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Popularising the accordion!

Tom

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Meanwhile, on my facebook wall this morning, Mimmo is celebrating 100,000 followers, Bia Socek has over 370,000, many of their videos have over 1,000,000 views. Perhaps more people are actively watching and involved in accordion music than ever, even in the "glory years"? It's just the venue that has changed.

Maybe not every Tom, Dick and Harry are struggling to learn "Lady of Spain" between ages 6 and 12 but the instrument has powered on in a new way.

20201117_093139.jpg
 
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donn

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I play a number of different instruments, and the accordion is the only one on which you can't see what you're doing.

Same is not true here. I play mostly wind instruments - tuba, saxophone. Can't see my fingers at all. Even the rudimentary fipple flute that they use for elementary music in the public schools, mine was called "flutophone", I don't think you could clearly make out what your fingers are doing - nor would you need to really. On electric bass I can see my left hand or my right, but can't really see them both at the same time to any meaningful extent. I don't see this as a major issue.

On the tuba, I have to do something akin to whistling the tune while my fingers press the right valve combination - not literally whistling, but same idea. Then there's the trombone, where you must do about the same and also bring the slide to the exact right place. Or violin & family, also requiring exact placement. The pedal steel guitar, where you do that with multiple strings and also change the string pitch with your knees and feet - now there's a hard instrument, and you'll rarely see them look up from their instrument.

The accordion is an easy instrument to get started with.
 

pentaprism

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I'm sure the legendary Lawrence Welk played a big part in the popularity of the accordion in the 50s and 60s. I have a copy of this book, edited by Mr. Welk himself. The book, IMHO, is very good. Unfortunately, it's not very useful for me because it's for PA (I'm learning CBA) and the bass fingering is 3-2 (I'm following 4-3).


USSOM_PA_Course.jpg
 

pentaprism

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Also this series - 1950.

What is interesting about this series is that it consisted of 100 issues, each was priced at 35 cents and was about 6 to 8 pages.

OahuPACourse.jpg

OahuInside.jpg
 

Ventura

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accordion schools here in the USA ran huge numbers of students through
their doors, and many families lived paycheck to paycheck

12 bass accordions were rented for a nominal fee, and often "music"
for take home lessons was free (including clever printouts from adding machines)

3
2
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3

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3
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this OAHU course, broken down into small, more affordable sizes was likely
designed with this in mind

in my area, the SELDON course was the most popular, featured at Volkweins which was
THE downtown Music store in Pittsburgh where the independant private teacher shopped,
and of course the Palmer-Hughes course was huge being featured by the Deffner publishing house...
we also had Alfreds and Belwin.

the idea of barely making money on the students and families was offset
by the rather huge profits made from eventually getting them to buy a glitzy Student
Accordion and then getting them quickly to trade up through more expensive models

but you had to get them "hooked" first

the organized competitions were largely designed to boost that need for families
to commit and improve their childs chances with a better quality instrument... they
were huge events for the times and required some travel, often held in Summer
in the rented pavilions at Amusement Parks and the like

in my case, i went directly from a 12 bass rental that i swung around like a lunch pail
(so my teacher remarked) up the 4 flights of stairs to the Dempster Studio on top of
the old Movie Theater buildng in McKees Rocks, directly to a 140 Bass HubCap grill
Scandalli which my Uncle loaned to us for a year... i still miss that accordion

at the time there were a million private label accordions because you could find
accordion schools on every other corner it seemed and they all had to have
an EXCLUSIVE brand name accordion to hawk and sell, and if a school could not
afford to buy a container (and thus get their own name hung on the box) then
the manufacturers/factories often had numerous sub brands under their control
so they could sell to more than one school in a market area

and then came the Beatles

ciao

Ventura
 

Tom

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Interesting Ventura and Penta, cool books!
 

Pipemajor

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Same is not true here. I play mostly wind instruments - tuba, saxophone. Can't see my fingers at all. Even the rudimentary fipple flute that they use for elementary music in the public schools, mine was called "flutophone", I don't think you could clearly make out what your fingers are doing - nor would you need to really. On electric bass I can see my left hand or my right, but can't really see them both at the same time to any meaningful extent. I don't see this as a major issue.

On the tuba, I have to do something akin to whistling the tune while my fingers press the right valve combination - not literally whistling, but same idea. Then there's the trombone, where you must do about the same and also bring the slide to the exact right place. Or violin & family, also requiring exact placement. The pedal steel guitar, where you do that with multiple strings and also change the string pitch with your knees and feet - now there's a hard instrument, and you'll rarely see them look up from their instrument.

The accordion is an easy instrument to get started with.
But on any wind instrument (Wood or Brass), your hands don't move. The fingers just cover or uncover holes or keys, so there is no point in looking at your hands. Some even have hooks on the back to slide the thumb in to hold it steady.
Keyboards on the other hand !!!
 

dan

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I can't speak to what's up with kids these days, and I've never been trendy, but I'm younger than most of the folks on this forum so will throw in my 2 cents as a counterweight.
@AccordionUprising Maybe Bruce can tell us if these are common sentiments among the millennials he's interviewed, or just my own personal idiosyncrasies.

I am suspicious of big fake smiles and showmanship. I can appreciate when the performer and audience are genuinely having a good time.

I dislike virtuosity for its own sake. I can appreciate (and am sometimes moved by) complex and difficult compositions played by skilled musicians but don't often seek it out. Sorry.

I dislike gimmicks like playing the instrument upside down or strapped to your dance partners' back--it might evoke a chuckle but it only serves to reinforce the image of the accordion as a novelty act--neither dignified nor cool.

I dislike most of the videos I see that use MIDI arranger modules or V-Accordions. The Michael Bridges one is okay, but most of what I hear is accordion sounds with too much reverb and non-accordion sounds that are not real enough to be convincing but not electronic enough to pass for an EDM or hip hop beat.

Hearing accordion renditions of pop, rock, or video game songs is an attention-getter but not enough.

In my opinion, the trick to popularizing the accordion is to treat is as a normal instrument, not primarily as a one-man-band. It's a valid niche but it's a limited one. Piano and guitar can be solo instruments, but the solo acts that stay on my playlist are not virtuosos or variety acts, they are singer-songwriters. More to the point, you don't only hear guitar and piano played by solo musicians, or (god forbid) in guitar or piano orchestras! You hear them in all kinds of different combos. I just had a friend my age hear--for the first time--an accordion played in an ensemble with restraint--not too many notes, usually played soft enough to blend into the mix, popping up for fills and solos. He was surprised to realize it was an accordion and wanted to hear more of it!

I grew up with no animus (no opinion at all, really) toward the traditional genres where members of the accordion family are still part of bands. Some I've grown to love (gypsy swing), some I enjoy in moderation (polka, tango). But hearing accordion employed in unusual and edgy ways (Pogues, Beirut, Decemberists, Esteban Jordan) really encouraged me to stick with it and make it my own. Thanks, Accordion Noir.

Price, I think is not that big a deterrent to starting the accordion. I got my first box used for $200US, it served me well. New Chinese boxes are not too expensive either--that was my second accordion, it also served me well.

From the perspective of a parent making their child play the instrument, then yes, it's important for there to be teachers, and rental instruments, and performance opportunities in school or conservatory. I was picking the instrument for fun and not sure I was serious enough to tackle advanced repertoire, or even to pay for lessons. What helped me was seeing youtube videos of young people playing "Amelie" and be able to find a free tutorial so I could do it myself. Is the technique bad? What did I care? They made it look fun and like something I could do. It didn't seem corny and old fashioned like the stuff in my method book.
 

losthobos

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100% with you @dan ... Though i think it's pretty cool to play accordion as one man band and i wouldn't diss a piano player for doing the same... 😉
I came to accordion after playing pro as guitar player and when performance laws here more or less shut down work for more than a duo i sold my pa and bought an accordion as was and instrument i could play a la one man band... Ie i can't sing so just playing rhythm guitar was dull and without a rhythm playing lead was dull... The accordion opened up the full spectrum for me to destroy in my own
inimitable fashion (read played badly)..
Added Chumbawamba Add Me for some subtle modern usage...
 

jozz

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Meanwhile, on my facebook wall this morning, Mimmo is celebrating 100,000 followers, Bia Socek has over 370,000, many of their videos have over 1,000,000 views. Perhaps more people are actively watching and involved in accordion music than ever, even in the "glory years"? It's just the venue that has changed.

Maybe not every Tom, Dick and Harry are struggling to learn "Lady of Spain" between ages 6 and 12 but the instrument has powered on in a new way.

True

Regarding Mimmo: I've now watched his entire YouTube catalog, and only because I have a 2 yo at home that insists on watching 'Mimmo' or 'Jambo', ... his now favorite song.

He's a character/entertainer/animator/vlogger, sort of marketed as modern accordionist. Although he can play for sure.

The list of videos and how many viewers have watched which one, really give some insight in how it works these days.

All of his over-produced / green-screen animated electronic/pop modern dance covers are hits, his more traditional clips have almost nothing in comparison.

So he found a form in which to bring the instrument to the masses, albeit heavily augmented with electronics and visuals. And most of all, by relying on covers of hugely popular existing pop songs.
 
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Tom

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100% with you @dan ... Though i think it's pretty cool to play accordion as one man band and i wouldn't diss a piano player for doing the same... 😉
I came to accordion after playing pro as guitar player and when performance laws here more or less shut down work for more than a duo i sold my pa and bought an accordion as was and instrument i could play a la one man band... Ie i can't sing so just playing rhythm guitar was dull and without a rhythm playing lead was dull... The accordion opened up the full spectrum for me to destroy in my own
inimitable fashion (read played badly)..
Added Chumbawamba Add Me for some subtle modern usage...
Wow, what an interesting song, haven't heard it. Disturbing because I know too many people with lost soul children. Had to listen twice to find the accordion.
 

Tom

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True

Regarding Mimmo: I've now watched his entire YouTube catalog, and only because I have a 2 yo at home that insists on watching 'Mimmo' or 'Jambo', ... his now favorite song.

He's a character/entertainer/animator/vlogger, sort of marketed as modern accordionist. Although he can play for sure.

The list of videos and how many viewers have watched which one, really give some insight in how it works these days.

All of his over-produced / green-screen animated electronic/pop modern dance covers are hits, his more traditional clips have almost nothing in comparison.

So he found a form in which to bring the instrument to the masses, albeit heavily augmented with electronics and visuals. And most of all, by relying on covers of hugely popular existing pop songs.
True enough, Jozz. He's found a niche and milked it till the cows come home. More power to him, I say!
 

Tom

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I can't speak to what's up with kids these days, and I've never been trendy, but I'm younger than most of the folks on this forum so will throw in my 2 cents as a counterweight.
@AccordionUprising Maybe Bruce can tell us if these are common sentiments among the millennials he's interviewed, or just my own personal idiosyncrasies.

I am suspicious of big fake smiles and showmanship. I can appreciate when the performer and audience are genuinely having a good time.

I dislike virtuosity for its own sake. I can appreciate (and am sometimes moved by) complex and difficult compositions played by skilled musicians but don't often seek it out. Sorry.

I dislike gimmicks like playing the instrument upside down or strapped to your dance partners' back--it might evoke a chuckle but it only serves to reinforce the image of the accordion as a novelty act--neither dignified nor cool.

I dislike most of the videos I see that use MIDI arranger modules or V-Accordions. The Michael Bridges one is okay, but most of what I hear is accordion sounds with too much reverb and non-accordion sounds that are not real enough to be convincing but not electronic enough to pass for an EDM or hip hop beat.

Hearing accordion renditions of pop, rock, or video game songs is an attention-getter but not enough.

In my opinion, the trick to popularizing the accordion is to treat is as a normal instrument, not primarily as a one-man-band. It's a valid niche but it's a limited one. Piano and guitar can be solo instruments, but the solo acts that stay on my playlist are not virtuosos or variety acts, they are singer-songwriters. More to the point, you don't only hear guitar and piano played by solo musicians, or (god forbid) in guitar or piano orchestras! You hear them in all kinds of different combos. I just had a friend my age hear--for the first time--an accordion played in an ensemble with restraint--not too many notes, usually played soft enough to blend into the mix, popping up for fills and solos. He was surprised to realize it was an accordion and wanted to hear more of it!

I grew up with no animus (no opinion at all, really) toward the traditional genres where members of the accordion family are still part of bands. Some I've grown to love (gypsy swing), some I enjoy in moderation (polka, tango). But hearing accordion employed in unusual and edgy ways (Pogues, Beirut, Decemberists, Esteban Jordan) really encouraged me to stick with it and make it my own. Thanks, Accordion Noir.

Price, I think is not that big a deterrent to starting the accordion. I got my first box used for $200US, it served me well. New Chinese boxes are not too expensive either--that was my second accordion, it also served me well.

From the perspective of a parent making their child play the instrument, then yes, it's important for there to be teachers, and rental instruments, and performance opportunities in school or conservatory. I was picking the instrument for fun and not sure I was serious enough to tackle advanced repertoire, or even to pay for lessons. What helped me was seeing youtube videos of young people playing "Amelie" and be able to find a free tutorial so I could do it myself. Is the technique bad? What did I care? They made it look fun and like something I could do. It didn't seem corny and old fashioned like the stuff in my method book.
Good points and interesting as usual, Dan. I don't really have a horse in the game about "popularizing the accordion (or even the hurry gurdy or the balalaika)." Thanks to the internet it seems everyone can find some performer and style they like (or they end up like that guy in Losthobos' Chumbawamba song). I'm glad there are people who like the stuff I don't. I get my own personal satisfaction from playing and learning, and a big thrill when I make people happy with my music. Any more is gravy. Best of luck with all your projects! From a fellow cheesehead.
 
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Ventura

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perhaps the main difference (and obstacle) is what we found
in the Music stores at retail over time

as tech increased, more and more possibilities (and ways to spend your money)
emerged... entire new genre's that allow for the (natural, infantly innocent)
need to be musical or creative find ways to express in other than traditional methods

in other words, there are a LOT of things competing for the interest, investment,
and imagination of the young... so your young, contemporary "Dick Contino"
needs to fascinate not just the accordion friendly world, not just the Instrument
minded world, not just the Musically lustful world,

but the entire world

as an example, we considered the advent of the home Computer to be a
large factor in the demise of the Home Organ market, which was once huge
 

Alan Sharkis

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Sorry guys but electronic accordion it's not for me. I still don't understand it...
What's to understand? You put it on, press the power button, and play. It defaults to accordion sounds, so, except for bellows feel and keyboard feel, it plays like an acoustic. Bellows feel can be adjusted, as described in the manual, and keyboard feel is something you will get used to in just a short while. The additional key depth that makes the accordion's keyboard's feel different is necessary for certain functions you won't necessarily use at first. Everything else is for you to explore later, and, it's a lot, so you will probably wind up using just a small subset of it.
 

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What's to understand? You put it on, press the power button, and play. It defaults to accordion sounds, so, except for bellows feel and keyboard feel, it plays like an acoustic. Bellows feel can be adjusted, as described in the manual, and keyboard feel is something you will get used to in just a short while. The additional key depth that makes the accordion's keyboard's feel different is necessary for certain functions you won't necessarily use at first. Everything else is for you to explore later, and, it's a lot, so you will probably wind up using just a small subset of it.
How does the keyboard feel different?
 

Ric46

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What's to understand? You put it on, press the power button, and play. It defaults to accordion sounds, so, except for bellows feel and keyboard feel, it plays like an acoustic. Bellows feel can be adjusted, as described in the manual, and keyboard feel is something you will get used to in just a short while. The additional key depth that makes the accordion's keyboard's feel different is necessary for certain functions you won't necessarily use at first. Everything else is for you to explore later, and, it's a lot, so you will probably wind up using just a small subset of it.
It's just my humble opinion but the bellow is the accordion's hearth (it's an air instrument). Digital accordion is, a very good, simulator. I have a fantastic Roland E series keyboard (with dynamic key and dynamic pedal) and I can play hundreds of instruments including accordion
 

Alan Sharkis

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How does the keyboard feel different?
If you’re used to bottoming the keys, as an extreme case, you’ll find that you have further to go on a digital. That’s because digitals have something called aftertouch, which is triggered by that extra key depth and can be used to control a variety of effects, depending on how it is programmed. Most players find aftertouch more useful for orchestral sounds than for accordion sounds.

In addition, some early Rolands had slow keyboard response — well not slow as in seconds, but slow as in milli- or microseconds. You’d only notice it on very rapid runs or glissandos. Improved electronics in later models took care of that.
 

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