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Does an accordionist playing in a band or group need a left hand?

wirralaccordion

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I am currently enjoying watching a re-run of the 1960’s series “The Fugitive” on TV, not relevant to accordion playing apart from the ultimate villain perhaps.

My preference is to watch/listen to accordion played solo because when played in a group or band it seems to me that only the melody is played by the accordion and therefore only the right hand used. Am I right here and is it the case that when used in a band the accordionist is generally speaking only required to use the right hand, and maybe one or two reeds only at that, and if so wouldn’t you find this to be rather restrictive?
 

Thomas N

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My bands were always three pieces - Accordionist, Guitarist and Drummer.

I used a Cordovox and the String Bass which complimented the lead guitar well.

I refuse to play only the right hand of any accordion. That makes it a Keytar in my book!
 

debra

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It really depends on the band. Richard Galliano often plays the bass side even when playing in a band.
I mostly play in accordion ensembles and there we do use the bass side when it is needed. And "needed" means there are more voices in the composition or arrangement than we have players, so some parts need to be done with the left hand to simulate having a larger ensemble.
Sometimes also there are very large jumps, and then using the left hand for the low notes and the right hand for the high notes eliminates the jumps...
And finally, the bass side (also melody bass) has a different sound than the treble side, even when playing the same notes, so using the left hand creates new sound variations.
Even though I rarely play solo and almost always in an ensemble I only have and only want accordions with melody bass (convertor or MIII).
 

losthobos

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Depends on the combo you're out with..... It's nice to vary and i like not having to use the left hand if others are covering that part of the spectrum... Loosens the right hand for sure..
 

Zevy

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I "comp" with my left hand even when there is a bassist in the band. And we don't clash.
 

jozz

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There are little "general" rules.

It's all about what is musically right for your situation. Certainly up to a 3-piece I'd throw in the LH, even with a bassist (mostly upright bass).

In a full electric band setting it will be hard to play R+L and not drown in the mix. So, I only play RH.
 

Eddy Yates

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I played accordion on several tunes in a well-known bluegrass band. I only played right hand because I didn’t know how to play the left! Paul’s advice to play what’s necessary is the key. Sometimes both hands with lots of notes is the right approach. Rarely, though.
I believe one reason piano and accordion aren’t well-accepted in some genres of music, like bluegrass, is that keyboard players often feel they have to play as many darn notes as they can. I often found myself playing a single line of counterpoint, and that was very satisfying if it made the music better.
 

Montanagirl

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I "comp" with my left hand even when there is a bassist in the band. And we don't clash.

I thought that was the answer, though I'm not there yet. It seems you could make some fabulous voicings between the sides, and play like a pianist would in a combo that had bass.
 

JeffJetton

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It's not really much different from how a piano player would do things. There's nothing worse than a piano player in a band who thinks he or she is still playing a solo gig... stepping all over the bass and guitar players. Ugh.

Same goes for accordion. The accordion works great as a solo instrument of course, but if your role is an ensemble player, you have to adjust your playing to fit the occasion (taking into account the styles and idioms of the genre in which you are playing).

I used to play in a few country bands back in the day. Mostly piano, but I'd trot the accordion out now and then. In that particular musical situation, I found so little use for the bass side that I eventually just took the reeds out of it entirely.
 

JeffJetton

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As an interesting musical example, here's jazz pianist Red Garland playing "When I Fall in Love" as a solo piano piece:


Nice, huh? Now here's the same guy, playing on the same song, but in a quartet situation:


Notice how A) he stays away from "bass" notes, B) his comping is much more spare now that there's a drummer available to set the tempo, and C) he tends to stay out of the way of the lead instrument--about the only time during the "head" that he adds any riffs/fills or makes the comping more busy is between moments when the trumpet is playing.

Not too different for an accordion player (or any other instrumentalist really). You gotta stay out of the way while still contributing what's needed. While that doesn't necessarily mean that you should never play the LH side, I would argue that in most popular music contexts it wouldn't be missed if you didn't play it (after all, there's nothing the LH chord buttons can do that the RH can't). And in any case you certainly shouldn't play it in the same way you would as a soloist.
 

craptiger

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I rarely use the left hand simply because I often play with guitarists who have their own (different) ideas about chords ;)
 

embers

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It sure does take a lot of practice with other musicians to have any instrument fit in its needed place. I liked the various considerations folk proposed on when/whether to use or not use the LH.

I've added the bold to remind myself of a most insightful comment made by @JeffJetton . "The accordion works great as a solo instrument of course, but if your role is an ensemble player, you have to adjust your playing to fit the occasion (taking into account the styles and idioms of the genre in which you are playing).

Appreciated Jeff's focus here, filled with consonance.
 
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