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Routine for Learning Tunes

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Pianoman1

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My teacher and I have are having a slight difference of opinion. He wants me to keep to the tunes in the tutor book so that he can control the way I play. My point is I am 71 and want to play some music before either taking up the harp or the shovel

I have therefore come up with this checklist which will put before the experts here to develop a method for learning tunes

1 Mark up the bellows actions either by four bars or by phrases ( I use comma marks in lyrics as )

2 Prepare basses so that action is crisp and in the correct tempo - at present I keep to easy chord changes
Memorise above

3 Practice melody separately in phrases as bellows above with attention to legato and light touch on the keys
Memorise melody

4 Combine part of the tune ie first four bars in both hands and proceed through tune in blocks until it secure in both hands

I woiuld be grateful if any further points occur to the assembled experts Thank you Tony
 

JerryPH

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Music is about much more than a checklist, though I tend to learn right hand first, left hand second and already know when to change bellows direction based on the flow of the music and needs of the instrument, it's not about "4 measures out, 4 measures in" and never should be.

There are 2 points of view here and both are valid. The first is that you have reached a certain age and don't want to waste time playing things you don't want.

The second opinion, and the one that I am mostly an opinion of is that you are paying someone that you have chosen because they can teach you what you cannot do alone. You shoukd trust them to know how to grow your skill at the proper pace and the right direction. If you don't like what they do, drop them and do what you want, but then accept the fact that your progress will be slower and also lead you to do things differently because you no longer have someone showing you the right direction.

Now, I said mostly. The third option is that you follow the lead of your instructor, but at the same time, choose pieces of music you like and learn them on your own in parallel to the teachings of your instructor. Of course before you can do this, be honest about your level and acknowlege if you want to do it this way.

My niece goes a fourth route, where she literally bullies the instructor into teachng her what she wants and if not, finds another teacher. Sure, she can play and fairly well, but she has IMHO bad and obvious habits that interfere with her ability to play a song correctly. Suffice to say, she has had many a teacher, some VERY good and has stuck with none of them... the moment they try to introduce structure, she leaves. She also has several bad habits and when she plays a song that I know, it's like fingernails on chalkboard for me, yet when I try to diplomatically tell her she tells me that she doesn't care and basically she wants to play her way or not at all, irrespective of if she plays it right or not.

If you don't want to play what is given you, the options are to grit your teeth and push through, using it as an exercise towards improvement, or don't. My advice is that since you are needing someone enough that you pay for their services, talk to them again, let them know your feelings and offer a compromise. You don't have to learn from just one book at a time, indeed when I was starting, I played from 6 books at once and went through them all and also added 1-2 pieces of sheet music for more variety on a weekly basis.

Now, if they do not want you to do anything but what they say, again, you have 2 chouces... follow them, or drop them. If you take option 2, you can find another instructor or do your own thing at your own speed.

At 71 years of age, you are most certainly an adult and should be able to firmly air your concerns and if the instructor doesn't take the concerns seriously, they may not be the right one for you.

I've shared several options here in possibly a disjointed order, please feel free to use all, some or none as you see fit. Good luck in your studies. :)
 

donn

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I've never had much in the way of lessons, but it's difficult to even imagine that a teacher would forbid a student to play tunes? My expectation would be that there's positive structure - you must work to improve on these exercises, techniques etc. But negative structure, you must not attempt to play this or that tune? sure, I too would leave the moment that came up.
 

Anyanka

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Marking up the bellows action sounds good to me (I don't do it, but probably should).

For putting the tune together, I combine both hands as soon as possible, because the basses don't make sense to me without the right hand; and I also find that if I get really fluent on the right, it all goes to pieces again when I introduce the left, i.e. the whole process takes me longer. Once I've combined both hands I keep the notation on the music stand and play with my back turned to it, so that I can refresh my memory instantly.
 

losthobos

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Without ever having had a teacher I have developed Style' ....however my style may bot be to everyone's liking...simple truth worth bearing in mind.....
 

george garside

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It all depends on what sort of musical background your teacher is coming form. If he is classically orientated then a careful and steady progress using a series of tutor books will probably be his normal modus operandi and is of course the prescribed way to go for anyone intending going through exams and grades.

As a teacher coming from a trad/folk background and having tought many older students ( up to early 80's) as well as children and everything in between I also prefer stiudents to work through a list of tunes to each aadd progressively to the knowledge and practice bass. However the difference is that I spend time, even before the first lesson, finding out exactly where the student is coming from and what their aims are musically. WE then make a progressive list of 'graded' tunes either from material they already have or from my resouces so that they are to play the instrument whilst playing tunes that they like. I strongly recommend that they spend a good amount of time practising a particular tune between lessons but also encourage them to experiment with other stuff once they have spent the appropriate amount of time on ''official homework'' This helps to maintain enthusiasm and interest.

I follow a similar pattern of tune choice if teaching someone to play 'by ear' choosing 'graded' tunes that they can hum or whistle often starting with something as simple as 'when the saints go marching in'

At the end of the day a students enjoyment and enthusiasm must be maintained and having someone 'trudge' through stuff he or she has little or no interest in can , for many, have a very negative outcome!


george
 
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Pianoman1

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Thanks for the replies. I am not trying to go against my teacher as there is no point in paying him
I was trying to develop a method or routine which would groove the technique of bellows control and other aspects into any new tunes I am learning I am focussing on slowish melodies with simple chord sequences so the Flight of the Bumblebee is not on the list as yet
 

george garside

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Pianoman1 said:
I was trying to develop a method or routine which would groove the technique of bellows control and other aspects into any new tunes I am learning


To me the job of a teacher is to teach a student to play the instrument and (graded) tunes used should be chosen that facilitate the teaching of various instrumental techniques such as bellows control etc etc etc.

Its a bit like learning to drive. Once you learn to drive properly you can drive anywhere you want. Same goes for instruments once you can play the instrument properly you can play whatever tunes take your fancy.

george
 

Corinto

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Anyanka said:
Marking up the bellows action sounds good to me (I don't do it, but probably should).

For putting the tune together, I combine both hands as soon as possible ... and I also find that if I get really fluent on the right, it all goes to pieces again when I introduce the left, i.e. the whole process takes me longer.

My limited experience is similar. Now I go with both hands from the start, very very slow, as I had big problems combining bass after learning the right hand.
 

george garside

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combining left and right hand can be different for those playing from the dots and those playing by ear. If playing from the dots and wanting to play the bass as written ( assuming it is written of course) then the earliest possible use of both hands is probably best.

On the other hand if playing by ear and 'busking in' the bass then I find it better for students to get the right hand fully sorted so the tune can be played without conscious thought and then to experiment with bass to accompany the particular tune, starting with the 3 chord ( or 3 bass or both) and then to consider becoming a bit more adventurous once a simple bass accompaniment is sorted and both ends are working well together.

for both 'schools' of player it can also be very useful to practice generating a veriety of precisely timed rhythms on the bass as an independent exercise.

george
 

donn

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I don't read while playing accordion, and I'm with Corinto & Anyanka. If there's something tricky, that tricky part may call for some focused practice that doesn't involve both hands, but the tune is a thing that does involve both hands, and that's how I play it from the beginning.

It is awkward with one piece that I've been idly playing with, a slowish Portuguese fado - and I think the reason I stumble a little here is because the right hand gets out of time on some of the ornamental flourishes.
 

george garside

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practice the right hand ornamental flourishes separately from the rest of the tune until they are spot on.

george
 

donn

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It isn't that the ornaments are difficult, it's that they run me out of time. My thought is, I evidently have a misconception at some level about how it goes, that doesn't add up metrically. If I rehearsed that to an appearance of perfection, I'd be even more confounded when I brought the left hand along. Normally, when a tune seems at all complicated to me (i.e., the usual case), I'll write it out, and then learn to play it by ear (I know how to read, just not on the accordion.)

In this case it was more than a little trouble to analyze the tune in that way, so I've undertaken to learn it directly by ear. That has worked out a little better, but there are still some rough spots where I have trouble keeping the left hand going. Maybe just because there's a lot going on, but I think it's really critical to keep the left hand in it, so that the two work together.
 

george garside

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I find that quite often where there are fancy bits or fast runs on the treble end it can be very effective to stop the bass for the duration that series of notes so as to throw emphasis on the bit that can sometimes be the very essence of the tune. Stopping the bass suddenly will also have the effect of increasing the treble volume which also adds to the effect.

A example of this is bar 4 and 12 in 'harvest home', and the first 8 bars of the B part of the dashing white sergeant.

spot on timing as to where to stop and restart the bass are crucial for best effect

george
 
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BrandyD

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Music teachers use specific songs/methods, usually each new song bringing in new techniques/methods to be learned. My suggestion, learn what the teacher provides to you - bring in sheet music that you would like to learn also that the teacher can help you master. I firmly believe that adding something the student wants to learn is quite beneficial or they may get bored with the method books. Your teacher knows your ability and can help guide you to where you want to be.

Brandy D
 
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tonywh

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I would like to add my "two pennyworth" here and will be honest but certainly do not wish to cause any offence to other, more experienced contributors.

As I have said elsewhere on this forum, I bought my 72 bass Hohner in January 2015, having never played a musical instrument and totally unable to read music.
I chose the accordion because I have always loved the sound and have read that learning a musical instrument is (allegedly) a good way to delay the onset of dementia - an important consideration since I shall be 80 in a couple of months.

I started teaching myself using two books, one by Basil Bunelik and one by Karen Tweed. Both of these helped in learning to "transfer dots to fingertips" but I got to a point where (having read many of the contributions on this forum) I thought a teacher would be a sensible route to follow. I have tried two teachers in my area but soon became bored by practising scales, chords, arpeggios etc. important as I am sure these are.
Also an accordion can become extremely heavy after carrying for a few hundred yards.

This experience has led me to re-evaluate my priorities. Although in good health (today!), starting at my age I shall never become a good player and I have no intention of ever composing/arranging music (the study of music theory makes me lose the will to live). I just want to play music which I know and like and to this end there are the combined benefits of the CDs which accompany the books and a wealth of videos on Youtube.

I practice every day (and thoroughly enjoy the journey) and I will just go on doing that. I am sure my bellows action is probably all wrong and I have developed some bad habits but my primary object is to enjoy it.

I hope that this does not sound cynical and, as I said at the beginning, the last thing on my mind is to offend anybody but this is a reflection of my personal situation. As a retired professional engineer I am well aware of the value of proper tuition and in no way denigrate it. It is a case of 'horses for courses'.

The forum is a valuable source of information/encouragement and I thank you.
tonywh
 

george garside

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I agree with Tony in that whilst formal 'classical' training in right for some people it is not the answer for everybody. learning to play 'jolly tunes'' of your own choosing with or without use of written music can be just as beneficial for those who choose this route . Its all about horses for courses and enjoying making music .

However whilst the 'jolly tunes' bods may well be self taught in my experience many would benefit from and perhaps shorten their journey by having some formal tuition in instrumental technique rather than theory as knowing a tune and how to play the right notes in the right order is not the same thing as being able to PLAY the box.

george
 
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tonywh

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Thank you George.

You are absolutely right in your second paragraph and if I felt that I had more time statistically, or had started earlier, I would certainly have gone that route.
I know that sounds fatalistic but I prefer to think of it as realistic; the rest of my life starts now.

Regards
Tony
 

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