I HOPE YOU ENJOY THIS WEBSITE


My name is Alex Govier, a professional musician on accordion, piano and organ for over 50 years.



On this website I am sharing stuff to

  • Improve your technique
  • Help you get to know your instrument better
  • Play more easily and more confidently
  • Try new accordion bass methods
  • Integrate bass and treble sounds in different ways
  • Learn how to make better music
  • Gain popularity with general music listeners and not just fellow accordionists. 

And yes, ALL CONTENT ON THIS WEBSITE IS FREE.


Simply because I would like more general appreciation of this wonderful instrument.


Because by playing a little more thoughtfully we can reach new audiences and get more recognition. 


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The Accordionwise Friends link


You can find my personal playing sites on

www.weddingpiano.net

www.playing4u.co.uk

Right Hand Keyboard Tips, Tricks and Techniques

There are so many ways you can play the right hand keyboard and incorporate the right hand and left hand together in a satisfying musical arrangement.

 

Here we show a lot of possibilities and advice on how and when to use them

 

Smoother Playing that will make you Instantly Sound More Professional

If you have ever listened to the seemingly effortless playing of others and thought "But I could never play as smoothly and well as that" this is the main clue how you can be just as good.

 

They are playing fast and without those awkward pauses (that you are aware of but hope others do not notice - but they do!) and it sounds as if they are playing easily without moving, but how do they do it?

 

The answer is preparedness that makes it effortless

 

Cover the notes you need for the whole phrase and all you have to do is put your fingers up and down with no wasted effort.

 

By this I mean every finger is already spaced out and placed over every note of the phrase before you even play the first note.

 

So now you can think ahead to organise your hand for the next phrase easily. So your playing continues with efficient certainty.

 

Very easy and effective, in fact essential technique

 

For an extended phrase that needs more than one hand position to cover it then don't just move the finger or thumb to its new positiomns. Instead in one movement place your fingers over the next part of the phrase.

 

And if you still do not sound professional

 

If you sound generally lacking in confidence when playing a piece the most likely villain is that you were not really ready to start playing.

 

In order to play the first part of the tune you need to be ready to do so. Obvious right?

 

You also need to feel the tempo you are playing in before you start playing. It is too late once you have started.

 

So you need to count in the exact tempo for the tune before you begin playing and lead straight into it actually playing.

 

You need to know how you are going to play it, having your fingers already in place as in the previous hint.

 

And in this way you are able to prepare the next phrase in your mind and hands because there is little else to do to just play the existing part.

 

If you do not follow these principles of preparedness and readiness to play it is 99 per cent certain that your listeners can definitely hear uncertainty in your playing rather than professionalism. Sorry!

 

 

Now let us concentrate on making it even better and more meaningful and varied

For this you need some more thought and insight into where the tune is going and why.

 

These are just a few of the ways the right hand part can be played

 

Some of them will require further explanation and/or technical guidance which will be there for you lower down the page. These will include advice on ways you can overcome things you perceive as physical limitations with your hands. 

 

Further written and audio musical examples to help will be added continuously as time permits. 

 

20 plus Different ways you can use right hand parts

  • Simple single note melody
  • Dividing the tune clearly into phrases
  • Playing in thirds or sixths, note for note
  • Making two separate parts in the right hand and making them sound like two different parts.
  • Adding chords below or above the tune to supplement the work of the left hand
  • Applying emphasis where useful to the music
  • Phrasing more musically with syncopation
  • Playing in three or four note chords (sometimes with no bass chord buttons)
  • Ornamenting with chord based runs (sometimes with temporary cessation of the left hand part to allow it to show through)
  • Ornamenting with scale or chromatic scale runs (one run can contain all three methods sometimes)
  • Using a slide glissando on single notes
  • Using a slide glissando on right hand chords
  • Trills and turns added to important notes of the melody
  • Grace note starts to important notes of the tune
  • Adding grace notes while playing in thirds or in right hand chords (!)
  • Applying phrasing to lighten or emphasise the meaning of a melody
  • Reduced use of the thumbs special fingering
  • Using and playing scale passages with special fingering
  • Better arpeggios and easy split arpeggios with various fingerings
  • Using and playing arpeggios with special fingeriing which increases the span of your hand
  • Using the right hand to improve the rhythm the left hand is doing
  • Taking over chords on different beats from the left hand to add an arpeggio effect between left and right
  • Applying a pseudo tremolo (or tremolo enhancement) by shaking your right wrist, shaking the bellows, rolling fast between the fingers of a four or five note right hand chord and/or moving your knee if the accordion is resting on it. Sometimes you may use more than one of these methods simultaneously deopending on the effect you want.

Sharing with the Left Hand to enhance the Rhythm

I always feel that the right hand and left hand should be able to work both independently and in a spirit of understanding between them for the best musical results and this is an example.

 

Until I have time to produce more illustrative material on this, it might be as well to keep this simple.

 

To enhance the rhythm where you were playing temporarily in semiquavers (16th notes) you could play the chords alternately with a bass chord and a right hand fingered chord.

Or produce impossible chord changes

These alternate uses of right and left hand could even be used for impossible chord changes done at lightning speed including the infamous one semitone gap. This can sound amazing in the example below

 

Repeat 3 times fast - C bass chord to B treble chord (D# F# B} - Then finish with Bb chord on bass. (OK do it slowly while you work it out)

 

You can also use this idea as part of a triplet accompaniment.

 

 

Improving Musicality with subtle rephrased syncopation

I have said elsewhere that you should study the way singers phrase their melodies in order to copy them and sound smoother and more musical. But just how do you do this?

 

One way is to use syncopation, a term that instantly makes you think of jittery accented tunes, but in many cases can mean the exact opposite.

 

The natural feel in 4 time is for the accents to be on the beat and particularly so on beats 1 and 3. Changing this may not in fact feel as disruptive as you might think, it can sound more pleasant.

 

Basically with syncopation you are likely to be bringing in a melody note before the next beat (and possibly before the written music tells you to!) even if only marginally by a semiquaver 16th note or quaver 8th note. This note may get there perhaps before the "right" chord to match it appears, but do not worry, this will sound fine.

 

An important part of the musical effect is to go from a discord onto a perfectly matching chord. Without the discord first music is terribly dull.

 

The printed music may not tell you how to do this, but IF YOU ARE PLAYING SOLO or with a different instrument such as piano YOU ARE NOW IN CHARGE AND SHOULD INTERPRET NOT SLAVISHLY PLAY JUST THE NOTES. Obviously not the case if you are playing in unison with other accordionists.

 

So here is an example of how you might syncopate to make a section of melody sing through easier using syncopation, It is part of the middle section of a well known standard.

 

How to syncopate

The second line of music is a reinterpretation of the first line.

 

Notice that the aim is to get the last note of each little phrase there BEFORE the next main bass note or chord hits. This is done by speeding up (or really using shorter note values within the tempo) some of the preceding notes.

 

The first bar in the syncopated line simply speeds up the 4th and 5th note of the phrase (G and A) so they both come early. The 3rd note F# is right where it was before on the second beat of the bar.

 

The second bar is similar except a more jerky dotted feel has been added and there is no 5th note to go on to.

 

The third bar works like the second except that it is smoother more relaxed in feel. A singer might reinterpret like this and you might not even notice, except for noticing howsmooth the sound is.

 

The fourth bar I left with NO syncopation. You may notice this makes it sound more authoritative and even a little bit preachy!

 

To try these out play slowly and steadily noting when the next bass note or chord manages to catch up with the tune afterwards.

 

PLEASE NOTE THE SYNCOPATION IN THE MELODY SHOULD NOT AFFECT THE TEMPO OF THE BASS ACCOMPANIMENT IN THESE EXAMPLES. IN FACT I HAVE USED THE MOST BASIC BASS METHOD SO THAT THEY WILL WORK EASILY WITH THIS.

 

ALSO NOTE, THESE PARTICULAR VARIATIONS ARE NOT THE ONLY ONES POSSIBLE, YOU SHOULD NOW BE ABLE TO DO YOUR OWN VERSIONS, THERE IS MORE THAN ONE CORRECT SOLUTION WHEN YOU START INTERPRETING MUSIC

 

If you have a large library of music you have played under strict control of a conductor in an accordion band you have an ideal opportunity to go through these pieces applying your own more freely syncopated methods to that music.

 

Just not while teacher (conductor) is watching in control!

 

 

Arpeggio Accompaniments in the Right Hand

With a long melody note there is often a chance to add a more flowing or rhythm explaining part underneath. With most people and on piano accordions as compared to the closer together chromatic buttons this will be limited to one octave below (or you can also add arpeggios above of course).

 

However you may surprise yourself by extending to a ninth or even a tenth below the melody note, particularly if working on the white notes only.

 

Even full size accordion keyboards are noty necessarily quite as big as the piano counterpart and if you are playing a 48 or 72 bass with much more than a two octave treble keyboard the keys will definitely have been shrunk to fit!

 

You may also be able to hop your thumb down to a lower note, even if you have already just used it.

 

And if you use a bass chord button as the beginning of your arpeggio it further expands the possibilities.

 

Normally you will be working in the next logical subdivision of note value, such as quavers in standard three or four time or triplet quavers in 12/8 ballad (e.g. What a Wonderful World)

 

Note that mixing note values (for example putting semiquavers in) into the accompaniment arpeggios can produce interesting and lively results.

 

 

Playing in Thirds With the Melody

You understand the concept of adding the next door but one note under the tune OK? Like B would have G under or A with F under or E flat with C under. That is playing in thirds.

 

Note that when normally playing in thirds the added note will match the key, if you are in E flat and want a note under C that note will be A flat not A natural, in order to match the key signature. So when I pointed out that C was under that E flat that assumed that C was natural in the key being played in.

 

It is fine understanding that theory, but your fingers have to do it, so the fingering system will have to learn how to do it. Not exactly the same system as your normal single finger system, but sometimes derives from it.

 

For example it is acceptable to drag the thumb under as long as the top finger moves logically as you will see in the example below. Otherwise that run would be stopped abruptly after two moves in this case.

 

Incidentally to avoid looking too scary this is presented in crotchets (quarter notes) but it is nice to use in quavers (eighth notes) or faster.

 

If you wanted to continue the run in triplets in most cases you would start afresh at the beginning for each triplet, ignoring the 5-3 fingering. 

Basic thirds run

 

If you wanted to continue the run up to A-F then you could skip up with 5-3 and come back to G-E  smoothly.

 

Or you could do this

Extended chromatic thirds

  

In this instance the easy logical movement is on the first of the two notes 3-1 to 4-2 and to get to the next one you need to twist your third finger up over the fourth.

 

In this instance quite easy to do because you are going to a black note which is almost clear of the finger you are going over.

 

Let's do an extended less chromatic example

 

Extended chromatic thirds run

 

An interesting twist at the end, but after the first bar you will have found this quite easy because the fingering is mostly repeated

 

You will notice fingering can be quite easy for a range of about five notes maximum. For further continuous distances you may have to jump and start a similar sequence from scratch. (Mine shown here were not continuous, but staggered)

 

The good news is you will find the requirements for fingerings do not vary that much from key to key.

 

The second good news is that these are probably not the only solutions for these musical passages, but I hope this will lead you to working out your own.

 

Playing in Sixths

Sixths are not so useful probably as thirds, but they have a more open sound, not being as closely pushed together in frequencies. They are of course upside down thirds.

 

So for the sake of completeness let us try a few notes in continuous sixths with a suggested fingering.

 

In practice a piece of music may swop over instantly between using thirds and sixths.

Fingering for a run of sixths

I might add here that in all these examples you should see if they suit you, they are not the only possible solution

 

 

Fingerings for Chords

The same principles may be applied but obviously the possibilities are endless. You might look for shared notes in the middle of the chord shape which will possibly use the same finger for example. Obviously always look for a connection between them to suggest hand movements.

 

Here are a few close chord changes

A few chord changes with fingering

 

Here, in one diagram are a couple of chromatic chord changes, with similar fingering. These, in a very different rhythm feel, with the first having almost no duration and the second emphasised, can be in an extreme instance used as a decoration for emphasis of one chorded note, like a grace note.

 

You might also like 3-2-1 to 4-2-1 for the last two chords A minor to D (second inversion)

 

Chromatic chord changes and their fingerings, a couple of examples

 

 

Arpeggios But How big are your hands?

Most of my musical friends bemoan that their hands are not big enough to do much as they can only just stretch an octave.

 

However, this should not be the only useful feature. Admittedly in one go that means you can only play two notes an octave apart simultaneously but for general mobility around the keyboard for separate notes you can use the gaps between the individual fingers.

 

This adds up to a much bigger span, such as playing thirds between any fingers if you need to, playing a fourth or possibly even a fifth between thumb and forefinger and most likely a sixth between thumb and middle finger. You may be even able to manage a seventh between 1 and 3 or even 1 and 2 but make sure you are comfortable, or work into it gradually.

 

Apply that to an arpeggio starting in the second inversion (eg B on the E or E minor arpeggio) and you should be able to play a continuous run of an 11th (up to E) without using a thumb crossing.

 

Extended hand for E minor arpeggio

 

Now there might be an easy answer to making a brilliant start for the Indifference waltz, which does not span quite as much as that.

 

All you need is 1-2-3-4-5-4-5-4-3 and no messing.

 

If you feel discomfort between your 4th and 5th fingers spreading them so much quickly release either after reaching the next note. 

 

You can extend that to a full two octaves by adding a little bit at the bottom of that fingering in most natural or sharp keys

 D arpeggio fingering

Though you will have to adapt even that for keys which have more than one flat and so start on black notes.

A FINGERING FOR E FLAT ARPEGGIO

However after trying these and practising these a little if you find them uncomfortable and affecting your agility instead of helping please ignore this!

 

Do your arpeggios fade out as they go up or down?

 

I have found that sometimes my arpeggios were ineffective just at the point where they should have been most impressive. Such as on the second octave of notes, up or down. I just did not seem to really hear them.

 

Very obviously on upward patterns and even on downward patterns.

 

First I discovered they may have been insufficiently pushed by the bellows. In search of a light effect for an arpeggio soaring upwards I was using the bellows less through the arpeggio.

 

Secondly they may have reached a zone where they were obscured by the bass section.

 

Third I suspected they might have reached an area of the keyboard where I played less often and therefore the reeds were not as strong.

 

So I have a three point plan to combat this.

  • Intensify bellows movement while playing arpeggios.
  • Lighten up on or play more stacatto on the bass as you go through an arpeggio of two octaves or more
  • Exercise the reeds in the less used part of the keyboard, both with the bellows going in and going out. (Particularly in a new or under-used instrument)

 

Accordions Are Different than Pianos!

Big news this, pianos or keyboards are normally played in a stationary 

position which means that gravity and the weight of your hands can be your greatest ally for putting the keys down.

 

With the accordion, it is all your own work!

 

Blue accordion

Another problem with arpeggios therefore is that without the help of gravity there is nothing to prevent your hand flying away when it loses momentary contact with the keyboard during a change of hand position.

 

Because of the difference of angle and the lack of help from gravity to keep your hand returning to the accordion keyboard  the Czerny piano exercises and techniques do not always work on accordion.

 

However I found one which might be helpful and that was to roll over the hand in the direction the notes are heading when you cross the thumb or fingers over. So doing a finger crossing with the note going "down" in pitch you would swivel your wrist anti clockwise. I think this will send the hand back towards the keyboard.

 

Chromatic runs if you are not all thumbs

We are taught that it is because we have an opposable thumb that the human race has managed to use tools and become the master race on earth.

 

The thumb is also most used in music, but using it is not as smooth as just using the fingers 2,3,4, and 5, because it works in a completely different way, waving up and down till its side encounters a note instead of neatly punching vertically down on a note with the tip of the finger.

 

This means that it will not hit on the key with the same strength which can cause uneven sound level on the piano. Not a problem on the accordion where the volume is from the bellows, but potentially a problem if it affects the exact timing of a note in a fast run, which indeed it can.

 

If you do normally play by flapping around your fingers at a 45 degree angle by the way you are at a severe disadvantage and they need to be bent around until they line up in a neat row with the end of the thumb, the hand shaped as if it were holding a small tennis ball.

 

 

An Answer to Hand Health problems

I have detected a tendency to arthritis with a possibility of a locked temporarily paralysed thumb in myself recently which has fortunately not caused too much trouble as I try not to use thumb crossings too much, and at least move my arm along the keyboard so as not to have to swivel my thumb too harshly.

 

Thus you would imagine I would now avoid chromatic runs with their constant thumb crossings, but in fact I am rather addicted to them.

 

I suddenly discovered I was playing them still but with virtually no thumbs and I had to stop and find out how it was possible. How was I doing it?

 

As far as I can work out it goes something like this. A system derived from playing chromatic accordion where there is often a walking motion between only two or three fingers and thumb crossings are the exception.

 

In this example (which is only approximate) you can see the motion is like walking along with your left finger up on the pavement (the black notes) and your right in the gutter.

 

 

 

At least one of the standard fingers for this would have the thumb used four times at least.

 

I have found the normal chromatic fingering still fine for downward runs however, probably because the thumb will already be in the way as the fingers catch up with it. Thus there is less stress on it 

 

The Lizst Fingering

You will notice that in that last example the fingering reverts back down to 4 from 5, even though the notes are still going up. I could have equally well used 2-3-4 for those notes.

 

But I thought it a useful point to try out Llizst fingering.

 

Once you are on the fifth finger according to most piano teachers there is no way up beyond it, you have reached the end of the road in that direction!

 

With the Lizst fingering, as it is known to classical pianists, you do not accept that barrier and go beyond it.

 

It is useful for going one note beyond where the standard fingering will take you, and then returning. Although in this case it could be continued indefinitely up the chromatic scale stepping alternately with 4 and 5. Might have been difficult to keep up the speed though.

 

A more typical possibility for Lizst fingering, only one note needed above a comfortable run of notes

 

Sometimes a slight tipping over of the angle of the wrist will help you use the Llizt fingering if you want to try it.

 

It is inadvisable to use it in the first part of a full two octave scale passage however, since once you disrupt the sequence of fingers for that scale it is virtually impossible to get back into the regular pattern.

 

At worst you will stop dead, at best try to work out how to keep going on the fly and spoil the smooth flow of your music.

 

Good fun though!

 

The Glissando on single notes or on chords

Sweeping your fingers up the keys is an effect which may, along with fingered sliding chords, thirds and single notes, help to make the sound of the accordion sound more flexible. Instruments like violin and even guitar or some synthesisers can bend the note, rather than plop down onto the exact centre of it in a possibly over predictable manner!

 

Aside from some players who can bend the reed downwards on a single note by suddenly decreasing the bellows pressure, this is a limitation of the accordion.

 

Of course like everything, glissandos can be overdone to the point of making one feel seasick, but occasional suitable use definitely adds variety to the tone. They are often suitable for joining particularly widely spaced notes in the melody or right hand chords or significant movements ikn the melody.

 

With single notes you could also use fast chromatic runs instead of course.

 

The problem of stopping them in the right place is paramount of course. A thorough knowedge of your instrument and lots of practice playing it is essential. Another thing that may help after that I believe is to be very conscious of the exact starting position when you are there. Concentrating on where you are at the beginning of the run will go a long way to enabling you to stop in the right place.

 

 

Sliding chords

You may feel the black notes on the keys as your chords slide past them as a guide also, if you are well into the keyboard.

 

You will see amazing examples of exponents of full chords sliding one or two octaves across the accordion keyboard on YouTube. Despite admiring this technique I have one or two extra suggestions.

 

Most of these feature full four note chords with the outside notes as the same notes in octaves. While this makes a massive sound, I do not feel this is necessarily the best use of them as it can be more musically interesting to listen to the separate bottom note sliding also.

 

It works well where the top and bottom chords are the same or the same shape but if the black notes are in different positions or even if you are sliding from one position of the same chord to another one (which is rather effective) the transition from one to the other will be difficult to say the least. And the raised black notes may get in the way more.

 

 

 

Playing glisses amongst the Black notes

If your run of chords includes black notes you definitely need to be well into the keyboard and I have even found that with my style of chording, which is not the full octave version usually, the finish chord can be successfully a different shape than the one I started from!

 

I just dont know how this happens except that I think of the new shape on the way up.

 

It is also possible that in changes of chord inversion some of the finger spacing is the same in both positions but in a different part of the chord. In between some of the fingers are allowed to be dragged along while the top note knows exactly where it is going.

 

A difficult matter of timing is to try to stop the bellows until an octave sweep is halfway up. A combination of doing something positive while cancelling it with the left arm! It can be a nice subtle variation if you can manage it. It makes the gliss more subtle of course and breaks it up.

 

The Glissando can be on thirds or on single notes also. Sometimes it is a choice in this case of choosing between short runs of fingering the notes properly or sliding. And my belief is that it is the closer spaced chords (not including the octave) which are the most versatile.

 

You can also end a glissando of single notes on a chord. Sometimes angling the back of the hand towards the keyboard until the end seems to help.

 

While some of the major exponents of glissando effects have used full octave chord shapes I personally feel that the sound is more interesting on a smaller handshape with a maximum of four fingers used. Then you only have one example of each note, with no repetition from an octave/

 

It also means it is easier to stop on a top note which is diffferent from the one you started from.And possible to change the shape of the chord on the way up. You could be going to entirely different chords ot to a different inversion ofthe one you start from.