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The D/G Melodeon Absolute Beginners Book - Dave Mallinson

The aim of this book is to get students off to the best possible start on the D/G melodeon, by presenting information that might otherwise take years to accumulate. The D/G melodeon is just one of a group of instruments, what may be termed the squeezebox family, which is part of the free reed instrument range.

There are many styles of traditional music where the melodeon and its siblings play a major role. Irish, English, French, Tex-Mex, French Canadian, Cajun, Morris and Xydeco are all typical examples. This is not intended to be a specialist book but it endeavours to give students a good grounding, helping them to easily move on to whatever music genre takes their fancy. However, the lessons within are completely based on traditional playing styles and tunes from Britain and Ireland.

Until recently, in Britain at least, there were very few tuition books on the market for any member of the squeezebox family, and those that were available, did more harm than good. This book is loosely based on a series of books I wrote in 1986 called Mally’s Melodeon Methods. It has been completely revised and re-written, based on more up to date knowledge and ideas. It has also been re-typeset using modern techniques.

In all walks of life, whether it be mathematics, designing aeroplanes or playing the violin, mankind progresses by first being taught what previous generations have learned, before moving on. Unfortunately, in the case of the melodeon, this doesn’t seem to happen; melodeon students all seem to have to start at rock bottom and work things out for themselves. Although things are improving considerably there is still a long way to go; hopefully, this book will make a useful and effective contribution to rectifying this situation. 

If you want to become proficient on any musical instrument, you must practise. There is no way round this. You can have the best tuition in the world, but without practice it is useless. Unfortunately, without guidance, it is very easy for students to find themselves practising unsound techniques and falling into bad habits and sloppy playing. It is the intention of this book to steer players into acquiring efficient techniques and to help them develop good habits, from day one. I have assumed that readers of this tutor have no previous knowledge of the melodeon or music: all topics start with absolute basics.

In this book I will be presenting the ideas and techniques that have slowly trickled in over a period of almost thirty-five years. To have had all the information from the start would have saved countless wasted hours of experimentation. It has been a great stumbling block learning a tune, only to find, at a later date, a far superior approach. After discovering a better approach, I would then re-learn tunes, which for an initial period at least, would lead to infuriating confusion. It’s much easier to learn tunes for the first time than it is a second time, incorporating techniques newly gleaned. One of the main objectives of this book, is to reduce the chances of being compelled to learn tunes more than once, to a minimum.

I would venture to say that musicians using this book would be able to reach a reasonable standard in a fraction of the time it took me. However, bear in mind the title, “Absolute Beginners”: reaching the end of this book is only the start. Also, don’t expect things to happen overnight: learning a musical instrument is a difficult challenge. Difficult it may be, but it’s not impossible. When things get tough and you feel as if you’re getting nowhere, persevere and practise; you will get through it. 

Also, don’t let the title fool you; although this book is definitely “Absolute Beginners” at the beginning, it certainly isn’t at the end. I wouldn’t expect anyone to complete it in under two years and, in truth, five years would be a much more realistic schedule. You will progress rapidly through the early pages but prepare yourself: the last few pages (from My Darling Asleep) will be a long hard slog.

There are many different ways of playing the melodeon. Even sticking rigidly to the methods advocated in this book gives plenty of scope for choice. It is not the intention of this book to lay down hard and fast rules, but to provide information for you to make up your own mind: there are always several ways of playing a tune correctly. My main hope in presenting this information is that you learn tunes in the manner that you will play them for life, thus limiting the tedious task of re-learning them.

I consider it very important that you don’t rely on this book alone in your quest for melodeon excellence. Surround yourself with music books and recordings. Listen to as much music as possible, both live and recorded. This is the only way to understand the the intricate rhythm and phrasing of traditional music. I have produced a book called 101 Easy Peasy Tunes, with an optional soundtrack. I would suggest that you might find this a useful source of extra repertoire.

It is extremely important to note that everything you read in this book comes totally from my head: other musicians may be in total disagreement with my ideas. The lessons and methods in this book are only my ideas, they are not the definitive guide to melodeon playing or the gospel according to Dave Mallinson. Contradict, modify and interpret in your own way the information presented here, then add your own techniques and ideas.

A few months after I acquired my first melodeon I asked an experienced player for some advice, his answer was, “Practise, practise, practise and when you’re sick of practising, do some more”. Not the answer I was hoping for but it’s the best bit of advice I’ve ever had. Remember this: The value of this book is directly proportional to the number of hours a day you practise.




Foreword by Andy Cutting
The Squeezebox Family
Music Basics for Squeezers
Introducing the D/G Melodeon
Holding the Melodeon
The Air Button
The High Octave
The Treble Buttons
Counting Time
Major Keys
Minor Keys
Shifting Hand Position
Introducing the Bass Buttons
Playing the Bass in Time
Various Rhythms
Crossing the Rows
The Basses
Playing the Other Bass Buttons
Um Cha Through Some Easy Tunes
Smoothing the Bellows Action
The Other Chord in the key of D
Fundamentals and Chords
Playing the Bass in Harmony
Percussive Bass : No Bass
Drones and Snappy Off-Beats

A minor and B minor
Slides and Slip Jigs
The Key of A
The Variable Buttons


Hot Cross Buns!
Baa Baa Black Sheep
Jingle Bells
Little Brown Jug
Mulberry Bush
Oranges and Lemons
Bobby Shaftoe
Three Blind Mice
Whip Jamboree
Drunken Sailor
Silent Night
The Best of Society
Frère Jacques
Egan’s Polka
What Can the Matter Be?
Cock of the North
Katie Bairdie
The Keel Row
Polly Put the Kettle On
Skip to My Lou

Shepherds’ Hey
Tralee Gaol
I Have a Bonnet
Donkey Riding
Buffalo Girls
Uncle Bernard’s Polka
Rakes of Mallow
Davy Davy Knick Knack
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
Bonny Green Garters
Liza Jane
Constant Billy
The Twenty-Ninth of May
Sweet Jenny Jones
My Darling Asleep
The Steamboat
Sonny’s Mazurka
Speed the Plough
Soldiers’ Joy
Staten Island
A Trip to the Cottage
The Tenpenny Bit
Tripping Upstairs
The Scattery Island Slide
Drops of Brandy
Bill Sullivan's Polka
Sweeney’s Polka

The D/G Melodeon Absolute Beginners Book - Dave Mallinson

SKU: AM101
  • Melodeon techniques for all. Although sub-titled Absolute Beginners this book, by Dave Mallinson, will take students to a very high standard. Beginning at absolute rock-bottom with how to play scales, it quickly moves on to basic fingering techniques. The student then learns how to play the bass in time, with in depth analysis of how the treble and bass interact. Next comes row crossing techniques to smooth the bellows and to create better harmonies, followed by a more tasteful approach to the bass. The book finishes with accidentals, minor keys, slides, slip jigs and the key of A. Contains 30 topics, 48 tunes, introduction and a foreword by Andy Cutting.

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