How to Buy a Used Accordion

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How to Buy a Used Accordion

The accordion is a beloved and distinctive sound in the popular music of many cultures. Its portability makes it a favorite instrument for enthusiasts of all ages to learn and play. Purchasing a used accordion is a great way to save money on this unique instrument. Learn about the many options available and investigate individual items to find the right musical match.

About Accordions

The accordion has been popular in European folk music since the eighteenth century and has also found a place in jazz and classical music. It is a wind instrument that uses pleated bellows and banks of metal reeds to create sound. Most designs feature two keyboards with buttons or keys located on either side of the bellows. The musician expands and compresses the bellows while playing the melody on the right keyboard and chords and bass on the left. The movement opens valves that allow air to pass over the metal reeds and produce sound.
Thanks to its unique bellows design, the accordion can sustain notes for a longer time than most instruments.

Choosing a Used Accordion

Used accordions are complex instruments and should be selected carefully. For those items in need of repair, the seller should describe the exact condition and the work to be done. Some common repairs include replacing worn or missing valve leathers, waxing reed plates, and refurbishing bellows. The exterior may have cosmetic damage. Leather straps eventually wear and may require replacement.
Look for individual items that have clear terms of sale. The seller should be able to guarantee the accordion's condition unless explicitly stated otherwise. Most potential damage is not visible from the outside of the instrument, so buyers purchasing items online should take particular care to be fully informed. Consider sellers who offer a warranty or generous return policy. If the accordion has been professionally inspected, request the paperwork verifying the services and opinions of a professional repair technician. Make sure to obtain a written record of the instrument's ownership, maintenance, and repair history.
If purchasing an item requiring shipment, check that the seller knows how to properly package and ship the accordion to avoid damage. While music dealers have experience, individual owners may not. Make sure that the seller guarantees safe shipping and offers a full refund if the item arrives damaged.

Types of Accordions

Accordions are designed in four basic types. Each type includes a variety of styles that share basic characteristics such as musical range and keyboard functionality. Consider which kind of accordion best meets preferences and musical goals. Folk music requires fewer keys and may give the musician more purchasing choices. In contrast, jazz and classical musicians usually prefer the full range of a chromatic instrument.


Piano accordions have a piano-style keyboard instead of buttons. They were popularized in San Francisco in the early twentieth century and remain the most common type in the United States. A major reason is that people who already play a keyboard instrument can learn the piano accordion quite easily.


Concertinas are a smaller and later variant of the accordion. They are usually shaped hexagonally and have buttons on each side. One type of concertina, the Anglo, plays diatonic scales. The second type, the English, plays the full chromatic scale.


Diatonic accordions feature a melody keyboard in which each row plays one major scale. Additionally, they have reeds to change pitch when the bellows change direction. The bass keyboard has paired buttons for major chords. These accordions are internationally popular for being lightweight and reasonably priced.


Chromatic accordions are the most common type and are named after the chromatic scale made up of semitone intervals. The keyboards represent all notes including flats and sharps. Buttons are usually arranged in three rows with the first two repeated for greater versatility in fingering. A separate diagonal keyboard plays sharps and flats a semitone apart. This overall design allows for a greater octave range. Unlike the diatonic accordion, pitch remains the same when the bellows change direction.

Accordion Age

Like many musical instruments, accordions can age gracefully if properly stored and maintained. They have hundreds of parts and utilize materials such as leather and wax that deteriorate with age. Air leaks can develop, and metal reeds can rust. In particular, instruments older than 40 years should have their interiors thoroughly inspected.
Previous owners should have stored the accordion in its case within a climate-controlled environment such as a home or office. Moisture, heat, and extreme temperature shifts can damage interior parts. If possible, determine where an individual item for sale has been kept and whether a knowledgeable musician or technician was responsible for its care. For example, salt air is very damaging as is exposing the instrument to rapid temperature shifts. The best defense against a colorful past is to consider purchasing items that have been expertly inspected and the results documented.

Accordion Tuning

The two methods of tuning accordions are dry tuning and wet tuning. Dry tuning involves the traditional matching of reed banks to pitch. Jazz and American popular music favor this style. Wet tuning refers to the practice of tuning one bank of reeds slightly off from another bank in the same octave. This creates a distinctive beat that is popular in some folk music from several ethnic traditions. Greater tuning variation results in a more pronounced sound. When three reed banks are used, one bank is tuned on pitch, one is set to a slightly higher pitch, and the third is tuned slightly lower. The effect is known as musette or tremolo. Older Italian accordions may have one of two reed banks detuned to create a certain desired sound. Some instruments allow the musician to choose between playing with a wet or dry sound.
Buyers should be aware that how an accordion is tuned greatly influences its style of sound. Particularly if considering an older instrument, make sure to learn its tuning history as well as its maintenance record.

Other Considerations for Used Accordions

In keeping with their rich popular tradition, used accordions vary greatly in features and characteristics. Consider whether to purchase a basic instrument or one with added functionality such as free bass. Also keep in mind that some items will have enhancements or modifications to suit past owners. In addition, look for instruments that have sound cases and straps.


Many accordions are quite heavy, and weight varies in proportion to the number and size of keyboards and the number of reeds. If purchasing an accordion for the first time, make sure to learn the weight and dimensions of individual items.

Tone Chamber

A tone chamber is a compartment built within some piano and chromatic accordion models. The chamber modulates sound from selected reeds to make it smoother. Often, the notes are bass or middle octave. It is usually found in high-end accordions used for jazz and classical performances. Some models are designed with one of a pair of reeds within the chamber and one without, giving the musician a choice of sound. A tone chamber adds to the weight and cost of the instrument.

Free Bass

Free bass accordions have bass buttons that play individual notes rather than preset chords. Some models allow switching back and forth, and others are free bass only. The player has greater musical freedom with these instruments but also must be more proficient.

Case and Straps

Look for used accordions that come with a case and straps in good condition. Ideally, they should be new.


Some accordions have been enhanced with an installed microphone. This may be useful for buyers who plan to entertain regularly.

Finding a Used Accordion on eBay

To buy a used accordion on eBay, begin from the eBay homepage and choose the Entertainment category. Select the Additional Category called Musical Instruments & Gear followed by Accordion & Concertina. The left sidebar provides the option to refine searches by instrument condition such as refurbished. Alternately, enter the description of the desired item in the search bar located at the top of any eBay page. For example, to see listings for an accordion with a tone chamber, type "tone chamber accordion" in the search field.


Purchasing a used accordion requires thoughtful attention to the type of instrument desired and the individual items available. Accordions come in a wide range of makes, features, and conditions. Research similar items to understand the market. Read seller and user reviews and thoroughly investigate listings of interest. With careful selection and maintenance, a used accordion will provide years of delight.

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