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There are many different types of instruments that fall under the same category of accordions, squeeze boxes, and other similar names.

You might have heard the term accordion quite often but to a lesser degree heard terms like bayan or concertina.

To help you better understand the bayan vs accordion, we have put together this guide to explore the differences between these two types of instruments and in which situations they might be best suited.

What is an accordion?

An accordion is a small instrument that is portable, something you hold on your body while you perform.

It is a wind instrument but instead of blowing into it like you would most wind instruments, you push and pull the Bellows open and closed to get the wind you need.

Technically, an accordion is any instrument that falls under the category of an instrument with bellows you push and pull, and you might see names like:

  • Piano accordion, 
  • diatonic, 
  • chromatic, 
  • b-system,
  • bayan, 
  • Concertina, 
  • Bandone√≥n, 
  • squeezebox, 
  • button accordion

Button vs. piano

When you look at an accordion you will notice one of two designs.

  1. The first is a piano accordion. This is possibly the easiest to learn immediately, because on the right hand side you play piano keys. It certainly doesn’t have the full 88 keys of a traditional acoustic piano but it still has one or two octaves, maybe more depending on the size of the accordion. If you have any experience with a piano it is very easy for you to make the switch from a piano to a piano accordion. On the opposite end of the piano accordion you will find buttons. These buttons control things like bass notes or volume or other features that you might have built into your instrument.
  1. A button accordion is smaller more often than not and lighter than the piano design because it doesn’t have the bigger, heavier piano keys. Instead, it has buttons on both the right hand side and the left hand side. Remedial models will have a few rows of buttons, maybe two or three rows put together while the more advanced models might have hundreds of buttons. This design is slightly more difficult to learn at the beginning because you have to memorize which buttons mean what, as they are typically unmarked. This takes a lot of struggle but once it’s done the button accordion is arguably easier to play because it gives you a wider range of potential notes and musical genres that you can play with it. 

Diatonic vs. chromatic

When you are evaluating different instruments that fall under the category of accordion, one of the first things you need to be aware of is whether the instrument you are looking at is a diatonic or a chromatic. 

The fundamental difference between the piano and the button accordion is obviously the buttons versus the piano keys but the next biggest fundamental difference is whether it is diatonic or chromatic.

Most of the time diatonic accordions are actually button accordions and chromatic accordions are piano accordions.

The biggest difference is whether the pushing of the bellows and the pulling of the bellows generate different notes or the same notes.

A diatonic usually plays one key only, so you are limited in terms of the keys in which you can perform while a chromatic lets you press buttons to change the key, and therefore opens you up to a much wider range of musical potential. 

What should I use if I am a beginner vs intermediate vs advanced?

As a beginner, the choice between the bayan and any other type of accordion comes down to what type of music you want to play.

As a beginner it is very unlikely that you will have picked a specific genre and will instead simply be focused on learning how to play the instrument itself.

A big part of this decision also comes down to previous musical skill.

If you have already learned to play the piano, playing a piano accordion is going to be a very easy transition for you but there are plenty of rudimentary button accordion designs that are a good stepping stone for anyone who might one day want to try the bayan. 

As an intermediate player, you have the same options available to you, but at this point you might consider advancing to a chromatic design which features more than one scale.

The chromatic design allows you to try different types of music beyond the basic songs that a beginner would learn.

As an advanced musician you probably know exactly what type of genre you are going to play most, you might be a performer at this level or be an aspiring performer, you might be part of a band.

In that case, choosing between these two instruments or any other type of accordion comes down to what type of music you want to play first and foremost oh, how much volume you need, whether you are performing Solo or with a group and therefore need to be heard over other instruments, and so on. 

What is a bayan?

A bayan is a type of accordion. It functions as a chromatic, button accordion which came about in the 20th century in Russia.

Famous musicians like Valentin Zaviriukha have become popular for playing the bayan. 

Russian folk music is best suited to a bayan. 

Who should use a bayan?

If you play any type of Russian folk music, this is the best possible instrument for you because it was designed in Russia to fulfill the musical needs of Russian instruments.

It would not work as well for people who are trying to perform things like Irish folk music, blues music, or bluegrass. 

How to play the accordion vs. bayan

Playing the accordion is going to be very similar no matter which make or model you have, even the bayan.

Since the bayan is an accordion, you will use your right hand and your left hand as well as your left arm.

With any of the models you choose you will need straps, especially shoulder straps for larger accordions like piano accordions so that you can hold the instrument against your body while you play.

Your left arm will control the movement of the Bellows.

The left hand will play all of the bass notes and the preset chords and any other switches or are buttons that you have on your design.

This will be anywhere from just a handful of buttons all the way up to a few dozen buttons and in some of the more complicated professional models, hundreds of buttons.

The same can be said of the right hand.

The right hand will play the button keyboard on a chromatic bayan, or the piano keyboard on a piano accordion.

It is in charge of all the trouble notes and for advanced chromatic button keyboards there can be anywhere from a few dozen buttons to learn all the way up to hundreds of buttons. 

Benefits of learning the accordion or the bayan

Regardless of which one you choose, there are many benefits to learning this particular instrument.

If you pick designs that have fixed cord buttons it makes it a lot easier to learn full accompaniment to your music.

You also get the benefit of learning how to organize your time because of how much you will have to practice with your instrument.

This type of time management skill will be easily applied to other aspects of life be it academic or professional.

Learning to play the accordion as a beginner or making the switch from years of practice with a regular accordion to the bayan brings with it better self-confidence, and it introduces you to a lot of self-discipline and personal motivation that you achieve with your regular practice and performances.

Whichever instrument you pick up will show you how to concentrate on finding solutions to your problems, how to read music and better understand the way it’s structured.

The more you practice with any accordion the more you increase your concentration skills which leads to better memory.

And with any of these models there’s a lot of coordination required because you’re using both your left and right hands while you read music.

The accordion is incredibly versatile which means it can be applied to almost all musical styles and it opens you up to a lot of opportunity for improvisation.

Bayan vs. Accordion: Which is right for you?

Now you understand that there are a few differences but more similarities between the bayan vs accordion, and that a bayan is simply one of many types of accordions.

For most music, you can choose whichever accordion best suits your particular skill, previous musical experience, and musical genre, but if you are going to learn Russian folk music and prefer to do it with a chromatic, button accordion, then the bayan is a great option. 

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