Ethos public relations have helped to design and commission a set of three metallic accordion pin badges finished in copper, nickel and gold plating.

bayan button accordion badges

Button accordion / bayan badges

They were made in England by a long established family run business based in Birmingham’s famous Jewellery Quarter.

Modelled on a traditional 3 row bayan button accordion from Tula in Russia, it makes an ideal gift for chromatic accordion, diatonic accordion or bayan players, performers or enthusiasts. In fact they will make a perfect accessory for those interested in any of the multitude of instruments that combine bellows and buttons.

Musicians are often very proud of the instrument they play and until now there haven’t been metallic button accordion badges available to buy, whereas there are plenty of violin, guitar and even piano accordion badges available. I’m very glad to say there are now.

As far as I know these are the only button accordion pin badges available in the UK and are ideal gifts for accordion teachers to give to students. The three different metallic finishes on the badges can even make them suitable as a three tier award system.

These badges have been produced at a time when the button accordion is enjoying something of a revival, amongst classical as well as folk musicians, due to the variety and versatility of these wonderful instruments.

The badges cost £5 each, or a set of all three colours costs £12 (postage and packaging is calculated on the checkout page). Accordion teachers and music shops looking for larger quantities should contact me for prices.

They are available to order online here and or you can contact me to place an order or answer any questions you may have.

My students learn to play piano or accordion for a number of reasons and each year some students decide to take examinations in their chosen instrument.

Glass of champagne to celebrate accordion and piano exam successIn 2013, four students took Trinity College of Music Examinations and I am very pleased that Jonathan gained a Distinction at Grade 8 Piano, Isabella achieved a Distinction at Grade 1 Piano, Danny received a Distinction at Initial Grade Piano and Amanda also gained a Distinction in her Foundation Certificate Accordion.

I would like to say ‘well done’ to all four students on their success as the results are down to their hard work and their determination to master their instrument.

Over the years, I have helped a number of students prepare for exams and no two students are the same. I aim to help students choose appropriate pieces to play, understand the technical and musical challenges within those pieces and prepare for them and the other requirements of each grade in as stress free a way as possible.

Of course, examinations are not right for all students although some find them  useful for a number of reasons

  • It can provide a means for students to monitor their progress
  • It offers an opportunity for students to play for someone other than me and to gain an alternative informed view on their playing
  • It provides a target which can help provide a focus and motivation for practice
  • Higher grades attract UKAS points which can help with entrance to University (even for non-musical study)

If you want to find out more about what piano or accordion exams entail, please do get in touch to discuss your aspiration and current level of attainment.

I would also like to take the opportunity to wish the best of luck to all my students who are currently preparing for exams in 2014.

 Can I take this opportunity of wishing all my students and their families a very Happy Christmas and a musical New Year.

Most of the points below are commonsense and apply to most musical instruments or delicate pieces of equipment, but I think they are worth repeating here.

Piano accordion

Keep your accordion clean with a soft cloth

Over the years, I have seen numerous examples of problems with accordions down to some of the issues below.

I have heard of cases where reeds have fallen off an accordion when the wax has melted – yes, even in our usually cool weather.

I have heard of reports of woodworm in a fairly new accordion, thought I have never seen that myself.

But with care an accordion will last you a lifetime, so just pick it up and enjoy playing!

  1. Cleaning – never use strong chemical cleaners. Dry and polish with a soft cloth only.
  2. Case – when not in use for prolonged periods store your accordion in its case. A hard case helps to protect your instrument, but a soft case is lighter to carry.
  3. Keys or buttons – be careful not to knock the keys or buttons, especially when putting the accordion into or taking it out of its case.
  4. Storage – store your accordion in the same position as when you play. This keeps the valves and palettes in their best alignment.
  5. Avoid damp – avoid damp conditions for storage as these can result in warping of the wooden frame and rust on metal parts.
  6. Avoid heat – avoid extremes of temperature, especially be wary of storing your accordion in a hot place, which could soften or melt the wax used to hold the reeds in place.
  7. Avoid shock – accordions are made up of hundreds of individual parts. Although generally robust, avoid sudden sharp knocks which can cause misalignment of the levers, palettes or reeds.
  8. Bellows – Do not allow anyone to pull your accordion open unless a key or button is being depressed at the same time.
  9. Strap – the strap and in particular, buckles can cause damage to the outside of your accordion and its keys. So store your accordion with the straps folded behind the accordion away from the keyboard and bass buttons
  10. Use it! Don’t store your accordion for long periods, take it out of its case, play it and enjoy it!

I am often asked about buying an accordion and what to look out for or what to consider when looking for an accordion.

two accordionsAnyone just starting out with the accordion is sure to be daunted by the wide range of accordions available. be that in terms of size, brand or layout of the keys and buttons. The list below highlights just some of the issues to consider, but ultimately there is no right or wrong answer when buying your own accordion. It is very much a matter of personal taste.

So, here are my top 10 tips to consider when buying an accordion

  1. BASSES – having 96 or 120 bass buttons will give more flexibility. Fewer might limit your playing in the future
  2. BUDGET – Stick to your budget. Decide what an accordion is worth to you
  3. TRY BEFORE YOU BUY – Get a feel for the instrument, check all is working and is there a guarantee on the accordion? Especially if buying second hand
  4. TRUSTED SELLER – Buy from someone you trust, be that a shop, online retailer or friend – My own online shop (Free the Reed) is available here
  5. SECONDHAND – Pre-owned accordions can offer great value for money. Many shops and online retailers have a good selection
  6. BRAND – Bear in mind accordions are made in various countries and in varying quality. Do not assume that a European sounding name on an accordion means that it is made in Europe
  7. PIANO OR BUTTON – This is very much personal taste, but if you are going for a button accordion, make sure you know which system it uses and if you are going for lessons, can your teacher teach button accordion?
  8. SYSTEM – There are pros and cons for the different button systems. Make sure your teacher is comfortable teaching the system you choose before buying
  9. ONLINE AUCTION SITES – Only use these if you know what you are getting or if you fancy a punt on an accordion
  10. RESELLING – A good quality accordion, that has been well looked after should have a good resell value

What do you think? Let me know if you consider any other key issues when buying an accordion.

Not the singles charts, not even the album charts but the top of “Classical Album charts”. Martynas Levickis and his eponymous album of light classical and pop music has, at the time of writing, been there at number 1 rubbing shoulders with the likes of Ludovico Einaudi for two weeks and counting.

This isn’t the sort of serious classical Accordion music that half fills Cathedrals and Accordion clubs, this is the sort of Classical music that sells out large concert venues and (even stadiums??).

For me, as well played as they are, it isn’t the classical works that show Martynas and his Accordion off at their best. Apart from perhaps one or two grace notes too many, it is Lady Gaga’s Telephone, Katy Perry’s Hot n Cold and Ai Se Eu Te Pego that demonstrate another string or two to the Accordion’s bow.

To date it is averaging 5 stars on  iTunes and Amazon and like it or not, it can only help increase the popularity of the accordion. If you like that sort of thing, well worth a look (or listen)!

 

Photo of accordionist Paul Chamberlain

Paul Chamberlain

Straight in with the big guns and it was Bach’s Toccata & Fugue in D minor to start. Giving the Organ a run for its money in the power and volume stakes and, as explained by Paul, given an added level of intimacy when performed on the Accordion.

The light virtuosity of the Scarlatti contrasted well with the Bach and demonstrated further the musical versatility of Paul and the instrument.

Bach and Scarlatti aren’t so unusual on the Accordion these days, but with Classical Accordion programmes often dominated by highly dissonant and challenging contemporary works, it was very refreshing to hear some original works for the instrument with beautiful melodies and harmonies that the average “classical music concert goer” wouldn’t find too difficult to enjoy.

It was however in the more modern and challenging contemporary works in which I felt Paul excelled. His beautiful shaping of the melodic lines in the Nagayev showed off his innate musicality.

With a very energetic performance of Katchaturian’s Toccata to finish, this was a polished, virtuosic and musically skilled performance of a thoroughly enjoyable programme.

A bit like Andy Murray, Paul is a Scotsman doing very well in a world usually dominated by foreigners and I suspect his personality, repertoire choice and sensitive musicianship will mean his current success can only be set to continue.

Paul Chamberlain played classical accordion at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester on 13th February 2013