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m3838

Pitch Bending

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>Actually, it was carved into the otherwise impressively flat stomach of a statue of a >muscular athlete standing in the city of Urd.

 

So I was right, it IS in California.

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Didn't this show up elswhere recently?

"You don't play the blues to make yourself feel better; you play them to make other people feel bad. And to make money"

Bleeding Gums Murphy

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I've looked a bit more closely at the BluesBox page. The bending is accomplished by pressing the keys harder, which probably wouldn't work on a concertina, since the buttons travel the same direction of the bellows. But it seems they've tuned it so that full pressure brings the note a half step flat, so you could accurately play accidentals if you wanted to try to do it that way. It still seems to me that would be an awkward way to play, and tunes would be filled with unintended swoops and wobbles. I think it's much more useful as a device you would only use when you actually WANTED to.

 

There are many more ways to misuse a pitch bend effect than there are to use it well. But I trust given time talented musicians with taste and restraint could make good use of it.

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Yes, hence my comment about bending on the harp. It is a devastatingly effective tool used when necessary but it takes a good bit of awareness and control at a crucial time, musically speaking. Blues is a style that values ambiguity and is accepting of that kind of imprecision. Using that bending in other, less forgiving styles might not be quite the thing.

The diatonic newsgroup spent some time discussing the profound effect that African musical styles have had on music worldwide, and some of the contributors urged us to try to distance ourselves from those ingrained African influenced intervals, in order to better embrace traditional European music. This was a bit of a revelation for me because it made me pay attention to just how strongly I'd trained myself to think in those terms.

Concertina has forced me to literally learn a new language, something that has been quite valuable to me in my self education.

 

"Sufficient to the Blues the Bends thereof"

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...The bending is accomplished by pressing the keys harder, which probably wouldn't work on a concertina, since the buttons travel the same direction of the bellows...

 

I'm curious to know why you say this. Another concertina player mentioned to me that there might be a problem with such a trigger mechanism for the bending, because of possible adverse effects on bellows pressure. I myself don't play concertina, so I'm not one to say what's important here. How is the force to compress the bellows transmitted from one's hands? If it's through the tips of the fingers that are resting on unplayed keys, then there could be an issue. How much of an issue, I don't know, because the triggering force necessary for bending need not be much more than the force required to open a pallet. Thus, pushing a little harder on a key now and then may not be a big deal. Then of course for the pull, such an issue shouldn't really come into the picture, and I don't see it as a serious disadvantage to bend notes on the pull. This last point is of course more true for EC than for Anglo, since for the Anglo, not all notes are accessible on the pull.

 

I'd appreciate hearing various viewpoints on this subject from experienced concertina players.

 

Best regards,

Tom

www.bluesbox.biz

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...The bending is accomplished by pressing the keys harder, which probably wouldn't work on a concertina, since the buttons travel the same direction of the bellows...

 

I'm curious to know why you say this. Another concertina player mentioned to me that there might be a problem with such a trigger mechanism for the bending, because of possible adverse effects on bellows pressure. I myself don't play concertina, so I'm not one to say what's important here. How is the force to compress the bellows transmitted from one's hands? If it's through the tips of the fingers that are resting on unplayed keys, then there could be an issue. How much of an issue, I don't know, because the triggering force necessary for bending need not be much more than the force required to open a pallet. Thus, pushing a little harder on a key now and then may not be a big deal. Then of course for the pull, such an issue shouldn't really come into the picture, and I don't see it as a serious disadvantage to bend notes on the pull. This last point is of course more true for EC than for Anglo, since for the Anglo, not all notes are accessible on the pull.

 

I'd appreciate hearing various viewpoints on this subject from experienced concertina players.

 

Best regards,

Tom

www.bluesbox.biz

 

I believe the specific point here is that it might be hard for a concertina player to properly regulate the force he uses on the buttons. For example, when he is pulling the bellows open, the hand strap is going to act as a lever that will increase the force he uses on the button which will increase the force he is using to play the note which could, under this system, lead to unintentional bending of the note.

 

--

Bill

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>I believe the specific point here is that it might be hard for a concertina player to >properly regulate the force he uses on the buttons.

 

Is that inherently so for everybody?

It's probably difficult for you "now", because you see no point of paying attention to it, I'm sure practice will solve it.

Edited by m3838

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I believe the specific point here is that it might be hard for a concertina player to properly regulate the force he uses on the buttons. For example, when he is pulling the bellows open, the hand strap is going to act as a lever that will increase the force he uses on the button which will increase the force he is using to play the note which could, under this system, lead to unintentional bending of the note.

 

--

Bill

 

I see what you mean. There are torques placed on the box that have to be counteracted by one's fingers, and I assume this would be true for both push and pull.

 

I should explain first that pitch bending is activated by additional finger force in the second part of a two stage process. The first stage is accompanied by the normal playing force necessary to open the pallet, during a reasonable normal travel distance. There's a soft stop at the start of the second stage, so the player thus feels a definite boundary between playing and bending. The force necessary to overcome the soft stop, as well as the actual bending force during the bend, can be made to the spefications of the player. Hope is that there's a combination of these programmed features that allow a practical mechanism. I tend to think that one cannot predict ahead of time how practical this will be, especially when one considers the, as yet, unknown, ability of the player to adjust to such things. Building a prototype would be the only way to really explore this idea; however, I haven't found a suitable concertina player who's willing to work with me on evaluating such a prototype.

 

Best regards,

Tom

www.bluesbox.biz

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I've experimented a bit on my anglo to see how I can regulate finger pressure while playing. While pulling, it's not much or a problem. I can sort of lever the heel of my hand against the palm rest, and press the buttons harder while keeping quite an even pressure on the bellows. While pushing, it's difficult to press harder without giving the bellows a little "goose" of volume at least. But it's easier than I suspected. I think it's doable. The little volume might actually mesh well with the bending to give an organic combination, a little breath to the playing.

 

For me, not having used it, I think bending up would be more fun, like a guitar or clarinet. But I don't play blues -- more of a mix of traditional and funky old tunes from around the world.

 

I don't know about English concertina. It might be more difficult to regulate pressure without the palm rest. Also, I know some concertina players prefer a very light touch on the buttons, such as Jim Lucas here who mainly plays English. He says while playing quickly he rarely even presses the buttons in all the way. I tend to press the buttons all the way in, though not with too much force. I've tried the other way several times, and I'm glad it works for some people, but not for me. So the issue of different amounts of force being used on the buttons is a very real one.

 

I'm sure there's a player here that would like to try to develop this, and who is skilled enough a player to give good feedback.

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Having a little bit of classical accordion tuition, I was surprized to hear my teacher asking me to vary the way I press the buttons.

His point was that the way you press results in the sound you get. For mellower sound he demanded slower pressing, for accents - stronger faster depressing.

The faster you open the pallette, the stronger and more abrupt the sound will be, with or without the bellows.

All the while your fingers should be fully detached from big musles pulling the bellows.

In this respect I see that bending is equally a compromize on accordion and concertina, as I don't see any drastic difference between them. I myself set the buttons travel to be shallow, but my teacher opposed it, as it counteracted the tradition, in which he was brought.

 

Also, there can be some lever built in, to switch bending off/on.

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A technique somewhat akin to bending is sliding, often used on the fiddle or whistle. In its most common form, it starts slightly below the true pitch of a note, then slides upward to settle on the true pitch. I'm thinking that that might be possible with the BluesBox, but extremely difficult.

 

Tom T., can you tell us?

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I've experimented a bit on my anglo to see how I can regulate finger pressure while playing. While pulling, it's not much or a problem. I can sort of lever the heel of my hand against the palm rest, and press the buttons harder while keeping quite an even pressure on the bellows. While pushing, it's difficult to press harder without giving the bellows a little "goose" of volume at least. But it's easier than I suspected. I think it's doable. The little volume might actually mesh well with the bending to give an organic combination, a little breath to the playing.

I also think that the volume of the bending note might be less of an issue than theorized. For instance, because of the nature of the acoustic effect, for constant bellows pressure, the volume of the bending note tends to drop a bit, and I find that I want to press or pull a little harder on the bellows of my modified accordions while bending notes. Harmonica players deal with this all the time. When we consider the bending note as a new feature in the musical line, the listener may not care much whether its volume is exactly the same as the rest of the line. If there's any issue, it may be with regard to the volume of the notes that follow the bend, but again, this concern may be a bit exaggerated.

For me, not having used it, I think bending up would be more fun, like a guitar or clarinet. But I don't play blues -- more of a mix of traditional and funky old tunes from around the world.

There are technologies that I've explored that allow bending up, though I haven't yet incorporated any of these into a playable instrument. My guess was that down bending would be the simplest to start with.

I don't know about English concertina. It might be more difficult to regulate pressure without the palm rest. Also, I know some concertina players prefer a very light touch on the buttons, such as Jim Lucas here who mainly plays English. He says while playing quickly he rarely even presses the buttons in all the way. I tend to press the buttons all the way in, though not with too much force. I've tried the other way several times, and I'm glad it works for some people, but not for me. So the issue of different amounts of force being used on the buttons is a very real one.

Perhaps, but I'll simply repeat that, when we consider the bending note to be a separate musical feature, the issue may become less important.

 

Thanks for your experiments and comments.

 

Kind regards,

Tom

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A technique somewhat akin to bending is sliding, often used on the fiddle or whistle. In its most common form, it starts slightly below the true pitch of a note, then slides upward to settle on the true pitch. I'm thinking that that might be possible with the BluesBox, but extremely difficult.

 

Tom T., can you tell us?

Hi Jim. This is an interesting effect and doable, though as you indicate, it takes practice. With the two stage key-bend triggering I mentioned above, an up bend is accomplished by pushing the key to the maximum bend position with very little bellows pressure, then coordinating the application of pressure while backing off on the key, into the first stage. This effect was very intriguing to Kenny, who plays on the CD featured on my web site. He has since learned the technique, and it took practice. Another challenging effect that Kenny is perfecting is vibrato, which adds warmth to the musical tone in a way that cannot be achieved by the tremolo often employed by free reed musicians.

 

Best,

Tom

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Also, there can be some lever built in, to switch bending off/on.

I appreciate your comments, though see no advantage in a lever. Bending occurs only with the expressed intention of the player (when everything is working right :) )

 

Best,

Tom

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>I appreciate your comments, though see no advantage in a lever. Bending occurs only >with the expressed intention of the player (when everything is working right :) )

 

Depends on the playing tecnique. If one is hitting hard on the key to accentuate the music, then this type of playing will not benefit from the note bending uncontrollably.

But if one wants to bend, a lever is on and a player will hit the keys with caution.

I'm coming from (or rather running away from) russian classical school, where your bending accordion will not be welcomed as is. And since this tecnique is looked upon with great respect by most professional players, it's opinion might be important. A lever solves this "problem".

(I'm running away from it, because while I was getting better tecnickally, my playing was becoming less and less emotional, to answer some possible quesions)

Edited by m3838

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Two questions:

1.I really liked the sound of one reed on those mp3s. Very full, round and with lots of character. Is it possible to achieve such sound (not to duplicate, but with equal character, and fullness) in small concertina body? Does the size of a cabinet matter here?

Which recording on the site are you referring to? Without knowing the answer to that, I can still venture that I don't think the size of the cabinet is crucial. There are many variables here, and in reference to one of the more important ones, I refer you to the article I wrote, entitled, "Reed Cavity Design and Resonance," in Papers of the International Concertina Association (PICA), Volume II, edited by Allan Atlas, available fro the Center for the Study of Free-Reed Instruments, City University of New York.

Is it PA's double chambers, that mellow the sound so significantly?

I don't know what you mean by "double chamber;" however, none of the accordion recordings on my site makes use of a tone chamber (cassotto).

 

Best regards,

Tom

www.bluesbox.biz

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Depends on the playing tecnique. If one is hitting hard on the key to accentuate the music, then this type of playing will not benefit from the note bending uncontrollably.

But if one wants to bend, a lever is on and a player will hit the keys with caution.

It sounds like an interesting technique to achieve dynamics, though not usually encountered here in the west, as far as I know. Even bandoneon players, when playing tango, with extreme variations in volume, accomplish the attack by hitting the box against their knees, transferring the impulse to the bellows. Very effective, and gives one reason why no other kind of accordion could produce tango music like a bandoneon can.

 

Your concern is justified, for the bend force is a critical choice, and will depend upon the kind of keyboard, music, and above all, the player. For Kenny, the force he chose for the bend was three pounds, and it took a couple prototypes before we got that right. Kenny also plays piano, so he plays really heavily. With lower bend forces, it's true, he was bending notes unwillingly, and it sounded like he was playing a broken accordion. With the proper force, however, this problem was solved, though even now, he tells me he could tolerate even more bend force.

I'm coming from (or rather running away from) russian classical school, where your bending accordion will not be welcomed as is. And since this tecnique is looked upon with great respect by most professional players, it's opinion might be important.

Thanks for the info.

 

Best regards,

Tom

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Keep in mind that harp players only bend a few of the available notes, and only where the effect is necessary.

Hi Bob. I recommend you listen more to modern diatonic harp players, led by Howard Levy. These people play all 12 chromatic tones with their ten hole harps, and with facility. The accidentals are achieved by bending, using techniques that are difficult to master. These techniques involve down bending, acheived by pulling the pitch downward with the help of the other reed in the chamber, and up bending, achieved by what they call "overblowing," which causes the reed tongue to function as an "opening reed," as opposed to their normal operation, which is as a "closing reed." With these guys and in certain types of music, some kind of bending is ubiquitous.

The effect is, like vibrato on a squeezebox, pretty cool when used sparingly, and a bit annoying when overdone; a little goes a long way.

I think, strictly speaking, what you refer to as vibrato is more properly called tremolo. This may have been discussed in this group before, but I believe vibrato is a quiver in pitch (frequency), and tremolo is a quiver in volume (bellows pressure). I'm not aware of anyone who has accomplished true vibrato with facility in the conventional squeezebox.

 

Best regards,

Tom

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