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Knowing how to play button accordion Norteno designs is very important if that’s the particular make and model you have.

The button accordion is still a wind instrument , so you have to learn how to hold it, how to stand or sit while you play, how to push and pull the bellows, and what the buttons mean on either side.

To help you understand the process of playing the button accordion, we have put together some information in this guide to explain the basics of the buttons, the basics of the way the accordion works, and how to learn most effectively.

The Norteno Accordion

The Norteno accordion is a brand of button accordion that is designed by Gabbanelli.

It is perfect for Norteno music and Tex-Mex music, developed in the late 19th century.

But it does have three rows of buttons on the treble side and two rows of buttons on the bass side so it can be difficult to learn how to play. 

The basics of the buttons

You don’t necessarily need to know how to read music if you start with the button accordion.

The button accordion is a great tool to use if you want to play by ear because you can simply associate certain sounds with certain buttons and never have to read music again.

Of course many people will choose to learn how to read music and then associate the musical annotations from written sheet music to the corresponding buttons.

The easiest way to learn how to play the button accordion is to rely upon the Solfege method, the most basic of music notation which assigns the syllables, do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, and te to the seven notes you get with a major scale.

Most people know Solfege simply from the movie The Sound of Music but Solfege is the music notation used in modern music curriculum today.

If you are looking at a very remedial, one row button accordion, and you look at the right-hand buttons of a diatonic design, when you push the bellows in the buttons from the top to the bottom correspond to:

  • Mi
  • Do
  • Sol
  • Mi
  • Do
  • Sol
  • Mi
  • Do
  • Sol
  • Li or te

When you bush the bellows out, those same buttons, in the same order, correspond to:

  • Ti
  • La
  • Fa
  • Re
  • Ti
  • La
  • Fa
  • Re
  • Ti
  • Si or le

How to play the accordion buttons

When you play your accordion, you use your right hand, your left hand, and to some degree your left arm.

Your right hand

The right hand is what plays the treble notes and the fingers are usually numbered as a reference point.

Your right hand might be used to change switches before you start playing your instrument.

You want to use just your fingertips when you are pressing the different buttons and the width of your hand position is going to be contingent upon how many buttons you have.

Your left hand

Your left hand is what plays any preset chords and bass notes, which are also numbered on the left side.

The left hand might also control switches and operate the air button.

The left wrist is there to fit inside the bass strap leaving your left arm to push and pull the bellows.


An accordion is an instrument that you wear very similarly to a jacket and the way you hold it against yourself is not buttons or zippers but rather straps.

If you have a larger accordion you will want shoulder straps that connect at the bottom of your accordion and the top with a back strap in between to evenly distribute the weight.

There are also wrist straps and thumb straps both of which can be adjustable to your size. 

Seating position

When you play your Norteno accordion you can choose to sit or stand.

Most people prefer sitting because it is simply much more comfortable and you do not have the risk of hurting your back.

If you choose to stand it’s good to invest in back straps and shoulder straps so that you can evenly distribute the weight.

Whether sitting or standing it’s important to:

  • always keep your back straight so that you do not hurt it while playing
  • Sit in a comfortable seat where your feet can rest on the ground
  • Keep your right elbow out so that the right hand rests in a good position
  • Keep your fingers curved over the buttons so that you can play in sort of a claw position, using only your fingertips to press the buttons

Reading music for the accordion

When you are playing the Norteno accordion or any other accordion, the most comfortable position for most people is to play it while seated.

And as you are sitting you can have a music stand in front of you with your sheet music, if you have sheet music.

When you are looking at accordion sheet music, the treble side is the right side so the buttons along the right side.

And the music for the right side is going to be written in the treble clef.

The left side is the bass and the music here is written in bass clef. 

Most of the time, instead of writing an entire chord, sheet music for the accordion will use a chord symbol over a note.

So, a lowercase “m” is meant for a minor chord while the uppercase denotes a major chord.

If there is a lowercase “d” over a note, that is indicative of a diminished chord and the number 7 represents a 7th chord. 


The biggest challenge to playing the button accordion or even playing a piano accordion that has buttons on one side is memorizing what those buttons mean.

The buttons don’t have markings on them, they all look the same.

So when you whip out your button accordion you can’t just look at one end for a reference and figure out what the notes are.

And the more complex your instrument, the more buttons you have. It really comes down to memorization.

It is for this reason that many musicians consider the button accordion a much harder instrument to learn at the beginning but a much easier instrument to play down the line.

Most of your initial effort will be put into something memorizing what the buttons are on your particular instrument.

Again, remedial instruments might only have a few rows of buttons on either side and more complex instruments might have hundreds of buttons.

No matter how many you have you still have to memorize what notes they play so that you can press the right buttons and get the right notes or chords without even looking.


When you are looking at virtual teachers, in-person music teachers, music classes online, or any other way to learn how to play the accordion, you’re going to have to really come down to paid resources versus free resources.

Paid resources can be more involved, more often than not paid resources are much better organized and they have structure to them.

For example, if you take a music class there is going to be a structured curriculum that builds from one lesson to the next.

If you have a private tutor they are going to build your skills from one lesson to the next in some cases going back for a short while if there’s something you’re struggling with but otherwise still perpetually moving forward in your skill-set.

Online resources are built with the same type of curriculum structure but they’re simply virtual.

So you might start at the very beginning and learn how to hold your accordion, how to clean it, how to push and pull based on the type you have, and then move on to how to play the buttons.

Free resources can be equally good and what they provide you, just as well structured, but they aren’t always because there’s no management or oversight.

Usually, free resources are things that somebody else decided would be necessary, something that a music student or teacher decided they wanted to record and put on the internet.

So you might have a great selection of resources for beginners who are trying to memorize the buttons and know how to play the buttons, but they stopped after 12 lessons and you can’t find anything beyond that.

How to play button accordion: Norteno models

Now you know the basics of how to play button accordion Norteno models, how to position yourself, what straps you might need, and what lessons might help accelerate your learning.

The Norteno accordion is no different from any other accordion when it comes to the necessity of practice.

The more you practice, the better off you will be with your musical education, the more comfortable you will be with your buttons, and the closer you will get to memorizing the different buttons and being able to play them flawlessly.

Featured image credit: Image ID: 151884821