Different systems are popular in different
countries or even continents! Here in Scandinavia e.g., about 90% of the
accordions are chromatic accordions and about 10% are piano accordions.
In the U.S. it's the other way around. There are other systems as well
and they all have their advantages and disadvantages. The uniform keyboard,
although extremely rare (I've never seen one myself), seems to be the overall
best choice. Here's a comparison I've made covering different aspects of
piano, chromatic, uniform and the new Kravtsov accordion, abbreviated PA,
CA, UA and KA
respectively. I've considered the following aspects:
layouts | | Intuitiveness |
| Keyboard feeling | | Fingering
| | Transposition | | Conclusion
I've tried to display the layouts below with correct
Ordinary black and white piano keys. (Only lower
Five row CA:
Round or rectangular equally sized keys. The two
top rows are copies of the two bottom rows. Alternate fingerings are possible.
There are different chromatic systems and this is a C-system:
The layout above is from a Swedish system. In
Norway and Russia this layout is also common:
The system is called the B-system or the Norwegian/Russian system. In
this system, the diagonals flow down and to the right as opposed to up
and to the right for the C-system. The C is in the 3rd (middle) row and
has the A to it's left and the D# to it's right. The C# is in the 2nd row
with the A# to it's left and the E to it's right. The D is in the 1st (outside)
row with the B to it's left and the F to it's right etc. Row 4 repeats
row 1 and row 5 repeats row 2.
The C-system and the B-system both have their advantages and disadvantages.
It may be easier to form chords and play melodic music on the C-system.
On the B-system, your wrist is better angled for fancy fingerwork, but
chords are a tiny bit harder to finger.
Round or rectangular equally sized keys. The relative
size is probably wrong when compared to UA/PA.
at more pictures and read an article by the inventor John H. Reuter
This system is actually new, invented by professor
Nikolay Kravtsov from Russia.
It was displayed at Musikmesse 99 (Frankfurt). It's been developed
to try to open up the chromatic accordion repertoire to piano accordion
players. There are for rows (or maybe 3 1/2). The keys are hexagonal and
as seen in the layout below, some keys are connected and forms double sized
keys. According to the inventor, he has trained several students to use it
and they have adapted to it quickly and have also won international accordion
competitions using this accordion. Victoria
Accordions in Castelfidardo, Italy, has made instruments with
Also the Belarus company Slava has made
instruments. I recommend a visit to
www.accordionkravtsov.com, where you can order instruments using this system
as well as the Excellent book, "N.A. Kravtsov, ACCORDION of 21st century".
The Slava Concerto model.
Professor Nikolay Kravtsov
with students with the Slava model.
Nikolay Kravtsov with
students with the Victoria model.
PA: + The keys are all left to right
and a higher note is always to the right of a lower.
CA: - A higher note may be to the right
and/or up or down relative to a lower note since there's a diagonal pattern.
UA: +- Better than the CA
since the diagonal is shorter - only two buttons compared to three buttons
on the CA (not counting the extra rows) - but somewhat worse
than the PA. A PA player should be able to
play simple tunes without special training since the colour pattern is
recognized from the PA keyboard.
KA: -- A mix of the PA
layout and the diagonal CA layout but with keys also exactly
above or below other keys.
PA: - Different size and feeling for
white and black keys.
CA: + Same size and feeling.
UA: + Same size and feeling.
PA: +- Same size and feeling except
for the double sized keys.
PA: - Long distance C-C. No extra rows
for alternate fingerings.
CA: ++ Short distance C-C (about half
the PA distance). With extra rows there are also extra fingering
possibilities which could be handy for difficult tunes and when playing
chords. Only three rows are necessary to play any scale. Five row CA:s
have two extra rows.
UA: +- The C-C distance is between
the PA/CA distances. Four steps C-C for the
CA compared to six steps for the UA. Extra
rows means extra fingering possibilities. Only two rows are necessary to
play any scale. I've only heard about three row UA:s (one
extra row). A fourth row would give you some extra fingering possibilities.
KA: + Short distance C-C and four rows
gives fingering possibilities somewhere between the UA and
PA: - Different patterns when playing
a tune in different keys. No extra rows available.
CA: + A three row CA
is better than a PA, but the extra rows on a five row CA
enables the use of the same fingering for all keys once you stick to three
adjacent rows. If only three rows are available, the fingering would be
different in different keys. This is somewhat compensated by the better
keyboard feeling compared to the PA.
UA: ++ Even better than CA
since every scale or chord pattern requires at most two rows while at most
three rows are required on a CA.
KA: -Tricky to figure out. Better than
the PA but the double sized keys seems to destroy the symmetry.
The only PA advantage is that it's
the most intuitive at least for the beginner.
The CA is less intuitive but is superior
to the PA especially with the extra fingering and transposition
possibilities using extra rows.
The UA is more intuitive than the CA
and requires only two unique rows compared to three for the CA.
The UA fingering and transposition possibilities are somewhat
better than for the CA if you ignore the fact that the C-C
distance is greater than for the CA. I think that this greater
C-C distance is the only significant disadvantage of the UA
compared to the CA. In my opinion, the best overall accordion
is the UA. I would love to try a UA myself
but until then I'm happy with my five row CA.
The KA - Can't really understand the
benefits of this hybrid of PA and CA.
With some intelligent software and a MIDI CA,
it should be possible to alter the MIDI messages in order to transform
a CA to a UA! You would of course have to play
only through MIDI with locked bellows since the acoustic and the electronic
notes would differ!
One important aspect is that five row CA:s
are available (at least here in Scandinavia) while UA:s are
not. Both systems, however, have enormous advantages when compared to PA:s.
The CA is available (probably at a high cost) but I can't
recommend this system when compared to the CA.
If you're already a good pianist and want to learn
to play the accordion, there's no reason not to buy a piano accordion.
In most other cases I think the uniform or chromatic accordion is the best
choice. What about the KA then ? Well, the human brain seems
to be able to adapt to almost anything......
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