• If you haven't done so already, please add a location to your profile. This helps when people are trying to assist you, suggest resources, etc. Thanks

Correct bellows technique?

Cheshire Chris

Active member
Joined
Oct 25, 2020
Messages
108
Reaction score
42
Location
Cheshire, UK
I've been advised elsewhere that it's good technique to try to open the bellows for two bars, then close them for two bars, and so on, rather than reversing the bellows after every bar as I started out doing.

I sit with the treble side of the instrument on my right knee, and the bellows/bass side on my left knee. When I open the bellows, should I be pulling the whole bass side of the instrument out to the left, or just tilting the top to the left and leaving the bottom more or less stationary? If I do the former it's so heavy that I'm struggling to control the bass keys at the same time that I'm pulling! If I do the latter, though, I seem to run out of "pull" before I've played my two bars.

I've watched a few YouTube videos and most players seem to favour the tilting rather than the pulling technique. Is this what's generally recommended?

Thanks,

Chris
 

debra

Been here for ages!
Technical Adviser
Site Supporter
Joined
Jul 16, 2014
Messages
3,818
Reaction score
662
Location
Eindhoven, the Nnetherlannds
Most accordion players (who master bellows technique) open the top side more than the bottom side unless much more air is needed, in which case the whole bellows is opened. The further you open the bellows the harder it is to close it again in the same manner, i.e. without lifting the bass side up high to then let gravity aid in closing the bellows. (Some experts do this occasionally for show, but it should not be routine.)
Several friends of mine started out at a child by keeping the bottom bellow strap closed, so they could not play any other way than by just using the top of the bellows. This is not a bad idea for a few weeks but you should then open the bottom bellow strap and try to continue controlling the bellows by using the top a bit more than the bottom. (Some of my friends have been playing for decades but never got to the point of opening the bottom strap. That's bad of course.)
Ideally the accordion should be placed even a bit further to your left than what you say: It's more like the bellows is then just past your left leg so it can move more freely and you won't be wearing out the bellows tape so that it needs replacing after several years of playing... The accordion further to the left gives your right arm a better chance at the best position (elbow far out to your right, not tight against your body).
 

Cheshire Chris

Active member
Joined
Oct 25, 2020
Messages
108
Reaction score
42
Location
Cheshire, UK
Thanks, Paul, that's very helpful. I'll try leaving the bottom strap fastened for a few days to get used to the technique. I had wondered about the wisdom of having the actual bellows on my knee - I also play the concertina and the standard advice there is to rest the end of the instrument on the knee but not the bellows, because it wears them out. I'll try having the whole accordion further to the left.

Appreciate the help, as always,

Chris
 

Dingo40

Been here for ages!
Joined
Nov 27, 2017
Messages
2,172
Reaction score
742
Location
South Australia
Chris,
What Paul said.👍🙂
Keep the bottom of the bellows closed, as far as practical and open the top fanwwise in a "V" shape.
In this way, you'll have the bottom of the bass box sitting on your left knee and the treble board more or less between your knees.
Supporting the bass box out with your arm will quickly wreck you shoulder (at our age particularly)😄
Personally, due to left shoulder issues, I myself tend to keep my left elbow pressed into my left side. It seems to work well for me and keep my shoulder happy!🙂

Here's Lars Ek specifically demonstrating bellows technique: notice how he seats the accordion, how he operates the bellows V-fashion, and how he times the push and pull
(He's using a vintage, "Frosini" design of CBA and playing two compositions by Pietro Frosini, one of the heroes of the accordion)

 
Last edited:

Chrisrayner

Active member
Site Supporter
Joined
Jun 18, 2019
Messages
205
Reaction score
70
Location
Bramley, Surrey, England
That’s very interesting. I have heard the bellows referred to as similar to the violin’s bow. It gives expression and punctuation to the sound. This video shows the extremes of its use. Having started squeezing diatonic boxes there are strict limits to the bellows use, in particular there are certain notes on a two row instrument with are only available on the push or draw. This imparts an unavoidable interruption of flow which may interfere with desired legato effects. I have noticed that some piano and button chromatic players treat the bellows as a simple supply of air to the reeds without exploiting its expressive opportunities.

I shall be examining this video in detail later. Thanks.
 

dunlustin

Prolific poster
Site Supporter
Joined
May 1, 2013
Messages
1,153
Reaction score
130
Location
S W England
Thanks Dgo for the clip - quite an eye-opener or should I say Masterclass.
Makes you wonder why people say pre-war boxes are too crude to be worth restoring.
 

debra

Been here for ages!
Technical Adviser
Site Supporter
Joined
Jul 16, 2014
Messages
3,818
Reaction score
662
Location
Eindhoven, the Nnetherlannds
The clip is a very nice illustration of good posture. Note that this accordion is resting on his leg with the bottom bellow corner, as he is leaning slightly back. When he does open the bellow far there is a bit of rubbing of the bellows on his leg (causing wear to the bellows tape). But this is hard to avoid unless you keep your bellows further to the left, which is essentially only doable with accordions that have a wider treble side (room for a cassotto requires this). Sometimes this player does hold the bass side a bit high on push, but many players do and as long as it's not too much it's fine. Just don't lift it up high.
 

Dingo40

Been here for ages!
Joined
Nov 27, 2017
Messages
2,172
Reaction score
742
Location
South Australia
Thanks for all your responses, guys!🙂👍

Dunlustin,
"Makes you wonder why people say pre-war boxes are too crude to be worth restoring."

And yet, they don't say that about Stradivarius violins!🤔
 

Cheshire Chris

Active member
Joined
Oct 25, 2020
Messages
108
Reaction score
42
Location
Cheshire, UK
Had a serious attempt at “correct technique“ in my accordion practice today. It’s a lot more difficult than the experienced players make it look 😁. Going to need a lot more more practice. My left arm hurts!

Chris
 

JeffJetton

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 27, 2016
Messages
841
Reaction score
250
I've been advised elsewhere that it's good technique to try to open the bellows for two bars, then close them for two bars, and so on, rather than reversing the bellows after every bar as I started out doing.

Good advice so far on how to move the bellows. Here are my own thoughts, for whatever they're worth, on the first matter of when to change bellows directions. I may or may not be correct in any or all of it. :)

When you are just starting out learning, switching on every measure isn't terrible. Probably more efficient to switch every other measure for most beginning songs, as you've discovered. Or heck, maybe even try every four if you've got enough air.

Eventually, you'll learn to switch "when you need to switch", which will not always necessarily be on a set pattern of every-so-and-so bar lines. For that matter, it may not be right on a bar line at all.

Things that factor into changing bellows direction:
  • The size of your accordion, and hence, the amount of air it can move with one pull/push.
  • To a smaller, but sometimes noticeable extent:
    • How airtight or leaky your accordion is​
    • How loudly or softly you're playing at the moment (louder = faster bellows = more air used)​
    • What register setting you're using (more reeds = more air used)​
    • How many notes you're playing at once (sustained chords in the RH use more air than a single-note melody)​
  • Whether you're playing any tied notes over the bar line
  • Whether you're playing a slurred passage or not
  • Where the musical phrase naturally begins and ends
That last one is probably the most important. If you were singing the song, where would you naturally take a breath? Where would it sound absurd if you took a breath?
 

Cheshire Chris

Active member
Joined
Oct 25, 2020
Messages
108
Reaction score
42
Location
Cheshire, UK
I’d add another “depends” to your excellent list, Jeff, and that’s how quickly you’re playing. As a beginner I’m playing rather slowly, and using the technique of fanning out the top of the bellows I’m finding that by the end of the second bar I’ve extended them to an extent where I’m struggling to retain control of the basses. I’m sure it’ll get better with practice, but I must admit I’m finding it difficult at the moment.

Chris
 

MaxB

Member
Joined
Dec 20, 2020
Messages
14
Reaction score
9
Location
Ireland
Hello,
Just a quick question regarding the left elbow: should it be tucked against the side of the body, or stay more or less perpendicular to the box (i.e. moving out when opening the bellows, and moving in when closing)? The reason I'm asking is that I recently started developping a bit of a sore shoulder/shoulderblade pain and tennis elbow, which I'm attributing to a likely poor posture of my part . I'm putting my box on my left leg and trying to keep the right elbow sticking out, but the left side is probably not right!
 

Dingo40

Been here for ages!
Joined
Nov 27, 2017
Messages
2,172
Reaction score
742
Location
South Australia
Max,
Personally, I find tucking the left elbow in alongside the ribs to be very beneficial to my left shoulder's welfare, but then I'm not performing on stage 🙂
 

JIM D.

Been here for ages!
Technical Adviser
Site Supporter
Joined
Apr 30, 2013
Messages
4,813
Reaction score
309
These might help in the wearing of the accordion & operating bellows --








 
Last edited:

Dingo40

Been here for ages!
Joined
Nov 27, 2017
Messages
2,172
Reaction score
742
Location
South Australia
It's gratifying to see Ms Yaukey recommending the bass-box handling technique i actually use myself!😄
Amazing!😲
Thanks Jim!🙂
 

oldbayan

Well-known member
Site Supporter
Joined
Mar 8, 2020
Messages
267
Reaction score
119
Location
Toronto, Canada
I played diatonic for almost 10 years before going to the chromatic, and had a hard time with the left hand and bellows technique, as on the chromatic we do not need to change the bellows direction to reach different notes on the right hand. I kept doing too much unnecessary pumping... Takes practice, I guess.
 

Similar threads

Top