Five-finger Songs

I used to believe it was stupid to teach people play simple children’s songs for five fingers. Yet it isn’t stupid at all. In fact, it’s one of the best ways – and not just for beginners – to learn how to handle your musical instrument.


You can learn such a song, the melody of which you know by heart from your childhood, in a week, even if you’ve just beginning with the accordion

Let’s try it with two plain Czech songs Běžela ovečka (A Sheep Ran) and Travička zelená (The Green Grass). Somebody may start with deciphering the scores, another will listen for the correct keys, as you wish. But the aim – to play a song and make children (or pub-goers, for that matter, because children’s songs are usually surprisingly popular in pubs) sing – remains the same.

I would begin slowly and easily, although the sheep from the song can run pretty quickly, for sure. And most importantly, take it step-by-step and keep order!


A Lamb Ran Up the Hill


1)  The left hand + singing – this is the basic stuff for all songs, no matter what. If you can play just the left hand and sing along, it’s enough, in a kindergarden as well as in a pub.

1a) The easiest way is to keep the basses held and change them at the right moments, when the song you’re humming needs it…

held basses + singing – 70 bpm
A Lamb Ran – held basses – 70 bpm

1b) … and then use the left hand also rhythmically; as you tap into the rhythm with your foot while singing, tap the bass – chord – bass – chord periodically. Long tones at first, the more common short ones (staccatos) after a while.

long basses + singing – 70 bpm
A Lamb Ran – long basses – 70 bpm

staccato basses + singing – 70 bpm
A Lamb Ran – staccato basses – 70 bpm

2) The right hand, but really only the right hand – to play a melody slowly with long, even tones is no easy thing. So hang back and don’t try to combine playing with both hands too early.

right hand – 70 bpm
A Lamb Ran – right hand – 70 bpm

3) The right and the left hand together – try it in a week or a fortnight,  you’ll see how it works together, there’s no need to hurry.

right and left hand together – 70 bpm
A Lamb Ran – both hands – 70 bpm

When you’re able to play it well enough and it seems to be too simple for you, you can elaborate on it further: try playing it in another key, use other accompaniment with the left hand, accompany it with chords on the keyboard, play it with two voices, give it some embellishment here and there, think up a variation… the possibilities are endless!

live recording with singing
A Lamb Ran – live recording

Free English translation of the lyrics:

A sheep ran up the hill
and a ram behind to a castle to complain.

Don’t you complain, oh ram, about your lass,
she’ll make you a wreath of rosemary.

It’s obvious to me that one song isn’t enough. So let’s have a look at another of my favourites, The Green Grass. Perhaps even more popular with my pupils. It’s a bit longer, but on the other hand it has just two chords. And how to do it? Exactly as with A Lamb Ran, of course – step-by-step and no hurry!

The Green Grass


right and left hand together – 80 bpm
The Green Grass – 80 bpm

live recording with singing
The Green Grass – live recording

The Green Grass – free English translation:

The green grass is my delight,
the green grass is my quilt.

When I want to, I sit down,
when I want to, I lie down,

the green grass is my quilt.

And this isn’t the end at all, there’s a plenty of such five-finger songs. When you manage our first two, I dare say you won’t need scores for the other. Or you can google them up. Or write us!

Five-finger songs too easy, you say? Well, hats off to you, it’s time to begin with a six-finger song.


scores, instructional recording, article by | Jindra Kelíšek
translation by | Háta Kreisinger Komňacká
published on 13/02/2014