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All About Conjunto
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Where did the word accordion come from?
Accordion is derived from the German word "akkord" which means "agreement or harmony."

Why are accordions special?
One of the most unique features of an accordion is that its bellows allow for a virtual total range of expression of sound and notes that can also be sustained for a greater amount of time than most other instruments.

What is an accordion made of?
In general, the outside of the accordion is constructed of cellulose over a wood or metal frame, but sometimes other materials are used. Accordions come in the traditional wood stains as well as classic black and red--but are also available in a rainbow of vibrant hues.

What is a diatonic accordion?
A diatonic accordion, also known as the button accordion, is based on the diatonic scale and has two reeds that are tuned to different pitches for each note. The direction of the bellows determines which note is produced. The vibrato sound and staccato action produced by the diatonic accordion is perfect for the conjunto style of playing.

How is sound created on an accordion?
The free reed actually produces the accordion's unique sound when air pressure from the bellows passes over it and causes vibration. The reed is designed so that one end of the metal is attached to a metal plate with the other end free so that when air passes over it, it is free to vibrate in and out of the slots.

How do the accordionists find the bass buttons?
Most bass buttons on accordions have an oval shaped top except for a few buttons which have either indented or pointed tops. By locating these indented or pointed tops, the accordionist can find the other buttons in relation to them by touch.

What do the switches do?
The switches, which can be on both sides of the accordion in varying numbers, close or open different banks of reeds. This changes the octaves and sounds of the accordion.

Who makes accordions?
Two of the most famous and widely used accordion brands are the Italian-based Gabbanelli and German-based Hohner companies.

What is the most popular accordion?
The most widely used accordion in America and throughout the world is the piano accordion, although the accordion of choice for conjunto musicians is the diatonic (button) accordion.

Did you know?

Copyright 2001 Galan Productions, Inc. All rights reserved.


bajo sexto: The Mexican twelve string bass guitar is known as the bajo sexto. Narciso Martínez, known as the father of conjunto music, revolutionized this musical style when musical partner Santiago Almeida provided base accompaniment with the bajo sexto.

barrios: Barrios are neighborhoods, usually poor, within a city.

boleros: Valerio Longoria introduced the romantic songs from Mexico, known as boleros, into his music style. A bolero is also a Spanish dance in triple meter.

button accordion: The button accordion, also known as the diatonic accordion, is the instrument of choice for conjunto musicians.

canción: A song.

cantinas: Bars/cocktail lounges.

chromatic scale: A chromatic scale consists of 12 semitones.

conjunto: A conjunto is a group. It has also come to represent a musical sub-culture of the Mexican American working class.

contrabass: A contrabass, also known as a double bass, is a string bass instrument that has a deep range, going as low as three octaves below middle C. It rounds out the conjunto ensemble along with the button accordion and the bajo sexto.

diatonic scale: A diatonic scale is a modern major or minor scale. It has eight sounds with seven intervals of which two are semitones and five are whole tones.

El Huracán del Valle: Hurricane of the Valley. This refers to the nickname given to Narciso Martínez, for his fast-paced accordion playing style. He is known as the father of conjunto music.

El Rey de la Redova: The King of Redova. Master accordionist, Juan Lopez, was dubbed this name for his accordion playing style of the redova.

huapango: The huapango is a fast dance piece in 6/8 time from Tamaulipas, Mexico. This dance style and rhythm was included in early conjunto music.

La Familia: The Family. La Familia was the name of Little Joe's band after he changed it from The Latinaires in the 1960s.

Las Nubes: The Clouds. Las Nubes was the name of La Familia's song that embodied the spirit of the Chicano movement.

Los Chamacos: The guys. Los Chamacos is the name of Jaime de Andes' band.

Los Clásicos: The Classics. Los Clásicos is the name of Roberto Pulido's band.

los migrantes: The migrant workers.

mazurka: Polish dance, resembling the polka, which is in a moderate triple meter and characterized by the stamping of the feet and clicking of the heels. This dance style and rhythm was also included in early conjunto music.

música norteña: "Northern music". Also known as conjunto out of Texas, it refers to a style of music from northern Mexico that was blended with border music.

orquesta: Orchestra.

polka: The polka is a lively dance originating in Europe and performed by couples. It is danced to fast-paced tunes with 4 counts to the measure. It also includes the characteristic little half step or close-step on the fourth step.

ranchera: Rancheras were a Mexican song tradition.

redova: The redova is a type of dance that is usually danced in two-four time like a polka. Like the polka, schottische, and the mazurka, it came to the U.S. with European immigrants and was one of several styles, which were included in the early conjunto musicians' repertoire.

schottische: The schottische is one of the oldest round dances around. It is similar to the polka except that dancers hop deliberately and squarely on the fourth count. This style and rhythm was also very popular with conjunto musicians. The Spanish spelling is chotis

tacuachito: Little possum. This refers to a new dance style that was sparked by Tony De La Rosa when he slowed the rhythm down and added drums and electric bass.

Tejano: Texas-Mexican. Tejano is also a musical culture originating in southern Texas and combining influences from country music, rhythm and blues, and popular Latin styles. It is also a term used by Texas-born Mexican Americans to describe themselves.

tejas: Texas.

vals alto: High waltz.

vals bajito: Low waltz. Conjunto musicians eventually transformed the redova into the vals bajito.

waltz: The waltz, along with other similar European dance styles and rhythms that immigrated to the U.S. at the turn of the century, was very popular with conjunto musicians. It is danced in triple time with a strong accent on the first beat.

Copyright 2001 Galan Productions, Inc. All rights reserved.