Glossary

GLOSSARY OF TERMS

The following Glossary of Terms provides simple definitions for words commonly associated with the chemnitzer concertina. This glossary is a work in progress and will continue to grow and change as visitors to this website help to complete the feature. The list of terms is presented below in alphabetical order.

0 – 9

56, 76, 96, 102 or 104 Key
Describes the number of tones for the instrument. Each button operates one set of reeds that makes two sounds depending upon whether the bellows are being pressed or drawn. A concertina with 24 buttons on the bass side and 28 buttons on the melody side of the instrument is a 104 key instrument [(24 + 28) x 2 = 104].

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A

A-Flat, Ab
Describes the key of the instrument. This is also known as a “5 Press F” instrument since pressing the button labeled with a “5” while pushing the bellows will produce a tone in the key of F. You can Determine the Key of your concertina by using the tools and process featured on this website.

ABC
A scripting language designed to notate music in an ASCII format. It was designed primarily for folk and traditional tunes of Western European origin (such as English, Irish and Scottish) which can be written on one stave in standard classical notation. However, it is extendible to many other types of music such as that for the chemnitzer. Since its introduction in 1991, ABC has become very popular and there now exist several PC and UNIX based tools which can read ABC notation and either process it into staff notation or play it through the speakers of a computer. For more information please see The ABC Home Page or the ABC Notation entry on Wikipedia.org. You may also find the ABC Convert-A-Matic from Concertina.net a useful tool.

Air Lever
Chemnitzer concertinas are bisonoric, so the musician uses the air lever to release the bellows allowing further movement in the direction (push or draw) required.

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B

B-Flat, Bb
Describes the key of the instrument. This is also known as a “5 Press G” instrument since pressing the button labeled with a “5” while pushing the bellows will produce a tone in the key of G. You can Determine the Key of your concertina by using the tools and process featured on this website.

Bass Side
The left-hand side of the instrument, typically used to produce rhythmic bass chords. See Keyboard Layout for more information.

Bellows
The folded paper and leather part of the concertina that is used to create air flow to pass by the reeds when the bellows are pushed or drawn.

Bellows Driven Free Reed Instrument
Musical instruments that pass air over a reed causing it to vibrate so that it will produce a sound. The air flow is created by pushing or drawing a bellows device. This family of instruments include various types of concertinas, accordions, bandoneons and some organs.

Bellows Frame
The section of the concertina that is used to connect the bellows to the section that houses the keyboard action.

Bisonoric
A bisonoric instrument produces two notes depending upon whether the bellows are pushed or drawn (e.g. a chemnitzer or bandoneon). A unisonoric instrument produces the same note on both the push or the draw (e.g. an accordion).

‘Box
An abbreviated version of the word squeezebox; a slang term often used to describe a concertina or accordion.

Button Layout
See Keyboard Layout.

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C

C
Describes the key of the instrument. This is also known as a “5 Press A” instrument since pressing the button labeled with a “5” while pushing the bellows will produce a tone in the key of A. You can Determine the Key of your concertina by using the tools and process featured on this website.

Chemnitz, Chemnitzer
Chemnitz is a region in Germany where the chemnitzer concertina keyboard layout was standardized. This term is used as a name for the group of bellows driven free reed instruments that use this type of keyboard layout.

Chemnitzer Notation
The special notation used to match the musical score with the button labels shown on the chemnitzer concertina’s keyboard layout. The symbols with a carat (or “hat”) above them designate that the bellows are to be pushed while the button is pressed. Those without a carat above them designate that the bellows are to be drawn while the button is pressed.

Chicago Tuning
Describes the tuning of the reeds. Chicago tuning refers to the reeds being tuned to have a moderate amount of tremolo. This type of tuning is most common in concertinas used to play Polish-American style music originating from Chicago, Illinois.

Corners
Staves and corners are thin and narrow strips of metal or plastic used to protect the edges of the bellows. Bellows are constructed of folded paper with flexible leather joints that can be easily damaged. The staves and corners provide an attractive means to provide protection.

Czardasz
See Oberek.

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D

Double Reed, Double
Describes an instrument that sounds two reeds for each button that is pressed. Usually one medium and one piccolo (high) reed (designated as MH) on the melody side.

Draw, Drawn
Pulling or drawing the bellows apart.

Dry Tuning
Describes the tuning of the reeds. Dry tuning refers to the reeds being tuned to not have any tremolo at all. This type of tuning is most common in concertinas used to play German or Dutchman style music.

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E

E-Flat, Eb
Describes the key of the instrument. This is also known as a “5 Press C” instrument since pressing the button labeled with a “5” while pushing the bellows will produce a tone in the key of C. You can Determine the Key of your concertina by using the tools and process featured on this website.

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F

Fox Trot
A song written in 4/4 time. Played at a slow tempo, usually between 40 to 55 bpm, but dependent upon the region of performance or the origin of the music.

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G

GIF
Pronounced jiff or giff (hard g). An acronym for Graphics Interchange Format, a bit-mapped graphics file format. This standard for graphics file compression was developed by CompuServe.

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H

High Triple
See Triple.

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I

J

K

Key (of the instrument)
The musical note of the tone that sounds when the button labeled with a “5” is pressed while the bellows are pushed is the key of the concertina. Click Here to access a feature to help determine the key of your instrument.

Keyboard Action
The device which translates the musician’s button selection to the mechanical movement of reed or key pads. The keyboard action should quickly and smoothly allow the reed or key pad to open when the button is pressed, allowing air to flow past the reed to produce a tone.

Keyboard Layout
The configuration of the keyboard on each side of the instrument. The chemnitzer keyboard layout is unique amongst bellows driven free reed instruments. You can get a better understanding of the Chemnitzer Keyboard by viewing the resources available on this website.

Kujawiak
See Oberek.

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L

Long Plate Reeds
See Plate Reeds.

Low Triple
See Triple.

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M

Mazurka
See Oberek.

Melody Side
The right-hand side of the instrument, typically used to play the melody line of the song. See Keyboard Layout for more information.

MIDI
An acronym for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. MIDI devices use digital files that store information in a form called a MIDI message, which encodes aspects of sound such as pitch and volume as 8-bit bytes of digital information. Some chemnitzer instruments have been modified to be used as a MIDI device.

Minnesota Tuning
See Dry Tuning.

MP3
An alternate name for a layer-3 MPEG (“Moving Pictures Experts Group”) date file. It is a sound compression format that can create near CD-quality sound files while maintaining a small file size.

Musette Tuning
Describes the tuning of the reeds. Musette tuning refers to the reeds being tuned to have a heavy amount of tremolo.

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N

O

Oberek
A song written in 3/4 time with a strong accent on the first beat. Played at a moderate tempo, usually between 45 to 65 bpm, but dependent upon the region of performance or the origin of the music.

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P

Plate Reeds
Plate reeds are groups of individual reeds riveted to a common zinc or aluminum plate. The plates are mounted to reed blocks. Plate reeds are considered to provide superior tone to all other types of reed mounting methods.

Polka
A song written in 2/4 time with a strong accent on the first beat. Played at a fast tempo, usually between 110 to 125 bpm, but dependent upon the region of performance or the origin of the music.

Push, Pushed
Compressing or pushing the bellows together.

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Q

Quad Reed, Quad, Quadruple
Describes an instrument that sounds four reeds for each button that is pressed. Usually one low and three medium reeds (designated as LMMM) and less often one low, two medium and one piccolo (high) reeds (designated as LMMH) on the melody side. Other configurations can be found on instruments tuned to a less common key.

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R

Reed, Reeds
A flexible strip of metal set into a reed block that produces a tone by vibrating in response to a stream of air created by the concertina’s bellows.

Reed Block
A wooden structure that provides for the mounting of a number of reeds to the sound board.

Release Valve
See Air Lever.

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S

Shift, Shifts
A mechanical switch that blocks or opens the path of air to certain reeds preventing or allowing them to sound. Use of the shifts provides the musician with the ability to create different configurations of reeds on concertinas that have three or more sets per button (triple).

Single Reed, Single
Describes an instrument that sounds one reed for each button that is pressed.

Sound Board
A wooden board that separates the bellows from the keyboard action with a leak-proof seal. The sound board provides for the mounting of the reed blocks.

Squeezebox
A slang term often used to describe a concertina or accordion.

Staves
Staves and corners are thin and narrow strips of metal or plastic used to protect the edges of the bellows. Bellows are constructed of folded paper with flexible leather joints that can be easily damaged. The staves and corners provide an attractive means to provide protection.

Switch, Switches
See Shift, Shifts.

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T

Tremolo
Amplitude modulation of a tone at a variable frequency; meaning that the volume of the tone is increased and decreased at a specific rate. Not the same as (vibrato).

Triple Reed, Triple
Describes an instrument that sounds three reeds for each button that is pressed. A Low Triple usually sounds one low and two medium reeds (designated as LMM) and less often one low, one medium and one piccolo (high) reed (designated as LMH) on the melody side. A High Triple usually sounds two medium and one piccolo (high) reed (designated as MMH) on the melody side.

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U

Unisonoric
A unisonoric instrument produces the same note on both the push or the draw (e.g. an accordion). A bisonoric instrument produces two notes depending upon whether the bellows are pushed or drawn (e.g. a chemnitzer or bandoneon).

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V

Vibrato
A tremulous or pulsating effect produced by small and rapid variations in pitch. Not the same as tremolo.

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W

Waltz
A song written in 3/4 time with a strong accent on the first beat. Played at a slow tempo, usually between 30 to 45 bpm, but dependent upon the region of performance or the origin of the music.

Waxed Reeds
Waxed reeds are reeds riveted to individual zinc or aluminum plates. The plates are mounted to reed blocks using a special formulation of wax. Waxed reeds are the same type of reeds used in most modern accordions.

Wet Tuning
Describes the tuning of the reeds. Wet tuning refers to the reeds being tuned to have tremolo. This type of tuning is most common in concertinas used to play Polish or Czech style music.

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X

Y

Z

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