Recommend an Accordion Lesson Book?

Joseph wrote in to ask:

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

My experience with accordion lesson books is fairly limited; I started with the first couple books in the Palmer-Hughes series, but I was bored by the repertoire and eventually abandoned the books in favor of playing by ear (learning tunes that Anna taught me).

What about you? What accordion lesson books would you recommend to Joseph? Leave a comment and tell us what books have worked for you (or your students, if you’re a teacher).

Entering the Accordion’s Golden Era

Warwick Thompson has an interesting piece in the London Times on the accordion renaissance taking place in “serious” music circles.

Along the way, Thompson chronicles his personal struggles on the accordion, including his lessons with Owen Murray of the Royal Academy of Music. (Murray forces him to play a free bass accordion, claiming that “the standard bass system condemned the accordion to a life of three-chord waltzes in C major and prevented it being taken seriously.”)

Thompson does a good job of conveying the challenges of accordion playing (“it’s like rubbing your stomach and patting your head, while standing upside down doing the splits”), as well as its rewards. He also talks to Russian accordion virtuoso Friedrich Lips, who suggests there’s no better time to start playing the accordion than now:

“The golden age of the violin was the Baroque era. For the piano it was the Romantic era. The accordion is still changing all the time, and we are just entering its golden era. It’s the most exciting time possible to be playing it.”

Professor Louie’s Rock and Blues Accordion

We’ve shared our disappointment in the rock accordion lesson books of the past, but now there’s a DVD aimed at a new generation of budding rock accordionists.

Professor Louie’s Rock and Blues Accordion is a two-hour lesson covering 12-bar progressions, right hand pentatonic blues scales, chord inversions and blues and rock improvisation. Taught by keyboardist Aaron “Professor Louie” Hurwitz, the video comes packaged with fingering diagrams and sheet music. Here’s a preview:

Learn a Tarantella Online

A few months ago, I wrote about an Italian accordion school (called Accademia del Mantice) that was offering diatonic accordion classes online. I couldn’t find any sample videos at the time, but I recently found this clip of a lesson called “Tarantella Riggitana”. It’s no substitute for a live, in-person accordion lesson, but it looks promising. If you can’t find a teacher in your area, this might be a worthwhile alternative.

Kids Enjoy Playing Accordion. Film at 11.

There’s an interesting AP story today about high school students in Wishek, North Dakota who are learning to play the accordion and — gasp! — actually enjoying it. Located just down the road from Lawrence Welk’s hometown (Strasburg), Wishek is a town steeped in German traditions, where many older residents still speak German. For 15-year-old Christy Schaffer, playing the accordion is a great way connect with her heritage, and assert her individuality:

“When I was younger, I thought it was something different to do… My grandpa did it. And I thought it would be interesting to play something different, that no other kid was playing.”

Janet Wolff, the music teacher at Wishek High, has done a fantastic job of getting kids excited about playing the accordion. That’s exactly what the accordion needs: more representation in schools.

Does anyone know of other accordion programs like this at the elementary or high school level? If so, leave a comment here and let us know. We want to get the word out!

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Accordion Comic: In Tune With Fun

Tom's accordion playing wins him the respect of his peers.

You and I know that accordion playing is the key to a happy, healthy life and the admiration of your peers. But how do we convey that message to the youth of America?

Fortunately, there’s In Tune With Fun — a 1950s comic about learning to play the accordion. In it, we follow the story of young Tom, who sees the “Young People’s Accordion Band” perform and decides he wants to be just as happy and popular as those other accordion-playing kids. With the encouragement of his parents, a lot of practice, and many afternoons spent listening to Ernie Felice records, Tom becomes a self-assured young man and a sought-after accordionist. Women want to date him! Men want to be him!

It’s an inspiring tale, with a message that still resonates today. Take it from Tom: “You’ve never really had fun until you start taking accordion lessons.”

[Found via J-Walk Blog]

Inside the Accordion Teacher’s Studio

Kris Hughes, an accordion teacher in Edinburgh, Scotland, has just started a new blog called BoxTeacher, where she shares her experiences and challenges as a teacher and invites students from all over the world to ask her for advice. Kris has been teaching the piano accordion for over 20 years and, though she’s played in several folk and ceilidh bands over the years, her first love is clearly working with students.

In his first entry, she talks about her lessons with a couple of longtime pupils and it’s fascinating to see how she helps each overcome their musical obstacles, whether it’s mastering a tricky rhythm or trying to find the right feel for a particular piece. If you’re an accordion student looking for guidance, but you can’t find a local teacher, I’d highly recommend checking in with Kris.

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:

Italian Accordion Academy Classes Online

Want to learn the diatonic (button) accordion, but can’t leave the house? The Italian Accordion Academy has the answer for you!

The Academy has started offering online courses for diatonic accordion. Each lesson is dedicated to a specific tune and includes video, audio clips, exercises and tips for improving your technique. The lessons are available in both Italian and English and all you need is a web browser. You’ll learn not only Italian folk music, but also French waltzes, Spanish fandangos, Irish jigs, and klezmer tunes. (There seem to be audio clips on the site, but I couldn’t get them to work.) Contact the Academy for more information and send us a review if you try their lessons.

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