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Why are the high notes at the bottom of the keyboard ?

nico79

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10 years ago, I was at a diatonic workshop in Ardeche (France). The teacher asked if we had questions. Well, I specify that diatonic accordion is a button accordion and that in France there are very very few contact between diatonic accordion players and chromatic accordion players.

At this time, I was struggling with music reading. So I had one question: "Why are the high notes on the buttons at the bottom of the keyboard? Wouldn't it be more natural to have them as a mirror of the music score and have them at the top of the keyboard? is this the results of something or is it just like this?".

Well, well, the Teacher said: "To me, it's natural"....and then everybody said it was indeed very natural.
So back home, I switched the arrows up and down on my computer keyboard, thinking it might feel more "natural" . It wasn't but from now on I had the feeling to be a member of a group.

The only answer I had from an other participant speaking from the other side of the room was : "it is the same on the piano". Well, I played a bit of piano just for fun but as I position the piano horizontally with the lines of the musical staff parallel to the keyboard, I found the answer a bit of bad faith.

10 years after, I am thinking that maybe this bad faith answer is the actual good faith answer...I doubt it because it would be the same as "there is no reason".

What do you think of it, and or do you have the answer ? if there is one? (I am now a CBA player....I guess all this has no sense for a PA player)
 
I wouldn't say it means "there is no reason", exactly. As a pianist, it definitely feels "right" to me that the pitch increases as my hand moves "to the right" (that is, toward the pinky-side). And I do think that's likely the answer, or at least related to the answer. But I can sympathize with the fact that it winds up being very counter-intuitive to someone whose first instrument is the accordion.

It also wouldn't surprise me if, before the accordion and its kin, there might have been compact organs using a similar keyboard style to button boxes.
 
I wouldn't say it means "there is no reason", exactly. As a pianist, it definitely feels "right" to me that the pitch increases as my hand moves "to the right" (that is, toward the pinky-side). And I do think that's likely the answer, or at least related to the answer. But I can sympathize with the fact that it winds up being very counter-intuitive to someone whose first instrument is the accordion.

It also wouldn't surprise me if, before the accordion and its kin, there might have been compact organs using a similar keyboard style to button boxes.

Likewise, the Bayan freebass where the higher notes are closer to the player's head emulates the piano keyboard in that respect.
 
I always assumed that the note progression on a keyboard from left to right was simply a convention similar to the western convention that we read from left to right.
 
The button accordion uses the same direction as the piano accordion, which uses the same direction as the piano.
As for directions on the computer, my Mac is set such that when I scroll up the page I am seeing mores up and when I scroll down the page moves down. That feels natural to me, but long ago (and on many Windows PCs still today) I used to have it the other way around...
Now when you have mirrored melody bass the low notes are again up and the high notes down.
The "Russian" system has the low notes below and the high notes up, so the keyboard kind-of continues on the treble side. It looks like this is more "natural". However, on the bass side we use low notes more than high notes, and as the hand has to also move the bellows it is more comfortable to do that with your hand up, where the low notes are. Russian bayan players often use the Stradella base notes for the lowest octave to avoid the need to have the hand down below where bellows control is poor.
 
Harmonicas work the same way too. Higher notes on the right.

And upright bass and cello also have to move lower (physically) on a given string in order to play higher (musically), and vice versa.

But I agree it can be confusing when you're starting out, especially if you haven't played a similar "left-to-right" instrument before. I really have to be specific when I'm teaching beginners and say something like "play one note higher". :) (I wonder if bass and cello teachers run into the same issue?)
 
Essentially all woodwinds go lower as the hand moves down the keys/tone holes towards the bell, String instruments play higher as the hand moves down the neck. On the Harpsichord and then piano and organ the keyboard is almost without exception set up, as everyone likely to be reading this knows, with the high notes to the right.

Beyond convention and tradition (two overwhelmingly powerful influences in instrument construction which result in several idiosyncracies in several of the older woodwinds there "just because") I figure that the original reason for the two handed keyboard orientationhad to do with most folks being right handed*.

The more powerful melodic strains are generally higher up than the underlying harmonice bass contribution. When constructing the original "keyboard" instruments one would then naturally place the higher notes where the right hand could most easily manipulate them. The "use all five fingers of both hands on the same keyboard" technique has a strong effect on design.

Of course, the accordion -piano or button- has a one hand five, four, or three finger manipulation of right side keys. The orientation of the bass and treble notes on that side can go either way and it really has little effect on playability.

Assorted LH oriented accordions (bass button side (chromatic or stradella) on the right and chromatic side on the left) are out there in sparse numbers- there's no mechanical reason why one can't go the full Monty and place the strap et all on the right with all the associated rewhickering. The "no longer a common design with all other accordion" parts and mechanisms aspect as well as insufficient density in demand means making such an instrument pretty costly- pretty much limited to one off custom instruments.

The RH/LH issue doesn't play out the same way for most other instruments. It'd be interesting to see a full 88 note button system keyboard (too large for a strap based instrument probably)- I'd vote five row C Griff. Unlikely to be introduced- but if it was and I was making it I'd still place the high end to the right!*

I have no historical research whatsoever to support my pure speculation.

Henry

*Part of the ongoing oppressive tryrany of the right handed majority. My sister, a professional pianist who is left handed, sums it up as, "It is what it is; deal with it."


Sorry for typos
 
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If you strap the accordion on, and bend your head forward, so that you are looking at the keys , then the high notes are at the top
Not the answer but obviously The solution !
 
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