Free Button Accordion Tutorial: Egan’s Polka

Here’s a free button accordion tutorial using some footage of a workshop I gave in Bonn/Germany about two years ago. The recording is supposed to help the participants remember the tune and the bass line as well as some ornamentation. I always teach this tune to my students, it’s simple yet fun to play. Especially when spiced up with some nice bass notes.

Have a look:

Download the free sheet music for the lesson here:

Download free sheets

If you have any questions or want a lesson in person or via skype, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

How to play fast on the button accordion?

“What do I have to do to play tunes faster on the button accordion?” is by far the most asked question when I teach Irish button accordion to my students. Here are some tips & tricks that will help you to play fast tunes:

Play efficient

Keep your fingers close to the buttons. The less far the finger needs to travel to press down the button, the better!

how to play tunes fast on melodeon

Try to operate the bellows with minimal effort. It does not require much work to make your box sound! Find a good compromise between desired loudness (it needs to sound good!) and effortless playing. Little bellow movements can be carried out very controlled and very fast. Don’t push and pull too hard. You will tire out and have little control, sounding hasty and sloppy.

Hint: If one or two notes, need much more bellow pressure to sound right, have your accordion repairman take a look. Very often, this can be fixed fairly easy.

Minimize ornamentation

It’s possible to play fast and still use all the beautiful, delicate ornaments. However if you are struggling with keeping up speed, then it’s time to let go the fancy ornaments. It makes a good exercise too: Just focus on the tune and groove!

Re-think fingering

If somehow you are always running out of fingers, you need to re-think your fingering.

I personally consider the following  points most important:

  • As a rule-of-thumb you should play “one button, one finger”. Meaning whenever you change the button, you change the finger too. No sliding from one note to the other.
  • Use your pinky! Four fingers is already little enough, so make sure to use all of them.
  • Analyze where things go wrong. There is a part in a tune where you always get stuck? Most likely it can be resolved by changing the fingers in a smarter way before that part comes up. Look at the following examples of common tune patterns and my suggested fingering 

Irish button accordion fingering techniques

Hint: Need help? Sign up for a lesson with Ole either in person or via Skype if you want to learn how to play tunes faster on a button accordion.

Listen to as much Irish accordion music as you can!

Fiddle players might  favor a different version of a tune than you. It’s easy to play for them, but hard for you.  In this case, search for a box recording of that tune. Not always, but often you might find a variant that sounds and plays better on the box. If you are in a band and have to play what the fiddle plays, check out the next point.

Practice!

This is by far the most important point. Practice should be fun: Don’t practice one phrase over and over and over again like the classical players do. Instead play it a couple of times and when you feel you get frustrated, play something else for a while to give your brain some rest. Then, try it again. If it still doesn’t work, try again tomorrow or in the evening. It will work eventually and then it feels great :-) 

To be most efficient, you should try to practice at least every other day. It doesn’t need to be long, but it must be frequent. I found that 20-30 mins practice every other day generated quite a boost in my repertoire and skills.   

For Sale: Paolo Soprani Elite II B/C

If you are digging the old Paolo sound as much as we do, then this box might well tempt you: We are selling a 4-voice (LMMM) B/C tuned red Paolo Soprani Elite II at an affordable price. The instrument shows some age related wear and tear on the backside but is in excellent playing condition.

The accordion was most likely made between 1980-90. It comes with 9-treble couplers that allow for an M, MM, MMM, LM, LMMM sound. Four couplers are dublicate. The bass coupler takes out the lower bass and thirds. The instrument is tuned to a nice Paolo style tremolo.

Hear it played!

It comes with a suitable hard case and two shoulder straps. This is a private sale out of our personal collection and trade-in offers are welcome.

Price: Sold.

Contact us for more details about the red Paolo Soprani Elite II in B/C.

For Sale: Weltmeister C/F (516)

We just finished servicing a lovely wooden Weltmeister 516 melodeon in C/F, made in Germany. The melodeon was bought in 2007 and has hardly ever been played. Apart from some very minor scratches below the keyboard, the instrument is in excellent condition. It is well in tune with a medium wet tremolo that sounds full and warm. However, in case you prefer a dry tremolo, we will re-tune the melodeon for a small additional fee.

weltmeister 516 melodeon in C/F

The fifth button of the inside row has been switched. In Dutch this is called “gedraaide 5de toets” and a common (and handy!) Dutch modification. If needed, this can be reversed without any additional cost.

The instrument feels new and plays very easy. Therefore this quality melodeon is an ideal beginners instrument that is easy to handle and easy to make sound good:

The melodeon comes with a set of two nice shoulder straps and custom fit solid case as well as our 1-year workshop warranty.

Price: 726 EUR (including 21% VAT, excluding Shipping)

Drop us a note if you are interested in this lovely Weltmeister 516 melodeon in C/F.

Things inside the Box #3

I happily live in the Netherlands for a couple of years now. Before I moved here, I knew from the telling of fellow trad. musicians that the Irish session in Mulligan’s Bar in Amsterdam is top-notch and it surely is. However, what I did not know is that there exists a vivid Dutch button accordion scene outside the trad. Irish music regime.

The Dutch refer to a two row diatonic button accordion as a “trekzak” which probably translates best as “pull-bag”. There exists a variety of dedicated Dutch trekzak pages, one of which is The Harmonikahoek I already highlighted in a recent post. In general many tabulature is available for free and many workshops and lessons from notable players can be found online. There are trekzak clubs and dedicated trekzak festivals like the annual busking festival in Enkhuizen.

This episode of inside the box is dedicated to a very Dutch modification to the two row box:

De gedraaide 5de toets / The switched 5th button

So what is a switched fifth button supposed to be? It refers to the fifth button on the inner row. For this button the push/pull pattern is reversed. Here’s a look inside a box where someone has switched the fifth button by himself:

As you can see it’s quite literally a switch, a switch of the reed plates! The two reeds that correspond to the fifth button are taken off, turned around, waxed on and tuned again.

So what is it good for? Honestly, the first time I tried to play such a box I found it very confusing and not particularly appealing. However, this initial confusion faded fast.

The concept

To explain the concept, I shall focus on a C/F tuned box. It translates to other tunings such as G/D or A/D as well.

On a C/F box the fifth button on the inside row contains the notes C and D as shown on the keyboard schematics below.

De gedraaide 5de toets, keyboard layout.

Main advantage is that – with the fifth button turned – both notes C and D can be played on either push or pull. The player can choose depending on the tune. This allows you too match the note to the basses more easily.

As shown in above figure, you can play half the scale on the same bellows movement. This will result in a much much smoother sound of the tune. However, if you want the old push ‘n draw style, you can just pick the C and D from the other -non turned- buttons.

De gedraaide 5de toets, sheet music.

I have to say, after serviced a couple of accordions with a gedraaide 5de toets, I grew quite fond of this keyboard modification. It’s easy to adopt too and fun to play.

If you are curious and consider to try de gedraaide 5de toets, contact me for info and pricing. It is a fast, cheap and above-all reversible modification.

➡ things inside the box #2

➡ things inside the box #1

Custom restoration of a 1950ies Hohner Erika

I just finished the restoration of an old Hohner Erika with a lovely wooden keyboard. Judged by the characteristic recessed grille, black bellows and black wooden keyboard, this is one of the first Erika accordions made by Hohner in the mid-fifties. One of the first in this incredibly successful button accordion series. Certainly this is one of the oldest Erika boxes I have seen so far. Above all, it sounds nice too!

Here is a sound sample of the converted accordion.

Drop me a note if you would like to have a custom made accordion too.

Things inside the Box #2

In this things-inside-the-box post, I will have to stretch the premise a tiny bit and move to things outside the box. This one is about a shoulder or thumb strap on the accordion and things in between. In between? Yes, apparently such a thing exists. But see for yourself:

I always thought that there are three ways one can hold and play the button accordion:

One shoulder strap

2018 Sharon Shannon - by 2eight - DSC3303

Two shoulder straps

Tony MacMahon

Only thumb strap

Whether the shoulder or thumb strap on the accordion is to be preferred is discussed by many (for example here) but seems to be a matter of personal preference in the end.

With this in mind, take a look at the following

That’s the first time I have ever seen a concertina-like hand strap on an accordion.

For me it feels awful to play and that’s mostly because the fingers are forced in such a weird position. I can imagine someone who is used to placing his hand behind the keyboard, like Mairtin O’Connor, might actually be ok with it…

It would be interesting to know if someone else has come across such a construction before. Or even more so, if someone is actually playing like this?

What do you think?

➡ things inside the box #1

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Top 5 Best Irish Accordion Albums

We all have a soft spot for top lists and to my surprise I couldn’t find a ” Top 5 Best Irish accordion albums ” online, so here it is: My favorite accordion albums of all time.

My personal taste in accordion sounds tends towards more tremolo and slower more old-school kind of playing. However, this has not always been the case, so later on I will follow up with my favorite non-old-school button box records. If you have some nice suggestions feel free to drop me a note.

I think its very important to support the artist by buying their music. Therefore I have attached links below to where you can buy this music. Some of the artists can also be found on streaming sites, others don’t.

The amazon links below are affiliate links, if you choose to use those, you support me and this site.

#5 Notes from the Heart – The Mulcahy Family

Mick, Michelle and Louise Mulcahy have recorded this fantastic and much praised album in 2008 and I lost count how many times I have heard it since. Such a lovely flow.

Tip: check out the set that starts with – The Leitrim Lilter –

#4 Up and Coming – Oisin & Conal Hernon

A cool Banjo/Box album by Oisin and Conal Hernon – this one deserves much more attention than it currently gets. The two have recorded multiple albums together but this is the only old-school sounding one as far as I know.

Tip: check out Micky Quinn’s.

#3 Martin Quinn & Angelina Carberry

Really tight Banjo/Box playing by two masters! The tunes are quite interesting non-standard tunes or at least I have not heard them played so often. The opening set – McCarthy’s and McGann’s – is a firm favorite of the Amsterdam Session’s two box players.

#2 In Retrospect – Danny O’Mahony

Danny O’Mahony’s fantastic first solo record. In my opinion one the best if not *the* best box album ever made. Created by an exceptional artist. I have not found any place where one can buy the digital album online, but it’s possible to order an actual CD (that’s also what I did).

For example from Claddagh Records.

…and here comes the number 1:

#1 The Kitchen Recordings – Sean O’Driscoll & Larry Egan

Hands down the best Banjo/Box album. Love the sound and playing of Larry Egan, the selection of tunes and the laid back feel this record has. Have they or maybe Larry Egan made any other recordings? I’m only aware of this one and I would love to hear more!

Tip: The Cuil Aodha/Nettles in the Soup

I hope you enjoyed my Top 5 Best Irish button accordion albums! If your favourite album is missing or you have some nice suggestions feel free to drop me a note.

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Same hohner box – very different tunings

Custom button accordion tuning: same Hohner box, very different sound! Listen to a side by side comparison below.

Recently I have fitted a vintage black Hohner box with a set of new Super Dural Reeds.

The tuning I choose was a medium wet tuning with +-10ct A.

Vintage black Hohner in C#/D with a medium wet tuning

Following the new owners wish, the box was re-tuned to a much wetter – Paolo like – tremolo. I am quite surprised what difference that makes but have a listen for yourself:

Vintage black Hohner in C#/D with a very wet -Paolo like- tuning

Personally, I love that new sound! So from now on, this particular – non-standard – tuning has a firm part in my tuning repertoire.

If you have any custom button accordion tuning questions or requests feel free to contact me.

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Weltmeister in A/D (“gedraaide 5de Toets”)

A very pretty Weltmeister button accordion for sale in A/D, freshly tuned and serviced – ready to play. The accordion sounds very mellow and quiet because A/D is much lower sounding in pitch than C/F. This is a perfect instrument for a beginner or someone with sensitive neighbors.

A Swedish waltz played on the Weltmeister A/D

The bellows are as new, the keyboard plays smooth and quiet and the instrument is light and easy to handle.

The accordion has the following features:

  • New tuning to medium flat tremolo (+8 ct on A)
  • Gedraaide 5de toets – push/pull of 5ths button on inside row is reversed. Note: I can remove this if needed.
  • Optional: Bass without thirds
  • Shoulder strap
  • Full 1-year workshop warranty
  • You can add a suitable hard case for an additional fee

Price: Sold.

Contact

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