Sympathy for the Accordion Student

Humorist Brian Unger did a fun piece on NPR this week where he followed Pam Griffis, a middle-aged accordion student, to one of her lessons. Pam has just started playing, but has already set an admirable goal: to play for her parents at the German-American Social Club of Cape Coral, FL. Her teacher, Dave Caballero, has been an accordion instructor for 43 years and tries to reassure her that her struggles aren’t unusual among budding accordionists:

“Just figure how many things you’re doing — you’re playing the basses, you’re playing the right hand, you’re reading, you’re counting, and you’re pushing and pumping the bellows. That’s only five things [at once].”

You can listen to the whole segment on the NPR website:


  1. I am an old man who loves music. Unfortunately I have limited ability. I have a student accordion I fool around with I would like to know a book that you would reccomend. There are a thousand on the net but I can’t afford to buy 3 or 4 ’till I find one I’m happy with. I don’t want to be a professional, I just want to ENJOY.

  2. Great question, Joseph! When I first started out, I used the first couple of books in the Palmer-Hughes accordion lesson series, but I wasn’t particularly inspired by them. That helped me get some basic coordination and from then on I’ve learned mostly by ear.

    I’m going to post your question on our site and see if we can get some good recommendations from other accordionists. I’m curious to see what they’ll suggest and I’ll let you know the results.