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Hi all,

 

I've been doing a bunch of "harmonic style" practice and often run into situations where I need to take a quick "breath" to make it through the next phrase. However, hitting the button causes  the current notes being held to be weaker, and I'm having a hard time keeping the sound consistent when it comes time to turn the breather button on. Is this something that can be remedied through practice alone, or is there a specific way to inhale/exhale the concertina without causes big leaps in the way it sounds?

 

Thanks!

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Though I play a different style to you, here's what I do. I aim to keep the bellows somewhere at the midpoint, neither fully in nor fully out. I always strive towards this "home" position, and you can sneakily use the air-button to incrementally get back to this "base" position, hopefully without unduly affecting the volume. If there comes a point in the tune that you have to play a chord that is all press, then several bars or a phrase or two back, you can start to make preparations to "store up" air, knowing there will be a big draw on that reservoir of air coming up. It applies in the reverse too - if you have a passage which is all draw, you can seek to depress the bellows, letting off air, sneakily again, even though you might be using loads of press notes, to almost fully collapse the bellows, now knowing that you'll have a massive intake of air into the bellows coming up. I hope this makes sense to you, and I presume you are playing an Anglo concertina!

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I received this from Dana Johnson, the maker of Kensington Concertina. I hope Dana doesn't mind me posting it here, where it can help many new comers such as myself.

 

"One of the skills you learn when playing is what I call feathering the air button.  Here  you purposely open the air valve slightly while playing on notes that are in the direction you want the bellows to go.  The idea is to keep the note sounding even with the air button slightly open.  Ideally most of your playing should be with the bellows about 1/3 open.  This gives the best response and physical control of the bellows shape while leaving room for a series of notes in either direction.  Good players look like they are hardly moving the bellows because they constantly correct to get back to that 1/3 state.  The trick is to get used to keeping the notes sounding while gaining or dumping air. Once you learn how to do it, no one can tell you are using the air button at all.  There is much more you can do with the air button to control expression, but this is the main thing.  
   If you play while singing, or play slower music, or music where you accompany melody with full left hand chords, that can consume more air and make a seven fold more useful.  I do either 7 or 8 fold bellows for low pitch instruments that eat a lot of air with their big reeds, but a c/g especially with Irish traditional music doesn’t really need it.  Sometimes early players want more bellows because they play slowly and haven’t yet learned to control the bellows.  The feathering comes quickly though once you learn that that is how you control the bellows.  Usually people get it first for press notes, since that is the direction you push the button.  Feathering on the draw is less automatic at first since you are pulling the bellows while pushing the button.  Still soon you do it without thinking.  At first, getting used to spotting or planning which notes in a tune are in useful places to gain or lose air is a good thing to do."

 

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I am playing Anglo, a Minstrel from CC, sorry for leaving that out. I guess sometimes even when it's a "breathe" note I find that the variation in volume is hard to control, and have to pull or push harder to keep at the right volume.

 

Trying to keep the bellows at a consistent spread is good advice, I notice I am developing an unconscious sense of comfort when the bellows are in the right place, getting too low starts to feel like I'm genuinely running out of breath.

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On 6/19/2020 at 3:12 AM, perspiration said:

I guess sometimes even when it's a "breathe" note I find that the variation in volume is hard to control, and have to pull or push harder to keep at the right volume.

@perspiration,

What do you mean by "harder?" You shouldn't have to push or pull with greater force to keep a "breathe" note sounding steadily, but you do have to pull or push faster. That's the whole point of the exercise: getting the bellows to fill or empty quicker than it would if you were only sounding notes without pressing the air button.

 

Think, "Constant pressure, greater speed!"

 

Cheers,

John

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On 6/22/2020 at 12:33 PM, Anglo-Irishman said:

@perspiration,

What do you mean by "harder?" You shouldn't have to push or pull with greater force to keep a "breathe" note sounding steadily, but you do have to pull or push faster. That's the whole point of the exercise: getting the bellows to fill or empty quicker than it would if you were only sounding notes without pressing the air button.

 

Think, "Constant pressure, greater speed!"

 

Cheers,

John

 

Thank you John, this has actually helped me quite a bit this week. Seems like a silly mental trick, but it really works. I'm starting to believe this will get easier with practice, of course :)

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You have been given great advice and using the air button whilst playing a note to drag in or lose air takes practice. I would however recommend that you list all the notes push and pull on the LH and RH and you will notice that in many cases you have the same note on the push or on the pull ,this will not only increase your ability to play some chords against a note that does not occur in the direction you are playing ,but also gives you a chance to have more air .With a number of accidentals it is possible to play a scale in both directions. This sometimes opens up the key to playing that you did not think was possible.

Al

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