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Good accordion teachers

Chickers

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Question for all you accordionists; What makes for a "good" accordion teacher ??
I am basically a beginner---maybe an intermediate beginner. I can read music fairly well, and I understand much of the music notation.
I am mostly self taught. Getting much of my info from the internet, tips and some music theory from friends that are musicians, (mostly
non-accordion players) and from the various accordion course books like Sedlon, Palmer Hughes, Hanon, etc.. I have also taken lessons
from a few local teachers.
My experience from my lessons is that most of the time spent with teachers isn't much more than having a "listener". Yes, it's good to have
a pro listen to me play, but I don't seem to get any real guidance as how to develop technique, and how to play certain rhythms, and get
feeling into the music. Most seem very ready to "demonstate" how to play a piece, but it seems like that's pretty much it. I can get a host of
demonstrations on YouTube.
Should I expect to gain more from a teacher or tutor ? I don't feel I'm getting much more, than I get from watching someone on YouTube.
So, what makes for a good teacher ? I'm searching for more of the "how" and "why". I'm certainly not a natural. I need to practice, and and work for
every gain I make. I enjoy the effort, and I see some good results, but this seems to come through my own effort, by fighting my way through each
measure, each stance, lots of trial & error. Slow progress.
I would appreciate any comments.
Thanks for all.
CHICKERS
 

Dingo40

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To me, a good music teacher should be able to guide their student by gradual incremental steps from wherever they already are towards mastery.
They should be able to break down the distance from A to B into appropriate steps and provide/ produce and demonstrate the appropriate instructional/practice materials as well as guide and monitor the practice.
A huge complication is the sheer number of different styles and genres available : any one teacher being proficient in only some.
So, over time, a number of different teachers may be needed. 🙂
 

Scuromondo

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I have not taken lessons in many years, but as I recall it, my teacher generally challenged me with several “threads” of lessons simultaneously: such as scales, chords, bass solos, legato vs. staccato, and always a song I wanted to learn (which I think was just to hold my interest). All with copious repetition. He also constantly prompted me regarding my posture, hand position, accordion position, fingering, bellows movement per measure, etc., etc. . I was just a kid, so I did not like his constant commentary during my lessons, but in retrospect he was probably a pretty good teacher. He definitely did not just sit back and listen.
 

fjsys

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To me a good teacher is more than just a listener.
At first a teacher will teach. This is the easiest stage as you know nothing and they are giving you lessons on everything.
Then slowly the teacher turns into more of a mentor where while listening to you they offer helpful suggestions and are willing to listen to your concern.
Then finally they turn into a master where you go to them with the problems that you are having with the music and they offer suggestions and also advanced techniques to make you sound better.

If the teacher is not willing to let you guide the direction of your lessons or listen to your feedback about the direction you are heading, it is time to try to find a new teacher. A lot of them are stuck in a "one size fits all" curriculum that may work for a while, but as all of us learn differently a good teacher will be adaptable.

Mostly what I have found is that if you cannot call your teacher a "friend" or you feel that they are not listening to you, it is time to find a different one.
 

JeffJetton

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As someone who sort of threw himself into being an teacher without really knowing what I'm doing... :) here's what I think makes for a good teacher, or at least what I try to do on a good day:

  • Yes, be a observer. More precisely, be an objective observer that can hear/see things you might not be hearing. (Whether you're actually playing what's written, your tempo, articulation, dynamics, fingering, technique, etc.)
  • Based on listening, point out how to fix what needs to be fixed. Or at least the next thing to be fixed fixed if the list is long. :) A good teacher will put things in just the right way to help you "get it". That's a constant endeavor for me as a teacher--building up my toolbox of metaphors and explanations, so I can sift through it and hopefully pull out the one that works for a particular student.
  • Demonstrate correct performance/technique when needed
  • Introduce theory concepts where appropriate, ideally tied into the material being worked on
  • Guide the student along a learning path--what to work on next, setting goals, etc.
  • Above all, be patient, encouraging, and supportive--a cheerleader for the joy of making music. No one is doing this as a smart career move. It's supposed to be fun. :)
Now there's a lot of this that an enthusiastic/motivated learner can do on their own, especially if they have a lot of exposure to music already (and a recording device!). At the risk of losing business, a teacher is not necessary for everyone, at all times.

For that matter, a teacher doesn't have to be used just for regular lessons--they can be more like physicians, where you go in for a "check up" every now and then, just to make sure you haven't developed any bad habits or are missing anything big during your self-directed learning.
 

debra

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Many good points raised by everyone!
But what's missing is that a teacher should not just teach you to play (with good fingering, decent bellows technique, dynamics, etc.) but should do this from a thorough understanding of the instrument itself. My experience with teachers has been that they don't really know the instrument they are playing and teaching, and this is mostly caused by "gaining a thorough technical understanding of the accordion" not being part of the curriculum, at least not in conservatories around here.
A violinist can replace a string, tune the violin, and woodwind players can replace reeds and probably know more (which I don't). Accordion players and teachers graduating from the conservatory cannot do even simple repairs (like fixing air leaks or stuck bass buttons), let alone understand and fix issues with leathers, voicing and tuning. I know accordion teachers who accept that reeds may not respond quickly enough,
that piccolo notes may sometimes not play at all, and they accept notes being out of tune as "normal" for an accordion. Some teachers use their own accordion for 30 years without getting it serviced... I know of no piano teacher who will go for years without having their piano tuned...
So the first thing for me about getting a good teacher is getting a teacher who knows more about how an accordion actually works than the vast majority of accordion teachers I have seen...
 

Chickers

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Hi ALL:
Thank you.
Very good points.
I certainly appreciate all the thought and comments offered.
Most assuredly, you all enforced my thoughts of what a "good" accordion teacher "ought" to be. I understand, and realize that
the world, and most people are not perfect all the time, but it seems like we all should try to be contributors. Like soo many of you
on this forum.
And as saudersbp stated---learning and knowing "how" to practice seems like top priority.
Time is precious, so we shouldn't waste our time . There is no substitute for practice.
Have a great day
CHICKERS
 

JeffJetton

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Lots of things, but above all a good teacher makes sure the student knows how to practice. In my experience knowing how to practice effectively is the real secret to progress on any instrument.

A very good point that I should've had on my list. (y)
 

lmschgo

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Lots of things, but above all a good teacher makes sure the student knows how to practice. In my experience knowing how to practice effectively is the real secret to progress on any instrument.
Can you elaborate on what constitutes 'effective practice'?
Are there basic elements applicable to most accordionists, or does it vary depending on one's skill level? type of accordion? type of music?
Thanks
 

olivigus

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I feel very fortunate to have found a teacher who also repairs accordions and knows them intimately. Agree with all the points raised above, and would just add that I also think a good teacher is able to adapt the sessions to hone in on what the individual student needs. When I first started my teacher gave me some very simple songs to work on, since I was brand new to the accordion. I did study piano all through school, but the left hand/bass section was a mystery at first. So those simple versions of well-known songs gave me something I could actually play, which was fun and motivating. But after a few weeks, we switched to learning more complex songs by ear—he plays a section and I have to follow and repeat it—which is a skill I never developed before. I think he figured out that I’m quite a good sight reader (which is how I faked my way through numerous piano lessons as a kid when I hadn’t practiced, effectively or otherwise, between sessions), and so he’s giving me stuff I can’t get through or do well on at the next lesson without having practiced.

He also gives me harmony patterns to play, so I can begin to recognize them in different songs and styles of music. I also really like that he’ll give me something with a simple melody that involves a particular technique (e.g., trills or a fingering pattern or a bass rhythm) to drill over and over, and then when we start working on a song that uses that technique, I’ve already got a good start on it, and it's really fun to incorporate. And, since the right hand is fairly easy for me, he’s starting to make me focus much more attention on the bass and keeping a steady rhythm (which is still one of my weak points). I really enjoy my lessons because they stretch my brain and push me to learn music in a different way than I’ve done before. I feel like I’m learning more about theory and how it all works musically than I did in 12 years of piano lessons!
 

saundersbp

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Can you elaborate on what constitutes 'effective practice'?
Are there basic elements applicable to most accordionists, or does it vary depending on one's skill level? type of accordion? type of music?
Thanks

Effective practice is akin to a relationship of love. You feel a duty to do it, it is intrinsically meaningful (i.e. is not simply about pleasure) and its something you care deeply about. For me it helps enormously if the material I am practising is love-able/worthy i.e. not drivel, which doesn't mean it has to be technically difficult, but needs to have some musical quality that bears repetition.

One thing that I feel is rattled off just a bit too often about practice is " it's all about muscle memory" because that can lead you too easily to blindly repeating something over and over again in the hope that somehow it'll come right. I would say good practice is more about developing musical intelligence, working out why something is hard and then finding the right solution that is replicable. The old adage is to practice not until you get something right, but until it can't go wrong. I'm lucky to have a couple of different accordions which are quite different so a bit of alternation between them means that I am learning to play the accordion rather than just my accordion.

Like all these things it depends a bit on how your brain is wired and how you have found you are most successful in learning other skills throughout your life. For me it's starting the day with the job I least want to do and then working from there. So if I'm practising a musical instrument I start with the section of music that is really bugging me or I'm finding difficult. I play a few different instruments and have never started learning a new piece at the beginning and hoped to get to the end, but instead pulled it to bits and started with the part which is the trickiest first because its wasting time practising the easy bit. After 30 minutes of this my brain gets tired so I go and play some material that I've already learnt to give me confidence I am actually making progress.

Going back to love, its important you give yourself a bit of this too and are not too hard on yourself. Adults can make slower progress not because their brains are older but because they are far more self critical then children and beat themselves up rather than trying again and being positive.
 

Valski

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I also like to think that a good teacher will keep the fun in the musical experience. Not every teacher is the same nor is every student. A good teacher should challenge you to progress in your playing while at the same time helping you to enjoy the experience. I once had a teacher who was extremely negative and critical of everything that I did even thoug he was very competent, needless to say that relationship did not last for long as this did not suit me. I think that it's important to establish goals and to work toward them. Do you want to be a soloist who specializes in technically difficult songs to wow the audience or do you prefer to be part of an ensemble that draws them in.

While a certain style of teaching suits some people it won't work for everyone. We learn music because it brings us pleasure so I feel that keeping pleasure in the learning process is important. At some point you will be competent enough to be self critical and pick up on your own errors and weaknesses but you don't always need to be perfectly technical if there is no musical soul in your playing. Loosen up and enjoy.
 

JerryPH

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There are certain traits that make a good accordion teacher something more.
- They can effectively communicate
- they set goals for you
- they have a structured plan custom made for you and they know what YOU like, not what they necessarily like
- they know how to drill in the basics and make them STRONG
- they make it fun
- they can work you hard, but NOT burn you out
- A teacher is someone that *has* performed and knows what it's like to play in front of a crowd and they can play themselves what they are teaching you!

Just like most racer drivers don't take apart transmissions, I don't think it mandatory for an accordionist to need to know how repair an accordion. Not many professional violinists know how to repair a broken neck... that is why we have specialists for that. Yes they can replace strings. We should be able to replace our straps. Is anything more nice? Yes! Is it mandatory for the teacher? Not really. People looking to learn how to play are rarely looking to learn how to wax reeds.

There has to be a bond, a sense of mutual direction and a "fit" between student and teacher else it won't last and progress will be slow. Finding that in a teacher is, I believe, the hardest part.
 
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