Is the accordion hard to learn? It's not difficult... It just requires the same time and energy as learning any other instrument. What most learners are looking to understand, though, is how to learn the accordion. What’s the best way to learn the accordion so it isn’t overly difficult and keeps you motivated?
If you’ve ever tried to learn an instrument, you know that there is a difference between “playing” the instrument, and really playing the instrument.
Playing the accordion
I want to differentiate between those two things:
In the first, you wind up reading notes from a piece of paper and playing back those notes on your instrument. In the best case, you memorize a few songs that you may forget in a few months.
In the second method of ‘playing,’ the accordion becomes an extension of you; you understand the piece of music you are playing and express it in your own way. Wouldn’t that be nice?
If you’ve been moved by a performance, enough to make you want to try the instrument yourself, it’s likely the second version of “playing” you’re after.
In this article, I’ll discuss both methods of learning. Still, I will heavily emphasize the second approach - understanding and connecting with your accordion meaningfully. Note: I learned music using the first method - traditional musical education - for a few years before transitioning to the second method.
Learn the accordion or feel the accordion
Let’s start with an example. I want you to see (and hear) the difference between reading music and playing music.
(This will make sense even if you’ve never played music before).
Below is a piece of sheet music - Bach’s ‘Minuet in G’ from ‘The Little Notebook’.
In the video below, I play the piece twice. The first time, exactly as it's written, and the second time, by looking at the piece in its entirety.
Have a listen.
Notice the difference in the accordion tune?
The second version is musical. It rises and falls. Melody and music are happening - it’s not just notes.
Let’s take another example. ‘Alla Turca’ by Mozart.
When I am forced to read, I'm reading. each. note. and. playing. each. chord. which prevents me from seeing the big picture and dynamically playing the rhythm and song. The second time, however, I understand that there are just three chords in the song - A minor, E minor, and B major - before landing on the E minor again. And that rhythm? Not difficult at all!
NOT reading accordion sheet music makes a staggering difference!
And this is for classical music. Imagine the difference this makes in popular music.
Now, don’t get me wrong - sheet music is necessary for three things:
- To play certain types of technical music where every note matters
- To play certain types of music when multiple musicians or voices are involved
- To help along with learning a song when you are stuck
However, sheet music is not required for the performance of a song.
When actors are filmed, they no longer read from the cue cards.
When chefs cook a meal, they no longer read from the recipe.
When you are walking to your favourite spot you’ve visited hundreds of times before, you don’t need step-by-step directions.
Part of the reason instruments are considered “difficult to learn” and why students quit learning an instrument is that so much time is spent teaching students to read sheet music. When do we get to play?! Instead, why not have an approach that teaches the basics of the instrument and, along with those basics, also teaches creativity, feeling, and play.
How to learn to play accordion
Learning to play accordion is really about learning to play songs
We learn to play songs on the accordion by dividing our practice into three parts:
- The physical exercise of our fingers, by which we connect our body with our instrument
- The mental exercise of understanding the song we are learning
- Exercising the connection between what we hear and what we play through ear-training exercises
In the physical exercise, we take 10 minutes to practice the left hand of the accordion and then the right hand of the accordion.
In the mental exercise, we spend 5 minutes with the song we are learning. It could be spent listening to the song, understanding its chord structure, reviewing a problematic part of it, etc.
At the last minute, we perform ear-training exercises to fine-tune the connection between what we hear and play.
That’s what learning to play the accordion looks like.
While every learner is different, it really does come down to these basics
Really? Will 15 minutes of practice have me learning the accordion?
Yes! Really! Learning the accordion can be easy.
The trick to learning any new skill - including learning to play the accordion - is to do that thing consistently and with logic.
‘Consistently’means finding 15 minutes to practice the accordion multiple times a week. That’s doable for even the busiest person. If you can’t find 15 minutes a few times a week to learn something you want to learn, it may not be the right time for you to learn to play right now. Is the accordion hard to learn? Not if you have 15 minutes.
‘With logic’means that you are practicing with exercises relevant to what you want to accomplish. If your goal is to play a song “with feeling,” then part of your practice should be playing “with feeling.”
Is the accordion hard to learn? What if I have more questions?
Like I wrote in my article about the best way of learning accordion, we live in a magical time for musical education. You can learn from the comfort of your home; virtual accordion communities and resources are at your fingertips! My favourite part about teaching on AccordionLove.com is helping my students work through trouble areas. Once or twice a week, I’ll receive a video from a student with a question about a piece they are working on or trouble with a specific technique. I’ll reply with a video message tailored to their learning, with ideas on how to progress. It’s a magical time for learning indeed!
Want to see what the 15 minutes of practice looks like? Check out my 15 minute guide to accordion practice.
Ready to start learning the accordion?
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