Music in Our Manuscripts

When my aunt mentioned in a recent blog post that she used to play her accordion for dances and earn one dollar per hour back in 1940, it started me thinking about an accordion I once had. Unlike hers, it wasn’t new when I acquired it, and I could never play it well enough for anyone to even tap a toe, let alone dance to any of my tunes, but at the time it satisfied my adult longing to tinker with a keyboard.

The accordion didn’t come with a case so during one of our early moves it was packed into a box. Soon after, we bought a piano and I took lessons along with our children. Through the years my two daughters overtook my modest ability and I gained a lot of pleasure just listening to them play.

The piano made several moves with us, but I lost track of the accordion. Eventually we decided the piano would be better used by our younger married daughter (her sister already had a piano), and it made the journey to her home carefully wrapped and strapped into the back of our truck. Now one of her daughters also plays it. (It’s the granddaughter’s hands I photographed for a post earlier this spring.) Music plays a major role in the lives of both our daughters, providing for creative and emotional self-expression, and I’m delighted to see the piano helping another generation start along a similar path.

I mused about the old accordion during a visit with my aunt last Thursday, wondering whatever became of it. Then, last night, my husband came upstairs from the basement bearing none other than my old 12 bass Camerano accordion! He went looking for the box and found it. (What a blessing he is!) Other than testing it out, I haven’t dared to try playing it. That will wait for a time when I’m alone in the house!

One of the questions it brought to mind is how often novelists give their characters musical instruments — not just guitars to be played around campfires in a western setting, or a pianoforte in historical fiction. There have to be many other opportunities. Using all the senses brings our stories alive, but too often we limit sensory experiences to what is seen, when sounds, smells, touch and taste would also enrich.

Do you play a musical instrument? Do any of the characters in your stories play? How does it impact the character or scene?


 “Let us come before Him with thanksgiving and extol Him with music and song.”

Psalm 95:2

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9 thoughts on “Music in Our Manuscripts

  1. Hi, Carol! What a great question! A very pivotal scene actually involves a musical instrument in BABY GRAND. I wonder if you can guess what instrument it is… 🙂 Hope all is well!!

  2. Shari Green says:

    I considered making the MC in my last novel a musician, but didn’t end up going with that. But given the importance of music in my life, I expect a musical character will pop up eventually!

  3. Carol, I must admit that I do not play. I grew up with a muscian (you can read my tribut to him on Wed.) and with lots of different music. It is a strong influence in my life. I sing, used to dance and can strum with little perfection. What a lovely story. Now you will have to do a video for us so we can hear you play 🙂

  4. What a great story, Carol. I used to play the piano for my own entertainment and relaxation – wasn’t ever good enough to play in public! We always had one in the house because my dad was a fine pianist and so was my brother. And each of my kids took piano lessons, too. But when we moved to Santa Barbara, we didn’t move the old baby grand piano from our home in Altadena – we sold it to the new owners. And just a few weeks ago, we exchanged the console piano we bought for this house for the keyboard (that looks like a small piano) that we bought for my my dad in his last years (and he never played it that we know of) because we had to downsize them to a retirement community when his Parkinson’s got quite bad. My son had had the electric piano and now his 6 year old is taking lessons and her instructor is a purist. So…the pianos move round and round! I wrote last week ( about the very emotional experience of hearing our 18 year old grandson play a Chopin ballade that my dad had played – on my dad’s baby grand piano, which they bought when we moved my folks 10 years ago. Life is like that, you know? I hope you’ll try and play the accordion – just for fun. And I’ll try to figure out how to use this electric one, too, okay?

    • Carol says:

      I’ve appreciated reading all your comments today with responses to my questions. Florence, just so you know… a video will never happen! And Diana, when we took our piano to our daughter we exchanged it for her keyboard, so I still have something to use when I need to work on my choir music. I think I must have missed the post you mention, so will head over there now.

      I hope everyone’s week is off to a good start.

  5. I haven’t used musical instruments in my manuscripts, but I have used singing.

    For a short time, I took piano lessons. Unfortunately, there’s no natural ability there and I lost interest.

  6. torimcrae says:

    Carol, another great post! An accordian was actually the first instrument I played (age 5). I think it’s a Canadian thing. My mom was born and raised in Canada and her mom played the accordian. Therefore, I, as the oldest child, had to learn. Granny thought for sure I should work toward being on Lawrence Welk. My lessons ended before I was 7 and so did my interest in it. I went on to play the clarinet from grades 6-12 and also learned the bass clarinet and saxaphone. I taught myself to play the piano (the instrument I REALLY wanted to learn) but play only for myself.

    What a great idea to include music and musical instruments in my character’s lives. I know exactly who is going to play an instrument. I just have to decide what kind.

  7. So pleased you found your old accordian. I have never played any musical instrument but my son plays the lead guitar in a band on weekends. I must remember to include a guitar in my next book. What a great idea. Thanks! I also like the history of your piano and how it is still in the family.

  8. Gary says:

    Carol, I have the identical accordion that you have! I have also the original case. I took lessons when I was in the third grade with it. That was 65 years ago. zi used it when I was in the 3rd grade to entertain people at the local Farm Bureau meetings. they loved this little young guy playing songs like Little Brown Jug! Do you know much about your accordion? Where it was made, how old is it, etc? I have not been able to find out much about it.

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