Welcome to old and new friends who are interested in discussing Cajun and other diatonic accordions, along with some occasional lagniappe....



General Forum
Start a New Topic 
A reference guide for beginners looking for a cheap accordion

Hello all,

First, I would like to thank everyone for their advice. I have agreed to purchase a used accordion from Toby. But, I wanted to give a little something back to the discussion forum. So I did some searching through the archives and cut and paste a diverse range of opinions for beginners wondering whether or not they should buy a cheap accordion. I have this file in .doc format and would be happy to email to someone if they want to post it as a sticky.

On buying a new, inexpensive, beginner accordion made in Asia

1. It’s okay for a beginner…

Hal says:

[ariette] is a pretty decent little box for someone just wanting to start out. Now, nothing like a handmade of course, bellows are stiff, buttons sluggish as compared to a better quality, but for someone wanting to learn the basics and see if they would enjoy learning, it is a great box. Really does sound quite nice, although very wet tuned as compared to traditional cajun. I played mine about 6 months before my Bon Cajun arrived.

Martin says:

I bought one of those dreaded Chinese accordions for $140 and it seems pretty good to me. I have been surprised how well it is tuned and how good it sounds. The only problem I seem to have is too much bellows stretching and running out of air.

Hal says:

I started out on an Ariette. Not a bad instrument, I'ld say. Nothing like a hand made. Bellows were stiffer, and the buttons a bit clunky. Sound much wetter than traditional Cajun but overall pretty decent, and is adequate for a beginner to learn the basics in my opinion.

Soundhound says:

1) The ariette is the superior instrument for a beginner because it is so very much quieter than a LA handmade... and your family will thank you for learning on the Ariette.

2) Lessons learned on the ariette will show a major jump in execution upon the switch to a better instrument.

3) The resale value of the ariette, especially after numerous patches and tweaks in order to keep it playable, is 100% provided you pay little enough for it in the first place...

4) The ariette, to my mind is a generic term. I personally like the iolite & the bon ton cajun "brands" equally well... and they can be had often for like $100.

Craig says:

I learned on a Chinese box while my La was being built. When it arrived, it was a breeze to play. The trouble with the cheap boxes is people tend to give up too soon.

JB says:

I played one for 3 years and learned just enough to be dangerous on my new hand made LA unit.

Maz - Acadien du Nord

My very first accordion was an Ariette which I ordered through EBay. For a few hundred box, you can have some fun, and find out if you like it or not without spending the big box. I learned to play on it along with Dirk Powells's videos. Once I developed a passion for it, I later on upgraded to a Bon Cajun C (Larry Miller and Acadian D Marc Savoy). I still have my Ariette, which I take out from time to time just for fun (It's actually very good for finger conditioning - like athletes who train with extra weight on them until they remove them and run much faster!

Steven Kunasek says:

I began playing on an Ariette, graduated to an Acadian, started a band, and have no regrets about that original purchase.

Griff says:

I started on an Ariette--and moved along to a Savoy Acadian in 'C'. The Ariette was a good box to learn on-- however others will disagree.

Larry English says:

the cheap ones are definitely good enough to learn on.

Maz - Acadien du Nord says:

I also learned on a Cheapo Made-in-China, as I didn't want to spend too much money upfront. Once I developed a passion for this wonderful instrument and music, I invested in a couple of LA made boxes

2. Only buy if you have no other options. If that is the case, then go for it:

Nonc D says:

First off: That ariette accordion has many of the qualities of a "Good Accordion".. problem is, it is missing the good stuff and always has. It is cheap dollar wise ... but it is matched by the lack of quaility proportionate to the pricing, ya see. A hopped up Ariette by Marc (or anyone else) is still an Ariette…. I suppose the bottom line is... Get what you can afford without going in the poor house or throwing yourself to the financial wolves. I have heard fine cajun music played on everything from a super high dollar boxes, all the way to a plastic Hero.. and good stuff in between... If ya got the coin laying about and ya got the itch to spend, spend accordingly.

Ganey says:

It all depends on what resources you have. You can find Ariettes, or similar, on eBay for under $200. If it doesn't work out, you can sell it for about half of what you paid. If you go out and spend $1500 on a handmade, and it doesn't work out, you might lose $100-$300 depending on the builder. If it were me, I'd learn on an Ariette and keep it to bring to the office or some place where you wouldn't want to carry your good accordion everyday.

Hal says:

Every type of instrument made has it's high grade, hand made, and entry level. The inexpensive Hohners are popular because they provide a start for someone wanting to investigate and try out the instrument. If it wasn't for entry level instruments many would never risk the money up front to start. If someone takes to it, and enjoys what they are learning, then, perhaps they can justify the expense of a quality hand made or professional grade instrument.

Larry English says:

get an ariette or generic equivalent to start with but don;t pay over $100… my first accordion was a $14 hero… i wore it out in 3 weeks but i was able to convince myself that i could actually play something… [especially if you are considering a 3 row accordion, where entry level new for a good one is $2k+, new chinese ones are $150 on ebay]… anyway, don;t listen to me, i do everything the weird way.

Leslie says:

Buy a cheap box, its poor action and sound make no difference for a while as it takes time to develope the 'muscle memory' that allows players to forget about fingers and think music. I played my Ariette for a year and a half befor getting a Larry Miller accordion. My play leaped forward on the Bon Cajun box but the roots were developed on the Ariette. The confidence that I could learn this instrument and had sufficient interest to do so was confirmed before I laid out a large sum of cash.

Jim Pettijohn says

Just bought a 150 dollar Morelli Cajun (chinese) box in the key of D just for sh*ts and giggles (just something to add to the 8 Cajun boxes I've already got). Besides the initial flaws which I painstakingly almost fixed, the thing actually has a real nice old style sound. It is slightly wet tuned, but not drenched… Doesn't compare to my handmades in any way, but it's a fun little nice sounding accordion. I honestly would NOT recommend it to beginners though unless you have no other option financially. The learning process should feel as smooth as possible with a smooth box.

3. Mixed reviews:

Steve from Jersey says:

Often, on the cheapies, it takes a lot of work to sound the reeds, so not having a frame of reference, it;'s hard to distingush as a newbie where a problem lies. My first accordion was an Ariette, and to make matters worse, no one close by to show me the ropes. An uphill battle to be sure, but I also couldn't afford to lay out a grand on something I wasn't sure if I would or could stick with. Well, since then, I've got me four really nice boxes and keep the Ariete at work, just in case the mood strikes. I'm neither praising nor bashing the cheapies, merely pointing out that if the accordion bug 'takes', the sooner you move to a well made accordion, the better your progress will be.

RPr says:

Also, like you I bought an Chinese model (Arretta) because it was cheap. At $180.00 I could give it away if I did not like it. Thanks to Mr. Powell and his videos I can croak out a few tune and have had an great time learning. On the down side, you do get what you pay for. I have had to replace some of the button springs and as your ear for sound developed you soon notice the richness of the more expensive instuments.

Jim P says:

The newer air-iette (tsk tsk) is better than the old ones. If that's all you can afford go for it. Get a shop adusted one by Marc Savoy.... Unless you can find the current model for cheaper. Current models have the metal plate which says "arriete." They seem to sound better and are better made

Dwight says:

I had a Morelli Triple Row a few years back. Got it for $179. It was not bad, but the bellows gave off too many fumes so I sold it.

4. Not worth it:

David says:

It is true that there is a need for an entry level instrument. But, even with entry level, there is a need for a basic level of quality/playability to make it worthwhile - the Arriette is below that level… It is the same with the Arriette - it is below entry level. Learning the Cajun accordion is hard enough as it is, without adding the many additional impediments imposed by the Arriette.

David says:

I think Arrietes are total junk and a waste of money. The HA-114 is a better choice, or at least used to be. I have heard that they are now made in China too, so perhaps they are not what they once were. I have not kept score, but of the people who bought an Arriete, my impression is that there have been many more statements of regret than there have been on the positive side.

Carol says:

Do NOT get a Chinese box! I am a newbie, purchased a Hohner Ariette in January of this year from Ebay $269. Big mistake and waste of money. Too hard to play, sounded awful, extremely poor quality. I purchased a slightly used Bon Cajun in June that I found through this site and have been happily playing every day since then.

5. Invest more, it’s worth it:

Cajungreeneyes says:

spend the extra $$$ and get the hohner 114 on Marc's site if you want a good solid beginner accordion. He tunes them to his specs for that good cajun sound. and for the record, Marc has been building since 1960.

Toby says:

If nothing else, I would try to get the Hohner 114. You could get a second hand German made for $200-$400. Or a new Chinese one for about $500. I find it a good step above the Ariette. Also, you can notice that many, many Chinese boxes (just look at Ebay) are probably the same box with a different name on them.

Darryl says:

It's tempting to be impatient and want that accordion ( ANY accordion ) in your hands, THIS week,Right now, then start playing like the big boys...MY advice, just hang in there, get some finance organised SOMEHOW,SOMEWHERE, then talk to Jude Moreau in Texas, or whoever, in Louisiana. You'll NEVER regret the wait.

Craig says:

I would follow the others advice and avoid the Chinese E bay boxes. Your best bet for a lower cost box is to find a used HA-114 Hohner. www.lecapitaine accordions.com should get you to Danny's website. He has a phone number listed there. He lives in Lake Charles, which got slammed by RITA. He may be temporarily out of commission right now. Check people here for used boxes and "Playing the Cajun Accordion discussion page" as well as Reyes Accordions. Try Zydeco@www.ezboard.com as well. The good boxes hold their value. The cheap ones don't. I knew what I was getting with the cheap one. The money would have been better spent on a Panther triple row.

David says:

Don't waste your money. I wouldn't get one whether Marc set it up first or not. You might find a used Hohner HA-114 - a vastly superior instrument, and not a whole lot more $.

JB says:

if you buy a good used handmade and find accordions aren't for you, you have a better than evens chance of getting your money back. You're lucky if you can sell a cheapie at all. That's the voice of bitter experience talking!

Re: A reference guide for beginners looking for a cheap accordion

A FAQ is a great idea Ken. The search feature is great but sometimes a little lacking.

Re: Re: A reference guide for beginners looking for a cheap accordion

The postings that I copied are by no means the only ones out there. If people feel like there are additional views out there, then I'd be happy to add more. I

It's always easier to point to a FAQ than rehash the same discussion over and over again.

Re: Re: Re: A reference guide for beginners looking for a cheap accordion

Ken that's an awesome job! This Reader's Digest version could be applied to other common queries! Just imagine...


Re: Re: Re: Re: A reference guide for beginners looking for a cheap accordion

Let's ensure we save this one in the archives!

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: A reference guide for beginners looking for a cheap woman


That's another reference guide.


Nick B

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: A reference guide for beginners looking for a cheap woman

I think you can find those in Thailand. The books that is.

Jamey Hall's most excellent Cajun Accordion Music Theory

Brett's all new Cajun Accordion Music Theory for all keys!

LFR1.gif - 1092 Bytes The April 2011 Dewey Balfa Cajun & Creole Heritage Week

augusta.gif - 6841 Bytes

Listen to Some GREAT Music While You Surf the Net!!
The BEST Radio Station on the Planet!