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.
- In a Pop-Tarts commercial from the 2000s, an anthropomorphic Apple Strudel pop-tart sails on a ship playing an accordion.
- The Little Mermaid (1989) 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".
- In Cabin Boy, Captain Graybeard plays a concertina at several points throughout the film, including when the crew pelt Nathaniel with beer cans for entertainment.
- The whalers at the Spouter Inn early in Moby-Dick (1956) liven things up with a concertina rendition of "Amsterdam" (aka "A-Rovin'") after the topic of Ahab puts a damper on conversation.
- The orchestral score of the Pirates of the Caribbean film series tends to feature accordions, fitting the pirate characters and setting. Notable examples include "Two Hornpipes (Tortuga)", "The Brethren Court", "Drink Up Me Hearties", and "Hoist the Colors Suite". When performed live on Hans Zimmer's tour, the Pirates of the Caribbean medley is the only time an accordion is brought out on stage.
- 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.
- Alone in the Dark 2 is set in the 1920s and features private detective Edward Carnby fighting against a gang of undead pirates who became bootleggers. One of the Game Over cutscenes shows Carnby's corpse hung by his feet at the pirates' ship mast, while one of the pirates plays Irish song "Garryowen" on an accordion.
- The music in Jolly Roger's Lagoon from Banjo-Tooie briefly features an accordion, fitting a level populated by seamen.
- A Sidequest Sidestory throughout the original Black & White concerns a group of would-be sailors who need your help in building a ship and gathering supplies for their voyage. Every time they entreaty you for help, they do so with a song backed by accordions.
- Bug Fables: The musical theme of Bugaria Pier uses an accordion as the main instrument.
- "Gangplank Galleon" from Donkey Kong Country opens with an accordion jig to suit the battle aboard a pirate ship. It was brought back as "Snakey Chantey" in the even more pirate-themed sequel Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest, where it plays in levels taking place aboard pirate ships.
- Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia has "Sea Winds and Travelers", the Port Town theme, with a melody featuring an accordion and flute duet.
- Five Nights at Freddy's: Despite having a pirate motif, Foxy and his various counterparts never had an instrument or prop of his own throughout the series, apart from his signature hook hand. The trope is finally played straight as of the release of the sixth game; Rockstar Foxy — the newest incarnation of the character in-universe — now gets his own instrument in the form of a purple accordion, along with his very own Pirate Parrot.
- A Hat in Time uses accordions in Bon Voyage! and Ship Shape, the music tracks used for the Arctic Cruise chapter taking place aboard a cruise ship. The Variable Mix for the Spaceship also features accordions when Hat Kid is in the room with the Arctic Cruise telescope.
- Used in a variety of LEGO video games to represent the LEGO Pirates theme. Typically, in these crossover games, the accordion is notably only heard in pirate-themed locations and levels, and absent from the rest of the soundtrack.
- LEGO Chess: Captain Redbeard's leitmotif, as heard in the story mode cutscenes and Pirate-themed chess board music, features an accordion melody.
- LEGO Legacy: Heroes Unboxed: The Pirate-themed Palmtree Panic music tracks "SAND 01" and "SAND 02" feature an accordion.
- LEGO Racers: Captain Redbeard's intro theme has an accordion melody, while the Port Town level Imperial Grand Prix music features an accordion in the harmony.
- LEGO Soccer Mania: The "tied" and "losing" variations of the Pirates music prominently feature accordion melodies, while it's relegated to a more harmonic role in the "winning" variation.
- LEGO Universe: The Pirate Camp music, as well as its sped-up Cannon Cove Shooting Gallery remix, features an accordion playing part of the melody of a traditional Irish jig.
- In Luigi's Mansion 3, the Spectral Catch is a pirate-themed floor. Unsurprisingly, its soundtrack prominently features the accordion, as heard in the Elevator Hall, Grotto Lounge, and Ghost Catching themes.
- The Mario Kart series tends to use accordions in levels inspired by Super Mario Sunshine:
- Paper Mario: Sticker Star: The musical theme for Surfshine Harbor is a variation of the theme for Decalburg, except slower, in 3/4 time, and with accordions among the instruments.
- Paper Mario: The Origami King: The Variable Mix for Toad Town changes from the fully orchestrated version of most of the town to a quieter accordion-based version when approaching the dock.
- In Sea of Thieves, a pirate-themed game, one of the items you can use is an accordion, meaning that you can hunt for treasure and hang out on your ship while playing sea shanties on your accordion.
- Super Mario Galaxy has the Beach Bowl Galaxy; while there is no sailing, this trope is invoked by its Palmtree Panic beach setting combined with an accordion in its music. Super Mario Galaxy 2 follows suit with the music for Starshine Beach Galaxy.
- Super Mario Sunshine has the Port Town hub world Delfino Plaza, prominently featuring the accordion in its music.
- In a licensed game of Zingzillas, if you select the accordion to play, you will end up with a Pirate Song.
- 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 an accordion out of Hammerspace to start it.
- The song about the "Shark of Danville Harbor", which is a sea-shanty, involves an accordion 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 hat.
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.