George Whitfield Chromatic Scale Video Thumbnail

Chromatic Scale for Accordion Bass

Chromatic Scale for Accordion Bass

The chromatic scale is the one that uses every available note – all 12 tones. A knowledge of chromatic scales is useful because many musical pieces have chromatic sections in their bass-lines. There is a general article on chromatic scales on Wikipedia. Here we will be looking at how to play a chromatic scale on an accordion with Stradella Basses using the left hand.

I also have posts for Accordion left hand Major Scales, Harmonic Minor Scales and Melodic Minor Scales.

Can I Avoid Big Stretches?

Fortunately when playing real bass-lines you can avoid big stretches most of the time. Chromatic bass-lines are often slow and don’t generally exceed 4 or 5 notes so the big stretches can usually be avoided.

Learning the first 5 notes of the chromatic scale is very useful and not too challenging! 

However, although playing a chromatic scale of a whole octave on Stradella Basses can be achieved in a number of different ways, I’ll concentrate on one method here…..with 2 big stretches.

Accordion Chromatic Bass Video


Left Hand Fingering for Chromatic Scale on Accordion

I play the 12 tones in 2 groups of 5 and then a group of 3. yes I know that makes 13 but the last tone is the same note as the first. Here is the music, as usual 5=little finger, 4=ring, 3=middle and 2=index and notes with a line under them are to be played on the counterbass row.

As usual you can start where you like since Stradella Basses are transposing – I have chosen to start on C. 53423 jump 53423 jump 53435 jump 32435 jump 32435

Chromatic Scale Left Hand Fingering
Chromatic Scale Left Hand Fingering

Stradella Bass Chromatic Scale Diagrams

Here are the first 5 steps – C, C#, D, D# and E. When you try this follow the diagram forwards and backwards – you will need the backwards (E, D#, D, C#, C) bit on the way down!

Chromatic Scale for Stradella Basses C to E
Chromatic Scale for Stradella Basses C to E

An Alternative fingering

You can actually play the above with 2 fingers (using, for example, the 3rd for bass row notes and 2nd for counterbass row notes) AND you could continue the pattern towards the ceiling until you run out of buttons – a chromatic scale with 2 fingers and no big stretches!

Back to My Method!

So to continue up the chromatic scale without moving your left hand ever higher towards the ceiling you must do a big stretch towards the floor. In this example it’s E to F, both on the Bass row and using 3 on the E and 5 on the F. It helps me to remember that the F is one button nearer the floor than your original C.

Chromatic Scale for Stradella Basses E to F
Chromatic Scale for Stradella Basses E to F

You’ve Already Cracked It!

If you managed that you’re nearly home and dry – the next 5 steps are the same as the first 5 but starting on an F.

Chromatic Scale for Stradella Basses F to A
Chromatic Scale for Stradella Basses F to A

And the next move is the same big stretch to the floor but starting on an A – the note you are jumping to is Bb and again it’s one button nearer the floor than the F you recently played.

Chromatic Scale for Stradella Basses A to Bb
Chromatic Scale for Stradella Basses A to Bb

Nearly There!

The last notes are played in the same way as the groups of five that you played earlier Bb, B, C using fingers 5, 3 and 4.

Chromatic Scale for Stradella Basses Bb to C
Chromatic Scale for Stradella Basses Bb to C

Now Go Down Again

Reverse all the diagrams to play the chromatic scale downwards. Don’t shirk this step! descending chromatics are arguably more useful than ascending ones.

More Alternative Fingerings

I have chosen to show the chromatic as 2 groups of 5 notes and a finishing 3 note run separated by stretches. You can probably see that you could alter the system and have the group of 3 at the bottom. The fingering would be:

Ascending: 423 stretch (toward the floor) 53423 stretch 53423

Descending: 32435 stretch (towards the ceiling) 32435 stretch 324.

Another less obvious alternative would be to do the big stretches on the counterbass row. the fingering for the stretch becomes 2, 4 instead of 3, 5 which might better suit some players. The first stretch comes a note earlier than my system, here’s the fingering:

Ascending:  5342 stretch (toward the floor) 45342 stretch 4534

Descending: 4354 stretch (towards the ceiling) 24354 stretch 2435

Other Things To Practice

Work to make the big stretches legato and in time!

Play descending first and then ascending (it’s good for all your scales!)

I’ve written the music in 4/4 time – emphasise the first note of each bar

Try other emphasis – e.g. every 3 notes

Good Luck!

5 thoughts on “Chromatic Scale for Accordion Bass”

  1. Thanks very much for these tips. I inherited an accordion more than a year ago, and I’m enjoying holding something that breathes next to me. (Hm…. maybe I should date around a bit?)

    I’ll share an idea for practicing scales, both diatonic and chromatic that I picked up from some choral warm-ups:
    (Given 1 as “DO” and 2 as “RE”) — 1 , 1-2-1, 1-2-3-2-1, 1-2-3-4-3-2-1, etc.,
    Then from the top down: 8, 8-7-8, 8-7-6-7-8, etc.
    This connects all the steps within the scale smoothly.
    With kind regards,

  2. Hey George I just discovered your site. Thanks for the fabulous tips and tricks.
    I’ve been playing forever and learned using the other alternative fingering on the left hand – I use my middle finger (3) on the bass and my index finger (2) on the chord. I then cross over to the fifth with the middle finger to get the alternating bass. I know it’s not quite as quick for the alternating bass but I like it because I’m used to it 🙂 and also because it frees up my ring finger(4) to play the counter bass 6th and then the flat 7th bass with my pinky.
    It works great for bass, chord, counter bass 6 , chord, bass b7 , chord or
    for base, chord, 6 bass, 5 bass for a rocking rhythm.

    I learned the chromatic scale (using C chromatic as an example) starting again with the middle finger (3) on the C, the 2 finger on the counter base C#, 3 finger on the D and then I stretch down to the Eb with my pinky, counter base E with 3, ring finger on F, 2 finger on the counter base F#, G with finger 3, stretch down to Ab with my pinky, 3 finger on the counter base A, 4 finger on the Bb, 2 finger on the counter base B , an then back home to C with my middle finger. Same fingers on the descending scale. There are some long stretches but you get used to them.
    I hope that makes sense. Are you familiar with this method?

    1. Hi Peter,
      Thanks for your comment – I like your rocking rhythm! I do often use my 3rd finger on the tonic for certain basslines. I was just watching a video of Benny Anderson (of ABBA) playing some lovely basslines and chords – quite complicated and all with only 3rd and 2nd fingers! Every technique is valid.
      The chromatic makes good sense as you describe it too!

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