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Bellows Angle On An English Concertina


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#1 Daddy Long Les

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Posted 11 September 2015 - 02:19 AM

Hi,

 

I've always started my pieces with the bellows completely closed to give me the maximum amount of air on the pull for the first phrase or bars.

 

I was reading Wim Wakker's tutor book for the Jackie last night and he suggests keeping an inverted V shape by having the front of the bellows closed and fanning out from the back.

 

Up to now I've just been pulling out and pushing in without too much "curve" but I have to admit Wim's method does seem to give me more control.

 

I'd like to have other people's opinion on this - both on the starting position and the general shape of the bellows when playing.

 

Many Thanks

 

Les



#2 Geoff Wooff

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Posted 11 September 2015 - 06:14 AM

There are probably as many opinions as there are anglular possibilities with a Bellows. Some Accordeonists leave the lower strap closed so that the Bellows fans out whilst many makes of accordeon do not have Bellows straps at all.

There are players of the English who have added straps to keep the bellows closed on one face... Check out the youtube videos of ProfRat who uses a strap. In fact a study of english concertina players on the tube will be reasonably informing.

Another very interesting take on Bellows movement can be had at an Alistair Anderson gig, watch how he appears to juggle the air with the bellows staying about two thirds drawn out.

Starting with the bellows closed is perhaps not a good idea for all tunes, as you only have the one direction to play with for the first few moments though some people are happy to get those direction change effects by adjusting pressure without reversing movement. I prefer to open the bellows somewhat before starting to play though the idea of finishing a piece with the bellows just on closed does look nice during a performance.

#3 Daddy Long Les

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Posted 11 September 2015 - 06:23 AM

There are probably as many opinions as there are anglular possibilities with a Bellows. Some Accordeonists leave the lower strap closed so that the Bellows fans out whilst many makes of accordeon do not have Bellows straps at all.

There are players of the English who have added straps to keep the bellows closed on one face... Check out the youtube videos of ProfRat who uses a strap. In fact a study of english concertina players on the tube will be reasonably informing.

Another very interesting take on Bellows movement can be had at an Alistair Anderson gig, watch how he appears to juggle the air with the bellows staying about two thirds drawn out.

Starting with the bellows closed is perhaps not a good idea for all tunes, as you only have the one direction to play with for the first few moments though some people are happy to get those direction change effects by adjusting pressure without reversing movement. I prefer to open the bellows somewhat before starting to play though the idea of finishing a piece with the bellows just on closed does look nice during a performance.

 

Thank you Geoff - just what I needed.



#4 JimLucas

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Posted 11 September 2015 - 06:43 AM

I've always started my pieces with the bellows completely closed to give me the maximum amount of air on the pull for the first phrase or bars.
 
I was reading Wim Wakker's tutor book for the Jackie last night and he suggests keeping an inverted V shape by having the front of the bellows closed and fanning out from the back.
 
Up to now I've just been pulling out and pushing in without too much "curve" but I have to admit Wim's method does seem to give me more control.
 
I'd like to have other people's opinion on this - both on the starting position and the general shape of the bellows when playing.


Starting position:

I like to start with my bellows approximately half (between 1/3 and 2/3) open.  This allows me to start either pulling or pushing.  Which direction I start in seems to depend on how I feel at the moment; it isn't even always the same for any particular tune.

 

Note:  I rarely compress or extend my bellows to anything near its full extent.  Changing bellows direction is one of many techniques to control phrasing, and it's important to keep enough "slack" to avoid being forced to change direction at an awkward moment.

 

Belows shape:

I try to keep my bellows more or less "straight", i.e., with the ends parallel.  I find that this gives me the greatest overall control.

 

With my Wheatstone treble I just tried what you quote Wim's tutor as saying, and it confirms what I already knew... that such fanning reduces both the length and volume of bellows I have to work with, and thus it reduces my options for control.  (It's been some years since I played a Jackie, but I don't recall a difference in that respect.)

 

On the other hand, Danny Chapman (ratface here on concertina.net; ProfRat on YouTube) plays superbly, and he uses fanning as a means of opening and closing the bellows, using a strap to keep the bottom of the bellows closed as the pivot of the fan.

 

Another major difference between Danny and myself is that he always plays seated, with the concertina supported by a leg, while I mostly play with the concertina suspended, even when I'm seated (and even when it's my bass English).

 

In general:

  • Everything you do interacts with everything else.  E.g., how far should your thumbs extend into the loops?  People differ.  What should you do with your little fingers?  People differ.  If you play while standing, how high and at what angle should you hold the concertina?  People differ.  Above we started of with differences of opinion regarding fanning the bellows.  Different individuals' hands and bodies have different sizes, shapes, and strengths, and this can affect what combinations of techniques work best for each.  The most important thing, in my opinion, is that you experiment with various combinations of techniques to find what works for you.  And every few months, repeat the experimentation, as your abilities may change with practice.
  • I believe another important principle is that one should be flexible, not rigid.  Note my use of the words "approximately" and "more or less" above.  Variations -- from tiny to large -- in angle, position, tension, etc. work to reduce overall stress and increase stamina by allowing one group of muscles to relax while others take up the burden.  Even if that's only for a fraction of a second, it helps, and many individual fractions of a second can have a cumulative effect.  I'm constantly making such adjustments (mostly unconsciously, these days), and as a result I can play for long periods without fatigue or pain, even while standing and holding up a bass concertina.


#5 Don Taylor

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Posted 11 September 2015 - 08:01 AM

While on the subject of bellows control.

I find that I can control dynamics (much) better on a push than on a draw. Is this just my inexperience or do other folks find this as well?

#6 Geoff Wooff

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Posted 11 September 2015 - 08:31 AM

While on the subject of bellows control.

I find that I can control dynamics (much) better on a push than on a draw. Is this just my inexperience or do other folks find this as well?



I can imagine this to be fairly universal Don, but nothing that cannot be overcome by concentration during practice. Thinking of the Bow movements of the Violinist; there are passages noted on fiddle scores saying " Up Bow" or "Down Bow" so perhaps they notice a difference in attack, or is it just for ease of string shifting?

#7 ceemonster

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Posted 11 September 2015 - 09:44 PM

My EC ergonomics are like my Anglo ergonomics, bc I am using EC for dance-based instrumental folk genres a la anglo.  So I play seated with the concertina either centered or sometimes on one thigh or knee.  I hold it tilted at a bit of an angle so it is resting on a "point" like Anglo does, rather than on a "flat" like many EC players do.  And I start a tune with the bellows slightly open, so I have the choice of doing the first note on the push or the pull, like an irish fiddler would choose whether to upstroke or downstroke for that first "oomph" or take-off.  i never extend the bellows way out or let it become like that while playing.  when i played bisonoric button box, i watched a taped lesson by john Williams in which he said his father told him, if your bellows are going way far out, you are not changing direction enough to give lift to this music.  i think that goes double for a unisonoric. i don't change as often as a one-row melodeon, obviously, or as often as a two-row box being played old-style "on the row."  but i do view long bellows extensions as a warning sign that I'm sounding "classical" rather than dance-based world folk.  i have to say that a lot of ec players I've seen trying to play irish music, have that long-extension, "classical legato" thing going on.

 

to answer the OP question more on point, i do not play the bellows at an angle, bc i want full-on air into the valves. i try to press it "square" like one would on an anglo or a duet, the concertinas which are played squarely with palm rests.  i believe the ec ergonomics do not lend themselves to the articulation needed for dance-based instrumental folk. I'm not saying the ec "can't" do it.  I'm saying that vertical setup with the thumb thing does not loan itself well to it.   and i try to compensate for that as much as possible by not using the thumb rests and applying bellows pressure as square-on as poss. 


Edited by ceemonster, 11 September 2015 - 09:51 PM.


#8 Daddy Long Les

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Posted 12 September 2015 - 09:06 AM

All comments very interesting and helpful.  Thanks everyone!





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