The Mel Method: Why I Should Be Your Melodeon Teacher

Which of these statements identifies with your current situation in your melodeon playing journey:

“I’ve recently bought/inherited a squeezebox (aka melodeon or diatonic button accordion). I’ve had a little go at finding a tune, but just can’t get to grips playing both hands together.”

“It’s such a complicated instrument to fathom – my frustration levels are reaching boiling point!”

“It’s spending more time staring at me from in it’s case than being lovingly held in my arms.”

“I’ve got the hang of the basics, and can play a number of tunes with both hands, but I’m looking to do more with my playing and venturing further now that I’m starting to feel more confident.”

“I’m well equipped with tunes, skills and techniques and am looking for new challenges.”

Wherever you might be along the path, I can help you.

Why am I the melodeon teacher you’ve been looking for?

Before I allow myself to blow my own trumpet, I want to tell you about my own melodeon playing journey.

It began when I caved in to curiosity and picked up the spare Morris box in October 2006. I fell in love almost immediately and we’ve been inseparable ever since.

In my case, learning to play the squeezebox came quite naturally. Although in hindsight that was at the expense of better marks at university! #NoRegrets

A helluva lot of time went into practising in my student digs and I was determined to bludgeon tunes into submission. I joined in with many groups at jam sessions, Morris practices and tutorial workshops.

My job was to become a sponge; soaking up all the information I could bend my brain around. Over the first 2-3 years of my journey, a lot of opinions from other players came my way. Perhaps you can relate:

“Do it like this or like that!”

“Have you tried so-and-so?”

“Not like that!”

I was lucky as a beginner. A lot of information was given to me on good faith by friends, acquaintances and workshop tutors. I was flooded with different methods and techniques to try and assimilate so I had to find a way to process everything.

I established an internal information filtration system (the IIFS, if you will) which enabled me to scrutinise the new stuff, comparing it against how I liked to play. I could then make a decision to work the new stuff in or throw it out.

This is a process I call “finding your ‘truth” and is an essential tool in my (and your) melodeon playing toolkit. It’s also proven itself useful in other areas of my business and personal life, too.

The Mel Method encompasses a wide range of teaching techniques that I have cultivated through my own learning and development. It has proven successful for a great number of my students.

The 4 Principles of The Mel Method

I have endeavoured to encapsulate in four neat principles how I work during every teaching scenario that I face. Whether it’s a 1-2-1 lesson or a group workshop, learning with me is a collaborative process and you’re at the centre of it all.

“I see no point in rushing: there’s no better pace to go at than your own.”

I don’t take a “one size fits all” approach to teaching. Everyone learns differently and I take time to assess each student in order to adjust my delivery accordingly. I have accrued a veritable smorgasbord of analogies, resources and techniques since starting teaching in 2009 and see it as a personal challenge to select those that best fit each student.   

That feeling of being new to something all over again is a feeling I’ve not forgotten. I recognise my own experiences in your learning journey – your anxiety, your vulnerability, your frustration – and it grounds me in the moment with you. They are part of my journey too. These humble realisations enable me to hone in on your hang-ups and draw from my diverse skill set to ease your struggle.

Principle 1: Learn to play by ear

I’ll teach you how to play by ear because it enables you to build a stronger connection between you, your instrument and the people around you.

I teach you how to listen to music with analytical ears to understand the layers it is made up of.

Listening repetitively allows your brain to build a ‘mental blueprint’ from which you can then build a tune on your instrument.

The most important skill in making music is listening. Through patient guidance you’ll learn how to let your ear guide your fingers.


Principle 2: Learn the musical structure

I’ll teach you how to understand some basic musical theory which is essential in building a firm foundation from which to grow.

I teach using a bespoke blend of visual and aural resources such as sheet music, crib sheets and call-and-response listening games.

I use a simplified button numbering system with deconstructed left hand accompaniment that shows you where to put your fingers and which direction to play in.   

Principle 3: Learn how to deconstruct  

With your newly sharpened listening and music theory skills, I’ll teach you how to simplify a difficult concept into bite-sized pieces of information that are easier to pick up and retain.

I’ll show you how to study these building blocks in isolation in order to wring out the niggles and bad habits from your playing.

This deconstructed approach to learning improves your confidence and physical knowledge of a tune or technique.

Principle 4: Learn how to be mindful

The most important principle of The Mel Method. I’ll teach you to focus your mind away from the chatty brain of everyday life and on the physical aspects of playing the melodeon.

I’ll invite you to push back all the Life Stuff and take notice of the numerous physical movements and tactile qualities involved with playing the melodeon. Once you become aware of these qualities, a whole world of detail and enjoyment awaits you!  

Consistent and unbroken focus on the sound, movement and feel of the instrument leads you to a place in the subconscious that I call “The Melodeon Zone”. Once here, you have total recognition of the successes and mistakes within your playing and, most crucially, have the power to make changes. It is also the place where muscle memory is created.    


Where do I sign up?

If you are an absolute beginner, a re-starter or you’ve never been able to get the hang of left and right hand coordination, then you’re best bet will be to spend time with the Pick Up & Play with Mel Biggs: Let’s Get Started online course. Learn how to learn with The Mel Method principles: 1st learning your left hand 2nd gradually building in the right hand and 3rd playing your very first tune confidently with both hands! Read more about the course here.

If you’re looking to take your playing beyond the basics, why not get in touch for some 1-2-1 Skype lessons?

Or if you’re looking for a gift for a friend or loved one, why not pop over to my shop and have a look at the gift vouchers I’ve got on offer?


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