By Joan Cochran Sommers
I thought it might be fun to have a Polka, a Waltz, and a Samba, for everyone who likes to dance or play for dancers! These pieces have some technical expectations as well as being very entertaining for the audience. All three are worthy of studying and while some players may have to struggle to even work through the Samba, the Polka and the Waltz should be mastered somewhat more quickly. In doing so, the player will have improved; I am sure of it! All three of these solos are great for competitions; they each have details which will give an adjudicator many things to listen to and watch for.
1. NINA (Polka by Jack Walasik)
An American polka originally published in 1951 by Quattroccioche in Ohio.
Nina Polka is a perfect example of how many polkas are constructed (or many other pieces as well)! First, establish the Tonic key, then move up to the Dominant, repeat the Tonic, move to the Sub-dominant, go back to the Tonic (could end with this or repeat the Dominant and the Tonic again) and you are to the end: FINE
There are no switches indicated, but for this piece I would suggest Master for both hands. I have indicated just a few bellows directions as well as a few fingers. Dynamics are already included, so watch them! D.C. a piacere means: Play from the beginning at liberty (or your choice, then conclude the piece on the G major Chord where you see Fine.) This is a typical Polka but it could be used as a March and I am sure no one would know the difference.
You will notice the LH is written in full chord notation, but with the chord symbol also. One little exercise you might try is to play the basses in the LH and the chords in the RH. Let someone else play the RH notes and you have a nice little duet. On the repeats, you might switch the parts so that each player has a chance to practice those wonderful basses in the LH and the full chords in the RH. One could also add a bellows shake during the Trio. If it is too tiring, try putting the first two measure phrase with a shake, then play the next two measures without a shake. You could build up your strength doing this. It will also help you to notice the phrases. It is a fun Polka! And there are so many things we can learn.
2. Luci e Ombre (Valse by P. Pizzigoni)
Published 1954 by Metron, Milan, Italy. There are several composers with the last name of Pizzigoni and some of them are from the city of Milan; I suspect one of them might be the composer of Luci e Ombre.
After the introduction of the theme, there are two typical variations for the RH, one with 8th notes, the other with 8th note triplets. Fingers are marked in some measures and the bellows may be marked, too, at least if needed in a few spots. These variations can be used to build strength and control as well as some fast fingers. Practice both legato and non-legato, but the goal is to play a great non-legato and make your fingers eventually really move quite fast. Don’t cheat on the fingering. Use the 3rd as needed but also use both the 4th and the 5th fingers. Your 5th finger will be exactly there, so use it. That is the way to strengthen it and make it equal to all others.
The accents are extremely important and they have been marked very carefully on both of the Variations. Keep your fingers on the keys! Please don’t hit the keys in trying to make an accent; it is your bellows which must make these accents. You will soon realize there is a different feel when pulling out with your bellows than when pushing in. At first it will be easier pulling and making those many, many accents than it is when you are pushing. This can be an interesting and extremely useful exercise for all of us. Pay attention to the sound on each of the accents; they cannot be very loud on some and soft on others unless you are doing it for the complete phrase. Listen, listen, listen and control those accents with your bellows!
This piece has a few measures in the Left Hand which will require some extra work, but the Right Hand can really have a great time because of the wonderful patterns set up throughout the piece. You will also find these same types of variations on many other pieces.
Look at M. 111 where I have indicated you should play 3rd finger on the F# counterbass and use a 2nd finger on the C diminished chord. You definitely should not have to jump to the F# fundamental bass and F# diminished chord! Also look at M. 131; Play B counterbass with 3rd finger and an F Diminished chord with your 2nd finger. Again, there is absolutely no reason you need to play it as written. One of these times, I will spend some time on this.
The suggested bellows directions sometimes don’t work always as indicated because of how we change the tempo, perhaps faster as we get better at playing the piece, and when that happens we don’t use as much air in the bellows, so maybe we don’t have to change as often. The markings I have placed on these pieces are just suggestions. Use whatever works best for you! If you have 3 middle reeds on your Treble Keyboard side, this piece might be fun to use them. This piece is absolutely French or Italian Musette music so you can use that Musette switch if you like that sound.
You will be so rightfully proud of your efforts when you eventually have mastered this little gem of a piece!
3. ACCORDINA (Samba by Yvette Horner, 1922-2018, and Marcel Azzola, 1927-2019)
Pub. 1981 by Editions opaline music. YouTube has lots of French Musette listed and remember French Musette includes all kinds of pieces. I haven’t really looked through every single recording I have of this kind of repertoire, but I suspect there might be Accordina someplace, since it is such an outstanding composition and one which could easily fit into any high level of a competition for entertainment music.
Although the Samba requires much more from the player, it is very worthwhile to learn at a slow tempo and then work diligently to push the tempo. Style is very important, too, so you might try listening to some French Musette music as well as a Samba on YouTube; it doesn’t have to be this exact piece. The two composers were extremely famous during their lifetimes, both in France and other countries. Yvette Horner was a tiny person, but she stood up and performed on many, many stages. The Samba, oh my! It will be a challenge, even for a rather advanced player! Again, however, it is a piece which makes every player mind the details. A small tidbit: Yvette Horner won 3rd place in the very first Coupe Mondiale of 1938 as well as 1st place in the Coupe Mondiale of 1948.
I have marked some bellows, just to get you started. Sometimes you must just follow the phrase, but other times you must actually change more often when there are big chords in both RH and LH. Please look at M. 2, you will see the bellows change in the middle of the third count. The reason we can do this is because we are not going to hold the Bb M chord for a full 1 ½ counts! Beginning in the first measure, the basses and the chords will not be held for full value. The only time it is better to hold both RH and LH for almost full value is in measures like M. 6 and 7 where the hands match.
This is dance music, not song! This means we are going to shorten the written note values in most places. You can try playing full value on both hands, for example even in the first measure, and you will immediately notice that the left hand makes the rhythm sound sluggish. I would say we might imagine playing the very first bass beneath the 3 RH notes, but then play the following chord just for the length of the RH notes above it. The breath in this phrase happens right before the F 8th note in the right hand, therefore we must hold the left hand quarter note for full value! It should not be an 8th note tied to a quarter note; it is an 8th tied to another 8th note, followed by an 8th rest below the F 8th note in the RH hand. This pattern continues throughout the piece. We want to hear a nice sustained bass, but not unless it begins to make the rhythm sluggish and heavy or cover up the RH. (Advanced players might not change exactly with the phrase, but only if they can make the phrase heard as written! They might change at the bar line.)
Let’s look at only the LH in Section A:
The first Bb bass probably ends up being a quarter note, followed by an 8th rest.
The first Bb chord probably ends up being an 8th note tied to an 8th note followed by an 8th rest. Then the F bass on count 4 is a good solid 8th note (maybe even a very slight longer).
Now please look at the LH in M. 2:
The first Bb bass can be held to match the RH.
The Bb M Chord can be held as an 8th tied ti an 8th to match the RH.
Then there should be an 8th rest (so the RH 8th note F in the RH will be clearly heard.)
Basically the way I have described these first 2 measures is the way we should approach all measures in this piece. This allows us to phrase both hands correctly and not drag the rhythm and tempo down; it needs to be light and with good solid phrasing and dynamics. Both hands are important, but if there is ever a choice to be made, it must favor the melody, wherever it is.
Please look at Section B: the hands match. The last Bass should not slur into the F Bass in the next measure; it should be a nice solid quarter (with just enough rest between it and the next Bass in the next measure. It is really difficult to notate each and every note and rest in this piece exactly as they should be played. I find it a good idea to work hands separately and really get the feel and the style of the Samba until it is natural and easy! Do both hands separately until easy to play, then put them together. I do not say that too often, but this piece has reasons to do so.
You will notice the Bellows changes are a bit different on this last line than on the first line. Again, I watched and listened to the phrasing in both hands and decided which was the most important to bring out. In the first line, (like in M. 2) the RH pickup notes were most important; in the last line M. 2, the LH pickup notes were most important so I felt it better to change bellows on the bar-line.
Section C has a nice repeat and they are really different in that the first time brings out the chords in the RH matching those in the LH., so when you see that, be sure to match not only the notes but also the size of the notes! On the repeated section, just play it very lightly, no slurs, just a beautiful non-legato and with dynamics. (Remember you must put them in far more than the composer/arranger did!) If you do not have the higher octave, don’t worry, just play those notes loco instead of 8va.
Section D: Now the real fun begins! This is a section which would indeed be easier on a button accordion but keyboard players can certainly play it just as well. The melody will always be sustained on the top, while the second voice below it must be detached. Be careful to hold the melody notes long as they are marked and watch that 8th rest every now and then. Watch the note values carefully and play them exactly as indicated. The 5th finger really works a lot on the melody and the thumb must do a lot on the bottom notes, although you can sneak in finger number 2 perhaps once in a while. This section is really demanding; be careful and don’t practice it million times straight without resting since it might make your fingers hurt if you do that. Take your time! Just be sure of the note values at all times.
Section E: really has nothing new since you are using some of the same chords you’ve played elsewhere. Watch the dynamics and bring out the nice melody. This section is the very last section of the piece so you must make it very solid and interesting to hear.
The repeats are:
Section A, Section B, Section A to the end of M. 19, Trio, which is Section C, Repeat Section C, Section D, Repeat Section D, Go back to Section A through M. 19, then go to the Coda M. 72 and finish with Section E, which repeats. It is a long piece, but extremely worthwhile in so many ways. It is one on which you must build up some strength to play.
Thanks for wading through all of the above details!
I hope you like these pieces. Let me know if you enjoy practicing the solos I have been including in the Bulletin. If you have any suggestions, be sure to let me know and I will try to include them if possible. Write! Joansommers@kc.rr.com