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ACCORDION / PIANO LESSONS

Chickers

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HELLO ALL YOU ACCORDIONISTS:
Have any of you found that learning piano was helpful in playing the PA accordion ? Or the
opposite ?
Although the treble side of the PA accordion, and the piano are very similar , there certainly exists
enough differences that require changes in technique and execution. Not counting the music notation.
Does the skill-set developed for one instrument, transfer easily to the other ?
I would appreciate your thoughts, and comments on this.
CHICKERS
 

JeffJetton

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I think it absolutely helps.

Among my students, I've found that having any prior musical experience is a big help, even if it's not piano. If you already have some familiarity with notation and an overall "awareness" of music in general (an understanding of pitch and rhythm and how what you play relates to an underlying pulse), that means you don't have to develop those general skills while also learning all the skills specific to accordion. You're sort of "freed up" to focus on just the new things that are unique to the instrument.

And of course, as you point out, if your prior musical experience involves piano (or organ, etc.), then you have the added bonus of already knowing your way around a keyboard. But maybe even more important than that, you have already cultivated some hand independence, which is crucial on accordion. (I suspect--but have not confirmed--that pianists would even have a leg up on CBAs for precisely that reason.)
 

Chickers

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JeffJetton:
Thank you for your thoughts.
Do I understand correctly that you are a "accordion teacher" ?
What levels do you teach, and what age groups ?
Do you have any students taking accordion lessons, and piano lessons concurrently ?
How does that work out ?
CHICKERS
 

debra

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I started learning the piano five years before starting the (piano) accordion. The piano skills gave me a significant head start on the PA compared to others who started from scratch. Of course to play the accordion you need to learn three skills: the treble keyboard, the bass keyboard and the bellows. Piano skills thus help with just 1/3 of the skills for playing the accordion.
Besides the advantage of already knowing the keyboard style there are also a few problems:
1) On the piano you learn to control dynamics by means of the "force" of hitting the keys. It is hard to "unlearn" this when playing the accordion. Hammering on the keys just created more clicking noise.
2) The width of the keys is different: the accordion keyboard has narrower keys and there is also less room between the black keys (so your fingers may not fit in between two black keys). Distances are all different between piano and accordion so while I was learning both I needed to train the muscle memory for both widths.
3) the orientation of the keyboard is different (horizontal on the piano and vertical on the accordion) and that occasionally means that on the accordion there are ways to position fingers differently, leading to different fingering. This is something I had to learn by myself because when I was young fingering for piano accordion and for piano was identical and alternative fingerings that better fit the accordion had not yet been introduced in accordion training.
 

Chickers

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PAUL:
Thank you for your comments, and experiences.
Ah yes,the PA treble keyboard and the piano keyboard may look much the same, but they sure are quite different.
You point out some key differences that can be obstacles, and real challenges to overcome.
CHICKERS
 

JeffJetton

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JeffJetton:
Thank you for your thoughts.
Do I understand correctly that you are a "accordion teacher" ?
What levels do you teach, and what age groups ?
Do you have any students taking accordion lessons, and piano lessons concurrently ?
How does that work out ?
CHICKERS

Yes, I teach a bit on the side, at various ages and levels. I don't think I've ever had anyone taking piano at the same time they were taking accordion from me. I have had several who have taken piano prior to beginning accordion lessons though. They usually progress quickly to an intermediate level.

Paul is correct that there is sometimes a tendency with the piano players to really pound the treble keys when they want to play louder. That, of course, doesn't work. :)
 

Zevy

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There is a very extensive study on fingering for the accordion. It was written by a Bob Smith from California. He differentiates between fingerings of other keyboard instruments. It's worth looking into. I don't have any further info at the moment.
 

olivigus

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Hi Chickers. I had many years of childhood/teen piano lessons, and piano was really the only instrument I could play before starting to learn the accordion. Knowing the keyboard was a big help, as that side was quite familiar to me, which left me more brain room to start learning the bass. Also knowing how to sight read and the general knowledge of music, as Jeff mentioned. That being said, I think that learning the accordion has made me a much better musician in a year than all those years of piano ever did. Somehow working with the bass system has helped me understand chords and harmony progressions in a much deeper way. I'm grateful for all those piano lessons and think I've made more rapid progress because of them, since I could combine some basic competence on the keyboard side with the challenge of learning something completely new. So, if you already play piano it can give you a leg up (finger up?), with the caveats Paul mentioned, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend someone go out and learn piano solely as a precursor for playing the accordion if accordion is what they really want to play.
 

JeffJetton

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One interesting thing I discovered while teaching a student that did not have any piano experience... whenever I would mention playing a "higher" or "lower" note or playing "up" or "down" the keyboard, they would often go the opposite direction!

After I thought about it a bit, well why wouldn't they? After all, the notes we think of as "lower" really are physically "higher" (as in, in altitude), and vice-versa, due to the orientation of the treble keyboard.

So now I take pains to say things like "higher in pitch, which is actually closer to the floor" until they get the hang of it all.
 

Chickers

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Hello Olivigus / zevy/ JeffJetton:
Thanks for the observations and experiences, all very good points.
Sorry for not providing better more background info regarding the reason for my questions.
I have friends that have switched from accordion to piano, and those that have switched from piano to accordion
with fairly equal successes, and rather rapid accomplishment with their "new" endeavors, so, since piano teaches
are so much more abundant than accordion teachers, I was considering taking some piano lessons along with
my self teaching on the accordion. Poor deduction on my part. As Olivigus points out--"no more room in my brain"
AND, the major difference between myself, and my friends mentioned above---They are musicians; I'm just trying to be
a musician. Funny, but a valid . Ha, ha.
I hope you all have a great day--I'm going to go practice my accordion.
CHICKERS
 

Dingo40

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Chickers,
"...since piano teachers are so much more abundant than accordion teachers, I was considering taking some piano lessons along with my self teaching on the accordion....."
Not such a bad idea, in my opinion ??
Both are, effectively, keyboard instruments with much in common.
The accordion teacher would have the music theory at their fingertips ?
They could play your pieces on the piano to give you an idea of the tempo, phrasing, and suggestions for fingering and dynamics. Also, improvisation, playing in parts and comping.
In fact, there's more going for it than not.
I myself have met several good accordionists who had received their accordion training from a piano teacher in country districts without accordion teachers.but following accordion instruction books.
"Half a loaf is better than no bread at all!"
Just my take on it.?
 
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olivigus

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Yes, I'd second what Dingo said. Taking some piano lessons would definitely help you become more familiar with the keyboard, reading music, fingering, etc. And if the piano teacher knows you plan to translate all of this over to the accordion, they can focus on RH technique and playing chords with the left. I'd imagine that seeing the individual notes of a chord played with the LH piano keys could be really helpful in understanding how it all fits together. Let us know what you decide and how you get on.
 

Dingo40

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Another thought:
Music scored for piano is far more abundant than music scored for accordion using accordion
(AAA) notation .
A piano teacher would be able to show you how to adapt a piano score for use with an accordion.
That by itself is a big asset!?
I remember a piano accordion instruction series (from the 1930s but reissued in the 1980s (?)) which included a section devoted to adapting piano music for use with an accordion)
See here:
 
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Chickers

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DINGO40:
Thanks for the info, and suggestion.
Question: does a "free-bass" accordion allow the player to play piano sheet music with the need to transcribe ?
Not sure if that is a reasonable question as I am not at all familiar with free-bass systems except through
video, and discussion on the forum.
I hope things are well in Australia.
CHICKERS
 

Dingo40

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DINGO40:
...Question: does a "free-bass" accordion allow the player to play piano sheet music with (out?) the need to transcribe ?...
CHICKERS
Chickers,
I can't answer as I have no free bass experience.
But this is something Paul Debra would know all about ?

I hope things are well in Australia.
We were doing well until Omicron came along, now we've been thrown into confusion again!
These days, the next disaster is only as far away as your nearest airport!?
That's life, I guess!??
 
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