Why I Play the Accordion

by July 2, 2012
filed under Life

I took up the accordion almost two years ago. I had been living in Italy and fell in love with the instrument that was often played in cafes and concerts. Upon getting home to my small town in Northern Alberta, Canada I talked about this to an old friend, the minister at the church I grew up in. An avid musician and talented singer, she jumped up and said, “wait here!” A few minutes later she came back with a black suitcase. Inside it was my new obsession. She gave it to me as a gift, since arthritis in her shoulders made it too hard for her to play.

I started lessons in the fall. A year later, while getting my accordion spruced up, I came across another for sale. It had more buttons and keys. The most you can get. I used to joke with my teacher that I once thought there were too many buttons on my accordion and I’d never know all of them, but really it wasn’t enough! So, I bought the larger beauty/beast and started my collection (having two of something makes it a collection, right?).

The accordion is the platypus of the instrument world. It is a mash-up of pieces from other instruments, stolen and borrowed from different cultures and time periods until it became the patented accordion in 1829 by Friedrich Buschmann of Berlin. After which it continued to evolve. It is such a fun and interesting instrument to play. If you’ve played piano or organ, you can learn the accordion. It’s just more work, really.

I get a lot of odd looks and comments when I tell people I play. The most popular is disbelief and I actually have to argue that I really do own accordions and play them. Well. When I practice. As with any hobby, practice makes perfect.

The accordion, popularly (I use the term loosely) used by folk artists around the world, isn’t really all that popular. It sort of peaked with vaudeville when it went out of style. In Brazil, it’s very common in bands, including pop music. They just never let it go. It has been emerging in some pop music in North America as of recent; every once in a while I’ll be listening to the radio to hear an accordion in the background making its beautiful cry.

The amazing thing about an accordion is how versatile it is. It can sounds like a piano, an organ, wind instruments, brass instruments, bagpipes – I could go on. I love it, I will never give it up. And if you’re into instruments and being the coolest person on your block, pick one up and try it out.

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