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I have been playing accordion for 8-9 months and one of the difficulties I am currently encountering is playing the bass/buttons as because I can't see them at all unless using a mirror (even then the help they provide is limited) it's not quite as easy as "oh I need to press that" I hear that the way to do something without looking is called muscle memory (correct me if im wrong) and hear that in order to build muscle memory I need to repeat something again and again with as little error as possible. is this correct? at the moment I'm learning despacito and it seems when everything goes well it sounds great (in my own opinon lol) however sometimes I will make the same mistake repeatedly and so as said I'm unsure as to what I have to do to be able to do these things.

thanks

  • Switch to banjo :-) (hey, at least I didn't suggest the viola!) – Carl Witthoft May 8 '18 at 13:00
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Just a suggestion from a non-accordion-playing musician. Yes, muscular memory sounds right to me.
I would suggest that you break it down - pick an easy key (say C maj?) and acquaint your bass playing fingers with the C, G and F buttons. Play as many simple pieces as you can that use those three notes/chords. Firstly just play the bass, then eventually add the other hand. After a while, you will find that those bass notes are easy to find. Once there, go to another key (say G maj?) Do the same - G, D and C buttons (you already know C, so it's good positive reinforcement). This way, you can slowly but surely build up your muscular memory of all the bass notes.

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The key to muscle memory is to create an automatic pathway traveling down the nerves from the brain to the fingers. The movement must be done accurately over and over. To ensure accuracy, the movement must be broken up into small bits and done extremely slowly. After the movement can be done slowly "without thought", then the speed can be increased incrementally. Increase the tempo by tiny amounts at a time and only increase as the accuracy remains. As soon as a mistake is made, you know you're going too fast. Slow back down a little and do it again. Don't expect this to happen in one practice session. Build up over time.

As Jomiddnz suggested, start with one key. Get used to where the buttons are located in reference to each other. When playing slowly, take the time to really feel the distance. How much do your hands stretch? How far apart are your fingers? Do you move up to the right or down to the left (or whatever the movements are for accordion.) The idea is to be mindful about every motion.

I use this technique when practicing piano and even used it today when I was getting everything right except for stumbling in one or two measures. I slowed those measures right down and got to work. I am an excellent sight-reader, and the reason is because of muscle memory. I am terrible at memorizing songs, but I have the piano keyboard memorized. I can play it blindfolded if I know the song because I can feel where every single key is in relation to my body. So when I am sight-reading a piece, my mind can translate those notes into hand and finger positions on the keyboard. It really works, but there's not shortcut.

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In addition to what the other folks said, concentrating on one hand at a time helps. In particular, I found learning the left-hand-only songs in "Melodic Adventures in Bass-Land" to be useful.

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