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Three Great Solos to Learn

My first teacher did not spend as much time on exercises as he did on solos. But the solos he selected always had “something” which would require learning a skill which I may not have had earlier. I am going to suggest 3 solos for you to check out; I am sure you and your audiences will like them and I believe there are new musical/technical skills to learn in all three of them.

I. March of the Dwarfs by Edward Grieg, Op. 54, No. 3, Arranged by Anthony Galla-Rini This piece has been out of print for several years, but copies can be found. If you cannot find one, let me know and I can help. Donald Balestrieri of Music Graphics Press has promised he will print copies of the pieces we may have trouble finding. Email him at: or write him at: 3409 Dickens Street, San Diego, CA 92106 In the meantime, I give you this copy.

I first heard this being performed by Galla-Rini on one of his many solo concerts performed for many years all around the USA. There are many things to learn in this piece! First of all, the key signature is for d minor until it changes to D Major in the middle of the second page. It is also written in full chord notation with chord symbols, so it gives players an opportunity to see exactly what notes are being played when one chord button is pressed. The direction of the bellows is very important and one should pencil them in so they will always be the same. We have wonderful dynamics also. The original title for this piece is Marche Grotesque and this is exactly that; the minor section is simply a march, but when it changes to the Major key, we have a totally different feel. It is cantabile until the D.C. poi Fine takes us back to the very beginning march.

There can be a bit of freedom in the cantabile section, but you really should stay in time when you play the Right Hand runs. Grace notes are played quickly, but beautifully, before the beat. The switches are indicated by the old F and S in a box, meaning the bassoon reed can be included when the F is shown, but you should not leave the low reed in when the S is shown. Again, you have choices. This is an absolutely wonderful piece of music and, with proper preparation, accordionists can really do justice to the original. Try it; I know you will like it. Besides that, there are so many wonderful musical things to learn about, maybe for the first time.

II. At Sea In A Storm by John Gart originally written for accordion. It is in a collection of solos by Gart and should be available from Ernest Deffner Music at www/

So many of us know and use the works (Scherzo; Vivo) by John Gart that many of his other wonderful solos are overlooked. They should not be lost; some of them are very interesting!

At Sea In A Storm is one of those often overlooked pieces, but it is such a wonderful piece and is one which makes us use our imagination when we show our listeners what a big storm at sea sounds like; awesome attention to dynamics is required and it is through those that we inspire our listeners! I am including the complete solo here, but if you use it in competitions, etc., you will need to find an original.

I am attaching pages on which I have written bellows directions and lots of fingerings marked for both hands. They work for me; they might not work for you. So try them first. Remember, however, that bellows often cannot be determined until the correct dynamics and tempos are being used. Pay attention to the melody! Is it in the sixteenth notes or the larger sustained notes? How do you bring out the important notes when you just have one bellows? When I listen to this piece, I want to hear a full symphony orchestra play it! Look at the triple forte! It is important to play with the repeats, too.

Remember this should be a huge sound of wind and water tossing a ship around in a storm with lightning all around us…perhaps a bit frightening for us. A performer must interpret all this. Sometimes within just a few measures. Con moto (with motion) at the beginning is telling us something from the very first measure! Keep remembering you are depicting a storm out at sea! Allargando? Slow down a bit, broaden the sound, watch for any accents. Then return to a Tempo. Good luck. I love pieces like this. You have some beautiful lines in both the right and left hand to bring out. Make your audience listen to you. Make them imagine that storm by the way you play! They will love you!

III. Rondo, Op. 40, No. 2 by Friedrich Kuhlau, Arranged by Anthony Galla-Rini This solo was published by Pietro Deiro Publications but is available through Ernest Deffner at

This is a wonderful piece since it is fun to teach and to play; besides that, your audience (or adjudicator) will have a good time listening to you play it. A lot of nice dynamics are marked throughout the piece. Good fingerings help you learn it quickly. Remember to watch carefully the hints given by the composer. Dolce rallentando, a tempo mean something! And there are many crescendo, cresc., diminuendo, dim., plus signs for those words, so we are given many ideas of how this piece should be played. But the real test is for us to watch the phrasing! We have to watch all those tiny dots over and under many, many notes! Is it just a dot or is there a line above or below it? Watch the legato! Remember the 8va sign means to play one octave higher.

One of the reasons this is such a fun piece is we get to use our left hand switches or, if we have a free-bass on our instrument we can use it on the second page for those few bass notes on lines 4 and 5…it isn’t much, but that is how we learn to use our switches and can find them when we need them. Just because you must change a switch, you cannot let it influence the tempo. Even this piece calls for the Tenor switch in the left hand instead of the lowest bass sound we have. I am including it, but again, you must buy the original if you use it for competitions.

I hope you have enjoyed these three pieces. They are quite different. Next time I will try to find some easier pieces but ones which have all the same excitement as the above three.

Happy practicing!

Joan C. Sommers

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