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 Post subject: Managing the Bellows
PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2007 9:41 am 
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Joined: Tue Aug 14, 2007 6:12 am
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Location: Mid Missouri
Here's another newbie question. I'm still practicing on the borrowed B/C while awaiting my C#/D to arrive. Often I will have the bellows extended quite a bit or less frequently, run out of "squeeze" too soon. What should I be doing to better manage the bellows? Should I quickly (and perhaps discreetly) be using the little air button on the bass side? This issue is not addressed in the Hanrahan book. Is there something so breathtakingly simple I'm missing it, or is it a matter of more practice and experience? (I know PLENTY of practice is needed.)

Thanks,
Jenny


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2007 9:57 am 
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Location: Minnesocold
Yes, you should use the breather button, that's what it's there for. The bellows action changes for each tune, so as you learn how to play a tune (right hand fingering, left hand direction of the bellows) you'll also be learning just how much air is needed.

As a beginner, only use the button as needed and don't ride it. In other words, open it fully when needed but don't slightly squeeze it when playing. That was what John Williams told me several years ago. In the next breath, he said that there are times when riding the air button might be appropriate. You need to learn more about the tunes you're playing as welll as your own box before you get into habits that might make for sloppy playing. You can break the rules later . . . :wink:


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2007 12:39 pm 
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I don't know what's wrong with not opening the air button fully, but at all events, assuming that you're not playing the basses much at this stage, your aim is to keep your bellows from opening very far at all - especially if you're playing mainly on the row, C#/D style.

Watch good Irish-style players and you'll soon see how little bellows travel is involved. This is important for precise control over the bellows - try playing a fast in-and-out passage with the bellows wide open and you'll see what I mean.

To maintain this small amount of travel, you need to use the air button constantly, and you need to do it while you are playing notes.

For example, on a C#D box, playing a typical Em tune, if you don't use the air button your bellows will gradually extend farther and farther open. Don't allow this to happen - as soon as you get a note on the push, say a D or an A, open the air button and as you play that note bring the bellows in farther than they would go naturally.

You might also find yourself doing the same thing in reverse in the same tune, opening the air button to open the bellows a wee bit to get yourself into position for a passage involving several push notes. Nothing wrong.

If you're playing many D tunes on C#D box, you'll be using the air button frequently on pull notes. It's the nature of the beast.

Opening the air button fully while you do this, I think, will tend to take all the guts out of your note. Even if you open it slightly, you'll need to compensate with extra bellows speed to stop the volume from dropping too much.

This is a very different style of playing than say, French players of G/C boxes, who play across the rows to to avoid pushing and pulling and open and close the bellows quite wide over long phrases. Generally we don't have that possibility on half-step boxes.

Playing the basses intensively will increase the amount of bellows travel (ever watched Tony MacMahon playing?) and might involve you in opening the air button fully I suppose. But for right-hand playing, I think that using it little and often is the way to go. Don't know if that constitutes "riding", but that's what I do anyway, and I've read advice from very experienced players to the same effect.

Anyway, I wouldn't worry about it too much - it soon becomes second nature.

Cheers
Steve


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2007 4:18 pm 
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I sometimes will get a "Push" B on the outside row instead of the "Pull" B on the inside row or a "Pull" E if I can get away with it. Is this "Cheating" or is using the notes on the outside row a common practice?

TM


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2007 6:16 pm 
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Location: Mid Missouri
Ah-ha! It would not have occurred to me to ride the air button, as I have been regarding it as something for emergencies only. We didn't ever talk about its use in class and I was so overwhelmed trying to absorb everything, I never even saw what our teacher was doing with it. Knowing that it's another button to be used along with the others clears things up a lot. Kind of tricky to find just the right amount of pressure, but giving extra push at the same time makes sense.

Thanks for suggesting watching some good players. I tend to forget the internet has made this possible... It's interesting - I'm "seeing" a lot more now than when I first started playing.

Thanks for adding another piece to the puzzle,
Jenny


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2007 6:25 pm 
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TaylorMartin wrote:
I sometimes will get a "Push" B on the outside row instead of the "Pull" B on the inside row or a "Pull" E if I can get away with it. Is this "Cheating" or is using the notes on the outside row a common practice?

TM


Cheating? Heavens no. Like the air button, they're there to be used! They aren't referred to as the "magic notes " for nothing... they're the only notes on which you can choose the bellows direction, so explore how they help the tune (or not) in every situation.


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 23, 2007 1:03 pm 
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StevieJ wrote
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Cheating? Heavens no. Like the air button, they're there to be used! They aren't referred to as the "magic notes " for nothing... they're the only notes on which you can choose the bellows direction, so explore how they help the tune (or not) in every situation.


Well, that is good news! I have three instructional DVDs about Irish B/C button accordion, and none of them mentions these "magic notes" or what the possibilities for their use would be. There is also scant information on bellows management, which I think is one of the hardest things to learn about the instrument.

TM


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