Rod Stradling

The Accordion Pages


More on Playing Second Accordion

Making a Scottish-sounding second accordion accompaniment is all about knowing when to play the off beat and when to play a block chord.

I will give some suggestions here but nothing beats listening to a real Scottish dance band.

There is something to the sound of a second accordion as well. As a general rule, the seminal sound was the Hohner Morino using reeds in cassotto. Even then, you probably want a Morino made from the 1950s to the 1980s.


The picture above gives a few suggestions as a start. These are only suggestions and I don't always play the tune this way - it just depends on how the mood takes me.

The way to begin is to listen to the tune and break it into its component parts. If you think of this whole tune as a paragraph of text being read out loud, you might see each set of 8 bars as separate sentences and, within those 8 bars (in this case), there is a 4-bar clause followed by another 4-bar clause.

Each sentence usually starts with off beat chords but, as you move into the second half of the sentence (the second four bars), you listen for where the tune needs emphasis to show that the sentence is coming to a conclusion. This is where you use block chords. You can see this effect in bars 1 to 8 where bars 1 to 6 will sound fine with off-beats but the last 2 bars will gain emphasis and a feeling of conclusion using the 4 block chords, in this case Am, Am7, D, D7. Then, on bar 9 you are back to off-beats to start the next sentence The block chords need to start on the beat and last almost the full length of the beat (i.e., [nearly] half a bar).

Getting a little more complex, the second 8 bars are very similar to the first 8 bars and so lead to an important conclusion within the paragraph. In this case, perhaps the block chords might start in bar 13 to emphasise this important half-way-through-the-paragraph feeling. This time, there are block chords that sound [nearly] all the way through the bar (C in bar 13 and G in bar 14) and then a series of half-bar block chords similar to those in the first 8 bars.

At about this stage you think you are getting the idea but, to illustrate that it is not simply an exercise in emphasising the end of each 8 bars, the next 8 bars (18 to 25 in this case as the pick-up bar counts as a bar) have a short section (perhaps as a phrase) that seems to mean something at bar 22 and stretching to bar 23. This is just my view - you may disagree. So, I think that bars 22 and 23 need to be emphasised with block chords that sound [nearly] all the way through those respective bars.

The last 8 bars of the tune are a repeat of the second 8 bars but, to me, my need to emphasise anything does not move me until the last couple of bars.

I realise that this may not be the best explanation of how-to-play-second-accordion-in-Scottish-Dance-Music but I hope that it gives you some clues as to what is going on when you listen to an experienced band doing a good job.

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