Blog,  Repairs

Things inside the Box #3

I happily live in the Netherlands for a couple of years now. Before I moved here, I knew from the telling of fellow trad. musicians that the Irish session in Mulligan’s Bar in Amsterdam is top-notch and it surely is. However, what I did not know is that there exists a vivid Dutch button accordion scene outside the trad. Irish music regime.

The Dutch refer to a two row diatonic button accordion as a “trekzak” which probably translates best as “pull-bag”. There exists a variety of dedicated Dutch trekzak pages, one of which is The Harmonikahoek I already highlighted in a recent post. In general many tabulature is available for free and many workshops and lessons from notable players can be found online. There are trekzak clubs and dedicated trekzak festivals like the annual busking festival in Enkhuizen.

This episode of inside the box is dedicated to a very Dutch modification to the two row box:

De gedraaide 5de toets / The switched 5th button

So what is a switched fifth button supposed to be? It refers to the fifth button on the inner row. For this button the push/pull pattern is reversed. Here’s a look inside a box where someone has switched the fifth button by himself:

As you can see it’s quite literally a switch, a switch of the reed plates! The two reeds that correspond to the fifth button are taken off, turned around, waxed on and tuned again.

So what is it good for? Honestly, the first time I tried to play such a box I found it very confusing and not particularly appealing. However, this initial confusion faded fast.

The concept

To explain the concept, I shall focus on a C/F tuned box. It translates to other tunings such as G/D or A/D as well.

On a C/F box the fifth button on the inside row contains the notes C and D as shown on the keyboard schematics below.

De gedraaide 5de toets, keyboard layout.

Main advantage is that – with the fifth button turned – both notes C and D can be played on either push or pull. The player can choose depending on the tune. This allows you too match the note to the basses more easily.

As shown in above figure, you can play half the scale on the same bellows movement. This will result in a much much smoother sound of the tune. However, if you want the old push ‘n draw style, you can just pick the C and D from the other -non turned- buttons.

De gedraaide 5de toets, sheet music.

I have to say, after serviced a couple of accordions with a gedraaide 5de toets, I grew quite fond of this keyboard modification. It’s easy to adopt too and fun to play.

If you are curious and consider to try de gedraaide 5de toets, contact us for info and pricing. It is a fast, cheap and above-all reversible modification.

➡ things inside the box #2

➡ things inside the box #1


  • Wijtze Pieter Kikstra

    Dear Ole,
    Apart from the non-descriptive “gedraaide toets” for a turned reed plate, there is very little historical typical Dutch about this system. There have been some big Dutch spreaders of this system who have been teaching others to play since the 1970’s and have generated many followers. This has been a tremendous uplift for the use of the 2-row instruments in the Netherlands. (I’m using this system myself, but am by no means a follower. My background in playing is very different.) Clubs for playing and education to play 2-row accordions that started to evolve in the 1980’s all began to use the “gedraaide toets” . Earlier spreading came from instruments manufactured in Flanders Belgium, I’ve seen it in “lepelbassers” (spoon bass instruments) from around 1900. That may indicate an origin in the low countries, but the same system for the right hand side is extensively used in Finland. There with an alternative chord system on the bass side.
    With musical regards,
    Wijtze Pieter Kikstra

    • OleCarstensen

      Thanks for your insights Wijtse Pieter. Interestingly, I have later learned that it is often referred to as ‘Dutch reversal’ which tells you what good a job those Dutch accordion influencers must have done ;-)

  • Hector

    Hi dear Ole.
    First, I would like to thank you for your videos that, besides to be nice and clear, are very useful for profane people like me.
    My question: How much could cost to do the same but with 2 buttons?
    This will be the C-D button, as your example, and the button 1 of the outside row.
    Now this is an F#/push and I would like to have the opposite: F#/pull.
    I’m a beginner player and I was trying to play Autumn leaves (in G) and Historia de un amor (tango) and others, and the F#/push makes the playing and learning process more difficult for a beginner like me.
    The box is an old Erica, C-F.
    Gracias and have a peaceful day.
    Best wishes, Hector

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