The Free-Reed Review
Critiques of Compact Discs, Books and Music Scores

Book Review: Fingering for the Accordion
Author: Robert L. Smith

Published: 2005
review date: March 2005
pages: 51
figures: 50

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Send check, your name and address to:
Robert L. Smith
953 Chaucer Way
Livermore, CA 94551


  • List of Figures
  • Fingering for the Accordion
  • Introduction
  • Basic Technique
    • Fundamentals
    • Direct Fingering
    • Finger Slip
    • Finger Crossing
    • Finger Substitution
    • Thumb Glide
    • Glissando
    • Finger Extension
    • Old Style Fingering
    • Variation on Old Style Fingering
    • Fingering Repeated Notes
    • Redistribution
  • Single Note Scales
    • Major Scales
    • Minor Scales
    • Chromatic Scales
    • The Octave Problem
  • Arpeggios
  • Parallel Scales
  • Chords
  • Phrase Preparation
  • Left Hand Fingering
    • Basic Technique
    • Major Scales for the Bass
    • Minor Scales for the Bass
    • Chromatic Scales for the Bass
    • Legato Bass-Chord Combinations
    • Bass-Chord Fingering
    • The Diminished Chord Button
    • Chromatic Sequences of the Seventh Chord
  • An Example
  • Concluding Remarks
  • Acknowledgements
  • To Contact the Author

Review by: Robert Stead

More is lost through poor fingering than can be replaced by all conceivable artistry and good taste.
--C. P. E. Bach (quoted by Robert L. Smith)

In a succession of notes, always watch to see what follows and choose a fingering which will make the progression smooth and easy. Develop equal facility with all five fingers.
--Juan Bermudo, Declaraci˛n de instrumentos musicales, 1555

After playing flute for 40 years, I decided to return to the accordion. With the onset of adolescence (and the desire to play in the high school band) I had left the accordion behind. I had just begun Palmer's 5th book when I walked away from the world of free-reeds. Although I had abandoned it, I always loved the accordion's tone and potential. So, in the Spring of 2003 I bought an Excelsior 980 free bass accordion and started to practice.

I quickly encountered the challenge of fingering. I realized that I lacked a good guide to the world of fingering possibilities. While I did purchase the Hanon for the Accordion books, I felt that there had to be more to fingering than the standard fingering patterns designed for the piano. In fact, it didn't quite make sense to me to use the piano as the exclusive model for technique since the accordion is actually an organ and not a piano. My studies led me to a book entitled Method of Organ Playing--Eighth Edition by Harold Gleason. Here I discovered that fingering for keyboards has a rich 500 year history. To determine correct fingering patterns you need to consider the type of keyboard, the shape of the hand, and the style of the music. In other words, there are many paths one can travel in the pursuit of the "correct" method of fingering.

Robert L. Smith's Fingering for the Accordion explores several of these paths. He begins his book by emphasizing that the piano accordion is not a piano. Therefore the accordionist should not rigidly follow those fingering patterns that have been established for the piano. The piano accordion's vertical keyboard orientation presents challenges to the accordionist's hand and wrist that do not exist for the pianist. Furthermore, the non-percussive nature of the accordion makes organ technique more applicable than piano technique--especially for legato passages.

Fingering for the Accordion presents not only the standard fingering patterns for scales and arpeggios for the piano accordion, but also many alternative fingerings that can help the accordionist experiment with different approaches. Listed below you will find the areas of concentration for the treble keyboard.

In his discussion on parallel scales, Mr. Smith provides a very useful section on organ techniques. Smith states:
But the best technique for playing thirds in legato style is taken from classical organ methods. This is very useful, but appears to be unknown to most accordionists. [page 22]
He then describes what he calls the "side-winder" method and the "spider" method of fingering which involves envisioning each key as having two distinct zones and then moving from zone to zone.

The author also includes several fingering patterns for the standard bass accordion such as:

For the bass chromatic scale variations, Smith draws upon fingering patterns used by Deiro, Nunzio, Magnante, Gall-Rini, and Stricker. In his discussion on legato bass chord combinations, he first uses a fingering example from Galla-Rini and then proposes two alternative fingerings to accomodate different hand sizes.

If you are looking for a book that will expand your approach to fingering and that will guide you into exploring fingering alternatives that best suit the size of your hand, then I highly recommend Fingering for the Accordion. Mr. Smith does a fine job of proving that there is more than one way to play a scale, arpeggio, or chord. This work encourages one to experiment to find the best fingering for the passage at hand. As Juan Bermudo said almost 500 years ago: "Always watch to see what follows and choose a fingering which will make the progression smooth and easy." Fingering for the Accordion will help you make that choice.

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