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Slow music on stradella

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TomBR

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Stradella is a brilliant system and it's fairly easy to make it work very effectively in any music from medium tempo upwards, certainly anything reasonably danceable.

Quite a bit more of a challenge to make it work well for slow tunes, airs, moody stuff! It's all down to skill, technique and musicality like anything else of course, but it's all to easy to make it sound heavy handed. You can't spread chords like you would on piano, you don't have immediate control of octaves etc.

So, it's a matter of transcending limitations.

I'd be very interested in any thoughts, advice, recordings or videos that might help. The recent Silent Night thread was interesting. I'm thinking effective use of the bellows is vital. I've been trying things like bringing the bass in under the chord.
Using the tenor chord register is helpful.

I'd be interested in examples where people are playing from music, but my own interest is folk and trad where you have "the tune" and it's up to you to arrange it on the instrument, rather than working from sheet music.
Thanks in advance!
Tom
 

debra

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Well, I have only one video to show:
<YOUTUBE id=5lndT8Mbvf0 url=></YOUTUBE>
This video illustrates that getting the most out of Stradella can be very difficult even in a slow piece. Especially the bellows control is hard as you may have trouble finding a spot where you can change direction. (In the recording a different instrument with larger bellows is used than the one shown in the picture.)
Also interesting is that at 1:11 into the song I needed a chord that cannot be played on Stradella: D-G-A-C. So in the arrangement clever use of registers disguises the fact that at that point the right hand has to take over a few chords.
If I were to make this video again I would probably record each hand separately, not because it is too difficult (I recorded everything at once in the video shown) but because that makes the bellows control easier as you use less air.
If you want to give it a go... be my guest: http://www.de-bra.nl/arrangements/turks-fruit.pdf (and do show us a recording of how it goes ;-)
 

jozz

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Nice arrangement of these dutch classics!

Usually I tend to like the original more minimalistic (jazz) approach with the Rhodes and Toots' harmonica better over other things, but I must say, although it might be stretching the use of all these chords basses, it comes out beautifully :tup:
 

TomBR

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Thanks for the quick response Paul. That's a lovely recording, well played you! I'll have another listen when I'm not also working!
Very helpful reminder that the right hand is likely to have to take a larger part in the harmony. The diatonic players I most admire (ok, Andy Cutting) would do this. It's too easy to think, right hand tune, left hand harmony.

I guess also an old saying about one's own horse may be relevant "Be to his virtues ever kind, be to his faults a little blind" :)
 

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TomBR post_id=53957 time=1514545620 user_id=323 said:
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Very helpful reminder that the right hand is likely to have to take a larger part in the harmony. The diatonic players I most admire (ok, Andy Cutting) would do this. Its too easy to think, right hand tune, left hand harmony.
...

While it would not help for the D-G-A-C chord there is a Stradella system variation that instead of major-minor-seven-diminished offers a major-minor-seven/diminished alternative/augmented-fifth. Basically the four chord buttons offer major-third+minor-third, minor-third+minor-third, minor-third+minor-third and major-third+major-third. That last one cannot be done on Stradella. It is like C-E-G#. So it offers more possibilities, yet not everything is possible no matter what you put under 4 chord buttons so there are always chords that have to be done with either the right hand or with melody bass.
 
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Geronimo

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TomBR post_id=53950 time=1514541718 user_id=323 said:
Stradella is a brilliant system and its fairly easy to make it work very effectively in any music from medium tempo upwards, certainly anything reasonably danceable.

Quite a bit more of a challenge to make it work well for slow tunes, airs, moody stuff! Its all down to skill, technique and musicality like anything else of course, but its all to easy to make it sound heavy handed. You cant spread chords like you would on piano, you dont have immediate control of octaves etc.
I think thats where the individual instruments disposition comes into play a lot. How fast do the chord reeds respond? How does their loudness and unfold across the reed sets compared to that of the treble reeds under pressure? I found that this was one area where modern instruments tended to irritate me a lot: finding a registration allowing to use long low bass tones against a single-reed right hand was rather problematic.

For staccato play, an overbearing bass is not much of a problem since you can temper it with the length of the staccato notes. But for long bass notes, it becomes rather important that the instrument has been designed and set up with the overall tonal balance in mind.
 

debra

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Geronimo post_id=53960 time=1514548342 user_id=2623 said:
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I think thats where the individual instruments disposition comes into play a lot. How fast do the chord reeds respond? How does their loudness and unfold across the reed sets compared to that of the treble reeds under pressure? I found that this was one area where modern instruments tended to irritate me a lot: finding a registration allowing to use long low bass tones against a single-reed right hand was rather problematic.
...

Thats always a problem with any accordion: the chords are pretty much what they are (given the register that has the sound you want) and so are the base notes. They have a set volume (and response, but since response should always be good the volume is the problem), and then you want this volume to go well with a single note on a single M reed on the right hand, not overpowering it, and you still want the bass to be powerful enough against a chord played on LMMH. Well, strictly speaking that is not possible. A damper on the bass side may help to not overpower a single reed and a damper on the righthand side may help keep the bass loud enough but many accordions do not have either. The video I showed was played on a Bugari 505/ARS which has bass starting at the lowest A, not as low as convertor instruments starting at E, and which has a large bellows (because it is a 5 reed instrument). The same piece would not sound as nice on the instrument shown which is a Bugari 508/ARS/C (older generation) which is convertor, thus with a stronger bass starting at E and using more air, and which has a smaller bellows (it is a 4 reed instrument) and thus you run out of air with this instrument.

When playing for an audience changing your orientation can help. Not considering amplification you can turn towards your left to have the keyboard side sound louder and to muffle the bass sound, and you can turn towards your right to emphasize bass and soften a loud (multiple reeds used and chords) keyboard side. And when you do have amplification with statically positioned mics you can vary your distance from the mics, again keyboard and bass side separately.
 
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Geronimo

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debra post_id=53961 time=1514549215 user_id=605 said:
Geronimo post_id=53960 time=1514548342 user_id=2623 said:
...
I think thats where the individual instruments disposition comes into play a lot. How fast do the chord reeds respond? How does their loudness and unfold across the reed sets compared to that of the treble reeds under pressure? I found that this was one area where modern instruments tended to irritate me a lot: finding a registration allowing to use long low bass tones against a single-reed right hand was rather problematic.
...

Thats always a problem with any accordion: the chords are pretty much what they are (given the register that has the sound you want) and so are the base notes. They have a set volume (and response, but since response should always be good the volume is the problem), and then you want this volume to go well with a single note on a single M reed on the right hand, not overpowering it, and you still want the bass to be powerful enough against a chord played on LMMH. Well, strictly speaking that is not possible.
Its exactly because this is always a problem with any accordion that accordion builders and tuners should not pass the problem to the player unmitigated. Getting the best reeds for everywhere and giving them the reed chambers to respond to the best of their ability at any pressure sounds like a good idea on paper and gives good targets for engineers and mechanics, but musically its a recipe for disaster. Response and dynamics of the various reeds need to make for a coherent whole. Treble registers need to respond consistently to volume changes and the bass must not carry a crescendo further than the treble can. Also the acoustics for the bass notes can be designed to focus on the fundamentals which dont interfere with the treble that much and thus are in less dire need of tempering than the chord reeds.

You cannot expect all chord registrations to work well with all treble registrations, but the bass reeds themselves can be made rather universal. I remember someone talking about an old Jupiter Bayan he played until its mechanics basically fell apart, and it had a four reed bass (and converter) without any registers, and it worked well across a much larger range of treble registrations than more modern instruments of his did even though the latter had more bass registers and reeds.

I had one example in the Silent Night thingies where I play with what amounts to a 9-reed bass (some are 8-reed, some are 10-reed). I can crescendo this thing into organ-like power, but it still can be played at mp. I am not saying that this is optimal: basically it extends a mechanism designed for a 36-note baritone bass (I think) to 41 notes of a 60-note free bass (of which 46 notes are nominally baritone). I suspect that the 36-note version definitely designed and engineered and built by Morino himself might have been more musically consistent than what the Morino department here likely concocted out of the old plans and current instrument designs after his retirement.

But whoever finalized this instrument managed to make these rather absurd registrations do something musically useful even if it sucks air like crazy in that mode. I also find that on this instrument, fading out a chord over a bass note backdrop works quite more organically (in normal registrations) than on a stock Morino Artiste VID where the chord notes switch off quite more abruptly.
 

debra

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Geronimo post_id=53963 time=1514551114 user_id=2623 said:
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Its exactly because this is always a problem with any accordion that accordion builders and tuners should not pass the problem to the player unmitigated. Getting the best reeds for everywhere and giving them the reed chambers to respond to the best of their ability at any pressure sounds like a good idea on paper and gives good targets for engineers and mechanics, but musically its a recipe for disaster. Response and dynamics of the various reeds need to make for a coherent whole.
...

It strikes me how manufacturers get simple things wrong. For example, I just fixed some issues on a rare Morino IV BS (43 keys, 185 bass with MIII melody bass) and found that not only do the pallets for the lowest row of bass notes not open very far, the pallets open at an angle such that the M reed opens up further than the L reed. The reed that needs the most air thus actually gets the least amount of air resulting in poor response of the deepest tone. Its a design error that shouldnt happen in such expensive instruments, yet its there... (Fortunately this error is not repeated on the keyboard side where the pallets open in a way such that the L reed gets more air than the M reed (in cassotto) and gets the air just that bit earlier that is needed to compensate for a difference in response of the reeds.
 
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Geronimo

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debra post_id=53967 time=1514558548 user_id=605 said:
Geronimo post_id=53963 time=1514551114 user_id=2623 said:
...
Its exactly because this is always a problem with any accordion that accordion builders and tuners should not pass the problem to the player unmitigated. Getting the best reeds for everywhere and giving them the reed chambers to respond to the best of their ability at any pressure sounds like a good idea on paper and gives good targets for engineers and mechanics, but musically its a recipe for disaster. Response and dynamics of the various reeds need to make for a coherent whole.
...

It strikes me how manufacturers get simple things wrong. For example, I just fixed some issues on a rare Morino IV BS (43 keys, 185 bass with MIII melody bass) and found that not only do the pallets for the lowest row of bass notes not open very far, the pallets open at an angle such that the M reed opens up further than the L reed. The reed that needs the most air thus actually gets the least amount of air resulting in poor response of the deepest tone. Its a design error that shouldnt happen in such expensive instruments, yet its there... (Fortunately this error is not repeated on the keyboard side where the pallets open in a way such that the L reed gets more air than the M reed (in cassotto) and gets the air just that bit earlier that is needed to compensate for a difference in response of the reeds.
One of the problems of modern technology that mass production has become very effective: the cost of changing a design is much higher than producing it. With manufacture, relations were the opposite. That made gradual improvement of a design much more feasible than it is nowadays where redesign is much more expensive than production rather than something you can experiment with on the fly. While working alone in Geneva, Morino likely designed (and realized, and supported) more different instruments in a year than he did in a decade at Hohner. That kind of experience is just not affordable these days: a learned accordion maker these days probably is responsible for much fewer instrument designs and improvements than the learned carpenter Morino. With a lack of constant opportunity for experimentation, there is a related lack of knowledge and gut feeling. People try to work in traditions partly because they lost the connection of the underlying reasons.
 

TomBR

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Many thanks for very interesting responses so far, I enjoyed reading them.

So, given the real world accordions that we're playing, any other thoughts on how to improve Stradella bass playing in slow music? ;)
 

debra

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TomBR post_id=53969 time=1514561288 user_id=323 said:
Many thanks for very interesting responses so far, I enjoyed reading them.

So, given the real world accordions that were playing, any other thoughts on how to improve Stradella bass playing in slow music? ;)

Well... rather than complain about the limitations of real world accordions, its best to look for a compromise in the choice of registers. Combining long bass notes and chords with just a single note on the M register. The solution is: dont do this. Use at least 2 reeds, like MH or MM or LM. A single reed can work when you play chords. There is more you can vary on the keyboard side than on the bass side.
 
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Geronimo

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debra post_id=53970 time=1514563578 user_id=605 said:
TomBR post_id=53969 time=1514561288 user_id=323 said:
Many thanks for very interesting responses so far, I enjoyed reading them.

So, given the real world accordions that were playing, any other thoughts on how to improve Stradella bass playing in slow music? ;)

Well... rather than complain about the limitations of real world accordions, its best to look for a compromise in the choice of registers. Combining long bass notes and chords with just a single note on the M register. The solution is: dont do this. Use at least 2 reeds, like MH or MM or LM. A single reed can work when you play chords. There is more you can vary on the keyboard side than on the bass side.
My first entry in the Silent Night thread actually is a real-world accordion with single-note play in the first stanza over a drone bass. Here I play in a single-reed register using a cassotto-like quality. That implies a lack of overtones. This kind of reed set is particularly likely to get drowned out in bass and low notes. I use a tenor setting of the bass against it which definitely has significant overlap in frequency, so this registration choice is not particularly robust against instrument change: it works because of the balance of this particular instrument. The next stanza is MH against soft bass. Here both M and H are outside of the cassotto: in this case even M alone has a chance of working. Because of the strength of soft bass on this instrument, MH appeared like a more robust choice. For instruments where M is in cassotto, MH might generally be the safer choice for punching through over a soft bass.

My main instrument has M outside of cassotto, no H reed, and a more delicate sound quality in both bass and treble. Here L is in a cassotto-like enclosure again. Since the bass reeds tend to be a bit brighter in quality than with my other accordion, L works worse as a setting combined with the left side: the result tends to be too subdued. So this usually leaves me with M, or with a variant of MMM where I starve the MM ranks with a partially drawn slider enough that I get more of a chorus effect than a tremolo. The registration LM cuts through the bass solidly.

Tremolo in general can usually cut through over any kind of bass, but its unmitigated sound quality itself is not a good match for all sorts of music, of course also depending on the instrument in question.

So basically: you need to experiment to make something work well on a particular instrument. Generally, I find accordion capable of more expressive and delicate play the fewer reeds I engage, but at the same time, those registrations are more susceptible to masking effects and voices getting drowned out by others.
 
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Geronimo

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debra post_id=53952 time=1514542508 user_id=605 said:
Well, I have only one video to show: (Turks Fruit)

This video illustrates that getting the most out of Stradella can be very difficult even in a slow piece. Especially the bellows control is hard as you may have trouble finding a spot where you can change direction. (In the recording a different instrument with larger bellows is used than the one shown in the picture.)
[...]
If you want to give it a go... be my guest: http://www.de-bra.nl/arrangements/turks-fruit.pdf (and do show us a recording of how it goes ;-)
Huh. By far the fastest way to get to results for me would be to pack my equipment, borrow a car, drive over to Eindhoven and let you work on it... I mean, there must be a reason we are both playing C system, right?

Your instrument (is that the Akko?) has the kind of boxy bass that I dont really get warm with all that much. Registrations I like on the Artiste VID do not really differ that much from your variant. On my main instrument, however, I prefer starting with just L (which is cassotto like and thus quite darker than your version), the bass only with L reed (which starts at E1 and is nicely detached in pitch from the rest), a single chord reed octave starting at F♯3 (thats brighter than your bass but quite plain). Sounds like it would be prone to overpowering the treble but doesnt really.

Well, lets make a pitch for the next fastest way: Ill just practice a bit and then try recording a number of bars on different instruments. Maybe Ill even get out my Excelsior: its bass sound character is actually quite close to what you recorded here.
 

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Geronimo post_id=53974 time=1514586378 user_id=2623 said:
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Your instrument (is that the Akko?) has the kind of boxy bass that I dont really get warm with all that much. ...

The video was made using a Bugari 505/ARS. They do not list the model on their current website. It is like a 508/ARS but 5 voice instead of 4. The bass only goes down to A, not E.
I cannot play the same song on the AKKO because Im running out of air on that one. The first 4 measures of the piece must be played without changing bellows direction, and the AKKO simply uses too much air to achieve this. In fact, the Bugari 505 and its PA sibling the popular 285/ARS are the only instruments on which I have been able to play this song. I watched a girl try this piece at her final exam in music school and while she could play the notes very well the Bugari 281/ARS Gold she used which is 37/96 just did not have a large enough bellows to get through 4 measures without changing direction. Air consumption is key in this piece and can often be the key problem in playing slow music on Stradella bass.
 
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Geronimo

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debra post_id=53981 time=1514634686 user_id=605 said:
Geronimo post_id=53974 time=1514586378 user_id=2623 said:
...
Your instrument (is that the Akko?) has the kind of boxy bass that I dont really get warm with all that much. ...

The video was made using a Bugari 505/ARS. They do not list the model on their current website. It is like a 508/ARS but 5 voice instead of 4. The bass only goes down to A, not E.
I cannot play the same song on the AKKO because Im running out of air on that one. The first 4 measures of the piece must be played without changing bellows direction, and the AKKO simply uses too much air to achieve this. In fact, the Bugari 505 and its PA sibling the popular 285/ARS are the only instruments on which I have been able to play this song.
Ah, youd like my main accordion. Bellows cross section of a small yard, you can register L in the bass alone (it does couple into the chord reeds but that gives only a little more definition), and M in the right hand is without cassotto (and thus has some overtone contents) and plays on a breath. Octavated L is not that much worse. Which brings us back to the original topic of playing technique: bass reeds take more air/pressure to respond than to keep playing. And they have more dynamic reserves than reeds on the right hand. That means that sustained bass notes can work particularly when playing quietly as long as you are in control of their attack (their onset will mask delicately done momentary pressure increase). At low volumes, they have quite moderate overtone content and thus let the melody stand out well.

So good quality reeds with good response, particularly in the bass, also give some leeway for tranquil play with bass drones. The downside being of course that this kind of volume/play works best for recording or small audience purposes.
 

george garside

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no clever advice from me either . its all down to listening , experimenting and practicing ad infinitum! then doing some more listening etc etc

george
 

TomBR

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george garside post_id=54002 time=1514736270 user_id=118 said:
no clever advice from me either . its all down to listening , experimenting and practicing ad infinitum! then doing some more listening etc etc

george
True enough George, though I do think some ideas on what to try or to experiment with can also be very helpful, some great examples above.
 

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agreed! so ,for what its worth, here are a few rough ideas that may be worth using as a basis for experimentation

avoid using bass and chord although alternating between the two ( held down over several right hand notes) can be effective.bits

But don't play bass throughout - leave gaps with no bass, particularly for 'interesting ' bits of melody so as to throw emphasis on those bits

consider playing , where appropriate, a vey light taping rhythm using only chord

consider very light chord, or occasionaly, bass note to coincide with treble notes rather than as an underlying rhythm

if possible maybe play bits of the tune on both bass and treble at same time or even just on bass ( either easy on freebass which probably most of us don't have but little runs of matching notes can sometimes be fitted in on stradella.

leave bass off completely where the melody eg on slow airs is particularly 'haunting' and then bring it back in as unobtrusively as possible.

if you are lucky enough to have bass couplers try the lightest setting possible to begin with and maybe chuck in an extra voice provided it doesn't smother the melody. Same goes for treble couplers so if possible try to have more voices playing on treble than on bass

Always remember that the tune/melody is king and don't ruin it with arty farty bass work!

george
 
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