Where Do You Get Accordion Sheet Music? - Squeeze Blog

Where Do You Get Accordion Sheet Music?

Before I started learning the accordion, I assumed that the accordion was essentially equivalent to the piano in terms of its versatility. I mean, a lot of accordions literally have a sideways piano already on them, and there are way more buttons on the left side then there are on a standard keyboard! In that sense, it was easy to also assume that you could take any piano sheet music and play it on accordion.

This... is generally not true. While the right side of the accordion is a piano (or, in the case of button accordions, it is at least equivalent to pianos) the left side is where things get way trickier. Most accordions use the stradella bass system, which is not fully capable of playing what you can with your left hand on a normal piano. The stradella bass system exposes only one octave of actual notes, and the rest of the buttons are chords. This system makes playing chords and switching between them much easier, but it does remove some of the freedom you have with a full piano, and as such, you cannot just play the bass part of any song on piano perfectly on accordion.

Some accordions do not use the stradella system, but instead use free bass, which does not feature chord buttons and instead each button maps to individual notes. Modern accordions with free bass generally can switch between stradella and free bass systems with register switches, and these are called free bass converter accordions. In theory, under the free bass system you could recreate the bass part of most piano compositions on the accordion, as long as the notes are within a normal bass range anyway.

But... you have to keep in mind that on the left side of the accordion, you are completely blind and are relying only on touch and muscle memory to press the right buttons. This makes it much harder to play free bass. While most songs are theoretically possible on the free bass system, you have to take into account the practicality of playing the songs as well. And that's if you even have a free bass accordion or converter to begin with!

Back to the stradella system, how do those with stradella bass accordions find sheet music for songs? Most accordion standards such as the Beer Barrel Polka or Libertango are easy to find sheet music for. But in general, if a song was already written for the accordion, you'll generally be able to find sheet music pretty easily just searching the web. For instance, you can find sheet music for Kass's Theme from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild online pretty easily. But that's because it was originally an accordion song so of course any sheet music you find will be appropriate for accordionists.

The real challenge is finding sheet music for songs that aren't originally for accordion. The accordion isn't that popular of an instrument, so if you do a web search for [insert popular song here] accordion sheet music, you're not likely to find premade accordion sheet music. There are definitely some resources out there, and sometimes I get surprised by random sites on the web. But if you're into more niche music, like anime or video game stuff as an example, you're essentially completely out of luck.

And here lies the challenge of learning your favorite songs on accordion: Most of the time, you have to arrange it for accordion yourself. This can either involve learning songs by ear or by using existing piano sheet music or even just guitar chords to assist in arrangement. I feel like arranging songs for your instrument is a skill that you have to practice and refine just as much as being able to actually play the instrument. I am definitely still trying to improve in this area, and much like how there are songs I'm not skilled enough to play on the accordion yet, there are a songs I want to arrange for accordion but I'm not skilled enough in arrangement to really do them justice yet.

Something I find motivating is how uncommon the accordion is, at least compared to piano and guitar. If you have a really niche song you want to do an accordion cover of, there's serious potential that you might be one of only a handful of people on the planet who would actually be willing to make an accordion arrangement of it. In such a scenario I almost feel like I have a duty to make an arrangement... if I don't do it, no one else will.

...By the way, here's a protip for arranging songs on accordion. Basically any song on 3/4 time is going to sound good on accordion and it'll pretty easy to arrange. Just replace the bass section of each with the standard oom-pah-pah pattern on whichever chord fit the original measure (which a lot of the times, is just going to be the first note of that measure!). This process is so simple, that often times I can just print out original piano sheet music for songs in 3/4 time and play the songs on accordion by converting on the fly while I read the sheet music.

Anyways, if you're learning the accordion, I wish you luck in playing songs no one else has ever played on an accordion before you. <3

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