Take the 2-minute tour ×
Musical Practice & Performance Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for musicians, students, and enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Obviously, a good way to learn would be to buy an Accordion, some books, watch a few videos on youtube and just spend a few years with some hard practice. However I'm not naturally musically talented, and I'm on a budget, but I am passionate about learning the Accordion.

Most Piano Accordion's I've seen for sale go for at least £500 new, if not much more. There are some very cheap ones on eBay. Is the 'musical quality' of an accordion guarenteed to lessen with age? Or does it really depend on the individual accordion?

Is there a recognised best book to learn accordion? Or is this subjective? (if so, let me know so I can ask elsewhere) If so, is there one that doesn't rely on sheet music?

share|improve this question
add comment

2 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I play a little melodeon; many of the same principles apply.

There's a lot that can go wrong with a bellows instrument over time. Reeds rust, bellows seals rot, joints seize up. None of this will happen if they are looked after or stored properly. All of it will happen if they're left in a damp cellar for 20 years.

Many parts of a bellows instrument can be replaced or repaired, but if you're balking at £500 for an instrument, you probably don't want to pay for professional maintenance. Compare it to a £200 entry-level guitar, which has much fewer moving parts, and much bigger economies of scale. Guitarists are spoilt when it comes to the availability of affordable instruments.

As a beginner, with any instrument, you should be less concerned with timbre, and most concerned with basic responsiveness. You'll be seriously held back if you try to learn on an instrument where the reeds respond unevenly, or there are some stuck keys. You'd be learning habits to compensate for the instrument's faults, that wouldn't be useful habits when you move to a better instrument.

For this reason, I think it would be a mistake to buy an accordion from eBay sight-unseen. Handle it before you buy it. When you take into account the travel costs this might entail, perhaps £500 will start to seem less expensive.

Just to add to your financial fears; I'd really really recommend some one-on-one lessons. You say you're not "musically talented". This means you're really going to struggle without the help of a teacher.

It might be a good idea, in fact, to find the teacher before you find the instrument. The teacher might be able to lend you an instrument or put you in touch with someone who can lend you one. Then you'd have a chance to find out if the accordion is really for you, and when you buy one, you'll have enough of the fundamentals to be able to tell a playable instrument from a dud.

share|improve this answer
2  
If you're under 25, and in the UK, bear in mind the Take It Away scheme, for interest free credit. takeitaway.org.uk/page/what-is-take-it-away –  slim Dec 22 '11 at 10:54
    
That's excellent. Thanks very much for the advice! –  Pureferret Dec 22 '11 at 13:57
add comment

With regard to instruments aging: cheap instruments age a lot more than expensive ones, and well-kept old instruments age very little. My own instrument is a special build from 1960 custom-made for a soloist. Its action is noisier and heavier than that of new instruments of similar class. Its sound and responsiveness, however, is of the kind where you forgive a lot.

Which takes me to the next point. It is actually a chromatic button accordion. While you have not yet invested significant time into playing, think about the decision to play that rather than a piano accordion.

The main advantage of a piano accordion is that it looks like a piano. But all the mechanics and mass and leverage that make a piano keyboard good for piano playing are not useful for an accordion as the keyboard is not used for delivering the sound energy but for controlling valves. The principal means of attack/volume control is the bellows. And where one does employ the keys or buttons for dynamics (mostly interesting for controlled phrasing in one hand only which one cannot do by the bellows while sustaining notes in the other hand), one wants minimal mass and mechanics interfering with controlled throttling of airflow.

It is probably not an accident that those nations having an accordion folk music tradition very often have a chromatic button accordion tradition, many of them also with a diatonic button tradition as well: Italy, France (with separate Basque tradition), Switzerland, Finland, Belgium, Russia, Serbia, Austria (with Vienna having created the Schrammelharmonika).

If you want to play in a band mostly by ear, the regular layout of the chromatic button accordion is a boon. If you play from score sheets (like in an orchestra), the piano button keyboard matches the notation better.

The mismatch of "controls" with notation makes tablature quite popular for amateur guitar playing. There is no equivalent instrument-specific notation for chromatic button accordion, so particularly polyphonic music requires quite a lot of getting used to when playing from score sheets. As one consequence, many amateur accordion orchestras (where playing from score sheets is essential) show piano keyboards even in countries with a button accordion tradition.

Another factor is size: I have a small two-reed chromatic button accordion that I can comfortably wear while standing and singing. Piano accordions in that size are mostly toys with something like 30 keys on the right hand. In contrast, this small 80-bass CBA has more than the full keyboard range of a full-size 120-bass 41-key piano accordion.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.