Steirische Harmonika

The Steirische Harmonika is a type of bisonoric diatonic button accordion important to the alpine folk music of Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Austria, the German state of Bavaria, and the Italian South Tyrol. The Steirische Harmonika is distinguished from other diatonic button accordions by its typically richer bass notes, and by the presence of one key per scale row that has the same tone on both compression and expansion of the bellows, called a Gleichton. The bass notes earn the distinction Helikonbässe because they use bigger reeds with duralumin reed frames and a special chamber construction that amplifies its bass tones to give it a loud sound reminiscent of a Helicon tuba.

The name "Steirische Harmonika" literally translates from German as Styrian accordion; the use of the adjective steirische stems from the Viennese dialect. Steirische refers to the state of Steiermark (Styria), or Štajerska in Slovenian. This type of harmonica originated in Styria in the city of Windischgraz (or Slovenj Gradec in Slovenian), after the invention of the helikon bass reed by Franz Lubas in 1878.

The Steirische Harmonika has melody side on the right, and a bass side on the left. On the melody side, there are three to five rows of buttons where each row has its own key. Accordions with five rows are used mostly in Austria. On the compression of the bellows, the buttons of one row play the tones from the key's tonic, and on the expansion of the bellows, the buttons of one row play tones from the key's dominant seventh. The button which plays the same tone on both the expansion and compression of the bellows is called the Gleichton, ("same-tone" in German). Often melodies require playing buttons from different rows because they cannot be decomposed into tones from the tonic and dominant seventh of a given key. Originally, there were two systems for the diatonic Steirische, the Slovenian System, which had no Gleichton and a flat keyboard, and the German or Austrian System with Gleichton and a stepped keyboard. The Slovenian System is no longer much used; even the Slovenian players today play the German or Austrian System.

There is also a chromatic version of the Steirische, with the same treble system as the regular chromatic accordion. This is referred to as a "Semi-chromatic" (polkromatična harmonika), a "Half-chromatic", or a "12-bass chromatic". The treble side therefore sounds the same note in either bellows direction. The bass system does however sound different notes depending on bellows direction, but arranged so that all 12 notes of the scale can be played. This type of chromatic Steirische was popularized in America by Matt Hoyer, Johnny Pecon, and Lou Trebar.

For each row on the right hand melody side, there are two associated buttons on the outer row of the bass side: one for the root, and one for the harmony. On compression, they play the tonic, and on expansion, the dominant. The function of the inner row, however, varies by manufacturer.

Technical Steirische Accordion playing is very advanced especially in Bavaria, Austria and Slovenia.

David Siebenhofer, from the Steiermark in southeast Austria, came to prominence at the age of twelve, when he won the 2010 Styrian Accordion Competition sponsored by the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation. His performance the Subener Ländler has since been seen online by tens of thousands of music lovers around the world.

He has won numerous competitions; has played for festivals, benefits, and radio broadcasts; has made a CD with the Quatro Pro (“Bei dir bin i daham“); and in 2015 won first prize in the youth division of the Styrian Accordion Awards. “Musik ist für mich mehr als ein Hobby,” says Daivd, who is finishing up his studies at the Musikgymnasium Dreihackengass in Graz. “Ich will spielen, weil ich Freude daran habe und es für mich eine Bereicherung ist, und nicht, weil ich damit Geld verdienen muss.

On his website, he adds, “Als Musiker versuche ich, jedem Stück meine eigene Note beizugeben. Ich versuche jedes Mal die Melodie mit so viel Gefühl und Energie zu spielen, dass es auf die Zuhörer übergreift. Und ich versuche jedes Mal das Beste zu geben, weil nur wenn ich alles gebe, bin ich selbst zufrieden. Dabei ist es für mich am wichtigsten, Freude am Musizieren zu haben. Sie gibt mir den Mut, auf die Bühne zu treten und die Musik für mich sprechen zu lassen. Denn schon der erste Ton sagt mehr über mich, als es ein Text jemals könnte.”

Today, with his band “Mamabeda,” David seeks to integrate jazz, rock and pop music, using traditional instruments and four-part vocal harmonies. In addition to his accordion expertise, he is an accomplished pianist and has begun to write his own musical works.

David Siebenhofer - Subener Landler
al 88b Accordion HD (Slowenischer Bauerntanz).mp4

The accordion orchestra of Primoža Zvira, Rečica ob Savinji, Slovenia

Slowenischer Bauerntanz - Steirische Harmonika.mp4
aa 29 y Andreas Schmid.mp4
Slivowitz Polka - Luca Stangl 1-27-22.mp4
150a x possibly Trachtenverein Waldburg 1-26-22.mp4
David Siebenhofer Subener Ländler (age 12)
Ban Sunnawendn - Anton Mooslechner jun..mp4
David Siebenhofer 5b.mp4