Diatonic Accordion Lessons

Roberto Lucanero

The largest traditional diatonic button accordion production centre is located in Italy, in Val Musone in Marche, and specifically in the area around ​​Castelfidardo and Recanati. Having previously worked in accordion factories, today I am mainly engaged with making Val Musone become an important cultural centre for the diatonic accordion, or rather that it resume that role. In fact, though today the diatonic accordion is a widely-played traditional instrument in, for example, Brittany, Ireland and the Basque Country (albeit with typical local organological variants), one should be aware of the fact that before our instrument arrived or its use became widespread in these places, it was already the main instrument used to play traditional music in my homeland of Marche, and many rural families kept it alongside their work tools and ritual objects. At some point in the past the flow of our traditions dried up, sometimes even ceasing altogether, and the historical folk revival of the region has taken other forms, which have certainly not aimed at resuming the spread of traditions through the diatonic accordion. Yet, for the past few years, I have been doing just that: trying to revive our ancient traditions relating to the diatonic accordions, as well as that of... diatonic accordion players. I currently give diatonic accordion lessons at the "Paolo Soprani" Municipal School of Music in Castelfidardo: there could certainly be no other more evocative place than this for a diatonic accordion course! My course is also the first to be officially established in Castelfidardo. During lessons I take three different approaches with my students: the empirical and traditional instinctive fingering approach to the diatonic accordion; the practical use of all of the latest and most internationally accepted tablature; classical musical notation reading, along with theoretical and practical knowledge of what the instrument is capable of apart from its normal usage.
I like to say - adapting three different words for the verb used in other languages to denote the act of producing sounds on an instrument into English - that my students should be able to do the following:

  1. Tocar (from Spanish): be able to place one's hands in the right place immediately using the "idiomatic phrasing" of the instrument independently of any other knowledge;
  2. Jouer (from French): understand how to have fun and to entertain with the instrument, by learning how to perform songs to achieve this goal in a short amount of time, perhaps with the assistance of tablature;
  3. Suonare (from Italian): become quickly aware of what one is doing, both musically and philosophically. Music is the art of sounds, and the Italian verb suonare is used for producing music with an instrument. Music is one of the seven liberal arts (as opposed to the mechanical arts). It is considered a traditional art in that it requires a teacher to instruct a student (in classical as well as folk music), but it is essentially an art of the intellect: the instructor is required to teach at different levels.

Thus in order to make music with the diatonic accordion my students will have to make equal use of these three approaches, without getting lost in just one of them, like a "Songs of the Sirens" which attempts to distract diatonic accordion players into simplifying their technique and make use of only one of these approaches. My students and I have other goals that can only be achieved by taking the three-step approach to further us along on our musical journey. In addition to teaching at the "Paolo Soprani" Municipal School of Music in Castelfidardo (where I give weekly lessons, and make arrangements for individual and repertoire practice with students), I am also active in various traditional music festivals, where I offer individual or group lessons in the form of seminars, which regularly include traditional songs from Marche arranged for the diatonic accordion.