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Reducing the break caused by changing bellows direction

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aardvark

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Hi all!

I've recently picked the accordion back up again after an extended period of not practicing. I'm having a great time learning a variety of jigs and hornpipes, but in almost all the pieces I learn, I encounter the exact same issue. Whenever I change the direction of the bellows, there's a very audible break in the music. I've managed to reduce this is in a lot of tunes by being very careful about where I change direction, but perfectly convenient places aren't always present. When I watch or listen to experienced accordionists playing, it seems as though the direction change is perfectly smooth, but I can't seem to emulate this in my own playing. Does anyone have any tips on reducing this break when I change the direction of the bellows?
 

george garside

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a couple of thoughts on the matter!

If playing jigs and hornpipes at a sensible i.e. danceable speed there should be ample opportunity to reverse the bellows between phrases. However if playing the sometimes fashionable 'shit off a shovel' speed these tiny gaps will tend to merge.

the way the bellows are used can also emphasise a direction change. If the bellows are wide open you have little or no control over the action and it is difficult to make a well timed reversal. If on the other hand you keep the bellows 'tight' eg no more than 12 inches open most of the time and less if possible it is easy to control a quick reversal to fit between phrases

If all else fails a quick little prod of the air button at the precise time of change will effectively smooth things but it needs plaenty of practice to get the timing spot on.

george
 

EMan

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I think it is definitely something you need to concentrate on, but not something that is either difficult or impossible. I think when I was younger I was more guilty of that than now, and that's only because I'm more cognizant of it and make it a point to concern my self without breaking a note until the note changes and I can reverse direction w/o screwing things up.

I think George brought up a valid point that keeping the bellows within a short span will help that immensely. It gives you more control and it's definitely easier to change direction w/o making it obvious.

Some people will sometimes count bars ( measures ). You know, just throwing a number out; 8 out, 8 in or 5/5 or whatever. Certainly not scientific, but not withstanding long holding notes can be a good start to bellow control.

Good luck with that ! Let us know how you're doing.

Ed
 

TomBR

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Obviously it's up to you how you want to play the music, but I would say, with very great respect, that if bellows changes are an issue in playing jigs and hornpipes, you must be playing in quite a "non-traditional" style. That type of music is core territory for diatonic instruments with all their bellows changes.
Even with George's favourite "British Chromatic" I think it's recognised that bellows changes should be your friends, not enemies.
But as I say, it's up to you what style you want to play.

Does it help to sing the tunes, (sotto voce, under your breath kind of thing is fine,) fitting in the bellows changes in the way you'd take a breath?
Good luck,
Tom
[Edit] -Just a thought - Practical considerations - how are your straps, accordion position etc. Is the instrument moving about too much when you change bellows?
 

george garside

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accompanying somebody singing a relatively slow tune eg waters of tyne , Danny Boy, amazing grace etc etc can be a very good .earning experience as it provided the opportunity to make bellows changes to fit in with the phrasing chosen by the singer. i.e the pauses in wjich the singer takes air in to the lungs. As well as listening very carefully to the singer it helps to watch the muscles in the side of the singers neck !



you follow rather than lead the singer but only just so that the punters often think you are leading!

this only applies to a single singer not a mob of them eg a choir/group or whatever

george
 
A

aardvark

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Thanks all for the responses. I'm definitely going to keep practicing and focusing on bellow control. I think I'm already seeing some improvement through experimenting with timing and concentrating on minimizing the break. The tip about keeping the bellows tight will also help, I think. I'd been stretching out each direction quite a bit to minimize the number of my clumsy-sounding direction changes, so definitely could be part of the issue. Also very useful to know that the changes don't have to be completely inaudible.

Wondering if this might be pertinent, how much pressure is generally used when changing direction - especially from going out to coming in? I think part of the break I hear might be the brief reduction in volume that happens after each direction change because I'm not using much force. I'm super nervous about damaging my accordion in any way, but could extra pressure/force help? I know it's impossible for anyone to know exactly how much pressure I'm using through a forum post, but if anyone could describe how much force they think should be used in changing directions, that would be brilliant.

Thanks again!
 

george garside

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there should be absolutely no change in 'force' when changing direction. It can also help to keep the bellows in a 'fan' shape i.e with the bottom near closed and acting as assort of hinge. Also keep in mind that the bellows are the only volume control on an accordion and practice playing at about half volume and also going from a whisper to a shout by reducing or increasing pressure - you can then if required change direction whilst playing quietly which will help to eliminate an audible change in sound

george
 

Corsaire

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I'm still getting used to bellow changes on a 72 bass compact. It was much easier on a bigger accordion as I didn't need nearly as much bellows movement to get the air through. Perhaps it's just a case of practice !
 

debra

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Its hard. Practice makes perfect, but practice alone isnt everything.
Here is an example of hard: I actually did not play it on the accordion in the picture: its bellows is too small.
This piece is hard because you need to open the bellows very very wide. (Absolutely impossible to change direction here until at the end of the 4th measure. by then the bellows are open very wide.)
The first tip to changing the direction without it being heard is not to open the bellows too wide.
Here is a nice clip of very very good bellows control: I just happened upon this one today. (The bellows control is better than his ability to hit the right notes.)
 

Corsaire

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I liked the first one because of its unpredictability. I can see why it's difficult re bellows - it's slow but continues and virtually impossible to make a break without it being noticed.
The second was interesting - nice music and interesting to watch how he changed bellow direction.
There's no doubt, it's worth looking at YouTube videos - but important to make sure they are good ones !
Thanks for those, Paul.
 
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aardvark

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George, thanks for the clarification on the pressure question! I've unfortunately never been able to have any accordion lessons (or, in fact, talk to any experienced accordionist) so am probably still making some very silly mistakes with my playing.

Corsaire, that makes me feel a lot better! I'm on a 48 bass and had wondered whether the size was making it harder or easier.

Tom, sorry, only just noticed your comment regarding the straps, etc. I'm honestly pretty uncertain about whether my straps are adjusted as best they could be. I'm still experimenting with them, so will bear this one in mind.

Paul, those performances are brilliant. I'm very much enjoying watching/listening and learning from them. Thanks!
 

george garside

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have al look at youutube Brandon Mcphee dark island for a lesson in controlled in and outing! This was made when Brandon was , I think, 15 and Scottish senior button accordion champion. He is now at the age of 20 Scottish senior accordion champion ( this competition includes all types of box, piano, continental and british chromatic(diatonic) and as well as many youtube vids there are several C'ds and vids of him available. All with amazing bellows control .

And he plays entirely by ear!

george
 

debra

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Corsaire said:
I liked the first one because of its unpredictability. I can see why its difficult re bellows - its slow but continues and virtually impossible to make a break without it being noticed.
...
If you want to have a go at that, I have the sheet music in my arrangement collection at http://www.de-bra.nl/arrangements.html . I have played it in public a number of times, and once a girl tried to play it for her final exam in music school (D-examen as we call it in the Netherlands). It was a reasonable attempt but her accordion did not have a large enough bellows to get the direction-changes right.
 

JIM D.

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Ive just posted a tune on the Music Game that shows a good example of an accomplished accordionist performing with his accordion, and proper use of bellows control, as not to create a break in voicing.

 

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