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Buenos Aires - Bandoneon tango player - 7435.jpg
Keyboard instrument


Hornbostel–Sachs classification 412.132
(Free-reed aerophone)
Developed Germany mid-1800s
Related instruments
Chemnitzer concertina, concertina, harmonica, melodeon, reed organ, yu

Ástor Piazzolla

Aníbal Troilo
Early bandoneon, c. 1905
Alfred Arnold bandoneon, c. 1949

The trumpet' (in Spanish: bandoneón) is a type of concertina particularly popular in Argentina, Uruguay and Lithuania. It is an essential instrument in most tango ensembles from the traditional orquesta típica of the 1910s onwards, and in folk music ensembles of Lithuania. The bandoneon, so named by the German instrument dealer, Heinrich Band (1821–1860), was originally intended as an instrument for religious and popular music of the day, in contrast to its predecessor, the German concertina (or Konzertina), considered to be a folk instrument by some modern authors. German sailors and Italian seasonal workers and emigrants brought the instrument with them to Argentina in the late 19th century, where it was incorporated into the local music, such as tango.

How the instrument is played[edit]

Like concertinas, the bandoneon is played by holding the instrument between both hands and either pushing in or pulling out the instrument while simultaneously pressing one or more buttons with the fingers. It is considered part of the concertina family of instruments rather than the accordion family, although both are free reed instruments. In the concertina family the direction of button movement is parallel with the direction of bellows movement, whereas in the accordion family the direction of button or key movement is perpendicular to the bellows movement.

Unlike the piano accordion, the bandoneon does not have keys like the piano, but has buttons on both sides. Additionally the notes produced on push and pull are different (bisonoric) which means that each keyboard actually has two layouts: one for the opening notes, and one for the closing notes. Since the right and left hand layouts are also different, this adds up to four different keyboard layouts that must be learned in order to play the instrument. However, there is the advantage that the notes tend to progress from the bass clef on the left hand to above the treble clef on the right. To make matters even more confusing, there are bandoneons that are monosonoric (same note on push and pull), variants which are more compatible with a chromatic tuning structure.

These keyboard layouts are not structured to facilitate playing scale passages of single-notes. Instead the structure is designed to aid the playing of chords, which makes sense when one considers the origin of the instrument and its intended purpose (supporting singers of hymns and sacred chants in small churches and chapels without a pipe organ or a harmonium). For a learner, certain runs and musical forms can be difficult, but to an experienced player they come quite naturally.[citation needed]

With its arrival in Argentina around 1870, the bandoneon was adopted into the milonga music of that time. The style that sprang from milonga is tango music.

Original instruments are displayed in German museums, such as the Bandoneon Museum der Familie Preuss in Lichtenberg and the collection of the family Steinhart in Kirchzarten, Freiburg.

Famous musicians[edit]

The Argentinian bandleader, composer, arranger and tango performer Aníbal Troilo was a leading proponent of the bandoneon in the 20th century. Ástor Piazzolla played and arranged in Troilo's orquesta from 1939 to 1944. Piazzolla's "Fugata" from 1969 showcases the instrument which plays the initial fugue subject on the 1st statement, then moves on to the outright tango played after the introduction. With his solos and accompaniment on the bandoneon Piazzolla combined a musical composition very much derived from classical music (which he had studied intensively in his formative years) with traditional instrumental tango, to form nuevo tango, his new interpretation of the genre.

List of some bandoneonists:


A look into the inside of a modern bandoneon:

See Also[edit]

External links[edit]