James Crabb plays on a custom hand-made classical accordion, model ‘Mythos’ nr.4 built by Pigini, in 1992. The instrument was constructed combining superior Russian steel reeds and Italian mechanics. The instrument is tuned and prepared by Leonard Setrakov and serviced at the Pigini factory in Castelfidardo, Italy.

The Classical Accordion

The classical accordion evolved during the early part of the 20th Century and was developed and standardized in the early 1950’s. It is also known as the free-bass accordion, accordéon de concert, accordéon classique, klassische akkordeon, bajan and modern concert accordion amongst other more exotic names.
The difference between a classical accordion and the more familiar traditional accordion is not clearly visible to the eye as it involves the mechanics within the left side of the instrument. (Many people relate the difference to having a button or piano keyboard on the right side of the instrument – this is incorrect - both a button accordion and a piano accordion have the potential to become a classical accordion.)
The classical accordion has the possibility to switch from the well known but rather restrictive ‘oom-pah pah’ pre-fixed chord system in the left hand to a single tone manual keyboard – creating a mirror image of the right hand. The potential of having two single-tone manuals, both with a tonal range of well over seven octaves, has created a whole new repertoire for the instrument from Baroque transcriptions through to the growing number of original works written by today’s leading composers. Classical accordions are today predominantly made with chromatic button keyboards on both sides of the instrument due to the superior tonal range and technical possibilities this allows. The majority of composers have written with this specific instrument in mind. The shape and form of it is also inspired by the traditional Russian ‘bajan’ which gives the player a more ergonomic playing position. Having played on both the piano accordion (from 1971-1984) and the classical (button) accordion since 1983, I can testify through first-hand experience to the above statements and facts, however no instrument should ever be judged alone from its looks or technical specifications – the musician’s ability to express is what brings the instrument to life and communicates music to the listener. This is after all the whole point in the art of music-making.