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Bellow control. How to learn it.


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Small point from a learner,  that I don't think was covered above. 


When trying to play gentle music e.g. slow airs, and ending a phrase softly, I found that i was sometimes losing the final quiet low note, or it was "soundling" later than I wanted. .

I think this is because the lower notes take more air going past them to sound. However, I was intuitively trying to land them at the end of a long drawn out bellows push (or more often, pull). 

So I am now trying to change the bellows direction whenever this is a danger, just to avoid losing that critical note. 

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Yes, I am.

I like un unresolved tritone from time to time 🙃

And now here in the Netherlands were going into a complete lockdown again until 19 january😖

Lots of time to study  the concertina........

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My previous instrument (as a child) was cello, and I think I still treat the bellows of the 'tina much like the bow of a cello or violin. One can keep playing notes in a violin in the same bow direction until you run out of bow, but it is much more usual (and better) to use change of bow direction to emphasise the start of phrases, or other notes needing more attack. Changing bellows direction puts a bit of space between the notes. I think one reason the Anglo is seen as more rhythmic, is that the Anglo putting two notes on one button forces many changes of bellows direction (at least on a 20-button), so the playing habit is to put space between all the notes. On the English, this not forced, so there is a lazy tendency to play long sequences of legato notes in the same direction. Of course there is absolutely no reason why one can't change bellows direction on an English just as often as on an Anglo. I aim for a middle ground, playing short phrases in the same direction, but changing direction pretty often.

I also use waggle of bellows to do fast repeated notes at some points in some tunes, e.g. Captain Pugwash/Trumpet Hornpipe.

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I agree with you on lazy EC playing. It is partly due to button articulation and partly poor bellows control. My tendency of old was to pull to bellows full then squeeze to empty which lead to unphrased and weak bellows reversals that were very audible. I now try to reverse at the end of phrases and to fan the bellows, even if I have used linear movement up to that point. The fanning softens the change and masks the reversal. It's not yet perfect as I am battling 35yrs of bad practice. Two of our professional Scottish EC players, Wendy Stewart and Frances Wilkins, both seem to use very short bellows strokes with frequent reversals.

Button articulation also helps put the bounce into the music; Alistair Anderson advises playing as if the buttons were red hot, quickly on and quickly off. This gives very crisp notes, which can sometimes be too much, but that can be easily modified as required.

Re the bellows waggle; can you get it crisp?  I have tried this technique but it just sounds mushy. Of late I have been trying 2 and 3 finger hits as Simon Thoumire advocates. This is OK at slow speed but breaks down at performance speed when I revert to repeated single finger strokes that are not even.  Once again, long time poor technique is holding me back.



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The notes are on the ends, the music in the bellows.


I recommend that the musical phrase rather than bar lines and such be salient in any bellows adjustments, including direction changes.  I find it very useful to be able to play any phrase in either direction. Sometimes this means you need to practice scales and such so that one doesn't develop a direction preference for certain collections of notes.  The greatest asset of the bellows is dynamics. This will mean playing phrases, rather than just songs or tunes.


Finally, contrary to the notion that just the notes are on the ends, button attack and release is also important to musical expression.  Using the bellows (change directions) to attack and release is mostly a cheat for not being well versed in attack a release tactics with the fingers. The concertina is fully capable of al sorts of articulation without use of bellows.

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