The Easiest Way to learn B/C accordion without a teacher?

The Easiest Way to learn B/C accordion without a teacher?

Hey folks

Just wondered your opinion on this? My sister just bought a vintage hohner, but has no idea how to start, and is adamant that she will not spend money on tuition.

Are there any great books out there to teach her? Or any other methods?

Thanks
Ed

Re: The Easiest Way to learn B/C accordion without a teacher?

While I’m not personally a B/C box player, I have started learning the C#/D box. I took a look at the OAIM courses for B/C, since I already had a membership for getting some flute tips. The videos seemed pretty solid, and there’s a 7-day free trial. https://www.oaim.ie/

Re: The Easiest Way to learn B/C accordion without a teacher?

"… has no idea how to start, and is adamant that she will not spend money on tuition …"

That seems a bit of an oxymoron. Teaching oneself is an admirable path to choose, but you have to have *some* idea of how to start. If you have "no idea", then you need some kind of tuition to get you started. She might find some kindly soul willing to give up a few hours of their time for no recompense but an expression containing "free lunch" comes to mind. Might she consider a skill exchange? Can she make jam, do gardening, fix bikes, design conservatories?

I should make it clear that I am not offering tuition myself - I am equally clueless about B/C accordions.

Re: The Easiest Way to learn B/C accordion without a teacher?

Two approaches - learn where the notes are on the fingerboard (including scales up and down, C, G, D, Am, Em, Bm etc.) and try simple tunes at first (Twinkle Twinkle etc. are OK) OR learn the tunes of the Irish repertoire first and figure out how the system works along the way.

Some very basic videos:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVNd7wFpDao

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Es7AamVHqYo

Re: The Easiest Way to learn B/C accordion without a teacher?

Learning the B/C system in particular without a teacher is a tough assignment. No harm in trying though - but when your sister hits a wall she might reconsider.

Here is an introductory video for people who know nothing about button accordions that might be worth watching. It talks about C#/D but nearly everything applies to B/C.

https://youtu.be/cxryj37OE4c

Re: The Easiest Way to learn B/C accordion without a teacher?

I’m a self taught B/C player but played (Irish) flute before I started. At the time there was only one book/tutor available - "The Box" which came with a tape. It was good enough to get started but Damien Connolly’s - The Irish Accordion Tutor for B/C is much better and is supplied with a DVD. The free OAIM videos are good but only cover basic stuff.
A vintage Hohner may not have the correct basses for playing Irish tunes but that’s probably not an issue at the moment.

Re: The Easiest Way to learn B/C accordion without a teacher?

Anyone who sets out on B/C without guidance specific to that system is likely to end up playing C#/D style up and down the row. B/C is non intuitive.

Re: The Easiest Way to learn B/C accordion without a teacher?

This is probably the last time I’ll ever weigh in on similar discussions. As my Dad used to say " don’t try and teach a goat to sing. You can’t do it and it annoys the goat".

I really do understand, and admire the spirit that many have that leads some to believe that they can go it alone in life’s endeavors. Been there. I get a romantic image of a man (or woman) staring intently into the future with visions that only he can perceive. Many times these dreams are achieved, but never, if the whole story be told, without help. I just wouldn’t want the guy who does my by-pass surgery to be self-taught. So it is with learning to play an instrument.

Yes you can do it. There a few things you have to keep in mind:

The learning curve will be a lot longer.

You’ll use up a lot of time and effort trying to figure out things that could be more easily demonstrated once.

You’ll teach yourself a lot of bad habits.

Intuition is fallible.

You’ll enjoy the experience of un-learning those same bad habits.

Musical instruments are easily damaged when thrown in the corner from frustration.

In my experience those who find good, knowledgeable, patient instructors are much better off and by that I mean better players in less time. The BEST players I’ve ever met/heard ALL had teachers at some point. The best may be pushing the limits, enjoying new territory, but they started from a solid foundation. Yeah we can dig deep and find an outlier now and then, but smart money wouldn’t bet on it. Personally, every time I thought I "had it", an instructor knocked me back to reality and then opened a door. It would have been much easier if that door had been opened first. For sure that outlier wasn’t me.

No I don’t play B/C box…or the other kind. I only want to encourage you to get a teacher. OAIM is useful, as are recorded "lessons" and blogs. Still none can replace an instructor who is there with YOU, even if only irregularly. If you aren’t near one, well, we live in an age where we’re all just a few keystrokes away from each other. Even this old dog has learned that. Life is too short to waste by throwing up self-imposed obstacles. Good luck Ed with the box, and the banjo. May your talent thrive however it comes to you.

And now I’m signing off on any future discussion about the importance of a good teacher. Thanks my friends for hearing out this and past rants.

Re: The Easiest Way to learn B/C accordion without a teacher?

It may be non-intuitive, but not impossible to learn. The notes on the fingerboard dictate how a tune is going to be played, so a tune in G/Am/Em/etc., it’s still going to be played in the proper key, and thus it will work. Give me a B/C box and I’ll be able to figure out how to to tackle it - since the common sense means that if a certain note is in one place on C#/D, then it has to be in another place on a B/C. By the way, there are still tunes in C, F etc. where up-and-down playing makes perfect sense.

The most non-intuitive thing about B/C is the bass setup (because it’s generally mapped to the inner row, or the up-and-down row), but it’s of minor importance since many don’t use the basses anyway (and not even that many C#/D players use them, despite the more straight-forward match).

Re: The Easiest Way to learn B/C accordion without a teacher?

The inside row ,C row, only has 3 notes when pressing the bellows CEG,CEG,etc from top to bottom.On pulling , the C row only has 4 notes DFAB,DFAB etc. This is a good place to start:

Re: The Easiest Way to learn B/C accordion without a teacher?

"Anyone who sets out on B/C without guidance specific to that system is likely to end up playing C#/D style up and down the row. B/C is non intuitive."

This describes my accordion history and why I currently play a C#/D box.

Re: The Easiest Way to learn B/C accordion without a teacher?

me too - I bought a D 1 row box and realized it was just basically a big harmonica with bellows and buttons. The B/C system is about as easy as quantum physics, good luck to anyone who tackles it without expert instruction

Re: The Easiest Way to learn B/C accordion without a teacher?

I am playing B/C ‘out’ I guess around a couple of times a week on average, I’ve been playing around about 6 years (max) now, I’ve got a few hundred tunes on it. I know full well thats not a lot in terms of Trad. Box playing now even makes up a good part of my income. I have only had one lesson ever and the extent of that was where someone showed me where the ‘D’ is. Lock yourself away for a couple of years or more and apply yourself and it can be done.

I have been playing trad on other instruments for about 30 years and do have a good grasp of music theory though.

Yes I have met a few people who have been confounded by it and given up, but that has not been my experience. I can only just sight read on it, by kind of internally singing the score and then playing it through the box. I went onto detail about this on a thread over on Melodeon.net a while back so I won’t here. For ear playing it is a dream, I absolutely love playing B/C.

Neuroplasticity is a wonderful thing and thinking too much is definitely the enemy. Those who seek too much to ‘map’ the instrument and overthink it tend to do worst from what I have seen. You have to take it on it’s own terms and just engage with it. When I was learning (Guess what, I still am.) I just transferred the tunes I had internalized to the box. Hit a wrong note? then go back to the start of the phrase and practice practice practice. Again and again and again, every day. Taking it very slowly at first really helped, just keep applying yourself and internalizing the actions. If you are patient it will come.

I swear I’m not wanting to show off, ( ha perhaps I probably am really) this is just my experience. I remember it was tough at first, definitely, but once you get into it you get closer to the real nature of B/C playing. In fact B/C box can be very intuitive indeed, it’s just made for trad, ( I know it wasn’t). I think you need to ‘surrender’ to it and just ‘program yourself’ without too much thinking. Granted for a beginner with little grasp of theory and a smallish repertoire it presents more than a few challenges, but If you have internalized stuff about arpeggios, scales and modes and kind of know what you are doing, or at least what you are trying to achieve, then by applying youself with patience it can be fairly easy(ish) to get at least a foothold into box playing. In terms of intonation it presents far less challenges than fiddle, flute or even whistle. ( personally I found fiddle a devil but I did approach it with the kind of self-taught unconscious arrogance of the beginner who doesnt know what he’s doing) With the box- well, push a button and the sound comes out! You have your ears to guide you and an adaptable brain that thrives on learning new things. I do agree it’s not easy at first but few worthwhile things are!

Re: The Easiest Way to learn B/C accordion without a teacher?

One of the best DVD’s I have used was PJ Hernon’s dvd- Learn to play the B&C accordion. It teaches a handful of tunes with good views of the fingering and techniques. I think it is the best way to start without a teacher.

Re: The Easiest Way to learn B/C accordion without a teacher?

To anyone learning I would say: Just get stuck in and start playing what’s in your head, every day. Watch as many DVDs and YouTubes etc as you can, and get stuck in. Most people learn their instruments and music from a variety of sources.We all learn a bit differently. Don’t expect it to be easy, you will make mistakes, but these are to be learned from! With box particularly there is no ‘right’ way to do things, with B/C box there are push/ pull options concerning the ‘magic notes’ B and E, try the different ways, notice how your choice of bellows direction dictates the available bass/ chord notes on the LH. Go for it and apply yourself. Best of luck. X

Re: The Easiest Way to learn B/C accordion without a teacher?

Tough one! Tend to agree with Ross F about at least getting SOME lessons. I do play B/C, and already played a number of other instruments before I came to it, so I already knew my scales, arpeggios, chords and other theoretical stuff, and I did get with the box that book called "The Box", but was really getting nowhere fast.
So I did invest in some lessons - went approx once every 2-3 weeks for a couple of years: that really was a kick-start, during which I learned quite a lot of tunes, fingering sequences, ornamentation, etc. And we did start off by learning scales: C, D, G, A majors. Found the minors for myself later. Have been playing for about 10-12 years since and still learning! Oh, and "basses come much later" - correct, "about 5 years" - not an exaggeration in reality though I thought so at the time!
And yes, get into using your alternative Bs and Es.
Money well spent on lessons: don’t bypass the teacher if you can get one locally.

Re: The Easiest Way to learn B/C accordion without a teacher?

Cripes, I bought a B/C box just before my right hand surgery eight weeks ago with the hopes that after recovery I could learn the little beast before I pass away from old age. It doesn’t look like that will be possible. Still, I have it and I’m going to try to learn it. Unfortunately, there are no instructors in my region.

Re: The Easiest Way to learn B/C accordion without a teacher?

Id just like to say…my sister already plays piano accordion (to an intermediate level), as well as competing at the highest level of amateur solo Highland Piping with me. She is not musically illiterate in any way, and has a fairly accurate idea about Celtic music. I know that GHBs are not ideal for playing Irish stuff, but she also knows about Irish ornamentation such as cuts, taps, rolls, triplets, trebles etc.

This is what she said when we reviewed the "I’ve not got a clue where to start" statement: "I do know about how beginners go into Csharp/D mode when learning B/C, but I have heard that I will have to train myself to play cross-row style, ie. without less bellows action. When I said I didn’t really know where to start, I meant what tunes to begin with, or even before tunes, scales, arpeggios and exercises to practice…"


Apologies for any confusion

Re: The Easiest Way to learn B/C accordion without a teacher?

"When I said I didn’t really know where to start, I meant what tunes to begin with, or even before tunes, scales, arpeggios and exercises to practice…"

Any of the resources mentioned, books, DVDs, OAIM, etc. should help with this. In many ways it just takes starting to learn tunes and working through fingerings and whatnot as you go.

Re: The Easiest Way to learn B/C accordion without a teacher?

Sorry, Ed, but very little resemblance between playing piano accordion and any diatonic accordion system, whether B/C or any other tuning: I have the utmost respect for those very few people with super-human brain connections who can do both! Some of the same tricks are used in ornamentation, but beyond that it’s just SOOOO different!

Re: The Easiest Way to learn B/C accordion without a teacher?

@Ed:
"When I said I didn’t really know where to start, I meant what tunes to begin with, or even before tunes, scales, arpeggios and exercises to practice…"

The same tunes and scales apply. If she already has some Irish tunes on the piano accordion, just transfer the repertoire. A tune in D is still a tune in D. Now find the D on the B/C.

Re: The Easiest Way to learn B/C accordion without a teacher?

trish santer: I did not mean that PA is similar to diatonic systems, simply that she has musical experience, and knows a couple of Irish tunes.

Same as a whistle player picking up a flute.

Appreciate everyone’s advice - thank you all.

Re: The Easiest Way to learn B/C accordion without a teacher?

Ok, fine, Ed. As Jeff said -"now find the D on the B/C".
But also be aware that if you go up or down an octave on B/C, the button patterns do not repeat themselves as they do on a PA or piano keyboard, so there are more notes to learn!

Re: The Easiest Way to learn B/C accordion without a teacher?

Yes that’s so true about the patterns not repeating themselves ! It still gets me, that bit, especially on the growler notes… I suppose scale practice would be the answer, can’t be bothered too much with that..shame on me I know. I tend to just memorize those lower bits in tunes like like Red Crow and 5 Mile Chase etc …it can be a devil I concede…I just play what works, patiently program myself in what to do, maybe later I will fill in those small gaps in my scalic fingering knowledge, but when I think too much it falls apart, at least on the growler notes. When I started I thought my box might be set up wrong because the patterns didn’t repeat..!

Re: The Easiest Way to learn B/C accordion without a teacher?

Keep at it Peter! Those low notes (never growlers!) are the most melodic and resonant in the whole box: milk them for all you’re worth! I call my lowest B "the foghorn". Very useful as drones, as are the left hand bass notes for anything a bit spooky or pipe tunes in the absence of any bagpipes!

Re: The Easiest Way to learn B/C accordion without a teacher?

I’ve met excellent players that never had teachers. But they had to work at it. I think it all comes down to how badly you want to do it. The BC accordion really is a weird instrument to wrap your brain around, but it’s not impossible. If you want to do it, if you love the music and yearn to play it, then you can do it. But it won’t happen immediately. It’s something you’ll have to keep at for a long time. But in my opinion? The end result is something truly special. So do it!