Today’s Cajun accordion exists much as it did when first invented. The
first accordions were made in Germany around the mid 1800’s.
The Cajun "boxes" are compact and built very sturdily, so they’ve
weathered the journey from Europe, and Canada, and across America quite
They really "bark" too! Which was very important as to be heard when
performing acoustically at dance halls.
These boxes are technically a "melodeon". To me, one of the most
interesting features is that these instruments are diatonic.
is from the Greek diatonikos, which means 'a diatonic scale,
with whole and half steps', and literally something like extended
(from 'dia' = 'through' and 'tonein' = 'draw', 'pull').**
If you were to hold
down any given button and pull on the bellows, you would hear a tone.
Then, while still holding that same button and pushing the bellows, you
would hear a second different tone.
One button, two tones. Cool, eh?
If you are familiar with the conventional (at least, conventional in
America) piano accordion, this is not the case. You get the same pitch
for a given key on the pull or push.
This can make playing the Cajun Accordion challenging, but .. it also
dumps a heap of neat tricks into your lap! For instance, you can pull of
some impressive arpeggios that would be nearly impossible on a piano keyboard.
** Special thanks to
Jeroen Nijhof for supplying the accurate definition of "Diatonic"! He can
be reached at:
Click accordion to hear Jr. Martin box in
"D" wet tuned