Article Index

Other button accordion players

But there are countless other brilliant Irish box players worth looking up and listening to. here are just a few: Joe Burke, Tony MacMahon, Dermot Byrne, who played for many years with Altan and of course Sharon Shannon. There’s also the recently deceased much respected Finbar Dwyer, Sliabh Luachra giant Johnny O’Leary, and Irish-American speed wizard Joe Derrane. There are also loads of young players: Conor Moriarty, Conor Connoly, Daren Breslin, Bryan O’Leary, and David Munnelly to name but a few.

The band Morga with David Munnelly on accordion


The young Joe Derrane

If you play a G/D box, you will find you can play some Irish tunes reasonably easily, especially if you can play across the rows, but others will be a real challenge or impossible, especially the fast jigs and reels. To some extent, you can forget about using the left hand buttons altogether which is a relief, although some Irish players manage to play the occasional left hand chord which gives the same sort of effect as when a uillean piper play the regulators.

A young Dermot Byrne, playing Tico Tico

Happy listening and possibly playing.


Irish two-row button accordions are tuned differently from the good old English G/D or G/C. They are in B/C or C♯/D, meaning that Irish players can play in more or less any key; the only downside, as far as I can work out, is that the left hand buttons on most standard instruments don’t allow the same “automatic” accompaniment as the basses and chords on a standard G/D or C/G boxes. There’s an interesting article about the history of Irish tunings on

Traditionally, Irish players used to favour Paolo Soprani instruments and many still do, though in recent years they have branched and gone for Castagnari, Salterelle or Bertrand Gaillard instruments. There are now also Irish makers, Cairdin, Kincora and Paddy Clancy.

There's an interesting Facebook site worth joining if you're sufficiently interested: Traditional Irish Button Accordeon