Free Accordion Sheet Music: Bella Ciao

Full disclosure:  If you were one of my students and wanted to learn to play Bella Ciao, I’d tell you to try to figure it out as much as you can without relying on sheet music first. It’s a simple, three-chord folk tune that’s really not too tricky to pick out with a bit of trial-and-error. Perfect for giving the ol’ ear-bones some much-needed exercise!

But if you really must have the dots, try this arrangement on for size:


The first page is fairly basic and beginner-friendly. You can just learn that part and be done with it if you want.

I made the second page more challenging, with extra harmonies in the right hand and some slight chord differences. This is just one example of dressing up the basic tune, of course. Feel free to experiment.

(Just be careful playing it in Italy…)

Free Accordion Sheet Music: Rue Lepic

Here’s a first for this blog: A Jeff Jetton original composition! There’s a bit of a backstory to it…

I teach mainly out of the Palmer-Hughes series of method books. They’ve been around forever, and they’re pretty good at introducing concepts slowly, in a mostly-sensible order. But they’re not perfect (few methods are, for everyone), so I wind up making a few tweaks here and there.

Case in point: The introduction of minor chords, about 3/4 of the way through Book Two. They start you off with an excerpt of “Minka”–a simple Ukrainian folk song. Nothing too fancy. Just getting the ol’ fingerbones used to this new set of chord buttons. So far so good.

But then Palmer and Hughes dump you into the deep end of the pool with “Lippen Schweigen”, a stunningly beautiful waltz from Lehar’s The Merry Widow.

Well That Escalated Quickly!

At some point I decided there needed to be a tune or two leading up to this. Something fun to play, yet not quite as “leapy” in the left hand as Merry Widow. Maybe something modern, with the same vibe as Yann Tiersen’s Amélie soundtrack, let’s say, but (arguably) even easier?

So I wrote an unabashed Yann Tiersen pastiche, complete with a second accordion part (for the teacher or whomever), and titled it after a street in Paris. You can download it and try it for yourself…


Click image to view the full PDF

Some hints:

  • It’s a fast waltz. Once learned, it should be played somewhere around 180 bpm. (Much, much, muuuuch slower when being learned, of course!)
  • Notice that the right hand never changes position. The entire melody is just five notes. I want your brain to have plenty of processor cycles free to pay attention to the left hand!
  • The left hand changes chords (and chord qualities) a lot, but it always shifts to an adjacent row. In other words, you only move directly upstairs or downstairs from where you are. You never skip floors.
  • That’s a five-note pickup at the beginning. You’ll want to silently/mentally count the quarter-note rest that would fall on beat one before that. Better yet, count a full measure ahead of that, to really internalize where the beats fall: “One-two-three, one-E-D, C-B-A…”



When Should a Beginner Upgrade to a “Nice” Accordion?

When you’re first learning to play the accordion, it makes sense to play what might be charitably called a “starter” instrument. Maybe you found it on eBay, or at an estate sale, or in some relative’s attic. It seemed like a pretty good price. And despite that slight musty smell, those few reeds that don’t work anymore, and a couple of leaks in the bellows, it gets the job done well enough. Like a first car, those quirks are all part of its charm, right?

At some point though, you’ll eventually toy with the idea of upgrading. If you’re like a lot of my students, the logic goes something like this:

“But I’m not good enough yet! Maybe after [fill in the arbitrary number of lessons] I’ll deserve a nice accordion.”

Here’s the flaw in that logic: You didn’t buy a starter accordion because it’s the best instrument to use for improving your playing. Heck, they sometimes get in the way of improvement.

No, the purpose of a starter instrument is twofold:

  1. It lets you “test the waters” relatively inexpensively. Who knew back then if accordion is even something that you’d wind up liking? Shame to drop a lot of money on an activity that you don’t wind up sticking with.
  2. It gives you a way to learn about accordions in general–the kinds of music you enjoy playing (or don’t), the sorts of features your accordion has that you use (or don’t), and the features you find that you wish it had. Accordions come in a bewildering array of shapes/sizes/options, and there’s a bit of a Catch-22 involved:  You basically have to get some experience with an accordion–any accordion–before you can know enough to make an informed decision about buying one!

It follows, then, that the decision to upgrade can be made by simply asking yourself if those two things have been accomplished:

  1. Have I discovered that I have a passion for playing and learning the accordion? It’s not so much a question of “am I good enough right now?” as it is “do I have the desire to continue to improve, no matter how long that takes?” A demonstrated willingness to do the work is the real indicator that you “deserve” an upgrade.
  1. Do I know what sort of accordion I want? What features are must-haves and what limitations are you okay with? What size and reed configuration best suits you and the music you want to play? If you’re still not reasonably sure, then keep on truckin’ with that starter squeezebox until you are.

Well, I hate to get all Suze Orman here, but I guess there is a third question that you should definitely also ask yourself:

  1. Can I afford it? Nice accordions don’t come cheap. And despite what the salespeople at the music store might say, unless you’re regularly gigging, an accordion is not an “investment”. Are you sure that buying one is the best use of your money right now? (And by the way, if you have to borrow money, the answer to this question is an automatic “no”.)

If you can answer “yes” to all of these, then as far as I’m concerned, you’re ready to roll!

Oktoberfest = Free Accordion Sheet Music!

As I type this, the Oktoberfest 2019 is going strong in Munich, Germany. And once again I’m celebrating it by posting the sheet music for an Oktoberfest-appropriate accordion arrangement of mine!

This year it’s the Zillertaler Hochzeitsmarsch, which usually gets translated to “Austrian Wedding March”. A more literal translation would be something like “the wedding march of the Ziller river valley“, which is only about 50 miles south of Munich, just over the border in Tyrol. So not technically German, but close enough for the tune to become a beer tent standard.

Give it a download and try it out…

Download link for the Zillertaler Hochzeitsmarsch

This is a somewhat advanced arrangement, but it can be made much simpler by making a few adjustments:

  • Just play the top note of the right hand part in the A and B sections
  • In the C section (the “trio”), just play the bottom note of the right hand part
  • Skip any of the left-hand fills you want (just keep playing the standard alternating-bass pattern instead)

On the other hand, if it’s not advanced enough, I’ve included a fun little riff on the last page that I often like to substitute in for the end of the A section, just to keep things interesting.


Photo Credit: Friedrich Böhringer

Mayrhofen is the largest town in the Zillertal. Photo Credit: Friedrich Böhringer

P.S. In case you missed ’em, here are the Oktoberfest accordion sheet music posts from previous years:

Tiger Teardown

In the ’60s, when electric guitars were first beginning to outsell accordions, Faithe Deffner and Bill Palmer got together and designed an instrument that they “hoped would enable the young accordionist to enter the rock scene”. The result–initially sold under both the Titano and Pancordion brands–was the “Tiger” accordion:  The accordion industry’s last-ditch effort to stay relevant in a musical landscape that was inexorably changing. (Spoiler alert: It didn’t work.)

I’ve wanted to get my hands on one for ages, so when a pristine-condition model showed up on Craigslist, I had to snap it up! Let’s take a look at this wonderful piece of accordion history…

Tigers originally were sold in a black-and-white "tiger print" gig bag!

The yellow-felt-lined case really makes the Fiat-inspired “Fire Red” paint job pop, but I don’t think the case is original. Tigers were sold new with a black-and-white “tiger print” gig bag!

The Tiger was also available in “Sand” (sort of a dusty yellow) and “Blue Moon”. All three colors tended to fade with age and exposure to light, so I’m guessing mine was kept in storage for decades.

Tiger Side View

As distinctive as the color is, it’s the keyboard that really makes the Tiger stand out.

As Bruce Triggs points out in his excellent overview of the instrument over at Accordion Uprising, the inverted-color keys were almost certainly inspired by the then-popular Vox Continental electric organ. That, plus the stylish keyboard angle, were–according to ads–intended to show off the accordionist’s “flying fingers”. (A seldom-reported bonus of the swept-back keyboard: It’s super-easy to tuck the straps in underneath the accordion when putting it back in the case.)
In addition to the usual low (Bassoon) and middle (Clarinet) reed sets, there's a "Quint" reed that's tuned a fifth above the middle reed.

Here’s another unique, organ-inspired feature of the Tiger accordions: In addition to the usual low (Bassoon) and middle (Clarinet) reed sets, there’s a “Quint” reed that’s tuned a fifth above the middle reed. And while most Tigers had just the first six switches, I was lucky enough to find one of the rare models with the extra “Blues Bend” register. More on that in a bit…

Two switches on the bass side, giving you the option to cut out the lowest reed.

This one sports a “United” brand label rather than Titano or Pancordion. I’m guessing United (maybe an accordion store or school?) worked out a re-badging deal with the Deffners. Also notice the two switches. Unlike most Tigers, which only had one unchangeable left-hand register, this model gives you the option to cut out the lowest reed. Quite useful when playing in a rock band, I’d imagine!

The leather straps are still in excellent condition.

The color-coordinated leather straps are still in great shape, considering they’re over 50 years old. Oh, and that “Made in Italy” stamp is not a misprint. Despite Tigers being designed and sold by a US-based company, they were actually manufactured in Castelfidardo, Italy by Crucianelli.


Okay, so that’s the outside. Let’s open things up and see what makes it tick! The front grille comes off after removing a couple of small screws on the side:

Inside the front grille.

Since Tigers were intended to be played in a (presumably loud) rock band, they came with an audio jack so you could plug them into an amp. I expected to find a couple of small microphones under the front grille, but there’s nothing here but some wiring and a small bit of circuitry for the two front-panel knobs. So where are the mics?

A closer view of the treble-side mechanism.

A closer view of the treble-side mechanism.

Palm rest

To open up the bass side, like most accordions, you simply loosen the hand strap until it detaches completely on that end, then remove the palm rest panel (usually via a few screws). It’s tough to tell from this photo, but the Tiger’s plastic palm rest has a nice rounded shape to it. More obvious is the weird bubbling/scarring on this one. Looks like fire or heat damage. I wonder if a previous owner took a lighter or something to it in an attempt to “roughen up” the surface and keep their hand from slipping?

Bass machine

Pretty straightforward bass machine. I hope I don’t ever have to do any repairs on this side. It does NOT look like it would be any fun. Oh, and no microphone in here either. Hmmm…

Not much left now but to unpin the bellows and check out the reeds…

Bass reeds

Here are the reeds on the bass side. The leathers could be flatter, but overall aren’t too bad given their age. Notice that the wood in the back is stained a lovely brown. A nice touch for a part of the accordion most people will never see. Still no microphone though…

Treble reeds

Here’s the treble side. A-ha! There it is! A single, humongous, piezo microphone serves as the pickup for the ENTIRE accordion. (I guess that explains why there’s no left-side/right-side balance knob.) Not exactly an audiophile solution, but they were trying to keep the price down after all.


A close-up of the lone microphone.


I’ve removed one of the reed blocks so we can get an eyeful of that beautiful, Italian-crafted wood. I also switched the accordion to the “Blues Bend” register, and you can now see what that does. The bassoon reeds are opened only halfway! This restricts airflow and makes it possible to “bend” the pitch of the note down about a half-step by forcefully increasing the bellows pressure. I haven’t found it to be too useful in practice, but it’s still a fun feature to have.

So how’s it sound? I put a short snippet up on Instagram if you want to give it a listen.

Ultimately, the Tiger accordion proved to be no match for the electric guitar. Mrs. Deffner put the blame largely on the stodgy instructors:

Unfortunately, the accordion teachers of that period did not like rock and were convinced that it was a passing fancy. None of them wanted to teach it to their students. Needless to say, the Tiger Combo ‘Cordion did not impact on the rock world as we had hoped for it to do. There are however, still a number in circulation and many favorable comments have been heard over the years. (My husband sometimes referred to the concept as “Faithe’s Folly,” but he was always good natured about it.)

Honestly, even if accordion teachers were eager to teach rock-and-roll, I’m not sure it would’ve helped much. If you were a kid in the ’60s and tuned your radio to a rock station, you would certainly hear a lot of guitar, bass and drums. Probably some saxophone too. You would pretty much never hear an accordion. So why in the world would any aspiring rock-and-roller of that era buy an accordion–even one as undeniably cool as the Tiger?

Funny enough, sales of electric guitars are now dropping due to music largely being made on laptop computers these days. I wonder if some enterprising guitar company, in a desperate final attempt to appeal to popular tastes, will try to design a guitar specially-designed to interface with ProTools, trigger loops and beats, and stream podcasts or something?

If so, I hope they’ll learn a small lesson from an old accordion called the Tiger.

Oktoberfest Means Free Accordion Sheet Music!

Right about the time I’m typing this post up, the Mayor of Munich is getting set to perform the traditional tapping of the first keg of beer as part of the start of Oktoberfest 2018! (Yes, the real “Oktoberfest” actually runs mostly in September.)

Photo Credit: Andreas Steinhoff, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo Credit: Andreas Steinhoff, via Wikimedia Commons

Well heck, this accordion blog has an Oktoberfest tradition too–the annual posting of one of my German/Bavarian/Oktoberfest-appropriate accordion arrangements! This year’s tune probably goes by a bunch of different names, but I usually see it referred to as “Tyrolean Waltz” or “Tiroler-Walzer” or something like that. If you’ve spent any length of time in a Bavarian-style beer hall, you’ve probably heard it before.

It’s a lead sheet, so you’ll have to make up your own left-hand accompaniment based on the given chords (the standard oom-pah-pah waltz pattern works just fine). I apologize for how confusing the form might be with all the repeats and coda stuff, but I wanted to keep the chart to just one page. I’ve heard versions where the sections are in different orders–not too uncommon with traditional folk music–so feel free to play the form differently if you prefer.

So download the PDF of Tiroler-Walzer for Accordion and enjoy!

And if you missed ’em, here are Oktoberfest posts from previous years:

Viel Gluck!

New: “Hallelujah” Sheet Music for Accordion

I love creating new accordion arrangements and putting more music out there in the world for people to play. The free accordion sheet music I offer on this site is probably its most popular feature.

So far, I’ve only offered music that’s in the public domain, out of respect for copyright laws. But thanks to the folks at Sheet Music Plus and Hal Leonard Publishing, I can now start providing 100% legal arrangements of a lot of great modern music!

I’m happy to announce that the first of these I’m making available is Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. While they won’t let me offer it for free, I did request that it be sold at the minimum allowable price.

So head on over there and check it out! View the previews, listen to the recorded sample, and if you think it’s up your alley, you can download it instantly and get started playing right away!Hallelujah Cover Page

Here’s Some Free Accordion Sheet Music for Christmas: Carol of the Bells

Okay, technically Carol of the Bells isn’t a Christmas song. At least it didn’t start out that way.

Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych originally wrote it to be a New Year’s carol, with lyrics telling the story of a swallow who flies into a home to tell everyone there how awesome the next year is going to be. The now-familiar English lyrics about ringing bells and having a merry, merry, merry Christmas were written over two decades later, without Leontovych’s involvement.

(There are more of these “unintended” Christmas songs than you might think. My Favorite Things, for example, has zero to do with Christmas and hardly anything to do with winter, but that doesn’t stop people from playing it during the holidays. Heck, even Jingle Bells was originally written for a Thanksgiving pageant!)

Anyway, over on one of my favorite internet hang-outs, The Accordionist Forum, someone was recently looking for an accordion-specific arrangement of Carol of the Bells at the beginner-to-intermediate level. I figured I’d try my hand at arranging one myself, and here it is:

Carol of the Bells Accordion Sheet Music

I guess it wound up being a lot closer to “intermediate” than “beginner”. If that extra melody line midway down the second page is giving you trouble (those notes played with your thumb), feel free to leave it out and just play the top part, substituting the same fingering you use in the rest of the piece.

And try not to take it too fast! Most people blaze through this song, but Leontovych’s score indicates that it should be played Allegretto, which is brisk, but still not quite as fast as Allegro.