Badass Accordion Gloves

Guess who’s got himself a pair of badass accordion gloves?


As a knitter, I feel like I should have something on hand (see what I did there?) to show people. Almost like a sample or something, like credentials, as if I need to prove that I’m not lying about knitting (because that’s totally what you would lie about to be cool, right?). However, as a person married to a knitter, my hats and scarves have all been provided by Sara. “Oh, did you knit your hat?” they ask. “Well, no. I mean, I could have. I do knit hats, sometimes, but not this *particular* hat…”

No, I needed something of my own.

And hey, if you’re going to go custom, go all the way custom, am I right?


So I made myself some “convertible” gloves, that can transform from fingerless gloves into mittens with the flip of a flap. There are even little flaps for the thumbs!


As I was picking out the pattern for the gloves, I saw some with embroidery on the knuckles, and I knew I wanted to do that. But what message to put? Something badass, something awesome, something uniquely me, and something no one else would ever have in a million years.


Look, I’ve even got a picture of me working on my mittens in Costa Rica. Mittens! In Costa Rica!


Now, I will admit, knitting these mittens has taken all the time that I would normally use to practice the accordion. But, hey! Now that I have the accoutrements, fame and fortune can’t be far behind, can they? If nothing else, at least I’m prepared for some winter busking.


And now, a duet

And now, for your enjoyment, a beautiful piano and accordion duet.

Because nothing says “Spring!” like “Jingle Bells”:

(Special thanks to our videographer, Oliver!)

My First Gig

Evie’s school always has a summer festival, just before the end of the year. An email was sent out in preparation, and it included this sentence:

We also need musicians to play for the cake-walk – if anyone plays guitar, banjo or (my first choice) accordion please let me know.

My first impression was to wonder if Evie had somehow put her teacher up to this. As an accordion player, I think it is safe to say that your services are very rarely asked for, much less begged for. On one hand, I seemed WAY under qualified to play for someone. On the other hand, it seemed very unlikely they would find another accordion player, and it seemed like I just *couldn’t* ignore an email like that.

When I got to school on Monday morning, I cornered the teacher. “I have to ask you a question; why specifically an accordion for the cake walk?”

She laughed. “It’s just such a fun instrument, so much more fun than a guitar! My uncle used to play and we would just sit out on the porch and listen. We always had a good time.”

I couldn’t deny her those reasons. “Well, it turns out that I actually play accordion…”

And so, I soon found myself playing the pied piper to hordes of kids around a cake walk.


Maybe it wasn’t quite so simple as it sounds. I was really reluctant to agree, and there was a little arm twisting involved. I really just couldn’t imagine playing my limited repertoire of beginner songs for anybody. But they had an answer for each of my excuses; “They’re only kids, they won’t know any better!” “They just get their cake and leave, nobody’s going to hear more than a few songs!” and “Even a bad accordion is better than a boring old guitar!”

I picked my 7 best “tunes” (calling them songs would be hopelessly optimistic) and practiced nothing but those 7 until I had them cold. Even still, I would usually make a mistake or two each time through. Even worse, the tunes were usually only 15 seconds or so, which meant I would have to loop them to get a good length. With only 7 songs, this would mean an endless repetition that would be sure to drive any adult who was stuck listening absolutely crazy.


To my relief and amazement, it actually went way better than I could have guessed.

First off, I never really felt nervous. I kept expecting to feel nervous, and I joked about being nervous, because that’s what you do, but I never felt even the least bit of dread or butterflies. I guess I truly and finally have transcended the ability to embarrass myself in public.

Second off, I didn’t think about how loud and chaotic the whole place was. I assumed the sound would carry through the whole place, until all the adults were fighting to bury their heads under pillows and whatnot. In fact, it was barely loud enough to cover the cake walk area. This was definitely the first time I wished my accordion could be louder.

Finally, I think perhaps I didn’t give myself, or the accordion in general, enough credit. I made very few mistakes (again, these were very simple songs). Also, I think the accordion is a fantastic instrument in terms of making you look good. Despite what you may have heard about the accordion, it is hard to strike a sour note. Even basic proficiency like mine sounds grand and impressive, and most people don’t know enough about accordion to know that what I was playing was pretty simple. And lastly, for a cake walk, 15 – 30 second songs are actually pretty appropriate. Even if I knew a lot more songs, I still might have stuck to the same selection. Simple ditties just worked better, and this was one of the few times and places where “Mary Had a Little Lamb” was not only appropriate, but appreciated!


I ended up only playing 5 of my 7 songs because I didn’t trust playing the other two without looking at the sheet music and it was a little too windy for that. On the upside, I looked way cooler just playing off the top of my head, but on the downside, it did really start to get repetitive towards the end. There were maybe 30 or so cakes, so I played each song a dozen or so times (remember, I was playing them twice around each time). Yeah, I could have used a few more songs.

We had started off doing it musical chairs style, but we quickly realized that would take too long. However, because we had started that way, all the kids were convinced they had to dart for a chair the second the music stopped, despite there being enough chairs for every kid. This meant that if I ever hesitated or made even the slightest mistake, all the kids would immediately dive for a chair, thoroughly highlighting my mistake.

All in all, I thought it went really well. At least nobody was mocking me openly. Later, someone even told me I had done well, and he had seen me “showing off” by playing with only one hand. I took that for a sign that I had successfully hoodwinked them into thinking I was much better than I actually was, “showing off” rather than “displaying a tremendous lack of ability and creativity”. And really, what better to strive for in life?

Accordion Update

It’s been awhile since I’ve talked about my accordion on the blog. That’s mostly because there hasn’t been much to report.

Periodically, I would get it out and noodle around on it, but not very often and increasingly less and less. Usually it was far enough between times that I was mostly just struggling to maintain what I knew, not really improving. It was obvious that what I needed was practice time, but learning anything (particularly an instrument) is an exercise in frustration and futility, and requires a lot of persistence.

Last Halloween, a friend introduced me to a neighbor who was also learning to play accordion. It seemed a shame that two accordion players would live so close together and not meet up. Through a series of mishaps, it took some time to actually make it happen, but eventually we did meet up a few times to play.

This was the motivation I needed.

As I suspected, what I really needed was practice time. Actually playing the accordion in front of someone else was very motivational to not suck. And even now, when we’re not meeting anymore, I’ve still managed to practice a good 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week. And it’s amazing how much of a difference that makes!

There’s really only one accordion book, the Palmer Hughes Accordion Course. I’ve had this book since day one, but I never got into it. The whole thing seems so cheesy, with stupid, childlike illustrations accompanying stupid, childlike songs. It’s sort of a shame, though, because now that I’m really going through it, it’s actually a really good course!

I think part of it, though, was hearing the songs played by someone who could actually play them properly made them seem less silly. Listening to him play, I was like, “Hey, that actually sounds like a real song.!”

Each song in the book adds an additional skill, and the difficulty increases pretty quickly. As soon as you master one song, the next one piles another level of difficulty on top. I’m not ashamed to admit that it took me awhile to get “Mary had a little lamb” since they used a jazzed-up version to work on your two hands doing two different things at the same time. So even though the song is simple, the concepts weren’t! It seems like each new song make me go, “Oh man, I can’t do that *at all*.”

Nothing is more motivational than actually seeing progress. I know playing the first 3 or 4 songs in an introductory book is nothing to brag about, but it’s a long shot better than nothing and getting easier all the time!

Accordion Set List

So I haven’t gotten much practice in lately, but I’m developing a list of songs that are on my “must have” list for my accordion repertoire. They are, in no particular order:

They last one was chosen because I wanted to learn something that was sort of New Orleans style (zydeco), and I figured that would fit the bill. It also happens to be my high school fight song.

The first song I learned, and the only song I can play reliably, is Happy Birthday. I know a good chunk of Hava Nagila, but that’s only the keyboard side, I don’t know the bass. I’m also making a little progress on the keyboard part of the Pennsylvania Polka.

I think it would also be nice to learn Funiculi Funicula and Au Champs Elysees, because I’ve heard these played many times on accordion by street buskers, and both have some meaning to me (the first was sort of an inside joke on our Italy trip and the second was from our Paris trip).

So what am I missing? Any critical accordion hits that I must learn? Maybe something by Weird Al? (And yes, I am aware that it is traditional to learn Lady of Spain, but I don’t really know it or have any reason to learn it.)