Hey Jeff, I was thinking about you this morning and wondering myself how exactly "someone" arrived at the different accordion positions and why did they name them (seemingly out of order)????
I had a stroke of thought come to me and it has to do with the fiddle. Now, it may have been a thought sent by God itself, because I don't normally come up with ideas like this.
Below are the orders of tuning for a standard tuned fiddle, and a Cajun down tuned fiddle going from the biggest string to the smallest. (Now keep in mind that different people call the orders from the smallest string to the biggest. I personally like to go from big string to smallest because it is left to right as you're holding the fiddle. Left to right as in the way we write English and French.
Standard Fiddle Tuning
compare this to the 4 positions of a "D" accordion below in their order of difficulty easiest to hardest according to the common consensus of Eunice accordion players:
Cajun Down Tuned Fiddle
compare this to the 4 positions of a "C" accordion below in their order of difficulty easiest to hardest according to the common consensus of Eunice accordion players:
That's as far as I got with the thought sent to me by God. Maybe you can figure out some sort of pattern here according to the influence of the fiddle on the accordion players of old times.
I'll be putting more thought into this on my own with or without God, because I actually play the fiddle! Woo Hoo! We may have an answer soon.
Also, AJ. That chart with all the Greek names you just posted. That's pretty cool to see it put like that! Did God send you that information too? LOL I knew that you knew about these position names from a post you posted a long time ago. You been holding out on us with the information Bro? LOL
Everyone needs to keep in mind that there are different regions in south Louisiana and different styles and thought about Cajun accordion playing in those regions or so called "factions" and or "families".
If you were to visit the Vermilion Parish or HWY 14 region consisting of Delcambre, Erath, Abbeville,Kaplan, Gueydan, and some of Crowley and Lake Arthur back in the older times and even still today, the accordion players would look at you sideways if you mentioned the word "position" to them. LOL, Most accordion players around my area call the "Key" they're going to play in. They don't know much about a "Position". Many of them don't even know about the "Key" until they've played accordion for a while or with a band or other musicians that tell them about it.
I myself had to travel and play in Eunice to get just a small hint of what a "Position" was. This discussion forum gave me more hints about it as time went by. I'm past my 25th year of playing Cajun accordion, and I've just recently come to master these got dam "Positions" and what they mean to accordion playing, the singing and the music itself. I'm still hashing out how they effect the fiddle vs accordion and vice versa. It won't be long before I got that part down pat too. That's how long it takes when there's no one there to help you or tell you about these advanced Cajun music subjects.
And that's why I am very grateful for the Cajun Accordion Discussion Group. It has made me one very educated accordion playing Coonass! Don't even ask me what a Coonass is. If you don't know, you're probably not a Cajun.
Wow, just figured out that Marais Bouleur by Bonsoir Catin is being played on a "C" accordion. And it seems that its being done in "crossover" keys or positions.
Yet I can play the song on my "D" accordion just as pretty and efficiently as can be and hang with Kristi Guillory note for note while she plays her "C accordion on this video! But I'm not playing that "D" accordion in the 3rd position key of "G". I'm playing in what seems to be the 2nd "A" and 4th "E" positions. WTF?
You might think then that the song is in the key of "G" on the "C" accordion. Maybe partly played in the key of "G", but there's a whole lot of "E" in there. Now what got dam position would that be on a "C" accordion. I don't think the "C" accordion has an "E" position.
This could be the keystone song! Or it's the work of the Devil!
Or it's the result of a player that knows how to play the accordion too good and knows too much about positions?
Another observation is that my base side on my "C" isn't matching up for this song. Only part time.
Jerry, you on top of all this man?! If I can count on anyone to be following this to the letter, it would be you.....wait for it....... and LOL.....aaaaahahahahahaha!
Jerry, notice the "Theme" of the CD cover......"Light The Stars". Told you I'd bring us to the stars and back. Didn't I?.....Didn't I? Gotcha again....Good Night Doll. Go ahead and put on them pink panties and try to embarrass me on the Bravenet again. I dare you! Remember Now?? My exact words to you back then were, "Do You Realize What You Have Done?!" Is it starting to come back to you now?
The solution/answer to the confusion of numbering positions on an Accordeon is:
Don't number them.
Let's take a Key of C box, It can be played in G, D, A, E, etc...
and the relative minors if you are a genius.
No need to number the positions. Just name the key and play away.
Of course some sharps and flats are missing.. so the mode comes in but forget all that.. just play the key.
According to standard music theory and applied to a diatonic Harmonica (same as a one row box)
the positions are:
All in fifths..
Here, again, just forget the position number and state the key.
Irish Trad music:
ON a D box the relative minor is B minor not E minor
E Minor is the relative minor for the key of G.
So, All we have to do as accordion players is know each key produced by each button press for both when pushing and pulling on the bellows. What better way than to label the got dam "valve hole fingers"!!!!! And then, we learn how to "Play our Feet" and "Feel The Music" and "Play By Ear" while we listen to Cajun music as often as possible.
That's it Jeff, I think we've got it!
Now all we have to do is get over the embarrassment of having musical letters in bold print dry erase marker all over our accordion fingers. LOL, that's not "Cajun Cool" like Steve Riley says.
And Jerry Moody, before you get all up in a HUFF. With all that was said and done, I want to thank you greatly for inspiring me to reach higher and farther than I ever would have on my own. You have created a Phenomenon! You knew exactly which buttons to press, LOL. To all of you. Same goes. Thanks A Bunch! Jim Pettijon, if you're still "lurking" around dude, I didn't want to destroy your presence here. You should come back. You have a lot to offer to this discussion board even though you live way the hell far away from Louisiana. Bryan Lefleur, you were always fair to me. It kept me sane. But I'm still waiting to see one of them Blue Max Champion accordions. LOL. To everyone, mayhaps I'll run into you some day at a jam or festival, or some event. And I'll be looking for them skills of yern on that accordion. If you ever wish to identify me or my disciples....look for THE BLUE MAX.
Greezy McGill, THE BLUE MAX, 33rdDegreeMasterMusician,******, and ** ******
Again, Greezy, regarding Marais Bouleur, you can't play in the key of E on a Bb accordion. In fact, there is no E note anywhere on a Bb accordion. The 4th note of the Bb scale (or the "third position" if you will) is Eb.
As to your question of how I know this, remember to song "Do Re Mi" in "Sound of Music?" Every major scale (regardless of key) sounds like the scale in that song, because every major scale consists of an identical set of intervals between notes, as follows:
Do to Re = 1 full step (2 half steps)
Re to Mi = 1 full step (2 half steps)
Mi to Fa = 1 half step
Fa to So = 1 full step (2 half steps)
So to La = 1 full step (2 half steps)
La to Ti = 1 full step (2 half steps)
Ti to Do = 1 half step
It's easiest to see this on a piano keyboard, where each key is a half step up or down from its nearest neighbor. Where there is a black key between two white keys, that black key represents the half step, and the distance between the two white keys on either side of it is thus a full step. That black key can be "named" for the white key to the left of it (in which case it's called a sharp) or for the white key to the right of it (in which case it's called a flat). So the black key that sits between the white keys D and E can be called either D# or Eb. Where there is no black key between the white keys (specifically, between E and F and between B and C), then the distance between the white keys is a half step.
So looking at all the half steps, starting with C, you would have:
C - C#/Db - D - D#/Eb - E - F - F#/Gb - G - G#/Ab - A - A#/Bb - B - C
You can start on any key at all, black or white, and if you follow the Do-Re-Mi intervals above, you'll get the major scale for that key. In the case of Bb:
Do to Re = Bb to C (1 full step)
Re to Mi = C to D (1 full step)
Mi to Fa = D to Eb (1 half step)
Fa to So = Eb to F (1 full step)
So to La = F to G (1 full step)
La to Ti = G to A (1 full step)
Ti to Do = A to Bb (1 half step)
Hope that makes a little bit of sense. On a C accordion, you get all the 7 notes in the C scale -- and no notes that aren't in that scale. However, those 7 notes include all but 1 of the notes in the G major scale (the 7th, F#, is missing) and all but 1 of the notes in the F major scale (the 4th, Bb, is missing), so you can play tunes in those keys too as long you're able to work around the missing notes. For other keys, you'll be missing even more notes (not to mention bass chords), so workarounds get much trickier.
FYI, when I learned intervals as a kid, I was taught that the half step interval is the first 2 notes of "Oh Danny Boy" and the full step interval is the first 2 notes of "Silent Night."
For Marais Bouleur: it's in G major, just the usual I an V chords, except that an E minor chord intervenes often and prominently. Or if you feel like that dominates the song, you could say it's in the key of E minor, since that's the same thing: relative minor of G.
Nearly positive it's just a C box being played in the key of G in the the usual way, 2nd position, over the I and V chords (and thus the usual occasional chord clashes with the bass side if you play it). When the E minor chord comes up, she just plays an E note (with a few extra little things a couple times). That's a push note, so if you play the bass side there, you will have a C chord, which will sound very wrong.
The basic melody is just composed of the notes G-A-B-D-E, so theoretically you could play it in 1st position on a G box, or 3rd position of a D box.
Nathan, do you acknowledge the "4th Position" key of "D" on a "C" box?
And yes, you are right Kristi Guillory is playing a "C" box for Marais Bouleur. That's some break down you have there! Wow.
How is it that you are able to do this? Did you go over the song with a guitar, or do you have your accordion fingers dry erase marked?
But the 3rd position "did not" confirm itself when I played along with my "D" box in the key of "E". The 4th position "E" kept confirming itself.
Confirmation keys or the "double octaves" and "double chords" that usually start the song, and or finish the song, or even repeat prominently within the song. If your accordion fingers are musical note marked, you can visually see these confirmation keys happening as you play. Seeing these confirmations will help to teach you how to play in the 4 known position, and be able to recognize and or call the key of each.
Not sure what you mean by “acknowledge” … I personally have no particular stake in this numbering controversy :)
It’s definitely not a D box on that song because you can hear an occasional C (natural) note in the flourish she sometime does over the E minor chord. And it’s definitely not a G box, because during the D chord she plays D and A notes together (I feel like I hear that combo in like EVERY song played in 2nd position). So yeah, that was my thought process, and I have a C box anyway so I could reproduce it right away.
You should theoretically be able to play all the notes of the basic melody on that D box, but not necessarily reproduce all the details, like that little C note in the flourish.
Something for you B flatters. Would the 4th position on a Bb be the key of "C" (one letter forward)? According to the position pattern system, it is, then the Bb players would have a whole lotta Cajun songs that they could play along with on their Bb accordion in the 4th position which would be the key of "C". That would be something for the Bb players to try. Unless of course the 4th position on a Bb ends up being C flat or some crap like that.
And one other thing...why in the hell is the top button (on the pull) tuned out of pattern to the rest of the 10 buttons or in sinc to its sister octaves? I think its a got dam conspiracy! This has been done on both of my accordions. Why break pattern like that accordion builders?
Is it because players can't play the top button, so somebody just tuned it to "whatever" and every accordion builder just followed suit? I find it strange, but I'm sure there is some logical answer.
4th position on a Bb would be C *minor* (strictly: the C dorian scale, which has a minor 3rd), so you’re not gonna be able to play C major melodies that way.
With the other issue, I’m guessing you’re referring to the fact that 10th button pull note is LOWER than the 9th button push (and pull) note – I did a double take over that too when I first tried one of these things. But the pattern is totally consistent: push notes go do-mi-sol, and pull notes go re-fa-la-ti. Since there are three push notes but FOUR pull notes, the pushes and pulls are gonna get more and more out of sync with every higher octave; no way around that without changing the whole setup pretty drastically. There’s just no way to evenly divide 7 (# of notes) by 2 (# of bellows directions). If you kept adding higher buttons, image how unintuitive it would get by buttons 12, 13, and 14.
(The one exception to the pattern is the 1rst button pull, which ought to be a low fa – I think they change it to sol so you can play a useful chord using the bottom three buttons together. I know they break the pattern on the lowest holes of a harmonica for the same reason.)
Setting aside issues already discussed re the relevance of "positions" and the numbering thereof, the answer to your first question is yes -- C is the second note in the Bb scale, so assuming 4th position is built around the 2-note, 4th position on a Bb accordion would be key of C. Keep in mind that playing in C on a Bb box, you don't have access to either the 3rd note (E) or the 7th note (B) in the C scale.
As to your second question, builders or historians may be able to provide a "correct" answer. Practically speaking (and assuming by "top button" you mean the 1 button), it seems to me at least that continuing the "pattern" down to the 1 button doesn't provide much benefit (since not a lot of melody is going to be played at such a low pitch), whereas breaking the pattern provides some nice capabilities that wouldn't otherwise be available. Specifically (and speaking in terms of a C accordion):
1. The G note on the 1 pull allows you to end songs in the key of G (of which there are many) with a nice full G chord (1-2-3 pull) that actually contains a G note.
2. I've heard at least one player (Chris Miller) doing a traditional bass shuffle in G that relies on that low G note (1-3 pull / 2-4 push / 1-4 pull / 2-4 push, etc.). It's a cool sound that couldn't really be done without the low G on the pull.
Oh, "top button" meant 1st button? (In my mind that's the "bottom button".) In that case, ignore my 2nd paragraph, and my 3rd paragraph says the same thing as bassman.
Nathan - Yeah, anyone trained on pretty much any instrument except Cajun accordion thinks of "high" and "low" in terms of pitch. Despite that fact (and despite the conventional numbering of buttons on a Cajun accordion), the majority of Cajun accordionists I've played with tend to speak of "high" and "low" (or "top" and "bottom") buttons in terms of altitude / distance from the ground rather than pitch. Hence, I assumed Greazy's reference to the top button meant the 1 rather than the 10 (also because, as you point out, the 1 pull is the only real deviation from the "pattern"). Very confusing, but what can you do?
Here is another song to help you master your key of D on the C accordion. Now known as one of the secondary keys. The key of "D".
Key of "C" = Primary Key (base side buttons can be played.) Dominant
Key of "G" = Primary Key (base side buttons can be played.) Dominant
Key of "F" = Secondary Key (cannot play base side buttons.) Avoided yet Playable.
Key of "D" = Secondary Key (cannot play base side buttons.) Most Avoided and Rare.
Clifton's version may not help you very much to play in the key of "D" on your "C" accordion. But if you can't find the Secondary Key of "D" on your "C" accordion while playing with Horace's version, then you need to give up playing the Cajun accordion because there's no hope for you pauvre bette.
**As a note of interest. One Cajun song well known to be played in the Secondary key of "D" on the "C" accordion is Nathan Abshire's "Hey Negresse" AKA "The Pine Grove Blues". I often wonder if it wasn't Clifton Cheniere's accordion that helped Nathan Abshire to find the Blues Key, or the Gypsy Key, or the 4th Position, or the Secondary Key of "D" on his "C" accordion?
I believe that this key of play should forever more be either called "The Blues Key" or "The Secondary "D". Both of those names sound a whole lot cooler than the "4th Position" or "The Gypsy Key" in my humble opinion.....
GOOD NEWS FOLKS! I just figured out how to play "Hey Negresse" aka "The Pine Grove Blues" on the push in the key of "C" on a "C" accordion. Doing this showed me that "Hey Negresse" was being played and sung in 3 different got dam keys on that accordion. When you are finally able to play this song in the key of "C" you can easily identify how many keys it contains. It was originally played on a "C" accordion "secondary key of "D".
"C" accordion key of "C" on the push
"Hey Negresse" or "Pine Grove Blues"
Chord or Key progression is.........
"C" "G" "F" singing switches the song from "G" to "F" to "C" to "F" to "C" then "G".
"The Trash Man" Nathan Abshire sure as hell did have some trash wit em. Tricky and sneaky sum bit!
Man! I'm really getting good at this stuff! LOL
I hope that my superior knowledge about Cajun accordion and Cajun songs doesn't elevate me to a level where I don't want to interact with folks that still don't understand what I have come to know. If that happens, then I will have changed into something like a non helpful and pompous "Professional Accordion Player" who doesn't have time for little people. Or who hides information from them on purpose because it's just too hard to explain it. Right Michael Doucet??! You said the words "I don't Teach" once. And you said them with a bad attitude to boot. Did you mean something else besides just the words "I DON'T TEACH!"?? Well?? I'm waiting.
Oh, forgot to post the original. Get your "C" accordion! Its fun!