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Back to basics

JEBrown

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I’ve played piano accordion for about 8 years now and feel pretty comfortable with it. It took me a while to get used to the left hand, but having previously played piano for 45 years or so the right hand was less of an issue and I felt I picked things up relatively quickly.

I bought a 2nd hand CBA a couple of months ago, and diligently practised exercises and scales for the first few weeks. Today I decided to sit down and try to learn a tune that I can play easily on the piano accordion. What an effort! I’ve had to write the fingering in on almost every note, and have to repeat and repeat and repeat to get it into my head (and under my fingers). It’s like when I first was learning the piano as a child and had to work out the notes each time. I feel like I’m looking at my right hand all the time otherwise I make mistakes.

After about an hour I can just about manage to play the tune slowly, with the bass as well. It’s humbling as an adult to have to go back to basics like this to learn something new. Tell me it gets easier please!
 
I’m in the same situation, except that I’m teaching myself C-system free bass. Since it’s on the bass side, I can’t look to see where my fingers are. Because I’m doing it on a Roland FR-4x, there’s always the temptation to press a button and go back to Stradella, but so far I’ve resisted that temptation. What keeps me going is the ingenuity of the design. It’s almost like learning accordion bass and chords in a sequence that’s backwards from the way I learned Stradella. For example, learning chromatic scales comes before learning major and minor scales, or learning diminished chords, even diminished seventh chords before learning major and minor chords.

Why these sequences? Consider the layout. Chromatic bass scales follow the diagonals. Just using that idea is basic; even more basic than the circle of fifths behind Stradella. It’s half steps. Start on C and move diagonally .What's next? C-sharp, etc.

Now for verticals, which are arranged in minor thirds. So, what’s a diminished triad? A minor third on top of a minor third. So, start with C, go one button down to E-flat and one button below that for G-flat (which most of are more comfortable calling F-sharp.) What do you have with all three buttons pressed? A C diminished triad. After that, fingering gets a little more awkward, and even calls for the use of the pinky, which is much less used in Stradella bass.

Ah, but in a cba treble, you also have the use of a thumb. What an advantage! And the same principles I described in the bass apply to the treble, as well.

So, don’t get discouraged. The system has a lot of logic and music theory behind it. I’m not saying it’s better or worse than piano-accordion, but it has its own beauty. That might not help a lot with learning the fingering of tunes, but it will take some effort, and yes, it is starting over. I’m 83, I’ve been playing on and off on piano-accordion with Stradella bass since I was seven. I’ve just ordered a Roland FR-1xb so that I can teach myself a little cba C-Griff and I can’t wait for it to come.
 
I'm 69 and took my first piano accordion lesson way back in 1965. A friend who's somewhat active in the forum has been speaking of the benefits of chromatic button accordions for several years.

I bought a new CBA from Liberty Bellows April 1 of this year, and every so often I too wonder if I made a mistake. I was playing PA pieces in Palmer Hughes through Book 9, but hit a wall about a third through #10. (Will I ever get past "One Fine Day--Un Bel Di, Vedremo" in this lifetime?

My decision to try CBA came about after certain considerations. My PA weighs 21, which is considered moderate to lightweight in some circles. My CBA weighs 15 pounds and has the only one less note than my 37/96 PA. At my age, the lesser weight is considerable.

I also thought learning a "halfway different" accordion would help keep this aging brain active. (Halfway because the left hand keyboard remained the same)

Check out the posts from Mr. Debra. He was a longtime piano accordionist who reports the switch over for his wife and him took time but was successful.

You're right about being humbled though. It took a lot longer to get through the early Palmer Hughes books as a kid then it's taking me now. But as of today, I'm playing the music that my accordion teacher taught me, and dated,-- August 10, 1967!

And to add a comment to Mr. Sharkis above-- just a couple months after I bought my new Fisitalia CBA, I'm wondering if I should have paid about $1500 less and bought a Roland FR1X-b. Never thought the price would come down!
 
It’s humbling as an adult to have to go back to basics like this to learn something new.
As a recent accordion beginner (PA) at age 73 I certainly empathize! I have no delusions of future virtuosity but think of it simply as a wonderful way to experience a new musical dimension.

Since I also came from decades of piano (started in the ‘50s) the treble side of the PA is no mystery but the stradella? - that is coming along but at the speed of a glacier…

JKJ
 
It’s humbling as an adult to have to go back to basics like this to learn something new. Tell me it gets easier please!
Do you recall the effort you gave at the start? I am willing to place money down that it was a touch less effort than you did learning a CBA, because let's face it, there is a good amount of knowledge transfer that happened. When you first started you were unable to even play a simple basic scale, and after a couple weeks you are moving to a song!

Does it get easier? I don't know about "easier" but I can promise IMPROVEMENT If you keep applying focus, consistency and dedication to your practice time. Doing the same 3 things in ANYTHING will result in improvement.
 
I'm 69 and took my first piano accordion lesson way back in 1965. A friend who's somewhat active in the forum has been speaking of the benefits of chromatic button accordions for several years.

I bought a new CBA from Liberty Bellows April 1 of this year, and every so often I too wonder if I made a mistake. I was playing PA pieces in Palmer Hughes through Book 9, but hit a wall about a third through #10. (Will I ever get past "One Fine Day--Un Bel Di, Vedremo" in this lifetime?

My decision to try CBA came about after certain considerations. My PA weighs 21, which is considered moderate to lightweight in some circles. My CBA weighs 15 pounds and has the only one less note than my 37/96 PA. At my age, the lesser weight is considerable.

I also thought learning a "halfway different" accordion would help keep this aging brain active. (Halfway because the left hand keyboard remained the same)

Check out the posts from Mr. Debra. He was a longtime piano accordionist who reports the switch over for his wife and him took time but was successful.

You're right about being humbled though. It took a lot longer to get through the early Palmer Hughes books as a kid then it's taking me now. But as of today, I'm playing the music that my accordion teacher taught me, and dated,-- August 10, 1967!

And to add a comment to Mr. Sharkis above-- just a couple months after I bought my new Fisitalia CBA, I'm wondering if I should have paid about $1500 less and bought a Roland FR1X-b. Never thought the price would come down!
I also looked at those small Fisitalia models. The lack of register switches on the grill made me think, “Do I really want to learn to use chin switches and C-Griff at the same time?” Yet, they are small, lightweight converters from a good manufacturer. Enjoy yours!
 
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I do like the Palmer Hughes books. I'm scheduled to be busking at a local market in a couple of weeks time - mainly singing & guitar, but I'm thinking to take my accordion and do a couple of tunes from P&H and a couple of Christmas songs.
 
I do like the Palmer Hughes books. I'm scheduled to be busking at a local market in a couple of weeks time - mainly singing & guitar, but I'm thinking to take my accordion and do a couple of tunes from P&H and a couple of Christmas songs.
Do you use the companion ("recital") books as well? Some good stuff there.
 
Liberty already referred to our "attempt" at learning to play CBA after a lifetime of playing PA. We can now certainly play at a similar level as we did before on the PA, but we are about 14 years into the transition. If there is anything we regret about learning the CBA is that we didn't start at least a decade earlier. We realize that the circumstances a decade earlier would have implied that we would be playing B system instead of C system (because all the CBA players we knew then played B system), but the reality is that this is not really important. Just stick to what you start with.
The beginning of the transition was quite a humbling experience. We were faced not only with the challenge of learning CBA but also with the challenge of playing in a small accordion group of reasonably high level, and we had to be able to start right after our annual concert and be ready to play a whole concert twelve months later... So while it is generally advised to methodically study technique using scales and practice exercises we had to focus on our parts for a whole concert's worth of music (about 90 minutes of difficult pieces)...
My own part of the transition was made even a bit more difficult by buying an 18kg Hohner (Artiste X S) and overexerting my left shoulder. When you practice a lot, having the heaviest accordion on the market isn't a very smart idea...
All is well now. We will definitely not abandon CBA now!
 
I’ve played piano accordion for about 8 years now and feel pretty comfortable with it. It took me a while to get used to the left hand, but having previously played piano for 45 years or so the right hand was less of an issue and I felt I picked things up relatively quickly.

I bought a 2nd hand CBA a couple of months ago, and diligently practised exercises and scales for the first few weeks. Today I decided to sit down and try to learn a tune that I can play easily on the piano accordion. What an effort! I’ve had to write the fingering in on almost every note, and have to repeat and repeat and repeat to get it into my head (and under my fingers). It’s like when I first was learning the piano as a child and had to work out the notes each time. I feel like I’m looking at my right hand all the time otherwise I make mistakes.

After about an hour I can just about manage to play the tune slowly, with the bass as well. It’s humbling as an adult to have to go back to basics like this to learn something new. Tell me it gets easier please!


It gets easier. But speaking from experience: starting CBA as an adult after playing and orienting to PA--It doesn't take long to learn where the notes are and get through a scale or simple tune. What requires time is for CBA note patterns to get so deeply etched in the neural pathways and fingers that scooting along through the melody part of a piece of music flows fluently and fluently, to be alliterative. To "get it in there" so solidly that it's automatic and autonomic, to further alliterate. That takes time. As in, a few years--seriously. It's great to always have something in the works both-hands together at any given time, but be sure to give your right hand oodles of alone time to really "bake it in." I did this and still do it with Irish and Scottish/Shetland/Cape Breton tunes. You're doing great learning a piece of music at this early juncture, and with both hands, too! Keep playing and practicing, and give it time to bake in! It will happen if you keep at it and don't quit.
 
I do like the Palmer Hughes books. I'm scheduled to be busking at a local market in a couple of weeks time - mainly singing & guitar, but I'm thinking to take my accordion and do a couple of tunes from P&H and a couple of Christmas songs.
Good luck, have fun!!!! People will love the Christmas music, even though it’s only Thanksgiving. I’ve seen a lot of lights up already here, but it does get cold early, and some people leave them up all year. In fact, I am getting too old to climb around with ladders and am going to strategically placed phone controlled LEDs only this year. I’m planning to play Christmas music a few times, haven’t yet except in practice.
 
just a reminder, playing outside in the Winter can be hard
on some accordions. The cold can cause the metal reed to change dimension
and some can "hang up" and stick while you are playing

the cold can also cause condensation once you return to a warmer
environment from the humidity inside the accordion and the still
cold reed tongues. Always try to breath your accordion dry once you
come back inside for a bit and maybe leave the bellows stretched for awhile too.

it is not a bad idea to have your "Banger" accordion designated for
outdoor holiday music in cold or inclement weather.. i use a cream colored
4/4 Accordiana that still sounds and plays pretty good, but has been
living on borrowed time for a decade now..

"if the ship sinks" i won't cry over this accordion, just toast it
one last time for it's long service and reliability once i reach dry land !
 
just a reminder, playing outside in the Winter can be hard
on some accordions. The cold can cause the metal reed to change dimension
and some can "hang up" and stick while you are playing

the cold can also cause condensation once you return to a warmer
environment from the humidity inside the accordion and the still
cold reed tongues. Always try to breath your accordion dry once you
come back inside for a bit and maybe leave the bellows stretched for awhile too.

it is not a bad idea to have your "Banger" accordion designated for
outdoor holiday music in cold or inclement weather.. i use a cream colored
4/4 Accordiana that still sounds and plays pretty good, but has been
living on borrowed time for a decade now..

"if the ship sinks" i won't cry over this accordion, just toast it
one last time for it's long service and reliability once i reach dry land !
Good advice, thanks! My “workhorse” is the new (now newish) small Piatanesi. Light enough to stand up for an hour, and hasn’t given me one problem yet, but I probably won’t play it outside in less than 40 degrees. 45 to 50 with a brisk wind off the lake is enough. Hard on the hands, never mind the reeds!
 
After about an hour I can just about manage to play the tune slowly, with the bass as well. It’s humbling as an adult to have to go back to basics like this to learn something new. Tell me it gets easier please!
Of course it does. The question is just how much how fast. My personal recommendation would be not to overfixate on playing from score sheets. Because intervals have a predictable geometry, playing by ear works pretty well, so there is some point in trying to go more via the imagination-to-finger connection than you might with a piano keyboard. Think of your CBA as a 16-string guitar tuned in minor thirds. For example, when playing scales in different keys, it's pointless to try figuring out when to play a black or a white button. Think rather of when to play a half note or whole note and then figure out your movement from there. C major really works just the same as F♯ major.
 
it is not a bad idea to have your "Banger" accordion designated for
outdoor holiday music in cold or inclement weather.. i use a cream colored
4/4 Accordiana that still sounds and plays pretty good, but has been
living on borrowed time for a decade now..

Good advice, I might dig out my 12-bass Scarlatti for our outdoor winter events
 
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