubbingTaking a Club system melodeon and changing it to the "standard" note layout. This normally involves removing the GLEICHTON and, more rarely changing the chords and basses on the lower and inner pair of buttons to be the same.

Dry TuningThis is a descriptor for the amount of tremolo applied to the reeds. In this case it means both reeds are tuned to the same frequency. See WET and Voices and Tuning

Dutch SystemThe Dutch System refers to the reversal of the third button in the upper octave of the inside row of a melodeon (D/E in the case of a D/G melodeon). By reversing this button it gives a push E and a pull D neither of which is available normally.

FettledAll maintenance and repairs carried out, also carries a sense of craftsmanship, care and attention to detail.

Flat KeyboardA flat keyboard consists of a flat fingerboard with the buttons appearing through holes. It is the preferred type of keyboard for Irish music. The Hohner Pokerwork has a flat keyboard.

FluteFlute is another way of referring to M reeds.

FondoThis is the Italian name for the SOUNDBOARD

Fourth Apart BoxFourth Apart Box is a term used to describe melodeons where the inside row is pitched a fourth above the outside row, eg A/D, D/G, G/C, C/F, Bb/Eb, A/D/G G/C/F.

GleichtonA button which plays the same note on the push/pull in the Club system.

HUsed to describe a reed that is an octave upon the pitch described by manuscript music. See also M and L and Voices and Tuning.

Half Step BoxHalf Step Box describes a melodeon that is tuned with the rows a semitone apart, eg B/C, C/C#, C#/D and D/D# are the more common varieties. These melodeons are most commonly used in Irish and Scottish traditions. See also Semitone Box

HeligonkaLarge DIATONIC accordion originating in Czechoslovakia, similar to the STEIRISCHE but generally the helikon reeds are smaller in the bass end. The treble end of older models had only one gleichton on the inner row like the CLUB system and had accidentals at the chin end. Later models took on the Steirische layout.

Helper RowIf a two row box also has a short row of accidentals (2 to 7 or more buttons) it is sometimes referred to as a helper row

LUsed to describe a reed that is an octave down on the pitch described by manuscript music. See also M and H and Voices and Tuning.

MThe letter M is used to describe the octave a note will play in. So a MM melodeon will have two reeds both in the same octave and at the pitch described by manuscript music. A multi-voice melodeon may well be MML - two voices in the normal octave a one an octave down. A 1 Row 4 Stop is normally LMMH - tow reeds on the octave, one an octave down and one an octave up. See also L and H and Voices and Tuning.

MADMelodeon Acquisition Disorder (Disease).

Major ChordA major chord has the first, third and fifth note of the relevant key, where the interval between the first and third notes is a major third, consisting of four semitone steps. So a G Major Chord is formed by G - A - B - C - D - E – F#.

Minor ChordA minor chord also has the first, third and fifth note of the relevant key, where the interval between the first and third notes is a minor third, consisting of three semitone steps. So a G Minor Chord is formed G - A – Bb - C - D - Eb – F.

OrganettoAn organetto is an Italian 1.5 row melodeon with two basses. The helper row is normally 4 buttons which provides 8 notes reversed relative the main row.

PAPiano Accordion or Public Address

PalletsThe pallets can be found at the end of the bass and treble action. Their function is to seal the hole through which the air passes either to or from the reed. When the pallet is lifted it allows air to pass allowing the reed to speak.

PiccoloPiccolo is another way of referring to H reeds.

ReedThis is the component of the melodeon that actually creates the sound. It is a metal tongue that is mounted in a REED PLATE and is caused to vibrate by the air pressure from the bellows.

Reed BlockThe reed block is an internal component on which the REED PLATES are mounted. The Reed Plates can be fixed either by waxing them in place or by screwing them down on to a gasket.

Reed PlateIn a melodeon each reed plate has two REEDS fitted, these generate different notes one for the pull and one for the push of the bellows. Which one sounds is governed, mostly, by the use of VALVES to prevent air flow in one direction. The reed plate is shown on left of this image.

Register(s)On a melodeon with multiple voices there may be register switches to allow the selection of which reeds sound. Registers normally refer to switches on the front face of a melodeon. Also see STOPS and SWITCHES

Reversed NotesSee Dutch Reversal

Right Hand ChordsUsing sets of three (or more) right end keys to sound a chord there.

Semitone BoxSee Half Step Box

SoundboardThe soundboard is the face of the melodeon that the REED BLOCKS mount on. There are two soundboards the bass and treble. Searching will give you many hours of ceaseless pleasure reading up on whether the soundboard actually has any effect on the sound quality of the melodeon.

Spoon BassThese are most common on Hohner 1 Row 4 Stop melodeons which have only two basses and they are operated by spoons.

SteirischeLarge DIATONIC accordion from in the Alpine regions of Germany, Austria, Switzerland as well as Slovenia etc. They have 3 to 5 treble rows in general almost always 3 voice tuned MMM but there are two voice compact boxes. Steirisches are a superset of the Club system and have a Gleichton on all but the outer row and don`t have accidentals unless one or two are added near the grille. The bass end is similar to the Club system but have "Helikon" basses where extra large reeds are voiced into sound chambers to create a tuba alike sound .

Stepped KeyboardOn a stepped keyboard each row of buttons (whether 2, 3 or more) is at a different height, rising up slightly (2 - 3 mm typically) towards the grille, the Castagnari Tommy has a stepped keyboard.

StopsSome multi-voice melodeons are fitted with stops in the treble end to switch reeds in to play. Stops can also be fitted in the bass end to switch in or out the THIRDS in chords and low notes in the BASSES

StradellaThe Stradella Bass System  is a button board layout equipped on the bass side of many accordions, which uses columns of buttons arranged in a circle of fifths. Columns of buttons can provide the bass, counterbass, major chord, minor chord, a dominant seventh chord and diminished seventh chord.

SwitchesMulti-voice melodeons are sometimes fitted with switches behind the treble keyboard to switch the various reed combinations into play.

ThirdsA basic chord is formed from first, third and fifth notes of a scale. The difference in sound between a major chord and a minor chord is provided by the third of the chord. So if a chord has no third present it can be used as either a major or minor chord. eg G Major Chord - G, B & D and a G Minor Chord - G, B & D

UnisonoricProducing the same tone on press and draw of the bellows. See Bisonoric

Up and Down the RowPlaying a melody as one would on a one-row instrument using bellows direction change to sound all its notes. This produces a characteristically punchy style well suited to English traditional music.

ValveValves are used to regulate the direction of air flow on a REED PLATE.

Valve SpringsThe valves on large bass reeds are sometimes fitted with small springs to assist in the closure of the valves.

VoicesThe number of voices which sound for each note refers to the number of reeds which are sounding at the same time, and this depends on how the instrument is designed and constructed. Thus a two-voice instrument will have two reeds sounding for each single key press on the treble keyboard, a three voice instrument will have three reeds sounding for each key press, and so on.

Wet TuningThis is a descriptor for the amount of tremolo applied to the reeds. It is a somewhat subjective term but is normally taken to be 5 or more beats per second ( >20 cents at A=440). See DRY and Voices and Tuning

Updated 24-Dec-12 - (c) Theo Gibb; Clive Williams 2010. The access and use of this website and forum featuring these terms and conditions constitutes your acceptance of these terms and conditions.