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.   

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