Diatonic Accordion in A/D
Jean Princivalle, Comté de Nice, France


The diatonic accordion (or melodeon) differs from a piano accordion in that it sports rows of buttons instead of piano-like keys. Each row plays a major scale in one key (A & D in this case). Each button plays two different notes—one when the bellows are pulled open, and another, usually the next in the scale, when the bellows are pushed. The bass (left-hand) buttons play one note or chord likewise. This is the same system used with the harmonica and the Anglo (Irish) concertina and gives the instrument its percussive character. This system limits the keys in which it can play, but well suits the rhythmic nature of Celtic dance music.

This 2-row diatonic accordion in A/D (which means you can play in A, D and Bm) was made by Jean Princivalle, in the late 1970s, when his Atelier du Mourier workshop was in full blast making hurdy-gurdies, lutes and accordions, in Coaraze, a small mountain village north of Nice, France. He made it for me as a gift because I'd helped him sell accordions in Texas and Louisiana between 1978 and 1984. It's one of my favourite instruments. Unfortunately, after 20 years of making and peddling his wares all over Europe, Jean decided “Screw that merde, I'm gonna be a poet and make my own moonshine.”

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