Suggested fingerings for the Irish Button Box.

by Han Speek
(Copyright © 1997/1998)

[Note: The examples in this text are based on the C#/D system, since this is the system played by the author. As the B/C system has different notes doubled on the keyboard, i.e. making them available in both directions of the bellows, the optimal fingerings for the same tunes on these boxes will be very different from what is suggested here. ]


The 2-row button accordion in C#/D is much more flexible than the simple one-row melodeon in D. Not only does it add all notes required to play a fully chromatic scale (all half-notes are now available), it also provides 2 notes in both directions of the bellows. These are the notes F# and C#, what a former box teacher of mine used to call the "magic notes". [On the B/C system these "magic notes" are E and B]

These "magic notes" can be used to smoothen certain tunes, by avoiding unneeded bellows changes. I said unneeded, as sometimes in a tune a bellows change can provide the typical "lift" that makes for the lively sound of the button box. So don't use these doubled notes to always eliminate the bellows change leading to them.
Typically, when these notes are used in fast patterns, occur in off-beat positions or in ornamental triplets, you may want to play them without changing the bellows direction.

A few example tunes.

I have attempted to notate a few well-known session tunes with the fingerings as I use them. I've used the numbers 1 - 4 to denote the index, middle, ring and little finger respectively. If a finger used for a C# or F# note is marked with a "*", it means that I use the one on the outside row there. Other than that, I have not attempted to indicate bellows directions or button numbers since all other notes are unique.

[You can also download all the tune images as a single .zip file]

Off to California

The Golden Keyboard

The Silver Spire

This one is pretty straightforward. It incorporates the C note on the outside row, but there is a neat possibility to smoothly bring the 3rd finger back to normal position right after (bars 1, 3, 5 in the B part). In bar 7 of the B part you have to slide onto the C button, and play one note with the pinky, and then make the same move back to the D row.
Jim Ward's Fancy

A very popular session tune, but a bit tricky on the box... unless you work out the proper fingerings. The main trick you'll have to learn here is to perform a roll (bars 1, 5 of the A part) and then move up a button right after. The same happens in bars 1 and 3 of the B part.
The Kesh Jig

The tricky bit in this tune is to incorporate the C note from the outside row into the fingering. You have to flex the 3rd finger a bit far at times, as I use it as the pivot point for a position change (end of bar 1). Also a position change in the opposite direction (bar 4, 5) pivots on this finger. A controlled sliding off a button onto the C button is required in bars 2 and 6 of both the A and B parts.
Will You Come Home With Me

A somewhat more complicated tune, not to play but to memorize. It changes keys halfway through - the first part being in D, the second in G (but never using any note outside the D scale, so it could even be performed on a melodeon). No really hard parts here, except maybe to remember to move down one button in the last bar of the C part, and up one button in the first bar of the D part.
Jig of Slurs

Even trickier to memorize, and not too easy to play either, is this one. If you can make the stretch I suggest in the 2nd bar, the fingering should be no big problem. But you'll probably have to work on the 4th bar a bit to get the rhythm right, as it has these nice "Joe Derrane-like" triplets.
In the 2nd part, 2nd bar and 6th bar, I use the F# on the outside row, by sliding the first finger off the E note. But in the 4th bar, I very explicitly DO NOT use that possibility, as here the in and out motion of the bellows enhances the bounciness of the phrase.
The 3rd part of the tune is chock-full of triplets, which makes this fun to play - once you have mastered the proper timing. I cannot help much here, this requires practicing :-)
Julia Clifford's Hornpipe

Back to the Irish Squeezebox Page

(Modified: Sun Jun 7 18:05pm by han /