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Dear Gina, I practice my accordion a lot but I find it difficult to cope with fast playing, is there a way I can improve this.

Laura Best, Sollihull.

Dear Laura, There are no easy answers to this question without observing you in action.

The regular practice of scales and exercises, combined with a good sitting position, and instrument position, will allow you to play faster. Always keep the hand square to the keyboard, whether playing at the top or bottom of the instrument. Always have a straight wrist action, never bend the wrist and almost stop the blood flow, think about the piano requirement which is a straight lower arm and wrist, and slightly bending the fingers, this allows the thumbs and little finger to be in play, hence a faster action and fluency.

Hope these points may assist you.

Dear Gina, I always fail miserably on my sight reading in the examinations, how can I best improve this.

Reading lots of different music, experiencing different editorial, and sitting with the music without an instrument on, is often beneficial, it  makes it easier to work out the music without the need to play as well as read.  A plan of the keyboard and bass will assist in working out possibilities of fingering.  Good Aural work ie Solfeggio, is an essential way to learn to hear the music and work out the timing in your head before putting it into practice. This also helps to speed read, only eventually needing to look for the difficult areas in a piece.  Remember in an examination, accuracy, style, tempi, dynamics, articulation are all taken into consideration, and  a notationally sound performance will not always receive the top available marks.  So keep in mind that besides the notes, you should check the suggestion of style from the title, the time signature, and suggested mode of performance ie Allegro, Lento, in a Marching Style, Slowly with Feeling. Also dynamic markings that may help you put over a stylistic performance.

Dear Gina, My 5 year old has been given an 80 bass accordion, do you think this is suitable for him? Mr O'Conner

Dear Mr. O’Connor, He is just a little boy, his height from his waist to his chin will tell you that an 80 bass instrument is much too large for him. A light 48 bass would be much more preferable. This child has got to feel that picking up the accordion is no big deal, and that practice will not be made difficult, due to the weight. By all means put the 80 bass away until later, although it would be better if later this was a 72 or 96 bass which includes the diminished row. When choosing a 48 bass, please not an old wheezy one.

Dear Gina, I have played the piano for many years, and I can read music quite well, how long realistically would it take to learn the accordion. Pauline Wells, Cumbria.

Dear Pauline, Oh you are in a very fortunate situation, you read music already. There is the question of technique, and the left hand to have to learn, which encompasses the use of the bellows. Depending on the style of music you are intending to learn and good practice times, in 6 months you will feel in control, 18 months should see some form of proficiency. It is a difficult question without knowing the precise background, but certainly you will have cut short the learning process by means of reading music, and playing a piano.

Dear Gina, I am getting really fed up with competitions and examinations, I really do like the Accordion, but if this is all there is, then I  really am considering giving it up.  I am 15 years old, and I have played since I was 8 years. I have never had time to go out with friends, and I feel it is time to do something different. What would you suggest? Because of my teacher and family, I want to remain anonymous, but I am in a dilemma. 

Dear Anonymous, I must make it quite clear that I think that your age has a lot to do with it, in my experience of teaching, it is an age of change, interests, friends etc: all contribute to a feeling of 'well why should I practice when all my friends are out having a good time' if this is not the case, then maybe someone out there is having this problem. and they maybe able to relate to this statement.

Competitions and examinations are a way to prove to yourself, not necessarily to others how far you are reaching musically, in Competition it is not essential come in first place, but to have those very helpful comment sheets that Adjudicators write out for your personal betterment.

Examinations are essential if you are to want to become a teacher, or look back on your learning with great satisfaction when you are older.  t. Examinations themselves, because of the  marking system helps to further your musical education, and hopefully inspire you to carry on.

Taking time out is difficult, the need for continuity and constant commitment to practice is essential to maintain the standard.  But perhaps a change of repertoire, some easy listening music, a more commercial side to your music will give you a relaxed feeling, and indeed indicate that you have achieved a lot in your dedication to the instrument. Be experimental stylistically. Then turn your attention to the serious music in smaller doses for the time being, but do not give up the more demanding repertoire, as this is the way forward musically.

How often have people said to you, I wish I had kept music up when I was young, they have lived to regret it, surely you do not want to do that.

Never put the Accordion out of sight, out of sight out of mind, and it really is true.  Please continue to play, your young age is very important to the future of the Accordion, be an ambassador for the instrument, it needs you. 

I will finalize with the subject of friends, because I felt from your letter this seemed to be an issue. Often friends that have no special interests are the worst kind of friends, they have no conception of the dedication one needs to achieve something special in life, because they have never had to do it.  You have many years ahead of you, friends will be there for you on your terms, if they are true friends. Please keep up the Accordion and continue to be one of the special people.


A late starter , I took the accordion up at 44 yrs of age that was three years ago I thought as I progressed things would get easier.  Howe wrong I was.  I have now realised that constructive practice is the key.  In the past I have practiced up to two hours non stop and played myself to a standstill.  The time goes by so quickly, lost in the world of music my teacher says I am progressing well.  But it is never fast enough.  Seeing the outstanding young students at club night at the Blackpool Club Night gives me great inspiration, but with a dull old mind I have to be wise and practice constructively.

On starting to learn a piece of music.  Firstly I learn the tune in the right hand, maybe playing the tune for two weeks, when I am reasonably confident I then learn the left hand only, then I take the first few bars and learn them in both hands working my way through a piece I have spent 6 weeks on that piece, giving each section the same importance not just stating from the beginning every time.  The beginning will be fine but will struggle later on in the piece.  When I can roughly go over a piece I look for the bars I am struggling on (there is always one isn't there?)  I forget about the rest of the piece and learn that section.  This needs patience and determination but does bring results.  Also learning a section very slowly to get the two hands working together.  Lastly scales, these can be a bit boring but are essential for progressing anyway.  Hope you enjoy your practice as much as I do.

John Smith, Fleetwood.

John thank you for your letter, I am sure our readers will appreciate some of the points you have touched on, and perhaps adopt them.  Everyone finds their own best method for practice, but you have mentioned the important points.  Work separate hands, left or right first, with the left hand we are working also the bellows at the same time. Some students find this the best way forward with a piece, some prefer right hand first, working fingering out.  When the general feel of the piece has been achieved, absolutely repetitive practice of bad bits, and not the good bits will equalise the parts.  Also never use repeats of the piece, often as an adjudicator it is easy to see which parts have been played more than others.  If a piece has 3 different sections, then practice these as exercises, working out the bellows is essential, and this should be organised keeping in mind the places one should not alter the bellows, ie phrases etc. fingering organised.  It is never a piece of music until these sections have been learned correctly.  Do not repeat any section of the piece, or repeat  the same part in another part of the piece.  Time can be cut down when this method is adopted. Scales are a must for learning good instrument technique. It is great to see good logic, and good ideas adopted in practice.

Thank you John for  an insight into your practice method.           Kindest regards Gina


Dear Gina

Thank you so much for presenting a website that I have spent absolute hours on, and thoroughly enjoyed, I think it is very important that I convey this to you as it must have taken a lot of effort to put together such an array of news, history, famous personalities, and so much more for all of your visitors to your site to enjoy.  Thank you once again, and please keep it going for many more enthusiasts to enjoy.  Pearl Ferrera, Marbello, Spain.


Dear Gina, Thank you for the informative and creative information made available on your site,, please keep it up for all to enjoy.  John Marquette, Junior.Member of the Board of Directors, Silicon Valley Accordion Society San Jose, California USA

Thank you both for these kind  remarks, I have chosen these two communications, as it is nice to see that our news reaches all corners of the world with this world wide web.Kindest regards Gina  www.blackpoolaccordion please keep your observations coming in, I will always try to act on your suggestions.

Hi Gina,

Why is it that when I try to play jazz, I cannot make it interesting enough, it sounds so plain and uninteresting.  When I hear other people play I can hear how different it sounds.  What am I doing wrong, or not doing. I have been playing the accordion for 4 years and the piano for 2 years prior to that.

Are there any books or help I can get ?Tina Squires, Cardiff, Wales.


Tina, this is a very long subject that has many different solutions.  However, I have always found that a profound knowledge of scales, arpeggios, etc, all very helpful for improvisation.  I have found in teaching that the understanding of chords is most important, taking a simple melody, and not be anxious to move on until you have exhausted the possibilities that are contained in that one piece of music.  Everyone can do this, once you have got the general idea of the melody, make as many changes around that melody using the chord changes to influence the possibilities in the right hand,, also using different chords in the Left hand to change the melodic impression of the piece can be very rewarding, giving way to even more interesting ideas harmonically.  My advice is patience and experimentation, listening to other people improvise, on      piano or accordion, you said you listen to other people, take note of what they are doing and try to copy, it takes a lifetime to play like Art Van Damme and Jack Emblow, each I am sure listened intently to ideas from other musicians, many times, whilst I have been in the States, I have heard a contemporary say to Art thanks for all the ideas you have given me, observation is a great thing. There are books available but do a little experimentation prior to that.  Good Luck and thanks for writing in.


Hi Gina

 I am keen to start my son on the accordion, I am an accordionist and have been for 20 years.  Please can you help me with guidance as to where to start.  I cannot remember myself how I started. I was 8 years when I began.

My son is 10 years of age, never studied music so far on any instrument. So we are talking from the  beginning.

Calum Mcalistair

Hi Calum

Thank you so much for your letter, it is amazing that although we can play it is difficult or impossible to remember just how we started on the accordion.

Ž Firstly make sure he has an instrument he can control, no larger than his body length between tops of legs when sitting to under the chin.  No old accordions please!  Strap up correctly, left shoulder strap as tight as possible holding the instrument in place, and loosen the right       shoulder strap. Sitting forward on the chair, and be able to put both feet, slightly apart,  flat on the floor is essential.

Ž Realising as accordionists that the operation of the bellows is one of the most important part of playing the accordion, and also that the hand responsible for this is the left, therefore that is where we start with the left hand. A simple 3/4. with fingering 433 433 etc one bar out on bar in, then eventually two bars out and two bars in. working towards clean bellows returns, if this is feeling difficult. A deliberate stop before returning the bellows can work well. A simultaneous action playing the first note and returning  the bellows works well also. Until the bellows and left hand show good co-ordination, do not move to the right hand. Patience at this stage will result in good accordion handling.  Stay around the C bass and C major chord, add G and then F. 

Ž Introduce the right hand in five finger mode, firstly C to G, then F to C, and G to D.  But remain in that first position until co-ordination of the right and left hands and bellows is achieved. Five finger position work begins with only one right hand note in each bar until that co-ordination is achieved.  Learning early that  soft and loud can be realised through manipulation of the bellows is essential. 

Ž Keep moving through repertoire, simple music being the order of the day.  Always reading the music even when we are sure we have learned it, because reading the music comes much easier if we experience reading different music all the time.

Ž This is the way the studio introduces the accordion to its students. 

Ž Thank you for your letter, I hope this has some value in respect of passing on the trade.. Gina

Hello Gina,

Thank you for a great weekend. Everyone enjoyed it very much.  Everyone was so friendly and music was everywhere.

The youngsters were fabulous, and the competition was awesome. The awards were beautiful and the youngsters very proud after receiving them.

A question for you, how on earth do you have the energy to present events like this one after the other.

.Adrienne Pickering

Dear Adrienne,

Thank you for your e mail, I am so pleased you enjoyed the weekend.  I agree it was a very friendly Festival, with high standard of performances.

As far as the energy thing, when those little faces come forward for their awards, that is all the reward anyone could ask for..  The energy is easy to recharge with such amazing performances.  It is over 28 years  I have organised Festivals, none of them have ever felt like a toil..

See you at the next one.                                   Gina


How are you Gina?

I was your student for a long time, both on piano and accordion.  I became an accordion nut, and have kept that up.  Where I now live, there are no music shops that sell Accordion Music, but I have been using busking books, but find that the chords that are used in these books are complicated.  Do I use these chords or is there a more logical approach. There are diminished chords suspended 4ths, and all manner of other chords.  It does not sound right including these chords.


Hi ya Kelly

How nice to hear from you, I am doing fine, thanks for asking. I have sent you a list of publishers for the accordion music.  I appreciate how difficult it is to decide which chords to play and which ones to leave.  Simplicity in performance, is simplicity on the ear for the listener.  Some of these chords can be marvellous if played as orchestra, but with a solo instrument are OTT.  Even with orchestral midi it can still be too much. Get the key sorted, and the obvious chord moves, do not play a chord with every note as sometimes appears in the music.  Just choose a common denominator.  Send me a typical piece of music and I will send it back amended to give you some idea.       


Over the last few years I had entered local, regional competitions. Enjoyed the experience, gained confidence, found useful guidance from adjudicator’s reports, even winning a few first place trophies.  Now for the big one!   Let’s give it a go at The NAO UK National Championships at Scarborough!  My teacher and also friends at the various Accordion Clubs that I frequently go to from time to time, were full of encouragement.

       I was happy with the test piece to qualify my entry.  So I began months of preparation, practice with my lessons.  It seemed ages off, a few local competitions in the meantime, Marine Hall in Fleetwood twice. Saltaire near Shipley in Yorkshire once. 

       I had some good results that I was pleased and proud of. Over time ‘nerves’ seemed to becoming a thing of the past. With each subsequent competition, What began in my first ever competition in 2003 as stomach churning, visible hand shaking, heart pounding nervous terror, had mellowed to brief mild apprehension a few moments before performance and almost forgotten as I absorbed myself into playing.  So I confidently felt I was ready for the next step up to go in for the UK Finals.  I took on board all the various useful tips from more experienced players and well seasoned competitors, adapting their advice to best cover my weak areas and strengthen my ability.  I could tell it was paying off, my performance was improving.  I even took a week off work from both my part time jobs leading up to the weekend at Scarborough,

        Finally it was upon me and I was on my way, after a good straight forward journey I was there all by myself, none of my family were able to go with me, but that didn’t matter. After four years of going to various wonderful Accordion Festivals. I knew I would be in the company of many dear friends when I got there.  It was great meeting everyone again, I enjoyed a great concert on the Friday night.  Must be careful to remain T total and get to sleep before midnight. A clear head needed for the first important big day tomorrow. I was going to give my all and aim for a personal best. Also enjoy taking part and listening to others, gaining from the experience.

        My wind up alarm was first to wake me from a fitful on and off sleep, followed shortly by my mobile phone alarm, then the alarm provided by the hotel (I had set it right after all?) need to be prompt for breakfast and not late at The Spa Complex. The Tram cliff lift was out of action, I don’t want to miss the special bus service replacement. Otherwise, I may over stress my important back, shoulder, arm and finger playing muscles if I had to apply the breaks to a heavy trolley load, responding to gravity and fighting to race me down the steep slopes of the south cliff. Don’t want to risk my precious cargo arriving at the bottom without me, never able to replicate a tune ever again. “The Flight of the Bumble Bee” I could hardly play. ‘The flight down the cliff’ most likely if I’m not on that bus!

         Luckily I was ahead of time, waiting at the top by the cliff lift for the bus.  What a wonderful morning! That fresh sea air! The sound of the seagulls, the rolling surf of a high tide at the bottom. There were park benches; I read the epitaphs of those who had donated them. One read “Enjoy the view, I did” Now I was and, what a magnificent view to behold. I was so happy to be here and to be going to do what I had come for. My moment was suddenly interrupted “Bleep Bleep!”  It was a text message on my mobile phone. My friend from back home, she had just awoken and text to wish me luck!  That’s nice everyone who knows is thinking about me.   I text back …….

    “Am standin on edge of South Cliff,  No! It’s not Beachy Head!  Am ready as I’ll ever be. Lovely place, nice hotel, nice people. Thanks my friend, I’ll txt u later. Ann x x

        Now the bus is here. Just a short ride and I’m going in the main entrance to the venue. Everyone is arriving, carrying their Accordions, some on trolleys, some on their backs. Even people with drums and percussion instruments for the Accordion bands. A hive of activity. Trade Stands, Sheet Music. People were scouring their programs, checking the times of the various sections, asking directions to different rooms and theatres. There were important, smart looking Adjudicators, wearing their official identity badges. My teacher breezed past in her very busy official capacity, but still able to snatch a moment of her time to give me encouragement.  Around every corner, the musical strains of last moment practice, from young and older players. The Spa Complex, alive and buzzing with a mixture of music, chatter, laughter and nervous anticipation.

        I found myself a quiet corner and had a warm up, scales, arpeggios and exercises with couple of tunes that I was not entering. I popped another herbal stress pill down my gob. They worked well on previous occasions. Still feeling reasonably calm, just want to make sure I stay that way. Just under an hour to go. Time for a nice cup of tea in the café and a chat with friends.

         Time ticking on! Better make my way to the Spa Theatre for the first section. The previous section was still on; I quietly slipped in at the back. Some excellent playing and talented accordionists.  This is it now; I could feel a few butterflies creeping in.   The other section had finished, I found a seat at the end of a row where I had space to get my accordion out ready. Oh! Gosh my stomach! Was it what I ate last night?  I’ve got time, must go to the loo again.

         That’s better. Now let’s focus on those relaxation techniques. Positive thoughts. You can do it! Just like playing at home, no big deal, your life does not depend on this. Everyone’s in the same boat.   Then, my name has just been announced. I’m strapped up, bottom bellows strap undone just in case I might forget. I’m walking onto the stage in front of the adjudicators and audience. Sitting down, correct position, check couplers etc. Take time. Deep breath, wait for adjudicators nod, then start only when I’m ready.

           Full swing, into it. Only one thing on my mind now. Keep totally focused on what is important. I begin. My arms and fingers are now in action! I’m performing! …….. I reached the end of first piece. Very shaky lots of nervous slips, missed a repeat, just managed right coupler in nick of time. Anyhow I made it from start to finish. Forget it now! On with the next piece.  Ready, Go! ……. nearly half way! Battling hard with nerves!....    Loosing it! Mind going!    Oh no, stopped,  lost it!   Deep breath, need to regain composure from ……  Pounding heart, Sweaty palms, Shaking hands, (nearly an involuntary bellows shake!) ……I’m too far into the tune, passed the moment for false start. Everyone’s patiently waiting. Keep looking at the music where I stopped, find my place, back a bar, no, well forward a bar then …. Panic taking over! Look! Look! Pick up! Carry on! Can’t see or make sense of what I’m looking at.. No! No! It’s gone…….. My face goes red hot, my eyes are smarting, and I feel sick! I shake my head and make a mumbled apology. I feel frozen to the spot. Got to get off stage.  As I left the stage it was a blur, think I went through the curtain on the wrong side I nearly tripped over a rope or something.


       The first person soon approached me with kind words of support and reassurance. He was a well known character who attends almost all accordion events and gives 'busking' an excellent reputation with his very professional playing. This time he had no accordion in his arms for a change, he was taking on the role of compare instead. He soon made me realise that I had no shame. I was surrounded by wonderful like minded people. Most, I’m led to believe, have all at some time in their lives endured a similar experience.  I was later approached by one of my adjudicators. I’ve also met him at previous events. His characteristic high brow always conveys an air of authority resembling a school headmaster. He actually made a point of coming over to me to convey some very kind words of reassurance and encouragement. Such kind and caring people! I was now recovering from the feeling of, rock bottom failure after the disastrous performance. Rapidly by the moment I could feel myself lifting, almost towards normality.

          Time for a late lunch, but I could hardly tell if I was hungry, what! With all the stress hormones coursing through my veins.  Stress Pills? Rubbish! Not much help this time, maybe they were out of date or something?     I managed not to choke myself on a bowl of soup with roll n butter.   Saw the bar later as I went past on my way to the loo. Need a stiff drink! The sudden urge came over me. So much for staying T total! What the Heck! Can’t do any worse than I did earlier….. “I’ll have a large Whisky n Lemonade Please”    Ahh!!  That’s good, as I controlled the urge to ‘knock it back’. Slow down! Be sensible! I told myself. You’ve got the Frosini Solo section later.  The time soon came round.

            Here I am, in the Regency Room this time, almost ready for my turn. Trying not to think about my earlier experience.  Mmm! don’t feel too bad. Think that whiskey did me good…

Then I heard! Is Ann Parker here?  Gulp!  Here we go again!

             Fingers in action once more….. I’m off….. As I continued I could tell, this is more like it should be! More like the last few competitions.  Confidence progressed with me to the end…….Yes!!  Not quite my best, but good under the circumstances. I’m happy enough with that.

            Relief!  The day ended much better than it started. If tomorrow continues as good, then next year ‘Scarborough here I come.’  It did continue.  My highest mark was 83.5% with an 8th place out of 11.    Not bad for a first time at Scarborough!

       I would like to say to anyone now.  If you really want to take part, just prepare yourself and go for it.  It was a challenging competition. You are up against some of the best players in the country. They are mostly all nice people, adjudicators included, they don’t bite!  I have no regrets. I hope by openly talking about my own experience in detail, it will give insight and encourage others to go for it. He who dares wins!  I won even though I didn’t win. I took part and am glad.   Long may the Accordion, the Festivals and Competitions continue!  

                      Yours sincerely              

                                            Ann Parker

                                 From...   Preston, Lancashire

PS: -   A Little ‘Robin’ tells me... The UK Finals may not ‘Return’ to Scarborough, so……                         

     ‘Blackpool‘  Here I come!’ 


Hi Ann,

Thank you for such a super account of your experiences as a competitor in the NAO National UK Championships, which took place in Scarborough a good humorous account, I am sure many will have parity with you in this instance.

It is very admirable to take part in such a sporting way, as I know you very well, few take the challenges as you do Ann, you are a great sport, a hard working student and a great supporter of the Accordion, Accordion Events, Accordion Clubs etc.

 Gina’s Account of the weekend.

It was a great weekend, with a superb Concert on Friday evening with visiting artistes from all over the world, Mario D’Armario from Italy World Champion Variety Competitor, Julien Gonzales from France, Grayson Masefield from New Zealand. The evening Hosted by Gina and Romany Rye ( Gina and William Langton )

It was a superb Concert, and started the Weekend brilliantly. Saturday began at 9.00 am with all 5 Competition rooms off to a great start. Two adjudicators for each of the sections, 3 in some instances.  The NAO committee working flat out for the entire  period. Adjudicators, Stage Managers, Clerks, Room Directors, all did a great job, excellent competitors well practised, well presented, and well played, the standard was high, over 450 competitors to get through over the two days. The timing was bang on, no rooms lagging behind, good management all round.  Saturday evening my mother and father were presented with a special award for the contribution to the Accordion over their 73 years of performance on their beloved instrument.  Mother was fairly shook up, and as she is poorly at the moment there was an eleventh hour stand off, and nearly no appearance on this special evening, but low and behold, we managed to get her feeling a bit better and like the great trooper she is, she made the presentation. Presentations to the students then took place, which was preceeded by a concert by two of the visiting stars, a great treat for all.   Sunday started off at 9.30am with sections through to 2.30pm. Presentations followed. The NAO team worked tirelessly and the event was declared a great success.

My own students did tremendously, with Julie Langton taking first place in Recital, first place in 17 years and under, first place in the Advanced and first place in the Virtuoso Entertainment, which will allow her to compete in the World Championships in Scotland in 2008, she is competing this year in Washington DC, USA. Top places also to Santana and Soraya O’Connor, Hannah, Jody and Philomena Heaney Ann Parker and Leah Langton, a great little North West team.  Well we have to wait another year, but worked began immediately on the music for the championships 2007/2008.  No time to waste, catch everyone whilst euphoria is still the order of the day.

Congratulations to all the competitors, as it does not really matter if you have not got 1st 2nd or 3rd, if you are 15th, you are still the 15th best player in the UK in that section, and next year aim for the top 10.  It is about your own personal best on the day.


Preparation of the student

As a teacher it is your responsibility, not just to teach, but to prepare the student to face all the psychological issues related to competition. 

Preparation of the student means, to make them realise that they must not play their pieces on the day of the competition, as the mistakes they make on that day will effect their performance on stage without doubt,  never to rush into your performance, take your time, no adjudicator would mind a little wait if the wait is worth it.  Play by memorisation if possible, this can be worked on by moving the music stand to the right hand side in your practice bit, by bit, until eventually it is out of sight, when you have to make radical moves to see the music you will remember more.  Also this gives an opportunity to listen to your performance, and be more critical of the smallest details of the music.  Sitting correctly, hands correctly placed on the accordion, good presentation ie attire, head erect, feet firmly placed on the floor giving good posture.

Care in the preparation over the weeks and months should not be marred by nerves.  If you have practised in a structured manner there should be no need to question yourself when on stage.  Good preparation means rolling up the sleeves and say to yourself I am not preparing for this for an entire year for nothing, and then  just get on with it.  Blank out whatever bothers you on the day, work towards your own personal best, and there will be no disappointment that way. Full results are in the magazine, well done to all who took part, and look forward to the next NAO National Championships.

GINA BRANNELLI, if you have any story or photographs you would like to share with us, please let us have the information  and we will do our best to include it in the Accordion Times International

Hi Gina,

This is great that I can communicate with you and I hope you do not mind me calling you Gina, thank you for the advice in your postbag  over the months, it has been helpful.  I do have a question, recently a friend said that my playing could do with a bit of expression, I am really not sure how to interpret that, what should I be doing that I am not doing?  I played the piano for years and no one ever said that. But I do feel that there is something lacking generally.

 Antonio   Corelli

Hi Antonio

A very nice Italian name! Now there is an answer to this,  firstly you originally played the piano, but had no difficultly with expression, this was because, you only needed to put a little extra weight on the  key, and there you had made a difference to the volume.  However with the accordion, it is rather more complex than that.  Expression is a marriage  between the bellows and the hands.  When you want to make  a difference in volume it  requires the bellows to be always moving with varying pressure to make the sound louder or softer, no matter how much pressure you put on the keyboard, it will not make a scrap of difference.  It only requires minimal movement to make  a note sound louder or a passage of music, but the expression cannot exist without  good coordination between bellows and hands.

The next question in your letter was  to know when to go louder and softer, obviously I presume you know symbols P—Piano meaning softly etc.  but the main understanding of the musical shape of music applied to both Piano and Accordion, means to follow the shape, up or down means louder or softer, it is like a person speaking that speaks in a monotone way, you almost want to sleep when they talk, the same applies to music, keep it musical, put feeling into the music and it becomes much more pleasant to listen to, much more interesting, so do remember an accordion is not a piano, it requires this  approach to make the difference.  You only have to touch the bellows with a note depressed and you will hear an immediate difference, the bellows is the heart of the music in  an accordion. Antonio, thank you for the question, and your comments


Dear Accordion Times and Gina, 

I have read in a book recently, a lot about the accordion, I know you come from Manchester Gina, I know you worked as an artiste in Manchester, as I used to come to Tiffany’s when you played there.  I also know your parents played the accordion in Manchester.  My question is where, in your opinion was the popular place for the accordion,.

Derek Pickles

Hello Derek,

Thank you very much for your letter,  well, I am a Manchester girl, born in the Italian District of Middle Manchester, my life was full of accordions for as long as I can remember, the stories told to me of the street strollers who walked through the streets attracting hundreds of followers, the non stop strains of the accordion 24 hours a day it seemed .  The BBC broadcasting unit always featuring accordionists, my Godfather Rudi Mancini was featured many  times and he had such a great following, his brother was the accordion teacher, also a great pianist, he taught my mother and father to play accordion, and they played for many years in the Band on the Wall.   The accordion in that era was an enormous success, and I cannot believe that any where else could have superseded    that popularity.  The accordion had a great time during those wartime years, with the influx into the Country of the Italian families wherever they settled, the accordion became a way of life. Nowadays, Glasgow, Colchester, North East and North West are great strongholds for the accordion, lots of youngsters  doing a great job for the accordion.  Traditionally I would not like to state where the most popular place for the accordion was, only from the experience of my family and Godfather I would be surprised to think that anywhere could have been greater for the Accordion than Manchester.


Hello Miss Brannelli,

How many hours do you need to practise, will I be any good if I can only spend an hour a day, as I am at school my teacher says I do not practise enough, but I think I do.

Anonymous 12 year old

Hi There,

Well I am sure I am not going to get in trouble with your teacher by saying the wrong thing or anything to contradict his/her suggestion, but if you were my pupil and I told you that you were not doing enough practise, then I would not expect you to question it, therefore, I have not disclosed your name in this article and suggest that you listen to your teacher very carefully.  You know we teachers have your best interests at heart, we want you to succeed so much that we can sound harsh and unrealistic at times, but that is part of our job to get you on track.  It is very necessary to put in the practise as this is what makes you a better player without question.

A teacher always knows when there has been a lack of practise.  I know within 5 minutes exactly how much practise has been accomplished in a week by any of my pupils.

Do practise regularly not 10 minutes one day then miss a day, then just before your lesson have a couple of hours, that is no good at all, treat it like you are making time, just like cleaning your teeth, an absolute necessity at regular times, every day the same.

Spot practise mistakes, do not keep playing music through where it is not necessary, learn to pick up at the bar that goes wrong not to have to repeat entire pieces or sections.

Thanks for your letter, advice on practise is one thing and a strict regime of practise is necessary to achieve your goals.


Hello Gina

Your magazine is great, greatly improved and offering lots of information and news, also musical tips are appreciated. I received a request from a friend in Australia, who would like to receive the magazine, after I sent him a recent copy, I will e mail you his details.  Keep up the good work your heart is certainly in the right place and it comes across in your articles, all the best with your pupils in Scarborough I will be there to support the accordion, and watch out for those little ones, keep it up, thanks for everything you and your team do for the Accordion.                   

Frank Mayhew

Thanks for your lovely letter, it is our pleasure to write about the accordion in such detail. Kind regards       




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