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Ec Bellows Use And Reinforcement?


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#1 harpomatic

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Posted 12 December 2017 - 01:45 PM

My exploration of EC leads me to believe that the best, most convenient way of holding the instrument is with its bellows (frames) over (on) the knee. Now, I know of a recommended way -bellows in the air, one frame on the knee. It makes total sense only from a point of view of bellows wear. Otherwise, I would prefer "my" way. Given that, did anyone ever experiment with bellow reinforcement on the bottom (only), with those metal edge "liners", like in accordions and german concertinas? Ideally, I would keep on playing over the knee, without prematurely wearing out my aeola bellows - those 8-sided replacements are an expensive proposition...

#2 Wolf Molkentin

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Posted 12 December 2017 - 04:54 PM

The "recommended way" makes perfect sense to me as to playability as well, but that's just me.

Your "covenient way" is promoted by Rob Harbron, however he seems to do it in a way that doesn't hurt the bellows (rather on the restrained side re dynamics and loudness I guess).

Best wishes - Wolf

#3 harpomatic

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Posted 12 December 2017 - 06:27 PM

Wolf, I find myself somewhat on "Ron Hebron" side, mainly due to my desire to build a 4 finger technique. That, in itself is a logical carry over from my anglo, and more so, german concertina experience. All 4 fingers already work, as it is, it's just a matter of training them to hit the right note, hopefully at the right time;) Evidently, some people play while standing, and I would probably aim for that, if it wouldn't require a sacrifice of a finger. Anyway, just thinking if it at all is adviseble to think in this direction of reinforcing the bottom, which could then lead to taking an advantage of some pretty expressive style of bellows use, possible from this position. I'm thinking of some pretty dramatic stuff, tango bandoneon-style (without overdoing it, of course).

Edited by harpomatic, 12 December 2017 - 06:28 PM.


#4 Don Taylor

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Posted 12 December 2017 - 07:35 PM

Maybe you could buy a "rebind kit" from Concertina spares, or skive some thin strips of leather your self, and stick leather binding strips over the wear areas before they start to wear.  When they do wear then simply replace the protecting strips with new strips.

 

A full rebind kit would probably provide enough material for 2-3 sets of protective strips.

 

If you stick them on with fish glue then they can be removed with the careful application of water.  Lee Valley sell a nice fish glue that  adheres well but releases easily and cleans up with a damp cloth.

 

(If this is a bad idea then I am sure that Dave E. will chime in before you can get your order in to Concertina Spares).



#5 Geoff Wooff

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Posted 13 December 2017 - 02:25 AM

I've used a  none too carefull  ' across  the  leg'  style of playing the EC  for 45 years  and never worn  a bellows   significantly on the underside.



#6 alex_holden

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Posted 13 December 2017 - 02:52 AM

Perhaps it depends on the abrasiveness of your clothing. I've seen some players put a soft towel or something on their lap. I think any reinforcement of the bellows is likely to make them stiffer and perhaps limit their range of travel, and if you only do it to one side, they will want to open and close unevenly.

#7 d.elliott

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Posted 13 December 2017 - 03:55 AM

One of the issues is that if the bellows are rested on the knee they are stretched out of the regular hexagonal (or octagonal) cross sectional where they are in contact with the leg. This causes issues with the inner hinges and on the points of the panel cards. This can accelerate bellows overall deterioration, obviously subject to playing stile. 

 

I see a lot of instruments with the points of the top skives wearing through and leaking on the underside of the bellows where they have been operated in contact with trousers and some times where the points have been in contact with the player's abdomen. Another wear characteristic is the leather wearing through on the underside of the bellows frame, sometimes through to the fabric underneath where the bellows have been played habitually with the frame on one leg.  I have seen several instances where, especially on band instruments, a leather wear piece has been fitted to the bottom flat of each bellows frame to protect the bellows not only in play, but also when placed on a stone or rough floor. Indeed my own Lachenal band style baritone  has exactly this, and has been this way probably since new or nearly new.

 

So, playing the instrument unsupported other than by it's holdings (including neck straps) is best, playing with one bellows frame supported on  the knee is good practise, playing with the bellows across the knee will reduce the life of he bellows.

 

Yes Rob Harbron does play with his bellows over the knee, and he did comment that it was not a good thing to do, but it seems to work for him.

 

Partial rebinding the lower sections of top skive causes the bellows to not fold evenly, a full re bind does play in quickly but can cause the concertina to not compress fully dependent on the geometry of the skive. Putting wear pads under the bellows frames, or using this to repair wear under the frames is easy, low cost, and has no other adverse effects. I have done this for various folk over the years. Take your pick.

 

One last thought, bellows are, like pads and valves, a consumable item, you expect to discard and replace bellows, albeit may be on a frequency of every  century or so. If you want to play with bellows across the knee then fine, all you are doing is reducing the life of a throw away (but expensive) item, not wrecking the instrument. 

 

The  'tina is there to make music, it is not a museum exhibit, it needs caring for and protecting, but also using and using and using, so wear and discard of consumable parts is to be expected.

 

Dave



#8 Wolf Molkentin

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Posted 13 December 2017 - 03:57 AM

...which could then lead to taking an advantage of some pretty expressive style of bellows use, possible from this position. I'm thinking of some pretty dramatic stuff, tango bandoneon-style (without overdoing it, of course).

 

As you may or may not have noticed  :) I'm myself engaging four fingers of either hand, and I would consider my style as  rather "dramatic" too - so I would deem it perfectly advisable for you not to drop your current approach, as a lot of expressiveness is made possible by having one end supported by a knee and then moving the other end including the entire bellows freely around.

 

edited to add: and if you should be considering an improvement on the bellows it might rather be for length and extensibility then.

 

edited to add: and if you should be considering an improvement 


Edited by Wolf Molkentin, 13 December 2017 - 04:38 AM.


#9 rlgph

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Posted 13 December 2017 - 10:57 AM

I'm not an English player, but i would have thought that resting one of the bellows frames on a knee would lead to an asymmetry in playing that you wouldn't want for an Ec. I guess it's not significant?

#10 Wolf Molkentin

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Posted 13 December 2017 - 11:19 AM

I'm not an English player, but i would have thought that resting one of the bellows frames on a knee would lead to an asymmetry in playing that you wouldn't want for an Ec. I guess it's not significant?

 

I guess this wouldn't happen as you'll get accustomed to controlling the pressure, thus loudness, attack a.s.f., with just (or at least chiefly) one (as for me: the left) hand while of course pressing buttons on either side.

 

Best wishes - Wolf

 

edited to add: As soon as you're harmonizing, playing counterpoint or whatever, you'l have pressed buttons on both sides simultaneously anyway.


Edited by Wolf Molkentin, 13 December 2017 - 11:21 AM.


#11 d.elliott

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Posted 13 December 2017 - 05:44 PM

There are the options of using wrist straps on your English system, these are a different pattern to the Anglo straps and are so positioned as to take the weight of the instrument away from the thumb and little finger slide thus allowing full resonance from both ends of the concertina. Or, if you want complete freedom then the neck strap option is always viable, as long as it is properly mounted to avoid damage and maintain balance and control. The neck strap is not only for heavier instruments, but also lighter ones too, and there is no hand constraint which some find an irritation with the wrist strap option.

 

Dave



#12 harpomatic

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Posted 13 December 2017 - 09:46 PM

Friends, such helpful points, reversible fish glue, general "no panic" advise which puts my mind at ease for the immediate future, tips on where to get supplies, possible "beefing up" of the bottom ideas, confirmations of a 4finger strategy (Wolf, in general I find your approach to the instrument very similar to mine), the idea of symmetry I can definitely identify with, (though I hear Wolf's responce, I am so attracted to the EC's symmetry that I want to exploit it as much as possible), and even those neck harnesses - I'm giving it a second thought... Thank you for your time and help!

Edited by harpomatic, 13 December 2017 - 09:47 PM.


#13 m3838

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Posted 14 December 2017 - 08:00 PM

Everything is great, except neck straps (unless you want to suffer terrible pain later in life) and note against fanning out the bellows. Fanning will safe your bellows folds in like new condition for years with fanning. 



#14 Wolf Molkentin

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Posted 14 December 2017 - 09:58 PM

... but "fanning" will reduce air supply and dynamic versatility vastly and is thus hardly advisable for a player

thinking of some pretty dramatic stuff, tango bandoneon-style...



#15 harpomatic

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Posted 14 December 2017 - 11:21 PM

My recent observations are: neck strap is still too shaky - wobbly. Playng while standing, in general leads to a sacrifice of a pinky, and at that, I am somehow abe to get a more convincing, and not at all less restrictive grip if I support the concertina directly from the bottom of its end/frame. But, I am not givng up on the "extra" digit. So I decided on the "over the knee" approach, with a bit more informed point of view, thanks to the discussion here. My decision is based on all the bellows concervation/maintenance suggestions, as well as playing techniques/philosophies. Including fanning, and occasional "tango dramatics", although used sparringly. I won't do that foot stomp on the draw on every note, even as I gain more confidence. Another good thing is that on a quality instrument, all that sudden drama is barely visible and doesn't have to be as forceful, when the instrument is responsive. I am lucky in that regard. Also what stuck with me is the idea of symmetry, voiced by rlgph - simply put, and it is the core of my attraction to EC. From that perspective, my "over the knee" playing will definitely include "one end in the air", as Wolf uses it, though freely switching between ends at will. All in the name of greater controll and stability + 4 fingered phrasing. Of course the genius of the EC is that it could be elegantly played even with one finger...

Edited by harpomatic, 15 December 2017 - 12:32 PM.


#16 m3838

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Posted 15 December 2017 - 12:03 AM

... but "fanning" will reduce air supply and dynamic versatility vastly and is thus hardly advisable for a player
 

thinking of some pretty dramatic stuff, tango bandoneon-style...

 

You reiterate this point but it has little basis. Dynamics have nothing to do with the stretch of the bellows. It's the attack and variation of pressure. For good phrasing one "has" to do meaningful bellows reversals pretty much on every measure or within measures. And this work is what wears me out. No teacher, I'm on my own, following some clarinet players, mimicking their breathing. The art is not to stretch the bellows, reserve the air and use reversals for rhythm. I was following some russian site where the discussion was about traditional bellows reversals. One of the points is to reverse the bellows not at the beginning of new measure, but at the last note of the measure. It gives uplift and connects the measures better. But again, these are just talks, doing it way harder, requires complete re-wiring of the brain. 

Where can I see/hear your playing? I'd be very interested to study your bellows technique. 



#17 Wolf Molkentin

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Posted 15 December 2017 - 06:09 AM

So here you've raised a new point, and I couldn't agree more: frequent bellows reversals connecting the last note of a bar (or at times of a given fraction of the bar) with the next (in general: emphasising the phrasing) is essential for me as well!

My first instrument was (and is) a beautiful Lachenal Excelsior, providing a lovely profound tone, but with a poor action, mediocre responsiveness of the reeds - and a very traditional (resisting greater extension) plus (more and more) leaky bellows. So I had to do something with bellows reversals, and when it came to record my playing for the very first TOTM - the great Northumbrian Jig "Fiery Clockface" - in March 2013, with short of two years of experience with the Englisch (or any) conertina on my side, I was gradually learning how. At least my improved version later in the year- recorded with more understanding of the jig thing (thank you Jody!) - has the reversal following more or less every "5" beat.
 
This technique has been part of my playing ever since, albeit there are of course tunes to which it simply not applies (as, I guess, with my most recent - and only "Wheatstone" - recording (Nancy). My reluctancce to admit that my first Instrument was in a way limited and constraining my developement as a player lasted some years of very much learning to incorporate frequent and meaningful bellows reversals in my playing. Then there occured a longer hiatus as my Excelsior had lost its playability, and then the relaunch with the Wheatstone model 24.

Having said all this, I would nevertheless argue in favour of lots of air supply and flexibility of one end. Now I have a very good, very flexible and very extensible 7-folds-bellows, which gives me more choices and the certainty of not running out of air, and find this feature highly desirable. Of course I will stick to my approach nevertheless.

You're very welcome to listen to my collection of home recordings on SC, some of which have stood the test of time better then others of course. And I'm still very much learning to do better anyway...

Best wishes - Wolf


Edited by Wolf Molkentin, 15 December 2017 - 08:23 AM.


#18 Don Taylor

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Posted 15 December 2017 - 09:35 AM

Wolf

 

You really should spend some money on your Excelsior and get her properly serviced.  The old lady deserves to be treated well.

 

Don.






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