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Again On The Issue Of Bellows Control...


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To go back to your accordionist, I'd say that he was one of those innately musical people whose personality shines through - even on an unfamiliar instrument like your Crane. He had the quintessential "touch."

 

Cheers,

John

Hi John,

 

thanks again for your (dare I write "as was to be exptected" ?) insightful response.

 

The thing that strikes me about your elaborations though is your implication that it's a matter of have or have not (and the corollary "don't bother if you don't"). While it is trivially true that some individuals have a better natural predisposition for music than others, it doesn't mean (in my humble opinion) that those who don't aren't able to "get there" (certainly not as far but with appropriate guidance quite a long way). Here is a case in point:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JsD6uEZsIsU

 

This is one of the classics of modern fingerstyle guitar. Andy is an incredibly gifted player with a very unique right hand technique that employs extremly subtle attack variations. Just by trying to recreate the piece from tablature means you'd never get anywhere close to the authentic sound.

 

Now there's a series of tutorials that dissect this very piece down to the atomic level. One might wish to have a look at part two at around 5:40 :

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k5qp3Pp8L4o

 

Here the author shares his analysis of some right hand techniques employed by the artist. Although the tutorial is kind of lengthy, there are true gems in it that'll present even the seasoned guitarist with novel techniques, allowing him/her to incorporate the techniques into his/her own playing (just to make sure, I'm not the person who put up the tutorials nor do I know him nor do I have a personal interest in advertising his videos, I just think he does a great job). I'm fairly certain that a good number of the better covers of the piece on Youtube benefitted directly from the insights provided here.

 

I guess I'm looking for advice on that level (well, already on less elaborate levels would serve my current demands) in terms of how to employ bellows. There were some great ideas and pointers (thanks to Jody - whose lessons I do remember and value of course just like Kurt's - as well everybody else who contributed to the discussion) in this thread. And yes, Jody is both a master of bellows control and an advocate of its value and importance as I had the honor to find out while working with him.

 

In any case, the resonance generated by my initial quest to me seems to be an indicator that indeed there seems to be an interest for more coverage on the issue among at least concertina players. Thanks everybody for this delightful conversation, and keep sharing your knowledge!

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I attended a workshop held by the great Alistair Anderson at Dartmoor Folk festival a couple of weeks ago , obviously mainly English players. But alot of what he said applies to all concertinas. It was ALL about technique - and especially attack, volume and decay.This included punching notes (s) and then letting them fade - then, conversely, starting softly and increasing the volume of a note.

Too bad that we couldn't make it to South Zeal this year...

 

...the jazz player Simon Thoumire...

Simon is surely one of the great virtuosi of the concertina, and a highly imaginative, resourceful and bold one too... However, I wouldn't see him as a jazz player albeit his being perfectly capable of catching up with that challenge too, and any other at will... I'd reckon he would answer with a pleased smile...

 

Best wishes - Wolf

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As for the topic of cutting off notes, this has been depicted as bad playing practice by the aforementioned protege... I take it that (since there is no rule without an exception) this would qualify as one of the things that you can do when you know exactly what you are doing?...

Again (adding to my previous reply #17), isn't just this our way to play a true "staccato" (i.e. not just short notes)?

 

One example would be the beginning (first note) of the B-section of my own playing the well-known Bach/Petzold minuet...

 

Best wishes - Wolf

Edited by blue eyed sailor
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Jody, I may have misunderstood. You suggest that 'variable volume (bellows pressure)' is the only expressive quality that a free reed is capable of. I would include a bit of tremolo and vibrato as expressive qualities available to a free reed.......when applied, of course, with appropriate discretion.

 

Hi Rod, you have a point here. Perhaps I overstated in my previous post. I guess it all depends on if you use a narrow or wider definition of the word expression in music.

 

As for vibrato (a subtle variation in pitch) and tremolo (a subtle variation in amplitude or volume)... they are both created (in as much as they are possible) using the bellows. For example, listen to the distinctive bellows shake of the South African Boers. That's tremolo and it is created by nothing more than variable volume and bellows pressure.

 

On a piano, tremolo can also mean the rapid alternation of two or more notes. This is quite possible on the concertina and I use it, though rarely, and yes it is an expression technique that does not employ the bellows. Oops, I stand corrected.

 

Wolf - you were speaking of tone. Sure, there are tone differences on the concertina but they are all created as a function of volume. If you want to scream then you have to play hard. If you want to hum then play soft.

 

--------

 

Aside from the expressive quality of dynamics created by bellows pressure there are only three other factors (the things you do) to making music on the concertina; arrangement (which buttons do you push and when do you push them), button duration (when do you let the buttons up) and bellows direction. Using these four essential factors you get all the various melodies, rhythms and grooves, chords, harmonies, articulations, ornaments, grace notes etc.

 

I'm pretty sure that everything that is done on the concertina can be described using only these four factors in various combinations. I have found that this way of thinking can be very useful in my quest to become a better player and directing my personal practice sessions to be most effective.

Edited by Jody Kruskal
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Wolf - you were speaking of tone. Sure, there are tone differences on the concertina but they are all created as a function of volume. If you want to scream then you have to play hard. If you want to hum then play soft.

Exactly - but still there's the additional factor of regulated air flow..., isn't it? reducing it to a minimum allows for extra-strident cries from higher notes (when altered immediately at high pressure) as well as even bending the tone of a then hollow-sounding low reed...

 

Best wishes - Wolf

Edited by blue eyed sailor
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Wolf - you were speaking of tone. Sure, there are tone differences on the concertina but they are all created as a function of volume. If you want to scream then you have to play hard. If you want to hum then play soft.

Exactly - but still there's the additional factor of regulated air flow..., isn't it? reducing it to a minimum allows for extra-strident cries from higher notes (when altered immediately at high pressure) as well as even bending the tone of a then hollow-sounding low reed...

 

Best wishes - Wolf

 

Hi Wolf, I'm not sure what you are speaking of here. Please explain.

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Jody, When I touched upon the subject of tremolo and vibrato I had nothing in mind to remotely compare with the somewhat crude bellows shake employed by some of the South African Boer musicians. I am in favour of something far more discrete and subtle. Easy enough to apply in appropriate circumstances but, like all such things, a matter of personal taste. Moderation in all things. !

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Dear Rod,

 

Moderation has it's place, but even moderation itself must be subjected to moderation to align to the rule of "moderation in all things." So going overboard also has it's place IMHO, just check out my recordings if you want to hear what I'm talking about. I certainly am willing to cross the line into bad taste to achieve a tasty result.

 

While I do not employ the Boer shake in my music, I certainly do admire it as a unique concertina technique and one that can go far beyond the label of "crude"... please Rod. It's an essential element to that admirable genre of sophisticated concertina S.A. music and can be done with great style and grace, if you like that sort of thing. Do I need to give you youtube examples of the good stuff? No... you can find them for yourself if you care to look. Other tremolo techniques are certainly within the realm of tasteful, though I personally do not care to use them often and when I have... I've mostly regretted it.

 

No, I go for trying to make the concertina sing like a voice, like a free vocally connected throat that is singing for it's life and laying down the law against all odds. That is the sound I am striving to achieve. A vital voice of conviction and humanity and desperation, willing to skirt the edge of taste.

 

Really now, this is actually what I'm trying to do, though I often fall short and merely play a few tunes.

 

So much fun though, don't you think?

Edited by Jody Kruskal
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Wolf - you were speaking of tone. Sure, there are tone differences on the concertina but they are all created as a function of volume. If you want to scream then you have to play hard. If you want to hum then play soft.

Exactly - but still there's the additional factor of regulated air flow..., isn't it? reducing it to a minimum allows for extra-strident cries from higher notes (when altered immediately at high pressure) as well as even bending the tone of a then hollow-sounding low reed...

 

Best wishes - Wolf

 

Hi Wolf, I'm not sure what you are speaking of here. Please explain.

 

Hi Jody, my fault, I seem to have been all too abbreviated (if not cryptic) on my point... :D

 

I was trying to avoid what might be regarded as sort of harping on about just this single feature, but be it as it may, I'm coming back to what I called "cutting off a note"...

 

Would you say that what is happening at that particular moment was simply a certain volume (combined with a sudden ending the tone)? O.k., maybe it could be done this way, but that's not what I'm thinking of (and doing, f.i. in my recording as mentioned above). I believe I'm in (fraction of) a second massively increasing the volume and promptly releasing the button. So you have it right, this is about volume too, but combined with a particular treatment of the buttons, and with a spectacular timing anyway...

 

Well, we're talking about dynamics... or maybe it's just about the devil who is in the details as ever... B)

 

I hope this is at least to some extent clearer...

 

Best wishes - Wolf

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Dear Jody, Thanks for taking the trouble to reply to my earlier posting. I used the word 'crude' in a crude attempt to differentiate between bellows-shake and the significantly more delicate application of tremolo and vibrato, which has infinitely more appeal to me. There are numerous occasions when I feel that a tiny touch of tremolo/vibrato enhances the music that I strive to play and it has, when appropriate, become an instinctive element of my music making. There are tremolo techniques that you say you ' do not care to use often and that when you have you have mostly regretted it '. That sounds remarkably similar to my attitude towards some bellows-shaking techniques !!!

 

Best wishes, Rod

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The thing that strikes me about your elaborations though is your implication that it's a matter of have or have not (and the corollary "don't bother if you don't"). While it is trivially true that some individuals have a better natural predisposition for music than others, it doesn't mean (in my humble opinion) that those who don't aren't able to "get there" (certainly not as far but with appropriate guidance quite a long way).

Hi, Rüdiger!

Hmm! What do you mean by a "predisposition for music?" Taking it one way, I'd say that someone with no predisposition for music wouldn't even try to learn an instrument. I think all of us in this forum have that urge to make music, and those of us who have been here for a while have ascertained that they have some degree of "predisposition" for music - more precisely for the concertina of one sort or another.

And there it starts: we read here often enough that some can't get to grips with the push-pull of the Anglo; others can't coordinate their hands to play a scale on the EC. Different predispositions?

Then there are those who can't play a button instrument at all - they need strings and frets to let out their music. Or bagpipes, flutes or saxophones. Different predispositions?

 

Obviously, to get past the initial infatuation with an instrument you've heard somewhere and think might be the thing for you, there are certain necessary predispositions. Confining ourselves to the concertina, the first one is having two arms with all the fingers present (don't cite Django Reinhardt - he was only a guitarist!). Then you have to have the fine-motoric capability to move your fingers independently in a controlled fashion, with hand-to-hand coordination. These are the "hard" predispositions.

The "soft" predispositions include (among other things) the ability to associate dots on paper to buttons on the concertina; the ability to memorise finger movements; the ability to grasp the logic of your particular concertina system; the ability to apply this logic to musical intervals; a good ear to hear these intervals; a sense of harmony to extemporise chord sequences ...

 

And just one of these predispositions is what I call "touch."

 

Not all of us will have all these predispostions to the same degree. Some have difficulty with sight-reading, others with playing by ear. And some will have difficulty with fast fingering, while others will lack the touch to shape an individual note.

 

The lack of any one of these predispositions will, at some point, halt our further development (as you point out.) However, we can work on the other predispositions, and to some extent compensate for our weak point. If you haven't got a fine touch on the bellows, work on fast fingering that will dazzle everyone.

 

Though I must admit, I've seen no more tips on how to play quickly than on how to control the bellows. So perhaps speed is also something that you have or you haven't - like a thumb that's long enough to reach the air-valve of an Anglo - and there's not much you or anyone else can do about it!

 

Cheers,

John

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  • 4 weeks later...

My advice for bellows control is to keep it smooth. Practice by playing scales going in and out of the bellows. Try not and change the volume as you play - nice and steady. If you play lightly enough (on an 8 bellow concertina) you should be able to go up and down a few times on one bellow with practice. Doing this helps you learn about bellow's pressure and how you can vary it to get different volumes.

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