Erin's Everyday Thoughts

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Squeezebox

I've officially started to teach myself to play the accordion. In the fall, I brought from my parent's house an old accordion that they'd had for a while. I'm not sure exactly where it came from, but I'll have to ask the next time I'm visiting. I'll also have to take a picture of it to post here. It is a beautiful cream with a design of tiny flowers. It has keys, cream-colored buttons, bellows, worn leather straps. It looks very well loved, and the sound is still pretty good. (A few of the chords are a little sketchy but most seem fine.)

I'm excited to learn a new instrument, and I've chosen the accordion for a few reasons.

First off, I have one.

Second, I used to play piano but never felt I'd ever be really "good" at it. Proficient, perhaps. But I always felt it was more of a struggle for me to learn than others I knew growing up who also played piano. It's possible that I'm not quite coordinated enough to play the more difficult pieces that I always longed to play. I still want to play around with the piano, but I think there is a limit to how good I could get. With the accordion, I do not feel the same limitation. (At least, not yet.) The combination of melody with chord seems very natural to me. (Perhaps because I used to play melodies with chords on a church organ when I was in high school but didn't have the time or talent--it took me a while to learn songs, I really had to practice--to learn all of the "actual parts" for 5 songs per week. Simple melody with chord always came fairly easily.)

Third, I think accordions are funny instruments. Funny in a good way. They seem unusual like bagpipes or platypuses. I like that.

Fourth (and perhaps most importantly), my grandma used to play accordion. (In fact, we can still get her to pull her accordion out every so often.) I've always liked the idea of passing down knowledge from generation to generation, and I fully intend (once I've gotten the basics down a bit) to bring my accordion to her and ask for some pointers. And one day I'll play the Beer Barrel Polka (what she generally plays for us) in a way that will make her proud!

I've practiced twice so far, and one of the funniest parts has been Phoebe the dog's reaction to my playing. I tried to ease her in at first. I played piano for a few minutes (since she'd heard that), and she was fine. She sat near my feet and listened. As soon as I picked up the accordion, though, she was interested. What was this thing that I was strapping onto my chest? Her tail was wagging. She had to smell it. I think she even licked it once or twice. And then when I started playing, her demeanor changed. She looked at me in such a way that said--"Erin, why?" Her eyes were large, her tail stopped. What was I doing to her? As I continued to play, she started to pace nervously around the room. After a while, it got to such a breaking point that she let out a half-howl, half-whine that to me said, "I just can't take anymore." So shortly after, I let her off the hook and stopped practicing. (Not, however, without explaining to her that she was going to have to learn to get along with the accordion.)

I'll keep you posted on my progress as I go along. Right now "Way Down Upon the Swanee River" is all I've got. (And it's excrutiatingly slow when I play it.) But I will continue to learn.


  • Wow, Erin. It'd be really cool to write a short story called "Why I Want to Learn How to Play the Accordian." I love your line: "They seem unusual like bagpipes or platypuses." It seems to me that this could take us into some great mystery. You could try to capture the sensory experience of holding it and then playing it. You could contrast it with the piano. I'd love to read a story like this!

    By Blogger Theresa Williams, at 2:10 AM  

  • I love that you are learning to play the accordion, Erin. I would also love it if you will be able to join my band for the occasional gig or even just a jam session!

    By Blogger Erin, at 7:17 PM  

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