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Der Sackpfeyffer zu Linden
 Hier geht's zur deutschsprachigen Version
Go here to the German version

The standard-bass-accordion suffers (especially in Germany, Austria and Switzerland) still under the prejudice that's an instrument for bad popular music, but many different kinds of music can be played on this instrument. This possibilities are described below. Unfortunately the common bass accompaniement can't be used mostly. Often only the key-note-basses and the third-basses are used or new chords are build with one or two chord-basses (and mostly one key-note-bass or one third-bass).
Some examples (all can be played without the diminished-chord-basses):

bass1bass2bass3 chordcomment
Cc Cstandard fingering, key-note-bass isn't cogently necessary
Ec Cthird in the bass part
Gc Cfifth in the bass part
Cc7 C7standard fingering, key-note-bass isn't cogently necessary
Ccc7C7necessary if the fifth is desired and absent in c7
Gc7 C7fifth in the bass part; useful if the fifth is desired and absent in c7
B♭c C7seventh in the bass part
CcgmC7/9key-note-bass isn't cogently necessary
Dc7 C7/9ninth in the bass part
Dcc7C7/9necessary if the fifth is desired and absent in c7
Ccb♭C7/9/11key-note-bass isn't cogently necessary
Cem Cmaj7touch the key-note-bass with the little finger
Bc Cmaj7seventh in the bass part
CcgCmaj7/9key-note-bass isn't cogently necessary
Dc C9ninth in the bass part (without seventh!)
CcamC6key-note-bass isn't cogently necessary
Ac C6sixth in the bass part
CG C5major or minor undefined, because the third is absent! Also known as "powerchord"
Cgm C5/7/9major or minor undefined, because the third is absent!
Cg C5/maj7/9major or minor undefined, because the third is absent!
Ccm Cmstandard fingering, key-note-bass isn't cogently necessary
E♭cm Cmthird in the bass part, touch the third-bass with the little finger
Gcm Cmfifth in the bass part
Ce♭ Cm7it's very hard to finger C+eb
B♭cm Cm7seventh in the bass part
CcmgmCm7/9key-note-bass isn't cogently necessary
Ccmb♭Cm7/9/11key-note-bass isn't cogently necessary
Bcm Cmmaj7seventh in the bass part
CcmgCmmaj7/9key-note-bass isn't cogently necessary
Dcm Cm9ninth in the bass part (without seventh!)
Acm Cm6sixth in the bass part

The upper table could be enlarged with more extreme chords. Some chord can be interpreted as other chords too, e.g. C6 = Am7 or Cm7 = E♭6. Doubling of the third (chord C played with E+c or chord Cm played with E♭+cm) isn't desired in a few situations. Doubling of the third or the seventh often sounds ugly in seventh chords. This is especially valid if the fifth is absent. It's hard to finger some chords. Therefore they aren't suitable for a quick playing. These chords really show to advantage in a slower playing. If you prefer the notation with B = H & B♭ = B, have a look at the german version of the table.

The key-note-basses and the third-basses result in a chromatic scale with a range of a major seventh, normally from C-B, on instruments with 40 or 48 basses. To play on the key-note-basses and the third-basses comfortably an instrument with 60 or 72 basses is required.

Download a bass-table for standard-bass-accordions for a better orientation: bass-table.png

If bass-registers are available the scale range can be extended round about an octave. Then the scale range includes C-b0. It can't be always avoided that some tones tilt into their octave above or below in the bass part. That results in the limited scale range (without bass-registers C-B). This effect interrupts especially a cantus firmus in the bass-part! To reduce this effect to a minimum the tune should be transposed. The transposition isn't critical because the standard-bass-accordion is tuned up to equal temperament.

Download here an arrangement of an organ tune composed by Karlmann Kolb (1703-1765) as MIDI-file and picture (PNG): Fughette.mid Fughette.png
Proposal for registration:
treble: 8′ or 8′+4′; bass: sounds in the great octave, as piano as possible

Comment: A transposition was required because the range of the scale of the key-note-basses and the third-basses includes only C-B. The 5th note in the bass part would tilt into the lower octave in the original scale. This can't accept here because the bass part introduces the subject (dux) of the fugue. The bass part is signed as well with the symbols that are normally used for the accordion to explain the use of the key-note-basses and the third-basses.

If somebody want to hear the tune: Fughette.ogg

To vary the playing gracefully the treble should contain at least three ranks at 16′+8′+8° =16′+8′+8°. This enables already 5 useful registrations:

8′= 8′        8′+8°= 8′+8°        16′= 16′        16′+8′= 16′+8′        16′+8′+8°= 16′+8′+8°

Instruments with four ranks are mostly flexible with ranks at 16′+8′+8°+4′ =16′+8′+8°+4′. Instruments with ranks at 16′+8′+8°+8O = 16′+8′+8°+8ocan be used only for some special kinds of music. They are build only some time today.
A fifth rank is only useful at 22/3′, but instruments with a fifth rank at 8O are build more often. Such instruments are rare, weighty and expensive and they've as well a convertible bass. This can be switched between the standard-bass and a single-tone-bass.
The keyboard range of the treble should include g0-c3 on accordions which have a treble with a piano-like keyboard. The scale range can be extended round about an octave below if the registers are changes during the play. The keyboard range of the treble is normally greater on instruments which have a treble with a button keyboard and 40 or more basses.
Tunes with two or three parts can be mostly played without any problems on the standard-bass-accordion but it should be avoided to play two parts with the key-note-basses and the third-basses because this results in a terrible grumble mostly. This is only useful in a few exceptions, e.g. some medieval tunes whose two lowest parts only contain long notes those sound together in fourths and fifths, or the first or the final chord should be forced with a fifth¹ to the key-note in the bass. Tunes with four parts can cause problems because three parts must be played on the treble. Some parts of the tenor part must be played one octave higher especially on instruments which have a treble with a piano-like keyboard. Instruments which have a treble with a button keyboard cause less problems because these keys (buttons) are placed more together. If the tenor part hasn't any solo function the result is mostly acceptable. The breakpoints should be placed by this part transfer so that no large intervals result from this. An interval of a fifth should not be exceeded.

¹ATTENTION PLEASE! The fifth can be only played to the key-notes C-E. Only the lower fourth can be played to the key-notes F-B!

The bass of a standard-bass-accordion contains normally the following:

Key-note-basses and third-basses: one rank, scale range C-B + one rank, scale range c0 -b0
Chord-basses: One rank, scale range c1-b1 + one rank, scale range c2-b2 (is absent some time)

The equal temperament of the standard-bass-accordion causes that all scales sound equally. Because the chords are only created out of a range of a major seventh they sound in different inversions. The following results from the scale range described above e.g. for the major- and minor-chords (triads):
[The chords are signed with the symbols that are normally used for the accordion!]
c, cm, c♯, c♯m, d♭, d♭m, d, dm, d♯, d♯m, e♭, e♭m, e, em sound as fundamental chords (structure: key-note, third, fifth)
f, fm, f♯, f♯m, g♭, g♭m, g, gm, g♯m, a♭m sound in their 2nd inversion (structure: fifth, key-note, third)
g♯, a♭, a, am, a♯, a♯m, b♭, b♭m, b, bm sound in their 1st inversion (structure: third, fifth, key-note)
The situation becoms more complexity by the seventh-chords (tetrads) because three inversions exist for the fundamental chord. Moreover these chords are only realized as triads in some instruments whereby the fifth is absent.
The opinions differ about the usefulness of the diminished-chords. Nevertheless they are absent (look into the bass-table) in many instruments. If equal temperament is used only three different diminished chords (tetrads, minor thirds are stacked one over another) exist. The fundamental chords have the keynotes C (chord: c, e♭, f♯, a), C♯ (chord: c♯, e, g, b♭) respectively D♭ (note d♭ instead of c♯) and D (chord: d, f, a♭, b). All other diminished chords are only inversions of these three chords.
If the tune is especially accompied with the major- and minor-chords the tune can be presented with a timbre by the use of the different inversions of the chords (fundamental chord, 1st inversion, 2nd inversion) because the different inversions of the chords represent different timbres. The tune must be transposed at times into the suitable scale but that's not a problem because the standard-bass-accordion is normally tuned up to equal temperament.

Unfortunately it's usual to couple the ranks for the chord-basses onto the ranks for the key-note-basses and the third-basses. Through that four octaves sound on each key-note-bass or third-bass. This causes a very thick and ambiguous tone that sounds mostly too loud as against the treble. If the bass can be registered at least two ranks sound as well. To remove this nuisance it's required to modify the bass mechanism of the instrument. The bars must be severed which couple the key-note-basses and the third-basses onto the ranks for the chord-basses. Bar-segments can often be removed in modern instruments reversibly. If the connection however is manufactured rigidly the side nippers will help only. This method is destructive and therefore mostly irreversible. You must decide in this case but it's worth while! The remuneration is a key-note based, plain and clear bass sound :-)    Folk tunes sound with their typical bass accompaniment very well too. If you don't comprehend the bass mechanism you should comission an accordion-maker with this task.

If you have an instrument with a convertible bass or an additional single-tone-bass you don't need to do all the things those are described above. Unfortunately these instruments cost a lot of money and therefore they are used considerable rarely than the standard-bass-accordion.

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© Sönke Kraft, Hannover 2001
last update: 25.10.2015