So simple: Turning noise into music

Posted by on Feb 4, 2013

My penchant for playing a vintage Hohner accordion has not endeared me to my neighbors, but it has taught me an unexpected lesson about learning that relates to all of us.

My father used to play the accordion. He played it well, brightening birthdays and livening up more than a few long-ago family gatherings.

When he died in 2004, my sadness somehow steered me to eBay, where I bought an accordion of my own. It was the same model as his, but in mint condition.

The day it arrived, I slipped on the shoulder strap and began to play — if you could call it that. I learned that nothing clears a room more quickly than an accordion in untutored hands.

As the months unfolded, I practiced whenever I had the house to myself. Several times I played outside, on the back porch, but that ended when a backdoor neighbor sent a plaintive wail over the fence: “Shut up!”

My playing improved, but something didn’t seem right. The accordion felt out of position despite the shoulder strap. A separate thumb strap helped stabilize the instrument, but that wasn’t right either, because the constant pull of thumb against strap was beginning to tear the leather.

I kept practicing, but my playing hit a plateau. I tried harder, but got no better. That tear in the thumb strap got worse.

Then something steered me to the Internet. YouTube beckoned, showing me the right way to handle an accordion. It took just five minutes to see the root cause of my problem: I was wearing the strap on my left shoulder when it should have been on the right.

The moment I switched shoulders, my playing began to improve. The thumb strap stopped tearing, and my thumb felt relief too. Best of all, my family began to like me again because I was no longer tormenting them with my noisy determination.

Was it a remedial correction? Absolutely. Should I have figured out the left-to-right switch instead of needing the YouTube assist? Probably. Do I care? Not in the least. I’m just glad to have made the discovery.

The fact is, we all get stuck on plateaus at times. We all face situations where doing things the same way over and over might make things worse.

We’d all benefit from an occasional pause in which we look around, learn from others, pinpoint better practices, and put those practices to work in our own lives.

Even some simple changes can make the difference between noise and music — as my neighbor will tell you.


By Tom TerezContact