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Good Bellow Work Videos?


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Hi all, another newbie to the Concertina world with a 20 button Anglo. I'm fairly good at playing by ear and have already starting to pick out a few melodies but what I'm having trouble with is how to work the bellows properly. So, any video tutorial recommendations?

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I'm assuming you mean bellows control so you don't run out of air.


No video tutorial to offer, but one piece of advice when practicing, since I play 20B too, and am still pretty new: On a 20B it is very easy to play mostly along one row or the other, depending on the key of tune. But remember that some notes on a 20B are available in the other row, and in particular some are available in the other direction. So by thinking ahead you can balance the push/pull by choosing buttons from the other row.


Now that I have started doing this more often, I find it a bit easier to play some tunes that used to cause me to run out of air. But I find it takes active practice to keep these alternatives in mind if I want to be able to do it on the fly while sightreading or sounding out a new tune!


Really, practice and exploration is more powerful than a video, although others may have something great to recommend. Good luck!

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Thanks, yeah I've started to figure out working the opposite sides of the instrument. Is it correct to pull out the concertina first with the help of the thumb button so you start with full bellows? What other function does the thumb button have Is the fan-technique the best way to pump air? Do I need to treat the bellow joints so they are more supple? I bought a rather cheap concertina and although the buttons work okay and as well as the sound I'm beginning to wonder if the bellows are too stiff. I do know I have to change the hand straps.

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Yes, use the thumb button to fill the bellows with air before starting, or anytime you need to expand or contract the bellows without playing a note. How far to extend the bellows before playing depends on what you will be starting to play. With my CG anglo I would want fairly full bellows to start out on a sequence of G major chords all on the "push" but would likely want to start with very little air in the bellows if the opening phrase is in D major or A minor on the "pull".


What else? The thumb button can be used to "gulp" air between phrases during a tune if needed, and with practice you can do this without too much interruption in the phrasing, although if you can find alternate fingerings to allow more balanced air intake as I mentioned before that is useful, because then you can choose your phrasing more easily.


It is possible to depress the thumb button very slightly to allow a little bit of extra air movement even while playing notes, to help balance the air movement if most the notes are in one direction, but this takes a lot of practice because it requires a sensitive touch. Too much air with the thumb button and your reeds won't sound. I rarely succeed at this.


Fanning technique - General advice is that this is a good idea to fan the bellows to keep them under control, but it does not seem a serious issue unless the bellows are extended rather far. I guess I do fan the bellows very slightly upward in the middle, that is to say slightly more open on the upper side. I avoid resting any part of the concertina on my knees when sitting, which helps avoid possible wear on the corners, but also means I don't need to make any adjustment to play while standing. I suppose that may be more difficult if you have a heavy concertina, as some of the less expensive ones can be.


If this is a new concertina then stiff bellows may loosen up with use. If it is a used instrument then it is harder to guess whether any further change in bellows stiffness can be expected. I can't say much about treating the bellows joints, except to warn that anything used to soften the leather might also weaken the adhesives that hold the pieces together, and damage the card pieces. Hopefully someone else can offer some help here, or you could post that question separately in the building & repair forum. A search of that forum are may even turn up some previous discussion.

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I think that as far as bellow work goes there is a vast array of variations in style.

I know the Irish players seem to barely move the bellows and this suits the style of music. The English style players tend to use much more exaggerated bellows movements to give the tunes more punch. The South African players are the best with the bellows shaking.

Also - it depends on the instrument. Some of the new instruments are just more "air-efficient" than the older ones. Accordion reeds are very efficient - some concertina reeds are not as efficient and require more bellows.

If you have an instrument with more bellows folds it can be more difficult to keep the bellows as controlled! At least that's my experience so far.

On the Anglo-International CD there is a player who uses a four fold bellows which would be easy to control but short on air for some people.

It's an interesting topic.

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