Matt Lane




Solar powered accordion

Matt LaneMatt Lane

It wasn’t really planning to learn the accordion and to make a music video.

In the last year I have been actively trying to spend more time playing music. Because of procrastinating I often ended up listening to as much music as I played.

How I fell in love with the accordion

Maybe as hangover from the sea shanty fever that we all suffered in 2021, I ran into this cover of The Decemberist’s song Mariner’s Revenge:

The song that pushed me to the accordion

I would say The Decemberists are a band I wish I liked. And the accordion is an instrument I think I wish I liked.

But this cover… it takes a song with an element of accordion and fills out everything. His composition and playing is beautiful. I love it so much. It made me fall in love with the accordion so hard that I ended up buying myself one.

Teaching myself progressed slowly. While the right-hand side is a piano (I cannot play piano or read music) the left-hand buttons is madness.

But even understanding the layout doesn’t explain the patterns that different genres are more likely to use. So I ended up watching more tutorials on Youtube and becoming more familiar with more Youtube accordion celebrities. Which brought me to Denny from Squeeze and Thanks.

Squeeze and Thanks: The deadline I needed

In October, Denny from Squeeze and Thanks announced an accordion video competition. This provided a clear date-based goal that, at that time, I needed. The criteria for song selection made sense, but the process of picking a song was harder. I don’t really know much recent pop music. To help me filter through all of the options I made a song search tool (more procrastination I think).

I am happy to say it was my own song search tool that helped me find my song.

Practicing, filming and recording

I haven’t yet settled on what the music video was going to be, but worked out that it was likely:

So I spent October and November practicing, to get my audio recording done by late November.

In the recording studio at Waitohi, the Johnsonville Library. The recording contains a few different instruments. None played very well.

For the video, I had concluded that any narrative-based music video would probably seem silly no matter what I did and, would be hard to execute well. So my idea place-holder was “montage with some kind of compelling visual trick OR underlying emotional coherence”.

Then I ran into this music video, and thought “This will be it – I can do {a version of} this”. The same shot, jumping from cut to cut in different locations:

This meant lugging a heavy tripod and a heavy accordion, to many public locations. Also, keep in mind my accordion playing is not reliably good (I make many mistakes per take on average) so had to do multiple takes at all locations.

There is nothing more character building than setting up the tripod at Huka Falls , hearing tourists say
“oh cool, he is going to play accordion”
watching them gather to listen, and then watch them quietly slinking away when they hear the reality of the noises I was making.

But the movement of my fingers largely matched the recording (which I had playing my earbuds while I played).

The last piece of the puzzle was that the framing of the different locations didn’t always match. To solve this I added tiny “Ken Burns” effects between each cut which, while I never planned for that to be a part of it, I actually think it makes it visually slightly more interesting

During each shot, it pans and zooms in or out, so my head location matches the next shot

Final results and other submissions

I managed to come 7th for the music video category which I was happy with

Interestingly, the winning video which I really enjoyed, had a similar approach to mine but was much lighter and sillier (which is what I had originally wanted):

My future with the accordion

I love the accordion. Also, it is very loud which makes it a tricky instrument to practice regularly and keep friends.

My plan is to play more electric keyboard to improve my right hand and get better at music theory.

Matt Lane

banging rocks together