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Accordion to Most Sailors

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If there is ever one musical instrument that is associated with sailing, you can bet it will be the accordion. When the audience hears accordion music, it sets the stage for adventures with sailors and pirates on the high seas. Other similar free-reed instruments, such as the concertina, may also qualify for this trope; historically, the concertina may even be more relevant, although the average audience member is more likely to recognize the accordion.

Sailors have always been associated with music, since there wasn't a lot else to do for entertainment on a long voyage (a lot of ships forbade games that might be used as a cover for gambling), and music actually serves a practical purpose on a ship: sea shanties originated as a way to coordinate sailors during shipboard tasks. The reason concertinas are particularly associated with pirates is because the concertina was popularized as a small, cheap, versatile instrument in the 1830s, and a lot of popular pirate media is set right around that period because it's seen as the last romanticized gasp of the tall ships before they were replaced by more modern ones.

This trope can come in diegetic and non-diegetic flavors. In diegetic music, it seems that fictional sailors are more likely to pick accordions as their instrument of choice while playing sea shanties. Otherwise, expect accordions to be heard in the non-diegetic musical scores of works featuring sailing, or else only heard in scenes featuring sailors.


Frequently overlaps with Pirate Song. When it comes to Video Game Settings, accordions may be heard in the music playing in Gangplank Galleon, Palmtree Panic, and Port Town levels; Variable Mixes tend to introduce an accordion when the player character is near harbors or ships.

Compare Polka Dork and French Accordion, which are likely the few times you'll hear the accordion in popular media outside of sailing.



    open/close all folders 

  • In a Pop-Tarts commercial from the 2000s, an anthropomorphic Apple Strudel pop-tart sails on a ship playing an accordion.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Little Mermaid has Prince Eric playing a flute and another seaman playing an accordion while festivities are in progress on the main deck of the ship. The music and merriment are done to celebrate Prince Eric's birthday. The crew in general seem to be a cheery and affable bunch.
  • In The Magic Voyage, Columbus entertains his mutinous crew of sailors by playing the concertina while singing "The Life of the Sea".
  • In Peter Pan, a pirate is sitting in the rigging, playing a concertina and singing. Captain Hook shoots him in the middle of his cadenza.
  • One of the pirates in The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! is simply known as "The Pirate with an Accordion".

    Films — Live-Action 

    Live-Action TV 

  • The Decemberists, whose music generally has a "guitar and accordion rock" flavor, use the concertina/accordion in a lot of their sailing-themed songs.
  • The "Drunken Sailor" sea shanty is popularly performed on the accordion.
  • An accordion can be heard at the end of the Rammstein song "Reise Reise" (from the eponymous album), which is about sailors and sea travels.

  • In the Dino Attack RPG "Fifteeniversary" story Pirates of the Tropical Sea, Mary Rose listens to a trio of pirates playing a jolly sailor's jig aboard the Beatrice, with one of them playing the accordion.

    Theme Parks 

  • One of the LEGO 31109 Pirate Ship alternate models is the Pirates' Inn, which includes an accordion for one of the pirates to play.

    Video Games 

    Web Original 
  • This erm... "unique" Pirate ASMR video by The Most Ever Company opens with an awkward jig tune performed on what sounds like a cheap keyboard replica of a concertina, replete with the sound of a limping wooden leg.

    Western Animation 
  • In Captain Pugwash, Tom The Cabinboy is an expert concertina player, and part of his repertoire is "The Trumpet Hornpipe" (a.k.a. the Captain Pugwash theme).
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • In "The Ballad of Badbeard", the kids get told about the legendary pirate Badbeard in the form of a song, which starts with Buford pulling a concertina out of Hammerspace to start it.
    • The song about the "Shark of Danville Harbor", which is a sea-shanty, includes a concertina player.
  • The Octonauts: The Octopod is seen as a ship, and Captain Barnacles is occasionally seen playing the accordion (and sounding awful).
  • In She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, whenever Sea Hawk sings a sea shanty(or begins to sing one and is interrupted) accordion music can be heard in the soundtrack.
  • Silly Symphonies: In the beginning of "King Neptune", a group of pirates was shown sailing across the seas and singing, before they notice a group of mermaids to kidnap. During their song, one of them was shown playing a concertina.
  • The Simpsons: In Bart the Fink, Krusty has faked his death and while looking for him, Bart and Lisa encounter Handsome Pete, a lookalike at the docks who plays the "Sailor's Hornpipe" on the accordion and dances for nickels. As they leave, Bart tosses a coin into his cup.
    Sea Captain: Aar, a quarter! He'll be dancing for hours!
  • In SpongeBob SquarePants, many scenes involving the swashbuckling Mr. Krabs are scored by accordions, with this production track of "Drunken Sailor" being a prime example.
  • Total Drama World Tour: In the episode "Newf Kids on the Rock," the contestants have to sing while rowing to the Newfoundland shore. Alejandro starts out the song, a pastiche of sea shanties, by playing an accordion.


Video Example(s):



Captain Barnacles has many talents; the accordion is not one of them.

How well does it match the trope?

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Main / AccordionToMostSailors

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