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Accordion Strap Day! September 4, 1937

March 6, 2013
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I know my timing’s off, but what the hey, this is important stuff that can’t wait.

I stumbled on what looks like an original 1937 patent for the standard accordion strap!  How’s that for geekdom?  Who’s gonna care about this except like, whoever reads this site about accordion history?  It amused me though.

Patent art of an accordion bass strap and how it's screwed in.

Click to download PDF of the patent.

Modern patent wars weren’t invented by computer companies, they ate up the accordion world too back in the day.  The different companies of the 1930s-1960s “Golden Age of the Accordion” were prone to fight pretty hard for the next customer, with new features to throw at the unwary coming with each new model.*  My junior-high shop teacher used to say that cars hadn’t changed on the interior in forty years, Detroit just changed fins and chrome.  Fuel-injectors and computers were added since then (and Detroit now has more organic gardens than car-factories), but the idea that style sells more than fundamental technology should give consumers pause.

But here we have a feature that really did stick around.  If this is the source of the design, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a post-1930’s accordion that didn’t use something much like this.  Neat.

Now if I can only get one with fins on there.

*I’m quite interested in the different “free-bass” bass-button systems they came up with in the 1960s.

An old chart of one of the competing free-bass ideas.  This one has a standard stradella, and then adds three-rows of free bases on top.  Long reach for those.

These let you play individual notes, rather than the set chords of a standard “stradella” system.  Some manufacturers were really pushing this idea, since it let you play classical counterpoint like Bach, and was technically pretty cool.  Unfortunately, there were at least six or seven competing set-ups for the buttons, and the new machines were expensive, and… they didn’t save the accordion from rock and roll.  Still, my dream accordion is a smallish, light-weight, free-bass only, chromatic button accordion.  Maybe someday I’ll get somebody to make me one.

Ain’t it cute? Found it looking for free-bass pictures. On sale in the UK, not a bad price at all at £699. Don’t see too many of these. I would like four-rows though.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. sonicjett permalink
    March 6, 2013 12:59 pm

    Very good spotting on your part: accordion straps are a vital part of the accordionists gear – never did work out how to play the instrument without them! In New Zealand this month one of my father’s pupils is back from New York for his annual concert at the museum here, and he is bringing AND PLAYING a one-off brand new hand-made wooden accordion (NZ KAURI) he had commissioned by Finnish accordion makers. I wonder if the straps are wooden too? (LOL!)

  2. sonicjett permalink
    March 6, 2013 1:05 pm

    Also (a propos the bottom of the article) my parents bought me one of those (EXPENSIVE and HEAVY) free bass in the early 1960’s and I went to the city for special lessons to learn it! Yes lots of Bach etc. I play the accordion these days (hand made reeds) but hardly use the free bass.

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