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Getting Enough Air To Play


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I bought the Civil War Concertina music book to learn and even the simplest of songs like Amazing Grace is making me nuts as when to get air. I guess its like breathing or singing but it seems like I can't get enough air. Maybe its because I'm play it so slow that I'm using all my air waiting to get to the next note. Also twisting my fingers up. Now I have to untie them! Any help would be great. Big difference from Piano Accordion. Thanks Ron

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I guess you're playing Anglo?


Make the notes by tapping/pushing the button for each note. That way, you get a smooth start and end to each note, and you use a little less air than if you play legato. If you play a little more briskly and bouncily, you will use less air. It's always harder when you're learning a new tune and playing it slowly.


Look for alternative fingerings. If you play in the home key (C on CG box) you can get the dominant note and chord in both directions (assuming 30 buttons). Even on a 20 button, the tonic is available in both directions.


Use chords (also known as handfuls of adjacent notes!) to scoop or release more air.


But best of all, practice using the air button in small but regular breaths. It is the hardest button to learn, but once you've got it, you will wonder why it was ever difficult.


And as always, practise regularly.

Edited by Mikefule
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Concertinas vary in characteristics such as how much air they use and the capacity of their bellows. Then too, some have leaks that can reduce their effective capacity. I assume however that yours has no excessive leakage so your difficulties likely are not rooted in any flaw in the instrument. That said, practice and experience will aid you in resolving this problem.


I'm not familiar with the content of the book you mention, but running out of air is a common problem for beginning Anglo players regardless of the tunes being played. Between figuring out the right button, the appropriate finger and the correct bellows direction, new players tend to use a lot of air. Slow and chorded tunes are more difficult to master in this regard because they use more air. Rest assured that as you become more experienced with using the air button, the tunes become familiar and your pace picks up, that problem will go away. Also consider that playing more softly uses air at a slower rate, so reducing your volume might help.


Thoughtful use of the air button is an essential element of Anglo playing. One of the things you learn early on is to use it while playing to expel excess air or take in much needed reserve as appropriate for the needs of the tune. By the time you have learned to play several tunes you will find that your use of the air button will be an almost automatic response as you notice the need to adjust your air reserve.


You may encounter some tunes where you will need to anticipate the air demands of certain passages and prepare your bellows before you start the passage. For example, if you know an upcoming passage requires a lot of air, you'll want to use the air button on preceding notes played in the pull direction to acquire extra air.


Assuming your book indicates the buttons to be used, I'll not suggest any changes to your approach to tunes in that source, but I do want to mention one more point on the use of air topic. As you gain experience you may find a few tunes where your choice of buttons may aid you in air management. Some notes are available in both bellows directions. On a C/G tuned instrument (likely that's what you have), C, D, E, G, A and B are usually available in both directions, although not in all octaves. On occasion, you can deal with air management issues by choosing notes in the direction that relieves the problem.


I don't suggest you seek this route as a common recourse, but I wanted to mention the concept. I use it very rarely, and typically only in slow chorded tunes that demand a lot of air. On occasion you may also find it useful to explore alternative direction notes when you are seeking elements of chords, that is, two or more notes that are played at the same time.


Coming back on point, follow the guidance of your book and if you run out of air while learning, take a moment to use the air button to adjust as needed and go on. It won't be long before you'll be playing well enough that air management won't be an issue.

Edited by Bruce McCaskey
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You guys are Great! Thanks for the info. I was thinking most of that and now you confirmed my thinking. I know I'm on the right track. I started with this 20 button Anglo from Musicians Friend so it is a cheap new one. I do know how bagpipes came to be after this air problem. Very close to hooking up the air compressor on to this but that would wreck the portability. Thanks I'll now get it with all your help. Maybe I won't need that air compressor and generator I bought to do this. Travel light! Thanks Ron

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