learning to play the accordion by ear



learning to play the accordion by ear

Postby george garside » Sun Dec 14, 2014 4:56 pm

As I am to blame for asking the 'powers that be' to set up a 'teaching and learning' board I feel duty bound to start the ball rolling with a 'learning to play the accordion by ear' thread.

All are welcome to post queries , suggestions, accounts of their experiences and to pass on useful 'handy hints and tips' or anything else of interest to those starting or progressing along the road towards being able to play by ear.

As this is a 'Teaching and Learning' board hopefully others will start similar threads to assist those learning or progressing along more formal routes of learning .

I feel that it is important to bear in mind that this board is not intended as a platform for debate or indeed comparison of the respective advantages or disadvantages of different 'schools' of learning - that can if necessary be validly debated on 'accordion chat'

As I have no wish to 'hog' the thread I will stand back and await developments but please remember there is no such thing as a daft question!

george ;) {} :ch
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Re: learning to play the accordion by ear

Postby Soulsaver » Sun Dec 14, 2014 5:04 pm

I believed if you got a Teaching and Learning section you were going to write the article ???

Why don't you kick us of with a 'How to get started', George. Maybe it will flow from there.
[b]Music Game full rules are on the original (first) post in its thread...viewtopic.php?f=12&t=444

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Re: learning to play the accordion by ear

Postby george garside » Sun Dec 14, 2014 5:25 pm

Soulsaver wrote:I believed if you got a Teaching and Learning section you were going to write the article ???

Why don't you kick us of with a 'How to get started', George. Maybe it will flow from there.


I will certainly post some thoughts on how to get started in the next day or two but don't let that stop anybody else posting

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Re: learning to play the accordion by ear

Postby george garside » Sun Dec 14, 2014 8:43 pm

Playing by ear - Some introductory 'pointers' (in no particular order)

1. The term 'playing by ear' is the everyday term for ''Learning a tune by ear and playing it from memory''. It is therefore quite logical that before attempting to play a tune you must be able to hum, whistle or sing it! It is also logical to start with tunes that are already stored in the head rather than trying to learn a new tune to play. i.e. separate the process of learning a tune (memory) and playing it (instrumental technique).

2. Those completely unfamiliar with the piano keyboard will need a keyboard chart ( off the internet or any piano or accordion tutor book) . Those unfamiliar with accordion bass layout will need to download a bass chart from the internet. Those who have not 'put on' an accordion before will benefit from advice on how to adjust straps use air button, control bellows etc etc. This forum is there to answer such questions so feel free to ask!

3. Don't worry about playing a tune in a particular key. Instead concentrate on learning the scale of C and using it initialy for all tunes. Anybody already playing the accordion from the dots but wishing , additionaly,to learn to play by ear will of course be able to use a veriety of keys and should of course do so.

4. We now come to a fundamental difference between learning to play from the dots and learning to play by ear. If reading the dots you will quite rightly start a tune at the beginning - where else!. If learning 'by ear' you can start anywhere in the tune i.e. play the bits that are going round in you head i.e. little jingles. you can then gradually build up the tune rather like adding pieces to a jigsaw. Also don't worry too much about making mistakes, just keep going as far as you can and skim over your mistakes (they can be rectified later)

This technique of learning a tune piecemeal is used in folk musicians sessions where it is customery for a tune to be played at least three times through. Those who don't know the tune may pick up the odd note first time through, a few more second time through and maybe some decent chunks third time through. Next time they come across 'that ' tune being played they have a good start and my even have found it on a CD and had a good listen and play at home!

5. ''Poking and Proding''. A great many tunes use a relatively small number of different notes and the next note is often not far away from the one before so to speak. Many tunes also start on the 'keynote' eg the note C if playing in the key of C. So try a simple little tune eg the saints go marching in. It starts on the keynote i.e. C so play C, then try to find the next note by pocking and prodding. (its next but one higher i.e E) then prod out the rest of the notes .

That's enough for now as I am not going to attempt to write a tutor book ( my melodeon tutor book took 2 years to get right) . I will however return shortly with a simple explanation of how the bass works and one or two other matters.

Don't put the box away, keep it somewhere handy and get into the habit of picking it up a few times a day if only for 5 or 10 minutes. This is much more useful than setting aside an hour on Sunday . Something will crop up to prevent it and the same may happen the week after and then the box is left to fester in a cupboard!

Listen, experiment and poke and prod

george ;)
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Re: learning to play the accordion by ear

Postby goldtopia » Mon Dec 15, 2014 8:11 am

Paragraph 3. The key of C is the easiest to learn to play by as it enabled better concentratration on listening to the bass. It is easy to miss sharps or flats even in simple keys of F or G when trying to concentrate on the bass. I tried associating certain treble notes to certain bass buttons but that doesn't work very well because of the many note note changes on the treble whilst playing the a bass button. it does not seem to develop an intuitive feel for the bass so this idea proved to be not the right way at all . Sometimes the first note a a bar indicates the bass button for that bar or half the bar but this entails intense concentration that is not very practical and leads to worse mistakes than before.

A tuition book does take time. Years ago back in the late 60s, I was writing a tuition book for banjo using tablature and music notation. I took so so long that I eventually gave up. But I think a book for playing accordion by ear or even if its just a booklet would be much easier than writing a full blown tuition book which teaches the rudiments of music and notation, bellows control, etc . Playing by ear is based more on intuitive or instinctive feeling rather than having to learn rudiments of music, many who play by ear on don't know anything at all about music theory.. In some ways its a kind of spiritual or psychological thing because it comes from within, developing ones own intuitive faculties. For this reason it would be different and like no other and possibly the only one, worldwide.
Bill.O (Bournemouth)
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Re: learning to play the accordion by ear

Postby george garside » Mon Dec 15, 2014 9:50 am

I tend to think of the ''intuitive faculties'' Bill has rightly described as being a process similar to that of singing in that the instrument is substituted for the gob!

For 'instructional' purposes a little bit of 'theory' ,if you can call it that, is required, namely a knowledge of the location of notes by name on both trebled and bass. It is for this reason that I that treble and bass keyboard charts are essential i.e its much easier to write or verbally instruct somebody to start on ,say, the note C, G or whatever than to tell them to start on the 5th or 12th white key from the chin end!!

Thank goodness the bass has a handy little 'dint' on the 'C' button as it saves having to tell a newcomer to count so many along the second vertical row from the bellows.!

I will post an easy way into the bass when I've got the right words in the right order!


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Re: learning to play the accordion by ear

Postby Soulsaver » Mon Dec 15, 2014 3:54 pm

Thanks George - we're started. Trying to keep on topic looks tricky already... but will be worth the effort.


Having learnt a simple ditty this way, is there 'more' to upscaling it to more difficult pieces? Or just more of the same?

Does the ability to remember the tune you've learnt BE (by ear) follow naturally? Or is there technique that you'll be commenting on, too?
[b]Music Game full rules are on the original (first) post in its thread...viewtopic.php?f=12&t=444

Chinese Accordion Manufacturers - list post #1 here viewtopic.php?f=25&t=1584

b]
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Re: learning to play the accordion by ear

Postby donn » Mon Dec 15, 2014 4:37 pm

george garside wrote:I tend to think of the ''intuitive faculties'' Bill has rightly described as being a process similar to that of singing in that the instrument is substituted for the gob!


And like a lot of really worthwhile things, it takes time. During which time you are literally regrowing your brain circuitry, I'm pretty sure. I've recently noticed some improvement, in playing by ear, on my tuba - which I've been playing for many years, and the cause of the improvement is not really clear. Anyway, I think your 5 or 10 minute sessions relate to that -- you're simply not ready to progress until the circuits are there, and growing as fast as they can, they're not going to be ready today. The first 10 minutes keeps the process going, the remaining 50 minutes of an hour session could be frustrating waste of time.

I'm at a fairly rudimentary stage myself, at playing by ear on accordion. I'll be playing more this coming year, it seems, and ... in a couple years, who knows, maybe I'll get past rudimentary. I sometimes think we underestimate the difficulty with which young people learn - I mean, kids progress through years of school band or similar, and those can be long years of bad playing - but there is for sure a mental plasticity that diminishes with age. More aged brains like mine require patience.
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Re: learning to play the accordion by ear

Postby george garside » Mon Dec 15, 2014 8:40 pm

Soulsaver wrote:Thanks George - we're started. Trying to keep on topic looks tricky already... but will be worth the effort.


Having learnt a simple ditty this way, is there 'more' to upscaling it to more difficult pieces? Or just more of the same?

Does the ability to remember the tune you've learnt BE (by ear) follow naturally? Or is there technique that you'll be commenting on, too?




learning a more complex tune is , within reason, just an extension of learning a 'simple ditty'. The trick is to break down the more complex tune into a number of 'simple ditty's' , learn them separately and then put them together in the right order.

Most if not all folk/trad tunes contain repeated bars and phrases. Listening for the repeats greatly reduces the amount of learning. eg the 16 bar tune DAvy nick nack sounds quite complicated but it isn't ! It only has 6 different bars!. As the normal practice is to play 2 A parts and 2 B parts (verses and choruses) that adds up to 32 bars for the price of 6 - a bargain by any standards.

Another example is the Keel Row, which can be played as a hornpipe march or reel 4 different bars in in a 16 bar tune!

If you have a copy of the dots even if you can't read them or if you are a poor reader you should be able to spot repeated bars by just looking at the pattern of dots in each bar

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Re: learning to play the accordion by ear

Postby george garside » Mon Dec 15, 2014 8:44 pm

Soulsaver wrote:Thanks George - we're started.
Does the ability to remember the tune you've learnt BE (by ear) follow naturally? Or is there technique that you'll be commenting on, too?



If you can't remember a tune you've learned by ear then you havn't learned it by ear!

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