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What's a Piano Accordion?

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maugein96

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Group of youngsters from the north of Portugal playing a fado, at a music festival in Odemira in the Alentejo area.

The Alentejo has great weather, great wine, medronho (Portuguese grappa), and great accordion music, if you can find it in the Golden Plains. Miles and miles of nothing except the odd tree. Only downer is all the beer in Portugal is crap.

The choice of accordion in Portugal is overwhelmingly C system CBA with French 3x3 basses. You occasionally find a PA, but sadly never find a decent beer.

Nice to see youngsters playing the accordion anywhere.

 

WaldoW

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Interestingly, all the girls had good bellows technique, while all the boys, didn't.
 
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Geronimo

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WaldoW post_id=60081 time=1528776463 user_id=1663 said:
Interestingly, all the girls had good bellows technique, while all the boys, didnt.
Such gender specificity calls for significant innuendo.
 

debra

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WaldoW post_id=60081 time=1528776463 user_id=1663 said:
Interestingly, all the girls had good bellows technique, while all the boys, didnt.

The short clip shows the girls all lifting the bass side up high to push the bellows whereas the boys keep the bass side low. I would consider the boys bellows technique to be the correct one and the girls the bad one... but opinions may differ.
(Keeping the bass side low, essentially reversing the way the bellows was opened when you close it again, is the way I learned it. When we lifted the bass side up to close the bellows I was told this was bad and I learned to avoid it.)
 
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Geronimo

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debra post_id=60086 time=1528786157 user_id=605 said:
WaldoW post_id=60081 time=1528776463 user_id=1663 said:
Interestingly, all the girls had good bellows technique, while all the boys, didnt.

The short clip shows the girls all lifting the bass side up high to push the bellows whereas the boys keep the bass side low. I would consider the boys bellows technique to be the correct one and the girls the bad one... but opinions may differ.
(Keeping the bass side low, essentially reversing the way the bellows was opened when you close it again, is the way I learned it. When we lifted the bass side up to close the bellows I was told this was bad and I learned to avoid it.)
I think its part of standup technique. You dont get to rest part of the weight of the left side on your leg, and moving the bass hand would be hampered by having to hold up the left side all the time. So you delegate part of the bellows work to the weight of the left side in return for being able to move the left hand more freely. Of course that cedes a fair bit of bellows control and makes direction changes more heavy-handed. So it would not be a desirable tradeoff for classic playing while sitting down.
 
M

maugein96

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The group performs regularly at venues in Portugal, and the girl with the "bad" bellows technique on the far left is the "leader".

That same technique is regularly used in France, and elsewhere, and I'm not really sure why. I only became aware of it when videos of accordionists became available in the UK, and I actually started doing the same.

Only "benefit" I believe it has is that for people with shorter arms like mine, it prevents the tendency for the bellows to reach a point in their outward travel when playing the bass buttons on the the lower part of the instrument becomes almost impossible. I know that if the bellows were controlled in the "proper" fashion such things would sort themselves out, but considering many players use the technique referred to it surely can't be all wrong? "French" accordions, like those used by the band, tend to have an overly large number of bellows folds. Could that maybe also be a reason?
 

TomBR

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maugein96 post_id=60068 time=1528752072 user_id=607 said:
Only downer is all the beer in Portugal is crap.

I seem to remember coping with Sagres & Super Bock on holiday in Portugal without too much distress! :D
 
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maugein96

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TomBR post_id=60096 time=1528802867 user_id=323 said:
maugein96 post_id=60068 time=1528752072 user_id=607 said:
Only downer is all the beer in Portugal is crap.

I seem to remember coping with Sagres & Super Bock on holiday in Portugal without too much distress! :D

Tom,

Sagres is OK if its just about got ice in it. Couldnt get a taste for Superbock at all. If you want a real experience try any of the Tagus branded beers, but dont say I didnt warn you, especially the cerveja preta (dark) beer, although it is great for unblocking sink wastes. Sagres Bohemia and Superbock Abadia are both worth a taste, but maybe not a complete sip!

A friend of ours lives in Beja in the Alentejo, and he cant hack Portuguese beer either. I will concede that it tastes better over there than it does here.

I was stationed in Somerset for the better part of two years, and prefer the cider from down your way. After two or three Friels ciders it doesnt matter what anything tastes like!
 

donn

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Never mind the beer, I'd love to try some medronho - but I understand that it isn't a grappa at all, but rather a distilled spirit made from the fruit of Arbutus unedo, a small tree or large shrub that's a common ornamental here (NW corner of the US) under the name "strawberry tree." (A close relative of the madrona, Spanish madroño.)

This is done rather far from the Alentejo, in the Algarve, so I guess there could be some regional difference here, but that's a pretty great leap. The Portuguese grappa that occasionally finds its way over here appears under the name aguardente bagaceira, in an economical São Domingos bottling that ... could have been worse. I like grappa, but it's hard to accept the idea of paying a super premium price for liquor distilled from a waste product.
 
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maugein96

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donn post_id=60109 time=1528811652 user_id=60 said:
Never mind the beer, Id love to try some medronho - but I understand that it isnt a grappa at all, but rather a distilled spirit made from the fruit of Arbutus unedo, a small tree or large shrub thats a common ornamental here (NW corner of the US) under the name strawberry tree. (A close relative of the madrona, Spanish madroño.)

This is done rather far from the Alentejo, in the Algarve, so I guess there could be some regional difference here, but thats a pretty great leap. The Portuguese grappa that occasionally finds its way over here appears under the name aguardente bagaceira, in an economical São Domingos bottling that ... could have been worse. I like grappa, but its hard to accept the idea of paying a super premium price for liquor distilled from a waste product.

Donn,

First time I was in Portugal we were living in the Algarve mountain area near Alte. I had been buying Aldeia Velha, the aguardente you refer to, and my wife and I were content we were drinking the best of the local spirit. An old neighbour, who was about 90 and lived in a house with no running water, asked us what we were drinking one night and I told her it was medronho.

She tasted it and spat it out again. A few minutes later she appeared with a dodgy looking plastic bottle and three very small glasses. She poured one each for my wife and I but declined to drink any herself, as she said she had a heart condition. The third glass was for her late husband who had died whilst serving in the Spanish Foreign Legion and she made me drink his share in remembrance of him. I had six glasses of it and my wife had three. After that we both knew the difference between medronho and aguardente. Turns out the owners of our rented cottage also had a huge drum of the stuff in their kitchen, which was distilled locally at an unknown source, and we had one or two more.

When old Lympia came out in the morning to empty her slop pail into the olive grove across the road, she said she didnt think she had given me all that much medronho the previous night, and it was obvious I wasnt used to it as I looked as rough as hell. When I advised her that old Joao had given me more afterwards she told me he was an old rascal (he was only 77) who shouldnt encourage people to drink!

We had a great holiday there amongst real Portuguese people who all looked out for one another in a little village of about 100 people, called Curraloes. The older people advised us that most of their grandkids were now living in Brazil as there was nothing for them in the Algarvian mountains. Oh yes there was. Theres thousands of gallons of real medronho if you know where to find it!
 

WaldoW

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Beer aside, I believe the rational for the "rocking" bass movement is to take advantage of gravity. When opening the bellows, it tends, naturally, to fold open at the top first, then falling towards the floor. Lifting (the bass box) up and tilting the top inward, allows the bass side to be drawn back in by gravity, thus reducing the effort required to exercise the bellows. When "bellowing" per the boys, the left hand/arm needs to support the bass box AND provide the the power necessary to force the air thru the reeds.
I have been working on the technique and I must admit it makes precision application of the buttons more difficult, as the button board tends to change relation to the hand. I do notice the gravity effect.
I personally think it looks cool, as well.

Press on....
Waldo
 

jozz

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WaldoW post_id=60122 time=1528827805 user_id=1663 said:
I personally think it looks cool, as well.

Press on....
Waldo

:mrgreen:
 

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maugein96

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Where did you find that old photo of me, jozz?

Could have been me 35 years ago, but I'm not sure about the trousers, and I've never worn shades in my life.

For those people in the UK who really need to have bits of wire on their faces as a fashion accessory, they need to take the lenses out, so they don't have to keep wiping the rain off them!
 

debra

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jozz post_id=60138 time=1528876201 user_id=2600 said:
WaldoW post_id=60122 time=1528827805 user_id=1663 said:
I personally think it looks cool, as well.

Press on....
Waldo

:mrgreen:

Sure it looks cool. But when sitting down I believe you *can* have better bellows control when you do not lift the bass side up this way. So for the finer music performances I would definitely advise against this technique.
 
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maugein96

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Seems bellows technique is something that tends to be largely down to the individual, away from the "finer" performances referred to by Paul.

In recent years I have become something of a You Tube "addict" with regard to accordion music, and it seems obvious that some players will use certain bellows and other techniques for "show", whether it's considered right or wrong.

I'm conscious of the fact that one of the things which keeps the accordion alive in subsequent generations is classical music, something I was not aware of until I joined the forum. In an ideal world we should maybe all have been "classically trained", to use the Scottish terminology for such players, who are typically held in higher esteem than those who have learned by other methods, or indeed who have taught themselves to play.

However, the accordion by its very nature is probably better known, especially outside of Europe, for its use in the less "finer" performances seen on such media as You Tube, and in my own experience that is the type of footage which tends to grab my attention.

For me, it is the sound that is coming out of the instrument, and the ambience created that is the attraction. Even the odd fluffed note or missed chord is allowable (to my ears) just so long as the main performance creates a feeling of well being.

I have always had the greatest of respect for players of any type of classical music on any instrument, but being ignorant of all its subtleties and nuances, as well as being musically illiterate, I often struggle to interpret what a player or an orchestra is trying to convey to the listener.

Conversely, I can listen to an accordionist with no formal training, playing some virtually unknown folk style on a battered old instrument with bass and treble buttons/keys missing, and appreciate what they are doing without worrying about what if any musical "rules" are being broken in the process.

I'm old enough to remember when good "bellows technique" was useful to be able to light a coal fire quicker, and the consequent bellows instruction given to me by my late father is the only tuition I've had in the matter.

I love the accordion, the same as everybody else on here, whether it is played by people with no shoulder straps, one shoulder strap, or even if the player uses the instrument to rest a lit cigar or pipe on it while playing.

I sometimes hate being different, but that's just the way I am.
 

Francisco SC

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maugein96 post_id=60068 time=1528752072 user_id=607 said:
...
The choice of accordion in Portugal is overwhelmingly C system CBA with French 3x3 basses. You occasionally find a PA, but sadly never find a decent beer. ...

This reminds me the first accordion lessons my wife and me took... we live close to the northern Portuguese border, and we found an accordion teacher in a Portuguese village where we used to go in the weekends. By then, our knowledge about accordions was limited only to listening to Brazilian accordion folk music... and in Brazil, the only button accordions widely known are diatonic accordions. Chromatic button accordions are extremely rare there.

So, when discussing with the teacher about our interests, he tried to convice us that button accordion was the best choice for us... we understood he was meaning diatonic (bisonoric) boxes, which are also quite common in folk music in Northern Portugal, so we insisted on choosing piano accordion. Only after some time we realized he was meaning chromatic button accordion, and by then we thought it was already too late to change our mind...

Well, it was not! I just got one second-hand Roland FR-3xb To start my firs steps into the CBA world! Lets see how it goes...
 
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Geronimo

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maugein96 post_id=60144 time=1528884010 user_id=607 said:
Seems bellows technique is something that tends to be largely down to the individual, away from the finer performances referred to by Paul.

In recent years I have become something of a You Tube addict with regard to accordion music, and it seems obvious that some players will use certain bellows and other techniques for show, whether its considered right or wrong.

Im conscious of the fact that one of the things which keeps the accordion alive in subsequent generations is classical music, something I was not aware of until I joined the forum. In an ideal world we should maybe all have been classically trained, to use the Scottish terminology for such players, who are typically held in higher esteem than those who have learned by other methods, or indeed who have taught themselves to play.
I think you are somewhat off the track regarding the point of classically trained and bellows technique and classic music. Classically trained and classic music are sort of orthogonal. Classically trained involves having worked with teachers who have spent their life getting the best from some instrument, based on other people having done the same. A means of transferring and discussing and disseminating knowledge is musical notation as well as music theory, so classical education tends to appear somewhat heavier focused on those than appreciated by hobby musicians. Standing on the shoulders of giants may make you clueless about how to dig trenches.

At any range, coming with the tools of the trade come musical concepts of the trade that make music interesting to those who have spent their life on it. Part of that is working with multiple voices and themes and expressive means that are not particularly tied to a particular instrument. Musically, it means working with multiple voices, with independent parts, and at a large variety of volumes, speeds, expressions.

Now folk music tends to play to the strengths of the singer/chord paradigm, and accordion music plays to the strengths of the instrument within that paradigm. That does not negate the advantages of the kind of instrumental and articulation control a classical training obsesses over but it does provide diminishing returns. You get a lot of discussions regarding classical training also for, say, Jazz guitar players. A classical education is not as much defining a players appeal as much as it may be refining it.

Now typical accordion music is playing to the strengths of the instrument while a classical education, in some manner, obsesses about its weaknesses.

I may be obsessing about how to make a compelling rendition of a polyphonic slow sound texture while others may say why do you bother with that shit not made for the accordion?. In some ways the answer is Sir Hillarys because its there when asked why he obsessed about climbing Mount Everest.
 
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maugein96

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Hi Geronimo,

I suppose some of us will never really appreciate that music is a "serious" subject for some, whilst for others we can just take it or leave it along with other things like football, or gardening.

I'm interested in all of those things, but only as an "enthusiastic amateur", and as such I probably shouldn't try and get involved in discussions that are well above my level of interest. I've still not got the "Think before you post" thing quite right yet, although I'm working on it.

I think I get the gist of what you're saying.

Ordinarily I wouldn't be putting on as many posts, but the forum is pretty quiet at the moment, with not much new material at all.

I think it's time I went and did some gardening, as I'm too old to play football any more. I'll think about the accordion again when I'm convinced I know how to work the bellows correctly. ;)
 
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Geronimo

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maugein96 post_id=60152 time=1528899224 user_id=607 said:
I suppose some of us will never really appreciate that music is a serious subject for some, whilst for others we can just take it or leave it along with other things like football, or gardening.
Since when can one take or leave gardening? There are dry spells and aphids. And even in a rock garden, there are weeds.
 
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maugein96

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Geronimo post_id=60155 time=1528903790 user_id=2623 said:
maugein96 post_id=60152 time=1528899224 user_id=607 said:
I suppose some of us will never really appreciate that music is a serious subject for some, whilst for others we can just take it or leave it along with other things like football, or gardening.
Since when can one take or leave gardening? There are dry spells and aphids. And even in a rock garden, there are weeds.

This is Scotland, where dry spells only last for 20 minutes, and Ive smashed all the rocks up with a big hammer that doubles as an accordion repair tool. I had always intended to put the hammer through an old Cavagnolo which has been the worst accordion Ive ever owned, but so far I havent been able to do it. I will some day though. Its the slugs and snails which thrive in our tropical monsoon type summer weather that cause most of the problems in the garden here.

Ive just had to take the washing in before the wind blew it across to Denmark, and Ive had to leave the gardening for now, aphids, weeds, and all, as the rain is coming down as though it hasnt rained for 20 minutes. No football on the TV so might play FIFA 17 on the laptop (Im not into it enough to splash out on FIFA 18). Then again I might try and work out where my wife has dumped one of my accordions, and see if I can try that bad bellows technique without catching my beard in the folds!

Or I could just go and have a beer. I can take beer or leave it too, but Id sooner take it!

Great thing this retirement. When I was working Id have had to go to Denmark to try and get the washing back!
 

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