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Help On Bellows Reversal?


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I've had my Jackie since the 10 of September and have been working on just a couple of tunes (normally for violin).


I can find all my notes quite easily, accidentals included.... but I struggle a lot finding out when to reverse the bellows.


I try to end on closing the bellows but even that is very tricky, and during the "piece", I can't seem to be able to feel when to change directions. I've read that you're not suppose to change directions in the middle of a bar - but it sometimes sounds better if I do.


I also have the problem that reversing the bellows mean my next note is slower to sound - to compensate I have to give a firmer push but then it makes it sound harsher than I like.


Can anyone give me a hint? Otherwise I feel I'm reduced indeed to pushing the buttons in the right order and not respecting the specificity of this instrument...


I've tried various ways of playing each tune, just to experiment and see if I could get a general idea...but I end up with bellows open and with no better result.


It might help to know that the tunes I'm working on are Gypsy tunes and should therefore be very much open to interpretation...and I manage to make them sound like boring and even tunes.






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Two things come to mind Tim Tim:


You are very new at this instrument... lots that appear difficult in the first few months will become second nature... but yes it is better to 'make' that second nature by habit.


The Jackie, is not the easiest thing to control , especially when new and the Bellows is stiff, so best if you over emphasize your changes of now.


I suggest practicing with tunes you know really well, in your head... songs from childhood, perhaps... so you know where the expression should come.


Change the bellows in the middle of a bar if you wish. Some say a bellows direction change should not be done whilst you are playing a note.... I do not ascribe to this.... if using a change of direction for emphasis then it might come during a long note.


Change of direction with out a change of direction: this is a nice emphasis that comes from Fiddle playing, where the bow is changing speed but not direction of movement... you can do the same on the Concertina by changing the pressure of push or pull. Try this by playing a note and making pulses of pressure on the bellows to make the note go louder and softer... make rhythms with this if you wish.


Whilst basic rhythm and measure come from the starting and stopping of notes, the action of fingers on the buttons, there is much that can be achieved by breathing with the Bellows.

Good luck with your new venture.

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Thank you Geoff,


for some reason your reply already makes me feel better.


I know that my difficulties are partly due to the newness of my Jackie and mostly to my skills, so I'll continue practicing.


I'll try to play my tunes even more slowly than now so I have time to experiment with the bellows. The Jackie already feels a lot less stiff than at the beginning (but it might also be because my hands are getting used to it, I used to have pains after ten minutes, now I can go on for very long sessions...)


Again thank you !



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You are welcome Tim Tim,


but one more point: musical phrases do not always end , or start, at the end a Bar, so you might want to think of what constitutes a Phrase in your tunes... singing the melody is a good way to get a better sense of what you want.


Practice makes improvements.... at the begining it is all too easy to get despondant... just keep going and ignore the demons that tell you to stop ... but don't play too long at a time as that can lead to more pains.


all the best,




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hi don't forget muscle memory,its more natural to clap hands than separate them ,practice clapping backwards pushing out ,and playing for hours continuously is not very productive

little and often is far better ,i have been a professional musician most of my life but the concertina only playing several years and my new melodeon "yes i bought one lol" only recently ,but i find the bellows direction automatic because of muscle memory ,in out just seems natural ,don't forget how much you've learned ...........i always get my students to play the guitar left handed briefly to see how it felt when you started ,reverse the concertina then back see how familiar and accomplished you are already

have fun

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Thank you Geoff, George and Don !


I'd read elsewhere about the 100 h for a Jackie - though I'm pretty sure there's already a difference since the first day I had it.


As for long sessions vs short ones, I've read several debates here on this forum - sometimes heated ones !


But I must admit that even when I have only time for 15 min, the next day it's like my body has absorbed most of it and that I've improved, so I agree that short sessions seem to be working on me. I've also noticed that if I stop because I'm tired, when I pick up the concertina a few hours later it's like I've learned something in the meantime !


I've decided to follow your advice, Geoff, and just get a feel of where I want to put "expression" or whatever the name of that thing that escapes me still is.


And muscle memory is actually a thing, I catch my fingers following the music faster than I can read the notes (after having played the tune over and over, of course), like they're finding their familiar place on the concertina.


So I'll try to ignore the demons - you wouldn't believe how active they can get after only a few days (actually hours ! ) of playing.


I also need to come to terms with the fact that - as a beginner at least - I won't manage anything more unless I really know those tunes by heart, without having to look at my music sheet.


Again thanks everyone ! I've enjoyed every bit of this forum and heavens knows I've been reading a lot !


Tim Tim

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Hi, TimTim:


I'm a beginner myself and have had my concertina since June. The bellows just softened up noticeably in the last few weeks (likewise, I'm playing about 15 mins per day) and what a game changer it was! Before, I could only work the bellows in a stiff in-and-out motion, but now I can bend them for a little breath of a draw note and it's not as big a deal to change direction. Sometimes doing so---even within a phrase---means you can access better, more comfortable fingerings, thus keeping the flow that you want.


It's so fun, isn't it?



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Hi Christine,


I apologize for not replying earlier but I've been swept away from my computer for the past few days !


So it took you about five months to get there, it's good to know. It seems to me that I can feel some progress and more ease every day - I had a day off a couple of days ago (against my will) and when I came back to my concertina my fingers were so strong and precise !



As for the fun, I simply have no words to describe how much I enjoy it!!


Good luck to you !

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