Sunday, January 07, 2007

Post-Seasons Greetings

Yes, I've been seriously out of touch here for some time, but now that the dust has settled on the xmas cards and 2007 is in full swing, I promise to bring you some interesting new articles and more, besides.
Thank-you to those who have emailed me over the past month or so, either to make contact or with holiday wishes. Your messages are appreciated.
Since I put the moderation setting on comments here, I notice things have become very quiet. That's a shame, as there had been some interesting and thought provoking comments posted previously. I certainly did not mean to discourage these! If anyone has tried to post comments and had difficulty, do please let me know by direct email, and I will see what can be done.
I hope we can have a fun and informative year together with our accordions.


Anonymous said...

happy new year to you too,

look forward to reading some of your articles in the new year,

Unknown said...

Hi, just found your blog randomly. I've been playing the accordion for quite a while and it's nice to find someone who is so genuinely helpful.

I play in a band, but occasionally help my own teacher by filling in for him once in a while. I get on okay I think, but I have most difficulty when trying to teach a complete beginner.

I was wondering what approach you use when introducing someone to the instrument for the first time? I've never had any teacher training or anything, so I pretty much make it up as I go along.

Well, I enjoyed reading your blog, keep going!


Kris Hughes said...

Welcome, Neil. What a great question! And I'll bet you find you learn loads about playing by teaching others. Am I right?

Okay, briefly, it goes like this with complete beginners:

1) After some preliminary chat I show them what it looks like when I play, how I hold the box, then we adjust their straps, etc.

2) I show them how to find the C bass row and get them vamping a simple oompah on C, then hopefully get the out-in of the bellows organised along with this. (So many notes out, and so many in.) If this is easy for them we add moving to G. One reason I always start with the left hand is that most people are scared of it. The sooner we get started the sooner the can stop worrying about it and they usually discover that it's easy after all.

3) Holding a long note, any note, with the right hand, we begin to work on correct left arm position, etc for operating the bellows efficiently.

4) I make sure they know the names of the notes on the piano keyboard. If they don't, then we probably start with just C-D-E-F-G.

5) I may introduce music reading next, if that is unfamiliar. Just learning the names of a few treble clef notes, and perhaps how to locate them on the keyboard.

6) I try to find a song we both know, and if I don't have the words handy, we write them down together. Then I encourage the pupil to pick this out on the right hand keyboard. By ear! I will prompt them a little or a lot, depending on what they need. In time I will show them how to fit in a left hand accompaniment, but it's quite likely that we will only do it as a duet - taking turns playing the right and left hand parts.

7) Next, I begin to introduce two-handed playing by playing one note rhythms in the right hand along with vamps in the left. Starting with long notes in the right accompanied by several left hand strokes, and working toward the right hand playing faster than the left. Throughout this, I emphasise the importance of using the left hand to keep the beat, and of keeping the left hand staccato, even when the right hand is sustained. Two very important cornerstones of the Scottish accordion style.

8) Only now would I begin to introduce concepts like reading rhythms and working on right hand fingering and technique, scales, etc.

Well, you got me started, there! Of course whether the above takes an hour of two or several months will vary from pupil to pupil. I hope it gives you a few ideas.


Bill said...

I'm glad to hear from you. I was hoping you were still around. Here's to looking forward to your blogging.

Laurie Sammons said...

Hi Kris,
I also am glad you're still on! I have a question about rolls. My introduction to them seemed to go well, but I feel as though I've quickly become sloppy with them. Any practice techniques for how to play them faster and cleaner?


Kris Hughes said...

Hi Laurie -
I will be back on writing more in a couple of weeks! Hang in there.

Your question about rolls is a big one to answer in the time I have today. I have had another question about ornaments, too, so hopefully I will be able to help you soon! Your patience is appreciated.


Hugh said...

Hello,I was looking for a PA teacher in Dublin and found your site, this is great from what I have seen. I would like to find folks that either teach or play in a teaching group.I want to learn Trad music but for now I know a few balads and a reel or so.I feel I just past the beginner stage and can not seem to move ahead teaching myself.Would like to meet others that share my intrests in Trad.Would anyone have a suggestion Thanks a million Hugh

Kris Hughes said...

Hi Hugh - thanks for getting in touch. There must be a lot of resources in Dublin for playing and learning trad. and the piano accordion, too.

A good place to start might be this website
which is a discussiont forum and storehouse of all kinds of information on Irish music. Check out the "Events" and "Links" sections, or try asking this question on the Discussion Forum. As well as events and teachers local to you, there are festivals all over Ireland that offer tuition as part of the package for a week or weekend. Many of these will be listed there.

Also, have your tried looking for your local brance of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann? They would have learning sessions and probably tutors. Here's the link to thier website.


Hugh said...

Thanks for the tips Kris, I have found a few tips already reading through the post you have here and found them to be helpfull. I will stay in touch and let you know how I make out. Thanks again Hugh

Bill said...

Are you ok? Where are you? I enjoy your online lessons. Come back, come back from where ever you are.
Like I'm one to say anything, my blog was last updated in July!

Kris Hughes said...

Hi Bill -
I am absolutely fine, thanks for asking. I have been very busy, and just struggling to juggle everything.

I will get back to this project - I hope it will be soon. Thanks for letting me know that you like my little essays, I'm so pleased if they are helpful.


Kris Hughes said...

Hi Gerald -
I am just touching base very briefly (no pun intended!) to check my emails. I will be back in a couple of days and will tell you about some exercises that can help you make the leap from a steady vamp in the left hand to the less regular style you are talking about. You are certainly on the right track to be trying this.


Gerald said...

Of course I meant bass, sometimes I have trouble spellling!
Where are you?
I'm 53 years old now and I really want to get considerably better at box playing before I die so I need those exercises real soon, before arthritis sets in and cripples my hands to the point of being useless appendages!! [sic]
I do very well on the PA vamping in 3/4 and 4/4 time on songs, but am rather lost on the BA attempts at what could be called the 'uilleann pipe' style of bass on Irish tunes.
Come back soon.
All the best,

Whatailsyou said...

Dear Kris, this is Sabine. What a long time no hear and I lost your address years ago! Jürgen died two years ago, ... Leonard is 12 now! SO this makes it about 13 years since we last met in person!!

Whenever I go to Göttingen I remember you busking there.

We live 25 km away from Göttingen now and I have just sent off some emails to get more info on the Shetland Fiddle festival ....

Would love to be back in touch, am dreaming of organizing an event here at my house with lots of folk music up and down the hills (we have six head of cattle and they all LOVE music)!

Lots of love, Sabine (Besenhausen a long time ago when we first met, now Mollenfelde)

Kris Hughes said...

How nice to hear from you! Please email me privately for a chat.