I have a number of pieces of handwritten music that have anywhere from 2 to 4 numbers written above each note. What do the numbers mean?

I play accordion and I have acquired numerous pieces of handwritten pieces that have up to 4 numbers written above each note.

  • 5
    Without seeing these, it's difficult to come up with an answer. Are they specifically for accordion?
    – Tim
    Jan 22, 2015 at 12:33
  • I would ask the author of said handwritten parts. Notations vary by instrument and can represent fingerings, chords, and more. Jan 22, 2015 at 13:01
  • 1
    Agreed that a picture would be very helpful. In addition to the possibilities @CarlWitthoft mentions, it could also be some sort of representation of the desired accordion stop. Jan 22, 2015 at 14:12
  • I've spent a few minutes Googling, could these be notation for bass buttons? Jan 22, 2015 at 15:27
  • Father Bill, could you please attach a scanned specimen of the sheet? As the numbers run from 1 to 4 it could refer to the fingering of the melody (where 1 is the index and 4 is the pinky). Jan 26, 2015 at 8:32

2 Answers 2


I am fairly certain the sheet music is for concertina, specifically chemnitzer concertina.

Here is an image of some chemnitzer concertina notation:

chemnitzer concertina notation - george's polka

A text description of the notation method is difficult to find online but this image:

enter image description here

should help translate if you are indeed looking to play the music on a concertina or transpose to your piano accordion.


I can't speak definitively to music written for other instruments, but with piano music those numbers represent fingerings, with each note in the chord to be played by its corresponding finger number. Accordion is similar enough to the piano to suggest it is the same, but there are additional things it could be as suggested in comments. In my opinion, with piano music they can be safely ignored as they are really a suggestion for learning, or to assist with difficult chord progressions. Its been a while since I've read sheet music, but I only remember seeing them in beginner music.

  • I doubt it's this for the accordion. I'm not a player myself, but the fact that there are 2 numbers for one note, often as what LOOKS like a fraction, it's unlikely that they're fingerings the way I see it -- and 8, 10 all seem numbers that are definitely impossible for fingerings
    – sqrtbottle
    Feb 6, 2015 at 16:31

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