New Wisconsin Accordionist (and Technique Question)

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LoganL
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New Wisconsin Accordionist (and Technique Question)

Post by LoganL » Mon Mar 20, 2017 6:08 pm

Hey everyone,

I'm a musician in Wisconsin that has been interested in the accordion for some time. I got my hands on a Hohner Bravo III 120 and I'm excited to start learning!

I am very comfortable with theory and sheet music, I suppose my biggest barrier will just be accordion specific techniques. Operating the bellows with my left hand can get a little tricky. When I pull the bellows all the way out, I'm supposed to lift my left hand and let gravity help push them in again (rather than just pushing), correct? My struggle with this is my hand is very skinny and it slides up the side rather than staying put when I try to lift. The strap is as tight as I can get it. Any advice for me?

Today is my first day practicing and I'm working my way through the first Palmer Hughes book. So far I can play the first two simple tunes.

My long term goal is to be able to play jazz on the accordion, and be very proficient in reading sheet music with it. But I enjoy all forms of music on this Instrument!

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Re: New Wisconsin Accordionist (and Technique Question)

Post by JeffJetton » Mon Mar 20, 2017 9:47 pm

I suppose some people do do the "lift the bellows closed" technique, but I've always felt that to be a bit too showy, and it's never really worked for me besides.

I think of the bellows as having an imaginary hinge on the bottom (in fact, you can temporarily leave the bottom strap snapped to get a feel for what I'm talking about). I open the top of the bellows and let it sort of fall open (aided by my left hand) in a V shape. I close it by imagining that I'm pushing the V back shut.

In practice, I don't really get a "perfect hinge" due to the mechanics of the bellows, but the point is that I don't want to wind up looking like this guy, pulling the thing straight out and snaking it back. :lol:

Checking out some YouTube videos of good players will help. Here's one of Phil Cunningham, for example. Or, since you're jazzer, here's Frank Marocco. In both cases, notice the V on the open, and how they don't really lift the LH side up above the RH side when closing... it's more of a push than a lift. You shouldn't need the hand strap to be tight to pull it off (in fact, you should barely need the hand strap at all when closing.)

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Re: New Wisconsin Accordionist (and Technique Question)

Post by george garside » Mon Mar 20, 2017 10:38 pm

there is absolutely no need to take the bellows out anywhere near fully extended on a piano accordion and so doing greatly limits bellows control and is bad for the arm and shoulder!

Where possible change bellows direction to fit in with phrases but this is far from vital as some play eg 4 bars out and 4 in and so on. AS to the lifting to bring bellwos back it is just a bit of flamboyant showing off serves no useful purpose.

I agree totally with Jeff about playing most of the time with the bellwos in a 'fan' shape i.e with bottom closed or near closed.

Others may disagree!

george

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Re: New Wisconsin Accordionist (and Technique Question)

Post by Stephen Hawkins » Mon Mar 20, 2017 11:24 pm

Hello Logan,

Welcome to the forum.

I hope you soon master the technique of operating the bellows .... practice will bring its rewards.

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Re: New Wisconsin Accordionist (and Technique Question)

Post by hais1273 » Tue Mar 21, 2017 7:53 am

Four bars out, four bars in, as a way to start is good advice. I let a little air into the bellows before I play, it seems to make starting a piece softly or quietly easier. Avoid changing bellows direction in the middle of a bar or on a longer tied note, a friend of mine does this and for reasons I can't quite put my finger it's a bit annoying!

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Re: New Wisconsin Accordionist (and Technique Question)

Post by TomBR » Tue Mar 21, 2017 9:57 am

Interesting and useful bellows demo from Cathie Travers here, (and I really like the improv she plays for demonstration.)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PPbJFqCStY
Tom

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Re: New Wisconsin Accordionist (and Technique Question)

Post by JeffJetton » Tue Mar 21, 2017 3:15 pm

hais1273 wrote:Avoid changing bellows direction in the middle of a bar
Oh, I don't know about that. I think it's important to try to avoid changing bellows direction in the middle of a musical phrase, but those phrases don't always start or end right on bar lines. In those cases, the best place (to me, anyway) to change bellows is often not on the bar line.

As an example off the top of my head, take "Good Morning to You". You could switch bellows right on the bar lines and it wouldn't necessarily sound terrible. But if you did it one beat earlier, between beats 2 and 3 (i.e., between "you!" and "Good" each time) you'd be able to play an entire lyrical sentence as one single bellows movement and avoid "chopping up" the musical phrase.

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Re: New Wisconsin Accordionist (and Technique Question)

Post by Alan Sharkis » Tue Mar 21, 2017 4:09 pm

More tips for bellows (in addition to what was already written:

1. Don't start a tune or exercise with the bellows completely closed. Instead, using that "hinge" analogy,
have the bottom closed or nearly closed and the top about a hand's width open. That will keep you from
running out of bellows travel if you're closing on a short phrase. For longer phrases, you might have to
anticipate by opening more in the preceding phrase, but that will happen after you've been playing a
while.

2. I'm sure you know a pickup bar when you see one. Sometimes in the middle of a tune, something like
a pickup bar exists in an ordinary bar, and it begins a new phrase. Try to change bellows direction just
before that, even if it's in the middle of a bar. That way, the phrase won't be broken.

Alan

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Re: New Wisconsin Accordionist (and Technique Question)

Post by Soulsaver » Thu Mar 23, 2017 1:50 am

Just to tidy this bit up - because I can't believe that one poster meant exactly what he said, his nomenclature may differ from mine:
Rule 1 - Do not change direction while holding down a key - whether a tie or just a single note - is like taking a breath half way though a word in a song.
Rule 2 - Do not change direction during a phrase - is like taking a breath in the wrong place in a sentence...

...which is why it can make you(one) feel uncomfortable... even if the listener is not a musician.

If those phrases start or end in the middle of bars, and they usually do, you change if necessary anyway.
As others said, it often pays to have some air in the bellows at the start for safety.

Edit: Can't spell 'or'...
PS bellows shake doesn't count...
Last edited by Soulsaver on Sat Mar 25, 2017 1:38 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Chinese Accordion Manufacturers - list post #1 here viewtopic.php?f=25&t=1584" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: New Wisconsin Accordionist (and Technique Question)

Post by LoganL » Thu Mar 23, 2017 2:47 am

Thanks everyone for the helpful replies! I'm having a really good time working on the simple Palmer Hughes tunes. It's going to take my hands some time to work up the independence for playing this instrument well, but I know I'll get there in time. :)

As I work through the tunes of the Palmer Hughes method I think I might share them on this forum to document my progress.

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