The British Button Box - John Kirkpatrick 2013

The British Button Box


John Kirkpatrick 2013

“The British Button Box” is the name usually given to the three-row button accordion of the kind that Jimmy Shand used to play for Scottish Country Dancing. In fact, it seems to have been his idea to have an instrument with this enlarged melodeon-based right hand keyboard – three push-pull rows in the keys of B, C, and C# – and normal “stradella” basses on the left hand side, which play the same in each direction. This arrangement gives you all the notes in the chromatic scale on the right hand side, with two-thirds of them available in both directions. Once you’ve found them, you can play in any key, and accompany yourself with full major or minor chords.

To differentiate this instrument from the Continental Chromatic Button Accordion, which can have three, four, or five rows, and where each button plays the same note in >either direction, Sir Jimmy’s concoction was known as The British Chromatic Button Accordion British Button Box for short, or sometimes just Button Box.

In the wake of Jimmy Shand’s global success, a large number of players took up the box he had popularised, not only in his native Scotland and amongst other fans of his Country Dancing Style, but even in places as far afield as England and Ireland! It doesn’t take long to realise that this is an incredibly tricky system to master, and many have fallen into despair trying to subdue the beast.

The stunning technique and repertoire of Jimmy Shand are still thoroughly well served and preserved in the Scottish Box and Fiddle Clubs, and Scotland hosts an annual gathering of players who favour the Shand Morino accordion that he designed and played himself.

Therefore it is proposed to compile a list of players with a view to getting together once in a while to share techniques and tunes, explore the pitfalls and problems that so quickly become apparent, and spend some time in the rare company of others who have embarked on a similar quest.