Melodeon or Accordion or Accordéon or what?

“So what is that you’re playing?”

I get that all the time. They’re pointing at my accordion.

“Isn’t that supposed to have … like … piano keys or something. Is that a concertina?”

Saltarelle Pastourelle III, a magnificently fine button
accordion, or melodeon, or accordéon diatonique.
photo by Brigid Chapin

No, it’s not. It’s a diatonic accordion. A concertina has hexagonal sides with buttons on … nevermind.  They glazed over at “diatonic.” So, it’s a kind of accordion, I tell them, and send them on their way. I don’t tell them that there’s disagreement on this topic even in the accordion community!

I belong to a fantastic on-line forum, based in England, called, and there, it seems, any rectangular, free-reed box with buttons and a diatonic push-me-pull-you (bisonorous) action going on is a “melodeon,” not an accordion. An accordion would be … well … not entirely sure, maybe unisonorous piano keys or buttons. Historically, “melodeon” has been used for button accordions with one row of buttons, like Cajun accordions, but my guess is that, at least in England, the word “melodeon” has gotten legs.

In France it’s an accordéon, which is where my nom de blog comes from, though it’s a rogue derivation, a figment of caprice. A person who plays accordéon is an accordéonist, properly. Colloquially, though, a person who plays a melodeon is called a diatonist, because the kind of accordéon a melodeon is, is an accordéon diatonique. Which is what l’Accordéonaire plays, though he is a figment of caprice. In America, he plays an accordion of some sort, and it’s not a concertina. That’s something else.

Bernard Loffet Recordings

Just had some coin to spend so I treated myself to downloads of Bernard Loffet’s two CDs, Action! and Moteur! and, honestly, I can’t say enough nice stuff about them.  I got them on Amazon for $9 US each. They are top notch Breton music, in every way.  Action! it seems, was recorded at an actual dance, and the shuffle-ish feet action really adds to the energy.  The recording is very clear, and the melodeon sounds amazing.  What a sound his machines get!  Also, Action! features a pach pi that I recently put on YouTube … I’m not saying it means anything … just had one of those, “Hey, I play that!” moments.  Moteur! (the older of the two) begins with Perroch’s “Scottish du Regret,” done very nicely — cocktail accordion style — with a lot of swing and variation.  The rest is a marvelous clinic of Breton accordion.  And, again, beautiful sounding accordions, beautiful playing.