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Pleading for advice from seasoned professional accordionists

jjj333

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Main request: I would like to know more about how memory mapping works. I can imagine that great accordionists/ pianists gained that much practice in it that their memory mapping is 100% precise from one note position to another, whereas my memory mapping still errs considerably. This process seems to advances very slowly and notation doesn't accelerate this process.
My novelty setup:
For a few years, I used to play the Paolo Soprani zebra accordion, but that monster weighed 12kg and I was too lazy to learn to play all scales on it and decided to only play C-major and A-minor on it. - It got a bit boring and all because I just hated to learn the accordion 24 times!
Now, at the age of 79 with more time on hand, I built myself a JANKO accordion keyboard. Often I unwittingly improvise melodies, which stretch over several scales and I don't even know in which I am. It's just like whistling or singing. Fantastic! - I also adapted an old 120-button Farfisa accordion bass to MIDI to fit the uniformity of the JANKO; otherwise, I would have to learn to finger major & minor chords. Now, all I have to do is to teach my fingers to locate the notes I'm after and getting better at it and that's where I may profit from your expert advice.
It's for this reason I find this setup to be the easiest to learn and play setup of them all. - Mind you, it wasn't easy to get my act together, because you can buy neither a MIDI accordion bass nor a JANKO Kbd on the cheap. Now that I know that ...there's no better, faster way to Rome, I just put all my efforts into mastering this JANKO layout. Now I would like to know more about how memory mapping works.
I suppose there's no point planning anything ahead, such as fingering, chords, etc. because I reckon once my memory is truly mapped to the JANKO layout ...everything falls into place by itself. I observed (thanks to progress by practice) that often my fingers found the correct key/note even before (!!) I searched for it, by just aurally following the melody! To me at least it proves how memory mapping acquisition works.
This is something I still don't know much about it and hope you experts are going to disclose it to me. A great accordionist advised me to keep practicing, but then again, Liberace said the same thing !! (...and I tell people. in regard to my whistling) - Like all apprenticeships, it's less enjoyable to overcome the many frustrations and hurdles, but I'm ready to take it on and hope that at age 100 I'll be 100% good at it... in time to serenade the heavenly angels. :)
Progress Report:
I'm taking on the most complex melodies, like tangos and some classical music in order to torture myself to succeed in that memory mapping procedure and don't care how many mistakes I make, for I noticed that the more I repeat the same melodies the mistakes gradually start to diminish. Therefore, there's no point to search for easier options, because that only prolongs the torture to success.
I reckon that's the only, though it's the most direct and painful way, yet it won't discourage me., because I feel fully committed. The only certainty I gained so far (by self-observation) is that if I keep going the way I go, my memory will gradually be forced (!!) to acquire the JANKO keyboard mapping. - I must never again fall victim to complacency. It's "Mein Kampf", which I have to win! Please be so kind to correct me...
Here's a sample of how my Midi accordion bass sounds: https://app.box.com/s/ydyz6o5x30pbe9604yi99mcgirvf0a9b
The great thing with this accordion bass part is that each of the 120 buttons has only one tiny contact and thus, is super-light to press. Yet, that was only possible by wiring up some 200 signal diodes and combining each button's notes manually.
 

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debra

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Just my limited experience here (not being professional, just a bit "seasoned")...
For about 40 years I played piano accordion (and with enough practice, and also being younger, memory mapping as you call it, or "muscle memory" as others call it, comes automatically. People who still need to look at the keyboard to find where which key is may not have practiced enough or may just have developed the habit of looking instead of relying on the muscle memory they have.
A key point is to keep playing the same instrument. As long as you keep playing the same instrument everything stays in the same place and that helps in getting better and better at finding the right notes. So had you kept playing that featherweight Paolo Soprani zebra, and practiced for say an hour a day or more, you would have reached the point of being able to play blindfolded (provided you know the songs by heart).
13 years ago I switched to the button accordion, and I now play a few of them, with three different sizes and spacing of buttons. That difference made it difficult to develop the muscle memory at least as much as my progressing age. But while I cannot reach 100% accuracy I am getting pretty close when I play the same instrument for a few hours in a row.
So it is all a matter of practice. Test: close your eyes and move your index finger towards the tip of your nose. You can reach that position with 100% accuracy. That's because you spent a lifetime practicing that move and position. As long as your arm and the position of your nose does not change you can keep doing this. With an accordion it's pretty much the same: as long as the accordion stays the same, you sit on the same chair and you do not change the straps, the same key will always be in the same position and you can learn to hit it blindfolded with 100% accuracy.
 

jozz

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sweet setup!

In this case I guess the main thing is:
  • interval training + hours of practice
 

JerryPH

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Main request: I would like to know more about how memory mapping works. I can imagine that great accordionists/ pianists gained that much practice in it that their memory mapping is 100% precise from one note position to another, whereas my memory mapping still errs considerably. This process seems to advances very slowly and notation doesn't accelerate this process.
YouTube university... lol
https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=how+does+memory+mapping+work
Not all are exactly what you need, but its a great place to start.
 

jjj333

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Thank you "debra" & "jozz"... for the unexpected prompt response.
Yes, you are all right in saying all that, because all I'm after is some confirmation about my own observations and more of the same. - Thus far, all I have is a reliable confirmation from the great Klaus Wunderlich, whom I sent two music cassettes with my whistling to his organ music. In his letter, he mentioned that I have (in his words) "most importantly good hearing" and that's exactly what I'm solely relying on during my Kbd practice.
Furthermore, I also believe that good musicians learn a new melody via notation and then interpret it w/o notation because playing purely from notation ...a robot can do so much better !!
So, yes I fully agree to learn w/o looking at the keyboard until my fingers are able to effortlessly find the desired notes of the melody. In fact, I already noticed that after 3 months daily 1 Hr. practice I make far fewer mistakes than in the beginning. I hoped that there might be a faster way to progress this process, but there seems not to exist such a thing. - It's all hard work. Fortunately, the Tyros helps me to overcome moments of boredom, because of its great-sounding instruments. I now even swapped my whistling for a complete set of the " AccordionMaster-XXL " incl. hardware etc. and that offers even more incentive to keep going... In the meantime enjoy one of my whistling tunes, in which I seem to have already gained "memory muscles". Sadly nothing from me, for my ancestors did all the hard work and I just flaunt it! :) :
https://app.box.com/s/mn2n4arwbxl348av012xwdvi8vr7iivy (= Ital. accordionist to which I whistle)
 
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jjj333

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Tom

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Good luck to you jj. My own experience is similar to yours. I learn a new song from sheet music and then play it over and over, with different variations of notation, harmony, dynamics, speed etc. Gradually that sing works its way into muscle mapping with the hand movements mapped to the (piano, stradella) keyboards. There is probably a more efficient, scientific way, such as practicing certain intervals and inversions over and over. Or touching your nose with your eyes closed then see if you can play a 2nd inversion Em chord without opening your eyes. I can't (yet).
 

oldbayan

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Same process with so many things... It's how many times to do the same finger and hand movements. Something peculiar, not sure if others have experienced this, is that when I learn a new tune, I practice and practice, then leave it and NOT practice it for a day or two, then when I pick it up again, it all works magically! Like if my memory needed time to "set" without playing it.
 

jjj333

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Thanks "Tom" & "oldbayan" for your confirmations. More and more I start to believe that I'm on the right track. I just take on a few complicated melodies and keep repeating them w/o looking at the Kbd. until my fingers and brain get the message and it really works. - So, I reckon I have to give up hoping for easier scientific ways, for there are none, or if there are they are not all that advantageous.
Even a teacher cannot help me, because he cannot do the learning for me and he would put me back to the zebra keyboard.
 
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Dingo40

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"...So it is all a matter of practice. Test: close your eyes and move your index finger towards the tip of your nose. You can reach that position with 100% accuracy. That's because you spent a lifetime practicing that move and position. As long as your arm and the position of your nose does not change you can keep doing this. With an accordion it's pretty much the same: as long as the accordion stays the same, you sit on the same chair and you do not change the straps, the same key will always be in the same position and you can learn to hit it blindfolded with 100% accuracy."
Just to illustrate what may be achieved by implementing Paul's suggestion here:?
 
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jjj333

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Thank you Dingo40 for that - Yes, I saw several such great masters on Youtube. Isn't it amazing what our human brain and body are able to achieve! It defies planned logic reasoning, for his fingers are faster than onlookers are able to follow his moves.
To play fast passages I turn down the speed of the recording. Once I got hold of all the notes, I then gradually increase the speed of my playing, and that way I end up with an original copy. - Of course, what he's doing goes beyond the norm. That's where additional skills are required: that of an inherited talent!
 
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oldbayan

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So, I reckon I have to give up hoping for easier scientific ways, for there are none, or if there are they are not all that advantageous.
Even a teacher cannot help me, because he cannot do the learning for me and he would put me back to the zebra keyboard.
We need to "feel" the music more than trying to apply science to it! :)
 

jjj333

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We need to "feel" the music more than trying to apply science to it! :)
I fully agree old lady! The same I'm applying in my whistling, for that's what music is all about; what differentiates us from robots... :)
Yet, at the moment I'm still struggling with memory mapping and, thus, leave playing with emotional feelings for when my memory mapping is almost 100% secure. Only then I'll be able to take on more challenging tasks.
I just discovered another, more entertaining, way of practicing: For instance, I can play the tango (EL Choclo) with almost any rhythm or Yamaha Style. That makes it somewhat easier to learn because many rhythms are interesting and come at different timings, which gives me more opportunities to practice memory mapping. Also, the JANKO layout scale changes make boredom a thing of the past, which I previously experienced with the zebra accordion keyboard (Paolo Soprani)..
 
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jjj333

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Progress Report;
I try to at least practice daily 1 Hr. and I'm progressing. The best way of progressing in my Janko memory mapping is to avoid remembering any kind of fingering patterns, etc., and just focus on locating the correct notes anywhere on the Janko Kbd. It's a kind of liberating feeling, for it really works for me.
My aim is not only to only learn to play a few songs but rather to gain thorough "Janko Kbd memory mapping skills", which enable my right hand to execute any melody which comes to my mind. - I.e. my memory mapping skills have to be that good that my fingers automatically find the required keys for the melody I'm desiring to express and so I can play any melody with a minimum of additional practice.
 
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JerryPH

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Great to see you feel you are advancing... you are doing something right!

Just a few thoughts of mine:

I like to feel that short musical patterns are the basis of quickest advancement, hence why I feel exercises are so important, they are small chunks of reinforced skills that are ready for us to use in all kinds of songs. :)

We indelibly do know a few facts:
- repetition is the mother of skill
- chunking (breaking large pieces in to smaller sections) makes the process easier and more manageable
- the more time per day that one does something, the quicker someone becomes better at it. 15 minutes is better than nothing, 30 min is better than 15, 1 hour is better than 30, and so on.
- Find your interest interval (length of time you can concentrate fully on the task of practicing) and don't push much past it. Return after you've had a small "mental rest" period if you want to do a 2nd round. Everyone is different, when I was young, 8-9 consecutive hours was my limit. Today it is about 1-2 hours. For my friend, his limit is 30-60 minutes. Find yours, stick to it.
 

jjj333

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Thank you JerryPH for this good advice. Nice to hear that I'm doing something right! :) - I think so too, for it's noticeable; albeit it's n amazingly slow process, which might easily put off many people. (Not me, for I'm tough like monkey leather!!)
Very true, two daily repetitions (even only 30 Min. ones) are speeding up the learning process. It is even more important for people (like me) with "two left hands" (i.e. "untalented"). The only good things in music I inherited are very good hearing and musicality. That's why I'm able to emotionally read and enjoy good accordion and organ music. That fascination keeps me going! :)
 
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Valski

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Great to see you feel you are advancing... you are doing something right!

Just a few thoughts of mine:

I like to feel that short musical patterns are the basis of quickest advancement, hence why I feel exercises are so important, they are small chunks of reinforced skills that are ready for us to use in all kinds of songs. :)

We indelibly do know a few facts:
- repetition is the mother of skill
- chunking (breaking large pieces in to smaller sections) makes the process easier and more manageable
- the more time per day that one does something, the quicker someone becomes better at it. 15 minutes is better than nothing, 30 min is better than 15, 1 hour is better than 30, and so on.
- Find your interest interval (length of time you can concentrate fully on the task of practicing) and don't push much past it. Return after you've had a small "mental rest" period if you want to do a 2nd round. Everyone is different, when I was young, 8-9 consecutive hours was my limit. Today it is about 1-2 hours. For my friend, his limit is 30-60 minutes. Find yours, stick to it.
Yes! Breaking a song into shorter "chunks" is probably the best way to tackle a new song. Try working on the passages that give you the most problems to the point where you master them. Go back to the piece every day and it will soon become easier and you'll have a new song in your repertoire. Don't forget to re-visit the new pieces regularly because you can forget and will have to start over again.
 

jjj333

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Yes! Breaking a song into shorter "chunks" is probably the best way to tackle a new song. Try working on the passages that give you the most problems to the point where you master them. Go back to the piece every day and it will soon become easier and you'll have a new song in your repertoire. Don't forget to re-visit the new pieces regularly because you can forget and will have to start over again.
Thank you Valski! - Yes, I still am struggling to perfect that complex "El Choclo" tango, by playing it in many different rhythms, but I seem still a long way from getting it right as the great Pino Piachentino is performing it. - Some bits of it already pop out without much effort. Yet, I don't ever give up playing it daily about eight times or more and I will do so still I break its imperfections. My expectations are high for I hate the latter.
The day will come at which I'll be proudly able to deliver a video of it. When that will be is anyone's guess, for I have no experience in this somewhat novel learning process. The thing I noticed is that my Janko Kbd. performs perfectly in every regard, just like a button accordion.
So, I recommend it to anyone who's unable to afford a button accordion. There's a great button accordion player on YouTube who plays such a button accordion setup (similar to mine), but that setup has cost him a fortune. You can have it at a fraction of the price, by building your own MIDI button accordion and 120-button accordion bass setup. The DIY price is about $US 350; whereas a purchased setup will cost you 10x more.
 

jjj333

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Yes! Breaking a song into shorter "chunks" is probably the best way to tackle a new song. Try working on the passages that give you the most problems to the point where you master them. Go back to the piece every day and it will soon become easier and you'll have a new song in your repertoire. Don't forget to re-visit the new pieces regularly because you can forget and will have to start over again.
Thank you Welsh for your good advice. I have a set of about 20 songs which I practice daily. In particular, I struggle to perfect that complex "El Choclo" tango, by playing it in many different rhythms, but I seem still a long way from getting it right as the great Pino Piachentino is performing it. I guess I chose a too complex piece, but never mind. - Some bits of it already pop out without much effort. Yet, I don't ever give up playing it daily about eight times or more and I will do so still I break its imperfections. Hence, it's all about mastering search & finds!

Self-observation taught me that:
More than anything, my real aim is not only to only learn to play a few songs but rather to gain great "Janko Kbd memory mapping skills", which enable my right hand to play any melody. - I.e. my memory mapping skills have to be that good that my fingers automatically find the required keys for the melody I'm after and thus play any melody with a minimum of additional practice.
That's why I guide my fingers to freely search (without looking at the Kbd.) for the wanted notes anywhere on the Janko Kbd. It's a kind of "liberating feeling", which makes me feel independent and uncommitted. - Often, I jump to different octaves; all that and much more to train my memory mapping skills.
Thus, all I have to do is practice searching and finding desired notes... until my fingers obey my mind!! - This very mind-to-finger connection is that I have to practice and establish until my fingers 'effortlessly' find the notes I'm after. Of course, at the moment I'm still making heaps of mistakes, but in time to come, they will gradually decrease. - If not, I'm on the "Holzweg"... (wrong path!)
Thank you all for kicking me in the right direction! - It was that kind of pragmatic advice I was after.
 
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jjj333

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Thank you Welsh for your good advice. I have a set of about 20 songs which I practice daily. In particular, I struggle to perfect that complex "El Choclo" tango, by playing it in many different rhythms, but I seem still a long way from getting it right as the great Pino Piachentino is performing it. I guess I chose a too complex piece, but never mind. - Some bits of it already pop out without much effort. Yet, I don't ever give up playing it daily about eight times or more and I will do so still I break its imperfections. Hence, it's all about mastering search & finds!

Self-observation taught me that:
More than anything, my real aim is not only to only learn to play a few songs but rather to gain great "Janko Kbd memory mapping skills", which enable my right hand to play any melody. - I.e. my memory mapping skills have to be that good that my fingers automatically find the required keys for the melody I'm after and thus play any melody with a minimum of additional practice.
That's why I guide my fingers to freely search (without looking at the Kbd.) for the wanted notes anywhere on the Janko Kbd. It's a kind of "liberating feeling", which makes me feel independent and uncommitted. - Often, I jump to different octaves; all that and much more to train my memory mapping skills.
Thus, from self-observation I take that all I have to do is practice searching & finding desired notes... until my fingers effortlessly obey my mind!! There are signs of it that it's already happening. Of course, at the moment I'm still making heaps of mistakes, but in time to come, they will gradually decrease. - If not, I'm on the "Holzweg"... (wrong path!)
This was actually was the the kind of pragmatic advice I'm seeking from experienced players. In hindsight they surely know how to go about to achieve mastery.
 
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