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Free Piano Accordion Tutorial

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Karen Tweed

Karen TweedKaren Tweed started to play the piano accordion at eleven years of age. Her first teacher was Joe Coll from Corby, Northamptonshire. Karen later began to take Irish music lessons from John Whelan, the great button accordion player, and classical piano accordion lessons from Lawry Eady. In 1977 she won the first of five All-Ireland championships, and she retired from competition as All-Ireland senior champion in 1981.

In ’89, while performing at the Hong Kong folk festival, Karen met Sally Barker and this meeting soon led to the forming of the Poozies. One year later Karen was asked to join the Kathryn Tickell Band and, Sally Barker and the Rhythm, so she decided to move to Northumberland where all three bands were based.

In 1994 Karen formed a duo with the gifted Ian Carr with whom she recorded two albums. These led to many tours abroad and, during one such tour, Karen and Ian met Swedish fiddlers Carina Normansson and Ola Backstrom, and so SWAP was formed. Many recording projects were undertaken during this period, while the touring schedule remained hectic; The British Council tours of Lesotho, Turkey and Egypt of ’95 being particularly successful.

A desire to spend some more time (working) at home led Karen to set up Chapel Lunch Productions in 1999, the aim of which is to promote community concerts and workshops within the East Derby area. Karen has been a co-organiser of Folk Beat Derby Festival (community workshops and tuition with attendance of 350 students) and Folkworks Adult Summer School, Durham, for the past two years. This has led to a post as Core Tutor and Assistant to the Director, Alistair Anderson, on the Degree Course in Folk Music at Newcastle-upon-Tyne starting September 2001.

Karen released her latest recording ‘May Monday’ to critical acclaim in April 2000, and this will be supported by tours in Ireland, UK, Germany, Estonia, USA, Japan and Scandinavia throughout the year. To date Karen Tweed is featured on over 15 CD’s with ensembles such as The Kathryn Tickell Band, The Poozies, SWAP, Ian Carr and Karen Tweed, and The Two Duos Quartet. She continues to tour widely, promote local music events, and, teach at summer schools and privately whilst at home.

How To Hold The Piano Accordion

Piano Accordion Place your right hand on the piano keyboard. Care should be taken when picking up the instrument - they are reasonably heavy so try to keep your back straight when lifting. The accordion should be close to your body and I would advise that you sit when you first start to play, as you will find you have more control and will manage the bellows more easily than you would standing.

It is also important to have the ’main block’ (the part on the front where the accordion maker’s name usually appears) central to your sternum. Then I would advise you to use a back strap - preferably one with some flexibility, so that the instrument is not too close to your chin and you don’t feel choked by it! I use a pair of tights or a scarf as I feel that factory produced leather back straps do not allow enough flexibility.

Piano Accordions come in all different sizes (categorized by the number of basses) and I prefer playing the 72 bass models as they have an adequate bass range for folk music accompaniment and the same range on the right hand (keyboard side) as a fiddle. I would suggest that if you are playing a 72 bass size accordion or smaller, sit with your legs slightly apart, so that the accordion rests comfortably.

If you are playing a larger accordion than that, sit with your legs apart and adjust your straps so that the keyboard side (the side next to your wrist, not your knees) leans onto your right thigh. I believe that posture with the accordion is very important and if you keep to these suggestions you should not encounter any backache or tendon-related problems.

Beginners - D Major.

So, now let’s get to work on the keyboard side! As Irish music uses a lot of scales and arpeggios in it’s melody lines, it’s a good idea to learn a major scale on the right hand, before learning your first tune. Start slowly at first, making sure you stick to the fingering I have suggested and going faster as you feel more confident. Keep the bellows pressure low and try to play the scale as smoothly as possible.

As you will see from the video clip, you start on the lowest D (pitch-wise) on your keyboard playing upwards to the next D and then come back down the scale again.

The fingering I suggest ensures that the wrist is always relaxed and stays parallel to the keyboard as I explained in the introduction. When your wrist remains parallel to the keyboard, your fingers become sure of where each note lies: that helps with precision and allows you to play confidently without looking at the keyboard.

D Major

Play Video ⬇

Beginners - Last Night’s Fun.

When learning a new tune, always try to keep to the same routine: look at the right hand melody first and practice it slowly; listen to it a few times to get it into your head. Try to keep the speed the same throughout; don’t rush the parts that are easy and slow down for the parts that are difficult. Play the tune at the speed where you can play the difficult parts comfortably and work up from there.

In the second part you will see that there are a number of repeated F#’s; normally these wouldn’t be played, but rather, some ornamentation would be employed in their place. This is a good example of a tune inherently requiring some form of ornamentation rather than ornamental embellishments being employed purely for their own sake; we will see how this is accomplished when we return to the tune. This is also a single reel.

Last Night’s Fun

Play A Part ⬇

Play B Part ⬇

Play Full Tune ⬇

Tobin’s Fancy.

This is another jig that is based on the D arpeggio. Some of the bass runs should be familiar to you now. Keep the bass hand light and notice in the full version that we now incorporate both the fundamental and counter bass buttons for single notes at the end of each part, rather than playing a fundamental followed by a chord.

Tobin’s Fancy

Play A Part ⬇

Play B Part ⬇

Play Full Tune ⬇