Thumbs Up for CBA??



Thumbs Up for CBA??

Postby maugein96 » Mon Aug 01, 2016 12:27 am

Any of you players aspiring to either start with or convert to CBA without a teacher will be pulling your hair out with regard to obtaining a suitable teaching method, unless you decide to develop your own fingering patterns.

Most people these days will agree that the thumb is indispensable when it comes to right hand fingering, as it should give more possibilities across the treble keyboard. However, if we wind the clock back a couple of generations you'll see that another school of thought prevailed regarding the use of the thumb. If we consider stringed instruments like the violin it will be obvious that the player only has 4 fingers at their disposal, as the thumb is used to hold the instrument, and cannot effectively be utilised to assist the player.

With that in mind, the early diatonic "button" accordions tended to be treated in the same manner, with the thumb being used as a support for the right hand. When the chromatic button accordion was invented, the diatonic technique was generally adopted. The buttons were closely enough spaced so that an octave could be played with the first and third fingers of the right hand. Although the early CBAs were popular in other countries, method books were published in Italy and France, where these instruments became most popular. The staccato playing which consequently became popular in both countries was better emphasised with fingering patterns which excluded use of the thumb.

Then as accordion music struggled to keep up with the times, several prominent CBA players began to experiment with using all 5 right hand fingers. These included Carlo Venturi from Bologna, Italy, and also Jo Privat from Paris, France. Both players took their respective instruments and styles to new levels of proficiency, whilst traditional players like Gigi Stok from Modena, and Aimable Plouchard in France persevered with the old style. In fact in times gone by it was common for most CBA accordionists to play with 3 fingers only in both countries.

Those of us old enough to remember those players had to make a choice. I read many articles regarding the best fingering methods, but in my home country of Scotland all of the CBA teachers, who were thin on the ground even then, stipulated that the thumb was mandatory on CBA. Not surprisingly I flew in the face of all the advice I was given. I decided to go for a French CBA and play it their way. In latter times the Italians have admitted that the French are quicker without the thumb, but state that their own Carlo Venturi, who used all 5 fingers, "wasn't far behind".

These days the most common teaching methods for CBA in France advocate the use of all 5 right hand fingers, as do their Italian equivalents. In fact the most common method book in France these days is written by Richard Galliano, born in France to Italian parents. He is one of a number of modern "French" players who have shunned the quirky French CBA instruments in favour of their more solid Italian built cousins, complete with those big treble buttons.

So, we are all agreed that the thumb is indispensable then?

Check this Italian guy, Wolmer Beltrami, out. In his day thumbs were for anything you could imagine, except for playing accordion.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6tnkUo32zIo

Bellows straps? Reckon he'd heard of them, but they got the same importance as his right thumb!
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Re: Thumbs Up for CBA??

Postby donn » Mon Aug 01, 2016 3:19 am

I think I've mentioned before, among the players I've watched on videos, it appears to me that there are few virtuosos who strictly don't use the thumb, but there are many who don't use it very much. For example, watching a an Eric Bouvelle and Domi Emorine duet, just for a wild guess she might use her thumb once for every dozen first finger touches, say, and he once for every two dozen, depending on what they're playing of course. He almost always rests his at the edge of the keyboard, she maybe half the time. They exclusively use the outer 3 rows, by the way.

A lot of Portuguese play the same way, with varying amounts of thumb. Some kind use it kind of often, others maybe not at all. But serious young adult students might be seen to use a distinctly different technique that puts the hand out over the keyboard and uses the thumb on a more or less equal basis with the other fingers. Maybe that's the prevailing technique today, in C chromatic accordion pedagogy. Anyway, my point is that the (at least) two distinct styles I think I'm seeing differ more in how they use the thumb, than whether they use it.
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Re: Thumbs Up for CBA??

Postby debra » Mon Aug 01, 2016 7:17 am

Nowadays (I not only play but also watch a lot of people playing) everyone learns to play using all 5 fingers. But there is a difference: B-system users tend to use the thumb less than C-system users. My guess is that because in the C-system the C is on the first row and because of the layout for playing a major chord also it is just convenient to use the thumb a lot. Fingering is a matter of finding out what is convenient. I use the thumb a lot (probably more than my pinkie) on the first and second row, and when needed also on the third, fourth or fifth, but that is more rarely leading to a truly convenient fingering.
So it is definitely thumbs up for me!
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Re: Thumbs Up for CBA??

Postby maugein96 » Mon Aug 01, 2016 9:56 am

The first French method I saw which allowed players to use the thumb on the inner rows was a very basic instruction book written by Michel Lorin. I started out with that method, but as I began to watch my heroes play on videos, I realised they nearly all used the thumb as a rest only. The only other French method book I knew of at the time (early 80s) which permitted use of the thumb on the outer 1st row was written by Andre Astier and Joss Baselli, who were known for their technically demanding compositions, which I decided would be a bit out of a late starter's league. There was a somewhat controversial method written by Paul Chalier (aka Pablo Calieri), who opined that everything should be played using the least number of fingers possible. Added to that I know a Scottish recording artiste, Bob Liddle, who only uses three fingers and he's a great player. Mind you, we're not talking about classical music with a lot of fast technical passages. Bob plays Scottish country dance music which is perhaps not so demanding to play. Nevertheless it is not a particularly easy style either.

Having watched players from all over the globe playing CBAs on video, it would appear that most of them were taught, or taught themselves, to use all 5 fingers of the right hand, regardless of which system they play. That also holds good for modern French players, who seem to have abandoned the old school fingering methods, with more and more of them now playing 5 rows.

I agree with Paul De Bra that B system players seem to have less need for the thumb, but in recent years I have discovered that there are different B systems, and a Finnish "C" system. It would take me a lifetime to work it all out.

In my particular case what happened was, having started out using my thumb, I then began studying the Medard Ferrero method, which forbade its use altogether. I found that my accuracy improved quite a bit, but my speed and confidence deteriorated to the point where my thumb was being used wherever I thought it was needed, even on the third row of my C system instruments. I then began to learn how to play most things on the outer three rows, before I noticed that certain passages in the French musette repertoire made occasional use of the 4th row! Also, Jo Privat, one of my idols, made quite prolific use of his thumb, but it was on and off the keyboard before you had time to work out that he had used it. The end result was I tried (unsuccessfully) to emulate his style, and ended up with a mish-mash that is neither one thing nor another. It took me many years before I realised that lack of formal training and association with like minded players would put severe limitations on my ability. As I'm getting on a bit I'm gradually adjusting to getting pleasure out of listening without trying to play stuff that is way beyond my musical ability.

I would conclude by saying that if you are a late starter like myself, you probably need all the fingers you've got, although if you do happen to have 7 on each hand then you'll need to throw those method books away!
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Re: Thumbs Up for CBA??

Postby donn » Mon Aug 01, 2016 2:35 pm

I'm sure a late starter, and I have never seriously thought about using my thumb on the keys. I don't follow the French technique, because I don't really know a thing about different techniques, but at least my hand is poised in that manner. It wouldn't surprise me if the use of the thumb is influenced by piano technique, where of course it's more needed.

I think I've mentioned before, among the relatively few players I've seen who use a lot of thumb, with hand poised over the keyboard, it appears to me that they seem rather glued to their accordions. The French style players can hold it a little looser - maybe because the thumb is there to keep them anchored.
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Re: Thumbs Up for CBA??

Postby maugein96 » Mon Aug 01, 2016 9:30 pm

I know a guy who played PA for some years and "converted" to CBA. In my opinion he would have been better sticking with PA, as he seemed to set himself back as a result. I did consider trying PA myself but various forum members convinced me it would be a bad move. I took their advice and probably saved myself a lot of wasted effort.

As we both know there still exist two schools of thought regarding use of the thumb on CBA, and considering I'm neither a professional player nor a teacher, then I don't consider my opinion counts for much.

I think it is entirely down to individual choice, and I suppose we should be glad that there are people still interested in CBA, regardless of their playing style and technique. CBA is still a bit of a rarity in the UK, as seems to be the case in North America. Indeed in some countries, notably Brazil, few players have ever heard of CBA accordion.

By way of contrast, I could only name a handful of French pro PA players in the land where CBA rules.
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Re: Thumbs Up for CBA??

Postby losthobos » Tue Aug 02, 2016 5:33 am

I used to play thumb to the side of the board until someone suggested that them big fat Italian buttons were thumb sized for a reason . now I just make up fingerings according to the tune and my fancy....doesn't really matter...it's gonna sound ham fisted either way ;) :tup:
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Re: Thumbs Up for CBA??

Postby debra » Tue Aug 02, 2016 7:25 am

losthobos wrote:I used to play thumb to the side of the board until someone suggested that them big fat Italian buttons were thumb sized for a reason . now I just make up fingerings according to the tune and my fancy....doesn't really matter...it's gonna sound ham fisted either way ;) :tup:

The big fat italian buttons are only made so big so as to cover a larger part of the keyboard area. It is actually quite inconvenient that accordions come with buttons in different sizes (and amount of spacing). And the reason to cover a larger part of the keyboard area is so the buttons are closer to the pallets they need to control than when the buttons were small and all in the center area.
I have used (and still use some of) a Bugari 540/ARS/C (smallest buttons), Bugari 508/ARS/C (somewhat larger buttons), Bugari 505/ARS and Pigini basson (largest buttons). I also have a Morino Artiste XS with buttons of similar size to the Bugari 508/ARS/C. I actually don't like the smallest buttons all that much but that is the size used on most professional instruments nowadays because with any of the larger buttons you could not fit enough buttons to get 64 playing notes.
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Re: Thumbs Up for CBA??

Postby george garside » Tue Aug 02, 2016 8:15 am

on a CBA the normal stepped keyboard enables the thumb to be used on the inner rows without it catching on the other rows so it is usable to the choice of the individual player and depending on the needs of a particular part of a particular tune! For those not using the thumb I would suggest giving it a try here and there to see if it has any advantages for you as an individual. I would however not be dogmatic about it being best /worst or whatever!

On a 3 row british chromatic with the normal flat keyboard it is very rare to see anybody using the thumb because there is a danger of getting a thumfull of notes!. There is of course the other point that since you have 2 notes on every button there is less need to charge around all over the place and 4 digits manage very nicely!

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Re: Thumbs Up for CBA??

Postby JackieC » Tue Aug 02, 2016 2:34 pm

Learning the C system CBA has been so great. No way would I give up the PA, as I have too many years and experience on it, but learning CBA, in addition to that, is something I intend to continue. I know other accordionists who perform well on both types of keyboards. I use all five fingers as it gives me five fingers to maneuver the buttons, as is necessary with PA. I'm loving the challenge.
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