Frequent Questions


This page presents a sample of the many questions received by, along with a short answer. If you don’t see your chemnitzer concertina related question answered here, please visit the community supported Facebook Group.

What is a chemnitzer (kem-nit-ser) concertina?

The chemnitzer concertina is a bellows-driven, free-reed instrument; a descendant of ancient musical instruments that were originally created in China about 2000 B.C. See the Concertina History feature for a collection of documents and resources that provide more detail regarding the interesting history of this beautiful and unique musical instrument.

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What does a chemnitzer concertina sound like?

The modern chemnitzer concertina is unique due to the multiple reeds that sound for each tone played. The Audio and Video feature of this website includes several selections of music performed on the chemnitzer concertina throughout the years.

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What is my concertina worth?

There is no simple guide to determine a chemnitzer concertina’s value. Please Read This Discussion for information on how you may be able to establish the approximate value of your musical instrument.

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What key is my concertina?

The reeds of a chemnitzer concertina may be tuned to one of a number of different keys. You can Determine The Key of your concertina by using the tools and process featured on this website.

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Is my concertina a ‘double,’ ‘triple,’ or ‘quad?’

The only way to determine the reed configuration with certainty is to open-up the instrument and count them. If you are comfortable with disassembling the concertina, open the right-hand side. Count the number of individual reeds and divide by two (since the chemnitzer is bisonoric… a different note on push and draw), and then divide by the number of buttons on the right-hand side (i.e. 28). The result will be a number very close to 2 (double reed), 3 (triple reed), or 4 (quadruple reed). Please note that this process must be used on the right-hand side of the instrument. Reed configurations on the left-hand side are inconsistent; some of the bass notes are quadruple, while some are triple. You cannot get an accurate count if you use this method on the left-hand side of the concertina.

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Is my concertina bisonoric, chromatic, or diatonic?

A bisonoric instrument produces two notes depending upon whether the bellows are pushed or drawn. All chemnitzer concertinas are bisonoric!

Chromatic tones are the notes in a composition that are outside the seven-note diatonic (i.e., major and minor) scales and modes. Piano accordions and chromatic button accordions (CBAs) are chromatic.

Diatonic instruments can play only those notes found in the scale and no accidentals. Only single-row melodeons are clearly diatonic. Because a chemnitzer concertina has most of the accidentals, it is considered between chromatic and diatonic. The term diatonic is often used when bisonoric is meant.

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How can I learn to play the chemnitzer concertina?

The best way to learn to play the chemnitzer concertina is to seek personal instruction. If that is not possible, you may be interested in the collection of Self-Instruction Materials available from this web site.

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How can I make sense of the chemnitzer concertina keyboard?

The chemnitzer concertina keyboard layout is not immediately intuitive like a piano. However, it will make sense and be second nature after you practice for a while. You will notice that the most common notes are grouped together near the center of the keyboard, with the less common notes spread around the perimeter.

Please refer to the following diagrams to help associate the buttons with their corresponding notes. These layouts are for a concertina with reeds tuned to the Key of C (5 Press A).

Chemnitzer Keyboard Layout, 104-Key (with notes on staff) – Sheet 1 (Ted Kolba)
Chemnitzer Keyboard Layout, 104-Key (note letter names) – Sheet 1 (Ted Kolba)
Chemnitzer Keyboard Layout, 104-Key (simple format) – Sheet 1 (Ted Kolba)
Chemnitzer Keyboard Scale (Version 1) – Sheet 1, Sheet 2
Chemnitzer Keyboard Scale (Version 2) – Sheet 1
Chord Charts – Sheet 1, Sheet 2

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How can I transpose the sheet music to play in other keys?

The links provided below include transposition charts and a music slide rule that is based on a vintage model that was obtained from Star Concertina. The slide rule works in a similar way to the charts. For example. If you want to convert sheet music for a concertina in the Key of C (5 Press A) to a concertina in the Key of Eb (5 Press C), you would line up the “C” on the moving piece with the “Eb” on the stationary piece. Now choose any note from the moving piece (representing the notes on the “C” keyboard layout) and the note on the stationary piece is the corresponding note on the “Eb” keyboard. For example, if you have lined-up the “C” and “Eb”, the Push-5 button on a “C” ‘box, the A note, would correspond to a C note on the “Eb” ‘box.

Key Transposition Chart (Version 1) – Sheet 1
Key Transposition Chart (Version 2) – Sheet 1
Key Transposition Slide Rule – Sheet 1
Bandoneon / Chemnitzer Conversion Chart – Sheet 1

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Does my concertina have a serial number?

Some chemnitzer concertina manufacturers identified their instruments with a serial number. You can Identify The Serial Number of your concertina by following the instructions featured on this website.

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How is a chemnitzer concertina manufactured?

It takes special technical skills and experience to craft a chemnitzer concertina. Please see the Photos and Descriptions of the instrument manufacturing process featured on this website.

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What is the best way to print the arrangements from the free sheet music library?

Need help getting a better print-out of the sheet music? Follow These Instructions for the best printing results.

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Who created

The website was originally conceived, designed, and created by Ken Yagelski in 1996. Here is The Rest of the Story.

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Additional information can be found by browsing the Concertina History feature. Please see the Glossary of Terms feature for simple definitions for many chemnitzer concertina related terms. If you have other concertina related questions, please visit the community supported Facebook Group.