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Running out of anglo air


otsaku
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Hi all

 

After an hour of trawling the forum trying to find a thread that I might have imagined existed....

 

 

 

So here I am battling with my new 20 button anglo and my main problem so far is running out of air. Am I to assume that the air button is placed by the thumb to solve this problem? And how do you get your thumbs working after using them to hold an EC?

 

The melody I'm trying to play is the leaving of liverpool and I'm using both rows on the right hand side:

 

 

D E F# F# A G F# E D D1? B A D E F# A A B A F# E

 

As soon as there is a doubling of notes on the pull ie F# F# A the bellows are fully extended ( yes yes I need to learn better bellows control too ) and the A is almost impossible to sound a little push for a brief b occasionally adds a little variation but more often than not makes the tune unrecognizable.

SO short of getting a twenty fold bellows any suggestions on how to combat this problem?

 

Also I'm missing a C# and have heard mention of a work around anyone care to explain how?

Edited by otsaku
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The common problem that beginners have, is that bellows pressure is too great and that the notes when being played are too long, particularly on the pull. Try playing quieter and chopping the notes push and pull. This will give you more air.

All Anglo players suffer the lack of air problem and an introduction of a pull phrase during the tune normally at the end of four bars can drag more air into the bellows. On push or pull notes a very gentle pressure of the thumb on the air button will fill or deflate the bellows to your requirements without altering the sound of the note being played and without the gasp of air sound that you would get if the button was fully depressed. If a tune turns out to be impossible to play even after the suggested options then you have to go another route. Have you the same note in the opposite direction? Is it better to play the tune on the bottom row where less air is used ? By making use of the bottom row ,can you take it up an octave, therefore using higher notes that take less air.

I hope that is of some use.

Al :)

Edited by Alan Day
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The common problem that beginners have, is that bellows pressure is too great and that the notes when being played are too long, particularly on the pull. Try playing quieter and chopping the notes push and pull. This will give you more air.

Al :)

 

See that helps. And funnily enough fumbling around trying to remember the sequence of notes and adding three extra notes both push and pull helped too...

 

Still having trouble getting my thumb to do anything other than rest like a ham on a butchers table.

 

Thanks for the suggestion - now back to the concertina.

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Option 1

Try playing the D’s, the B’s on the push. They’re all on the inside row on the left hand side and will balance the notes on the draw. Follow Alan Day’s good advice and practice lots.

 

Option 2

If you’re still not getting a result, take the bold step of drilling a hole in the bellows and securely fixing the end of a small hose pipe (garden variety is fine) to the new hole with masking tape. Place the open end in your mouth and suck like hell every time the bellows appear somewhat full. (A valve on the hose pipe might also be useful to stop air re-entering the bellow chamber). Haven’t tried it myself but can’t possibly see how it would fail.

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Still having trouble getting my thumb to do anything other than rest like a ham on a butchers table.

Beware:
One of the common Irish ornaments is known as the "cut".
;)

 

 

It's a lovely thumb but I don't think it would "Cut" it as an ornament...

 

 

I can hear the sound of a thousand bellows groaning under the strain of that one.

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Hello

 

Here's my 2 cents. I have some experience but not as much as a lot of other very good players. Others please chime in!

 

I think there is an optimal distance between the two ends. I will go out on a limp and say between 4 inches and 5 1/2 inches. Not only because if they are too close you can't play any more push notes and if they are too far apart you can't play anymore pull notes. At the optimal distance one has the most control of the instrument as far as quickly changing between a push and pull note, or vice-a-versa. Also it is always best to have moving parts move less than more, that is called efficiency. Others can explain more scientific phenomena that occur inside the bellows involving air pressures, the volume of the bellows, etc.

 

If you watch good players you will observe this with wonderment as I have.

 

Over time with the goal of keeping your bellows at the optimal length one learns to intuitively use the air button on push notes to shorten them and use the air button on the pull notes to lengthen them, while you are playing. I have heard people use the term "feather" the button which is a very light pressure, the least that is needed to allow air in or out.It becomes an automatic part of one's playing. It takes care of itself.

 

Easy to say but like anything it can become part of your muscle memory overtime if you go very slowly and work on it, patiently. There is muscle memory in your thumb that works the air button and also muscle memory of your arms that gauge the distance between your two hands and inform your thumb to engage the air button.

 

The other part of the equation is which buttons you use to play your tune with. If you only use pull notes which theoretically are an option you will discover after the first phrase there is nowhere to go. I think learning to play the Anglo is about learning the best options as to which notes you play on the push and which you play on the pull for any tune. Choosing the best notes for push and pull will also serve your phrasing and the balance of using notes both on the right side and the left side of the instrument.

 

Noel Hill's system of fingering is one way of coming up with a good choice of buttons to play for a tune that best serves the music and utilizes the strengths and avoids the pitfalls of the Anglo. There are other systems too. I think someone needs to pick a system (or combination of systems)to use so that you have a starting point, and to avoid reinventing the wheel.

 

The other factor is the quality of the instrument. Good reeds need less air and good actions respond to more subtle touch.

 

These are only my observations.

 

I hope it is some help.

 

Richard

Edited by richard
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These are only my observations.

 

I hope it is some help.

 

Richard

 

All opinions help, even if it is only to prove the opposite...

 

I'll start by saying it's a 20 button lachenal anglo with brass reeds, repadded, valved, tuned and repaired by theo gibb.

 

So far I've been mainly using my right hand but using both push and pull notes. I've ventured over to the left hand but it's tough remembering whether a note is on the push or on the pull. I can see what you mean about the optimal distance between the ends and for the leaving of liverpool there is a perfect distance or at least one that is perfect for me BUT when I tried to butcher the trumpet hornpipe ( never been able to play it on any instrument ) all those repeating g's and d's defeated me and I ran out of bellows in both directions.

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Just like wind instruments that you blow with your mouth, sometimes with the anglo you need to "take a breath".

 

The various suggestions above can help to reduce the frequency you do that, but sometimes you have no choice and you need to learn to operate the air button just as effectively as any other button. Keep your right thumb in a position where you can quickly operate the air button to open or close the bellows as needed. Like all these things it comes with practice.

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Just in case that someone is trying to use the thumb on the air and drone button like you use the fingers.

The thumb is use sideways on , with that little area next to the nail.

It is obvious to most players but after seeing someone that had played her concertina upside down for two years and wondered what that button was for, that she could not reach,I thought it was worth mentioning.

Al

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Just in case that someone is trying to use the thumb on the air and drone button like you use the fingers.

The thumb is use sideways on , with that little area next to the nail.

It is obvious to most players...

 

Anglo constructors by tradition have used press buttons for the air valve which demands a sideways (adduction-abduction)activity by the whole thumb.

Anatomically flexion at the distal joint of the thumb and thus the use of a lever activated in the same way as some air valves on Englishes or "bowing valves" of Alsepti would be more functional than the press buttons and this concept has been used in practise on some instruments made by Geoff Crabb and Colin Dipper ( and maybe others?..) This concept however also demands a different position of the thumb and that the thumb is not employed for active stabilization of the instrument. Using a steady thumb strap and a separate wrist strap in combination and a more stable support for the wrist are the natural measures to deal with the situation.

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Just in case that someone is trying to use the thumb on the air and drone button like you use the fingers.

The thumb is use sideways on , with that little area next to the nail.

It is obvious to most players but after seeing someone that had played her concertina upside down for two years and wondered what that button was for, that she could not reach,I thought it was worth mentioning.

Al

True Alan. Another help, to add to the rest of the good advice here is to play quietly. Quiet playing requires less air.

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Just in case that someone is trying to use the thumb on the air and drone button like you use the fingers.

The thumb is use sideways on , with that little area next to the nail.

It is obvious to most players but after seeing someone that had played her concertina upside down for two years and wondered what that button was for, that she could not reach,I thought it was worth mentioning.

Al

True Alan. Another help, to add to the rest of the good advice here is to play quietly. Quiet playing requires less air.

I totally agree Jody.

Since I have been playing the instrument softer ,I am more relaxed, the concertina sounds better, you are making room for dynamics in your playing, you have more control over the buttons.

Al

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I'm assuming it's a C outer , G innner row anglo

 

You should make a chart and really learn the notes you have to play with. You'll find that you can find the same note either push or pull on the same or on either side. I'd say that most session people play in G or D to fit in with flutes, fiddles or melodeons. Going up from Middle C on the LHside The ones used most often that are played either direction are D B c d e

 

I write out the tune in ABc notation and then use a highlighter to show whether push or pull. In the end you can get smooth playing and also you don't need to use the air button as much but you should keep the thumb near it.

 

 

I found my air button is too short as it has been replaced with a new one (maybe the other owner had alonger or thicker thumb?!) I experimented with a bit of plastic sleeve to extend it ( from a dental brush handle)

As Alan says, use the push or pull notes that enable you to lose air or gain it when too close or too 'elephants trunk like '

The latter tends to occur in key of D . You can 'busk' the lack of C# by adapting the tune as older players did with 2 row anglos for many years.

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There have been several good suggestions here about efficient playing technique. There still are some unsolved riddles related to the instrument itself.

 

First this:

SO short of getting a twenty fold bellows any suggestions on how to combat this problem?

 

I have wondered why there are not more folds (than the common 5-7) since all anglo players suffer more or less from the limited air capacities.

20 folds probably is too hard to handle but what about 10 or so? Few folds makes the bellows more stable ( and costs a little less of course..) but with more folds the stability may be retained by not opening the bellows un-necessarily much when playing monophonic or staccatto and when playing polyphonic or legato the full volume may be recruited. Furthermore if the stability suffers this may be improved by another type of handle. So what are the grounds for not having some more folds?

 

Then this:

The common problem that beginners have, is that bellows pressure is too great and that the notes when being played are too long, particularly on the pull.

 

Of course playing single notes with little or no harmonies, staccatto instead of legato, or using the higher key more than the lower key are effective methods to save air but sometimes demands from the music itself or the player make these measures un-practicable.

 

Alan,I don't quite see what you mean by - "the notes when being played are too long, particularly on the pull" - since I rather find that it mostly is on the push that running out of air becomes desperate. It comes abruptly and is relentless. Running out of air on pull on the other hand comes gradually and may be more negotiable ( as long as you don't try to tear the bellows to pieces...)

 

IF? running out of air on push (rather than on pull) is a more common trouble this may to some part be related to the circumstance that the tonic traditionally is on push. It is noteworthy that the earliest squeezeboxes had the tonic on pull. It would be interesting to know why this routine changed. One reason may be that this makes it more convenient to end a tune on push, closing the bellows at the same time. On the other hand many pieces start on notes related to the tonic ( or dominant) which would favour having these notes on pull.

Anyway - reversing the layout by having the tonic on pull ( which possibly makes strong beats more frequently come on pull as well) might reduce the problem running out of air under otherwise comparable conditions. I guess it is too late to change the habits though...

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