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When did you know?

lmschgo

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When did you first know or realize that playing the accordion was something you just had to do?

What singular moment – a song, person, place or event – that motivated or inspired you to play an accordion?

I think my moment happened when I was maybe 7 or 8 years old. At that time, I was quite familiar with and liked accordion music, from listening to Polish polkas, waltzes and obereks that my parents played on the phonograph and radio. About that time, I saw a Walt Disney animated movie called Lady and the Tramp. A song played during the movie, Bella Notte, featured an accordionist.

Though the accordion was just a small part of the song, I was struck by the fact that there are other types of music, other than polkas waltzes and obereks, that could be played on the accordion. From that moment, it took (regrettably) several decades and many false starts, before I purchased an accordion, and practiced and played regularly.
Better late than never!?

Lady and the Tramp's Bella Notte:
 
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Tom

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Well, interestingly enough, I had no clue about polkas until I moved to Wisconsin, and I don't think I could name an oberek. Is it like a schottische? Anyway, growing up in RI, if an accordion ever came up (it didn't) it would have been associated with Italian music, Finiculi or That's Amore. We wouldn't be caught dead watching Lawrence Welk in those days, it was strictly rock and roll, we had no idea Bruce Springsteen had an accordion...

I've told this story before, about how one day, about 10 years ago a friend brought a piano accordion to work, trying to get rid of it. Not wanting to look cheap, I gave him $50 and the rest was history. I still had no clue there was accordion music, but gradually self educated myself through youtube and watching Dick Contino at Summerfest in Milwaukee. I found the Sedlon books online and taught myself how to play. Although there was a big old time tradition there, it's pretty stricly diatonic button box or concertina.

I ran across an ad for accordion repair in the paper and met my first accordion playing friend. We started a club, and a dozen or so others came out of the woodwork, including someone who actually plays old time, who I played with weekly for years until I moved, and now we meet on zoom.

At that time I played guitar in a band I started with my friends. I tried to add accordion but it didn't really work out so I played solo at senior meal sites, Alzheimer's events, etc.

You would think by now I could play better, but I don't.
 

cat

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🐶Lady and Tramp was a big impression for me as well. Although I avoided accordions until I was 35 years old (like Tom said, it was all R & R and Lawrence Welk was decidedly uncool). But I ended up with a deep romantic streak and L&T and the genre at very early age had big impact.

I guess there wasn't something that inspired me for accdn. I saw one in a pawnshop one day and decided right then that I'd learn it. Boring, I know :)
 
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debra

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For me it wasn't a moment of "this is it!". In grade school we had a choice of instruments to learn: recorder, mandolin, accordion or drums. My older sibling (first brother, later sister) chose the accordion and i chose the recorder. Meanwhile we took piano lessons in music school. When I finished with grade school I switched to the accordion as we had an accordion band in town (and my older sibling played in that)... The rest is history...
 
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Scuromondo

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It wasn’t until I was nearly 50. My cousins were cleaning out their parents house and found their father’s accordion. My uncle was a professional jazz accordionist back in the 50s and 60s and had died years before. Anyway, they wanted to give me his accordion because I had taken lessons as a child. I was honored that they thought of me. It was a magnificent accordion, a gorgeous Philharmonic accordion (not a brand one hears much about these days). But they had obviously not stored the accordion properly since my uncle passed and it was a mess—full of mold as bad as one can imagine. I had not even picked up an accordion in 35 years, but holding it and struggling to squeeze out a few simple tunes for them that day really put the hook in me.
 
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lmschgo

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Well, interestingly enough, I had no clue about polkas until I moved to Wisconsin, and I don't think I could name an oberek. Is it like a schottische? Anyway, growing up in RI, if an accordion ever came up (it didn't) it would have been associated with Italian music, Finiculi or That's Amore. We wouldn't be caught dead watching Lawrence Welk in those days, it was strictly rock and roll, we had no idea Bruce Springsteen had an accordion...

I've told this story before, about how one day, about 10 years ago a friend brought a piano accordion to work, trying to get rid of it. Not wanting to look cheap, I gave him $50 and the rest was history. I still had no clue there was accordion music, but gradually self educated myself through youtube and watching Dick Contino at Summerfest in Milwaukee. I found the Sedlon books online and taught myself how to play. Although there was a big old time tradition there, it's pretty stricly diatonic button box or concertina.

I ran across an ad for accordion repair in the paper and met my first accordion playing friend. We started a club, and a dozen or so others came out of the woodwork, including someone who actually plays old time, who I played with weekly for years until I moved, and now we meet on zoom.

At that time I played guitar in a band I started with my friends. I tried to add accordion but it didn't really work out so I played solo at senior meal sites, Alzheimer's events, etc.

You would think by now I could play better, but I don't.
An oberek describes one of the traditional Polish dances, featuring spins and jumps. It is played in 3/4 time, best described as a fast waltz.

I believe Dick Contino was regularly a featured act at Milwaukee's Summerfest. Unfortunately I never saw him play at that event, but I did see a tribute show there soon after his death.
 
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lmschgo

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It wasn’t until I was nearly 50. My cousins were cleaning out their parents house and found their father’s accordion. My uncle was a professional jazz accordionist back in the 50s and 60s and had died years before. Anyway, they wanted to give me his accordion because I had taken lessons as a child. I was honored that they thought of me. It was a magnificent accordion, a gorgeous Philharmonic accordion (not a brand one hears much about these days). But they had obviously not stored the accordion properly since my uncle passed and it was a mess—full of mold as bad as one can imagine. I had not even picked up an accordion in 35 years, but holding it and struggling to squeeze out a few simple tunes for them that day really put the hook in me.
Jazz accordionists also fueled my interest in the accordion: Art Van Damme, Leon Sash, Frank Marocco to name a few. I also enjoy listening to Piotr's (a regular forum contributor) play his interpretation of many of Frank Marocco's arrangements.
 
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lmschgo

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For me it wasn't a moment of "this is it!". In grade school we had a choice of instruments to learn: recorder, mandolin, accordion or drums. My older sibling (first brother, later sister) chose the accordion and i chose the recorder. Meanwhile we took piano lessons in music school. When I finished with grade school I switched to the accordion as we had an accordion band in town (and my older sibling played in that)... The rest is history...
My older brother briefly played the accordion and my dad played the violin, so I had some motivation to play an instrument. I played the organ, starting when I was about 12 and stopping when I went to college - too many other distractions (academics, beer, sports, beer, girls, beer, and beer).

The organ I had was constructed from solid wood and contained tubes, not circuit boards. The electronics, but especially the wood construction, gave it a sweet sound, somewhat comparable (at least in my memory) to a Hammond B3 organ - the favorite of jazz and blues organists, and bands.
 
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Tom

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An oberek describes one of the traditional Polish dances, featuring spins and jumps. It is played in 3/4 time, best described as a fast waltz.

I believe Dick Contino was regularly a featured acted at Milwaukee's Summerfest. Unfortunately I never saw him play at that event, but I did see a tribute show there soon after his death.
Thanks Howard! Actually, Contino was featured regularly at Festa Italiana (I named it wring, above), where I saw him, and have an autographed CD and picture with him somewhere around here, lost in the digital void...
 

OldSqueezer

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For me the seed was planted in my youth when I first heard French musette, played as entertainment over the train radio on a journey by rail down to the South of France. The purchase of an accordion didn’t follow until many years later, when I was in Vienna, and from my hotel window could hear accordionists playing in the square outside the Cathedral round the corner. Of course there were accordion shops in Vienna, and I was lucky enough to have a little money spare and a wife who actually encouraged me, despite the fact that we would then have to transport it (a 96 bass Hohner PA) back to Canada by air.
Doug
 

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Oddly enough, it took me awhile...

I initially picked up accordion just to have it as a side instrument, for a little extra "color". I was playing keyboards in a band that did a sort of "unplugged" acoustic set as part of the regular show, where we all gather together on a carpet downstage for a few numbers. (It was the '90s... this was practically a requirement back then.) I needed something to play, so I started with a melodica, and eventually picked up a used accordion.

These sorts of situations only call for the right hand, so that's really all I did with it. But then one day, years later, for some reason, I decided to make an effort to learn to the whole instrument.

Do you remember the first time you finally got a basic left-hand pattern going along with the right-hand? Hearing the whole orchestra--bass, chords, melody, all going at the same time? Feeling the air in the bellows and the vibration of the reeds against your chest? That combined feeling of glee and amazement that you pulling it off, like riding a bike without training wheels for the first time?

That's what hooked me.
 

cat

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When I finally connected with it - was upon hearing hearing Brazilian forro, baiao, and New Orleans stuff. Since I'm a late-comer I'm no virtuoso. I'm a former semi-pro drummer (among other things) and what I like about accordions is their rhythmic efficiency - it's a rhythm section in a box. I'm retired from drumming, and assuage my need to play syncopated time with accordion playing. It's a dance. (I also play diatonic button boxes)

The film that helped me in this accordion-discovery process is Bye Bye Brazil. Also House of Fools. (these are the styles of music I enjoy on accordion)
 
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lmschgo

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Oddly enough, it took me awhile...

I initially picked up accordion just to have it as a side instrument, for a little extra "color". I was playing keyboards in a band that did a sort of "unplugged" acoustic set as part of the regular show, where we all gather together on a carpet downstage for a few numbers. (It was the '90s... this was practically a requirement back then.) I needed something to play, so I started with a melodica, and eventually picked up a used accordion.

These sorts of situations only call for the right hand, so that's really all I did with it. But then one day, years later, for some reason, I decided to make an effort to learn to the whole instrument.

Do you remember the first time you finally got a basic left-hand pattern going along with the right-hand? Hearing the whole orchestra--bass, chords, melody, all going at the same time? Feeling the air in the bellows and the vibration of the reeds against your chest? That combined feeling of glee and amazement that you pulling it off, like riding a bike without training wheels for the first time?

That's what hooked me.
The euphoria of both hands, along with the bellows, producing a pleasing a melody happens periodically for me too. As a matter of fact, I 'm glad that I make mistakes, just so when it does perfectly come together, I can experience that boundless joy again. 😊

Though I do enjoy playing the FR 1x, I do miss the palpable resonance of the vibrating reeds and the breathy bellows.
 

lmschgo

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When I finally connected with it - was upon hearing hearing Brazilian forro, baiao, and New Orleans stuff. Since I'm a late-comer I'm no virtuoso. I'm a former semi-pro drummer (among other things) and what I like about accordions is their rhythmic efficiency - it's a rhythm section in a box. I'm retired from drumming, and assuage my need to play rhythmic figures (obsessively) with accordion playing. It's a dance. (I also play diatonic button boxes)

The film that helped me in this accordion-discovery process is Bye Bye Brazil. Also Ship of Fools. (these are the styles of music I enjoy on accordion)
One can play just play rhythm, or just melody, or both on an accordion. I always have thought the instrument's versatility would have helped sustain/resuscitate its popularity over the years. Alas not.

I often drum out a rhythm with my fingers, then try to duplicate the same pattern on the bass, trying to avoid just a simple bass note/chord alternation. Embellishing a base rhythm can make a simple song or melody (or in my case mediocre playing) sound much better.
 
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cat

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Ya, I'm always tapping out a rhythm on something, and figured it would be more productive doing it on accordion :)
 

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It's great to read so many stories. For me, I always loved music. I started with cello in 3rd grade, then switched to double bass in my teen years. I eventually went to college and got a jazz performance degree (bass). The whole time, I loved the sound of the accordion. I would hear it on TV or the radio. It wasn't until after college that I bought a beginner instrument off of Amazon. I played it a few times, but never put in the time that it deserved. I was busy with my family and with practicing/gigging on bass. I was playing with salsa groups, an orchestra, cover gigs, pit bands, original groups, etc. A few years later, for some reason, which I can't explain, I pulled it out and gave it another shot. After that, I couldn't put it down. I tried a lot of different accordions since and decided that I enjoy playing both CBA and smaller PAs. I can't pinpoint the exact moment that I knew I wanted to play it. It was something that I was always drawn to, but took a while for me to put in the time and effort. Now that I'm able to play some of the stuff that I was drawn to, I am enjoying it more and more. I hope to keep playing, keep improving and keep enjoying the whole process.
 

lmschgo

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It's great to read so many stories. For me, I always loved music. I started with cello in 3rd grade, then switched to double bass in my teen years. I eventually went to college and got a jazz performance degree (bass). The whole time, I loved the sound of the accordion. I would hear it on TV or the radio. It wasn't until after college that I bought a beginner instrument off of Amazon. I played it a few times, but never put in the time that it deserved. I was busy with my family and with practicing/gigging on bass. I was playing with salsa groups, an orchestra, cover gigs, pit bands, original groups, etc. A few years later, for some reason, which I can't explain, I pulled it out and gave it another shot. After that, I couldn't put it down. I tried a lot of different accordions since and decided that I enjoy playing both CBA and smaller PAs. I can't pinpoint the exact moment that I knew I wanted to play it. It was something that I was always drawn to, but took a while for me to put in the time and effort. Now that I'm able to play some of the stuff that I was drawn to, I am enjoying it more and more. I hope to keep playing, keep improving and keep enjoying the whole process.
It seems like for many of us on the forum, the epiphanal moment occurs later in life, maybe because life's other obligations and distractions have diminished.
 

lmschgo

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For me the seed was planted in my youth when I first heard French musette, played as entertainment over the train radio on a journey by rail down to the South of France. The purchase of an accordion didn’t follow until many years later, when I was in Vienna, and from my hotel window could hear accordionists playing in the square outside the Cathedral round the corner. Of course there were accordion shops in Vienna, and I was lucky enough to have a little money spare and a wife who actually encouraged me, despite the fact that we would then have to transport it (a 96 bass Hohner PA) back to Canada by air.
Doug
Your experience in Vienna, hearing accordion music wafting through your open hotel window, reminded me of a somewhat similar experience I had last summer.

Working from home with the windows open , I heard accordion music. Initially I thought it was a passing car with its radio or CD playing. During my 15 years of living in my neighborhood, I have never heard live accordion music outside my home.. So, like a moth attracted to a light , I went outside to discover the source.

I live in a Chicago neighborhood comprised of 2-5 storey homes, apartments and condos. There a lot of opportunities for sound to bounce around, so I could not locate the source. Warmer weather - open window weather - is on the horizon. Am curious if I 'll hear the mystery accordionist again.
 

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For me it was a couple of years ago going away to France for a month and realising I couldn't take my piano with me so I bought an old piano accordion banger off ebay to keep my fingers moving. I had stupidly always looked down on the accordion before that and daftly associated it with middle aged hippies and music that was old fashioned even before it was written. Think I really got the bug six months after that with a child's c-system freebass accordion and realising that if I was prepared to put in the time I had found an instrument that could stand its own with any other musical instrument. Its the tactile playing and body coordination of the accordion that does it for me, the movement of the air through the reeds and the incredibly expressive music it can make because it breathes like a living thing.
 

lmschgo

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For me it was a couple of years ago going away to France for a month and realising I couldn't take my piano with me so I bought an old piano accordion banger off ebay to keep my fingers moving. I had stupidly always looked down on the accordion before that and daftly associated it with middle aged hippies and music that was old fashioned even before it was written. Think I really got the bug six months after that with a child's c-system freebass accordion and realising that if I was prepared to put in the time I had found an instrument that could stand its own with any other musical instrument. Its the tactile playing and body coordination of the accordion that does it for me, the movement of the air through the reeds and the incredibly expressive music it can make because it breathes like a living thing.
Though I enjoy and appreciate the challenge of accordion music featuring rapid fire 1/16 and 1/8 notes, it's the expressive playing of slower melodies that, in my opinion, best highlights an accordion's and accordionist's capabilities. (I'd probably have the exact opposite opinion if I could better play music peppered with lots of 1/16 and 1/8 notes)
 
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