Concertina vs. Accordion (What’s The Difference?)

Most people, when they close their eyes can envision an accordion? An accordion is a large reed instrument with a bellows in the middle, a keyboard on one side, and buttons on the other.

A standard size accordion has 120 bass and 41 treble keys. However, there are accordions with 46 bass and 26 treble keys, 60 bass, 72 bass, 80, 96, even 140 or 185 bass keys.

There are also accordions with buttons only instead of having a keyboard. Cajun music, polka music, and traditional dance music are often played with an accordion although, in the last few years, even rock groups have added the accordion to their repertoire.

Table of Contents

Key Differences Between The Two Instruments


A concertina is much smaller and is typically hexagonal in shape. Concertinas never have keyboards, they are a button only instrument. Some concertinas have just 10 buttons while more sophisticated ones have 30.

What is the difference in sound between the concertina? While there are many types of accordions and concertinas without being too technical, concertinas have a higher-pitched, more treble sound, while accordions have a richer, bass tone.

The revival of folk music, coupled with the fact that concertinas weigh significantly less than an accordion, are easy to transport, and typically cost 1/2 to 1/3 as much makes them a popular instrument.

Regular Accordion (Button & Piano)

Although there are a wide variety of accordions, accordions typically come in two styles, button style accordions, and piano accordions.

Button accordions, as described have no keyboard, but rather a series of buttons that you push to change the reed configuration.

Botton accordions can be easier to learn than piano accordions because there are fewer buttons than a piano accordion has keys.

Therefore, harmonies are often easier to learn. In addition, button accordions tend to be lighter than piano accordions.

However, if you already know how to play the piano or even the guitar, then the piano accordion, with its wider choice of notes may be better. An old adage among according to teachers is that piano accordions are easier to learn but button accordions are easier to play due to the fact that the separation between buttons is reduced.

Button accordions have another advantage in that they tend to be cheaper than piano accordions.

In the 50s and 60s, thousands of accordions were brought to the United States from foreign countries, so much so that it’s possible to pick up a cheap used accordion for around $50 or so.

However, most music professionals caution that buying street accordions may wind up costing you. Many have rust, damaged bellows, and other some reeds that don’t work, and the cost to repair them and bring them up to standards will typically cost as much as you can buy a new one for.

The better option is to buy a quality used instrument at a music store that specialized in accordions for around $300.

Difficulty | Which Is Harder To Learn & Play?

Although opinions may vary, in general, the concertina is easier to learn than an accordion. There is simply a whole lot less going on with the concertina.

That being said, it is a whole lot easier to find an accordion teacher than it is to find a concertina instructor. If you want to get really good at the concertina, you’ll probably be required to rely more on your own than if you pick up the accordion. It seems accordion teachers are everywhere, but concertina instructors, not so much.

Your best bet is usually to sign up for video lessons online, which you can watch over and over again until you get a real appreciation for the instrument.

With the accordion, however, in addition to there being instructors everywhere, there are often accordion groups in larger towns that you can practice with to master the instrument and the technique.

One thing that favors the Concertina accordion is that there are a limited amount of styles, primarily being the English Concertina, the German Concertina, the Anglo-German Concertina, the Duet Concertina, and the Bandeon.

Accordions, on the other hand, are of a Button accordion, a Piano accordion, Unisonoric Accordions, Bisonoric Accordions, Chromatic Accordions, Diatonic Accordions, Digital Accordions, the Russian Garmon, the Schrammel Accordion, the Steirische Harmonika, the Schwyzerörgeli, the Trikitixa, the Bayan, the British Chromatic Accordion, the Pedal Harmony, and the Bandoneon, a larger concertina accordion.

Each of these accordions sounds different, and the choices being so wide, can be confusing for accordion players whereas concertina players have fewer choices.

One thing that might very well play into the decision of a new player is the type of music they intend to learn and play. It is obvious that accordion players have the advantage here, particularly if they invest in a German or French-sounding accordion which has richer tones than the traditional full piano style accordion.

With a concertina, the choice of the music you play will be less broad. If you are accompanying a band, concertinas are generally limited to classical music or Irish folk music.

Another consideration, however, is whether you will stick to it or not. With a concertina, you have a much smaller investment in the instrument itself, and if you give it up, you can probably sell it out for 75 percent of the price you paid for it.

With an accordion, if you give it up and sell out, you will definitely take a bath financially.

See the best accordions for beginners.

Which One Is Better?

A lot depends upon your perspective. In general, accordions make a richer sound and therefore are more versatile sounding but there are definite disadvantages.

Lugging around a full-bass accordion can weigh up to 30 pounds. And not everyone has the strength to do it. Meanwhile, a lowly concertina can weigh less than 4 pounds.

Particularly for children or petite women then, a concertina has the advantage.

The second thing is the cost. Expect to pay over $500 for good quality piano accordion. Meanwhile, you can pick up a pretty darn good concertina for around half the price of an accordion.

Yes, there are accordions and concertinas in the $1800 range, but those are for real professionals.

Leave a Comment