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Anglo Bellows Technique Query


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While watching a youtube video of a chap teaching a tune on his anglo, my perceptive wife commented, "look how far apart he keeps his hands. Maybe you should try that." She might be right, and it got me to thinking about that part of anglo playing. Do folks typically play with the bellows extended rather far apart, or does it all depend on the nature of the tune?

 

I'd appreciate any and all observations from players more experienced than I.

 

Jim

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Do folks typically play with the bellows extended rather far apart, or does it all depend on the nature of the tune?

Hi Jim,

 

I think the consensus is that the bellows should be opened/closed like a fan, if possible. I have a demonstration here:

 

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=k9HGz6bHj68&...FBA&index=5

 

You will find several examples of me playing tunes on my YouTube site.

 

Hope this is of help.

 

Regards,

Peter.

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If the bellows are less open, the instrument should be a little more responsive, and the reeds should sound a tiny bit more quickly. However, if they are too close together then you may cramp your style. I suspect that the better a player gets, the less of an issue this is, because of increased confidence in the use of the air button.

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bellows extended rather far apart

Accordion school demands that bellows must be extended a little before playing and a pressure applied before you press any button.

And generally you should avoid stretching bellows to the limit.

My old brass reeded Lachenal will work only with bellows been flung from closed to extreme extended.

My Albion needs full bellows extension, when I use 3 buttons at once. But Anglo has air button, which helps to control extension.

Edited by m3838
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In general I'd say you have more control over the bellows if you aim to keep things about half way between closed and extended, and use the air button to help you. Getting near either extreme means you risk running out of air, and with bellows fully extended the response is less exact, as Mike has said. But particular pieces of music will sometimes force you to the very limit.

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Something I find helpful (and this is speaking as a beginner myself) is not to look at the bellows while I'm playing -- this removes the "Oh Christ, I'm running out of air" reaction. And, oddly enough, has stopped me running out of air quite as much. I would add that I'm a song-accompaniment kind of player, rather than a tunes player. Although I do run through the old ceilidh band repertoire by way of practice sometimes.

Edited by meltzer
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I think the consensus is that the bellows should be opened/closed like a fan, if possible.

Noel Hill tells his students otherwise -- that is, to keep the ends parallel. Also, to anchor the instrument on one leg and to control the bellows with the opposite-side hand. Finally, to avoid opening the bellows farther than necessary. (I well remember Noel correcting me on that last point.)

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I would second the advice for the Noel Hill camp, that the bellows should be more or less parallel and the extension on the side of moderate to close, rather than full. This gives much better control. Just from listening to people that play extended style, my ear can very much tell the difference, and it isn't something i like. Noel equates the bellows to the bow of a violin; quote: "bring the the bow to the violin, not the violin to the bow". apply this to the concertina! As an aside, Noel uses too much vibrato for me, but growing up in the western u.s. i have heard a lot of harmonica. ;)

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I think the consensus is that the bellows should be opened/closed like a fan, if possible.

Noel Hill tells his students otherwise -- that is, to keep the ends parallel. Also, to anchor the instrument on one leg and to control the bellows with the opposite-side hand. Finally, to avoid opening the bellows farther than necessary. (I well remember Noel correcting me on that last point.)

Hi Michael,

 

Strange, when he actually opens the bellows like a fan for much of his playing (see close-ups between 2 and 3 minutes):

 

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=MWosPa3SuNM

 

I certainly agree with points (2) and (3) !!

 

Regards,

Peter.

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Jim,

as a pretty experienced but totally untutored player, I'd say steer clear of the extreme positions. The way to do this is to use the air button, and how much you need to use the air button depends on the piece you're playing.

 

I find that, in a lot of dance tunes, the "balance" of pressing and drawing evens out over the length of the tune, and if you start with the bellows half extended, you'll finish with them in much the same position, even without using the air button. The same is often true with fully harmonised pieces in the "home" keys.

 

However, there are tunes that have a very long "press" or "draw" somewhere in them, and this is where you may run out of "breath". The only way to avoid this is to plan ahead. If it's a long "press", lean gently on the air-button while playing the "draw" phrase immediately before it. The bellows will expand faster at the same loudness, and with a bit of practice your bellows will be almost fully extended when you start that long "press".

 

The air button is the only button on the concertina that has to be pressed with feeling. The other pads must be open or closed, but you have to be able to dose opening of the the air-valve pretty finely. To move the bellows faster without putting more pressure on the reeds, you have to simulate a leak in the bellows, so to speak. And, depending on how far you have to move the bellows, and how much time you have to do so, the "leak" must be bigger or smaller.

 

Hope this helps,

Cheers,

John

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I remember once seeing someone really fan the instrument ( a Clare model Dipper ) he literally opened only half of the bellows and did it with a twisting motion of his wrist. More like opening a book. he was able to get good control of the short quick notes, but lost the use of half the bellows. Older and very flexible bellows can be controlled by a little bit of fanning which forces the flexing of the bellows to one side only. If it can flop back and forth you lose responsiveness since the flopping itself doesn't accomplish any air pressure changes. With a good set of bellows there is no need for it. On the clip (Boy is that an old one!) of Noel, on first glance it looks like he is fanning the bellows, but that is due primarily to the hand angle during playing when nearly closed and an old bellows that not easy to keep under control. If you watch when he gets more extension, it is not by fanning but by drawing the ends apart in parallel. On the press the bellows itself becomes more of an "S" shape from it's lack of firmness.

 

When Noel isn't playing instruments with old floppy bellows, he tends to keep the motion pretty much back and forth not fanning. He is always correcting people for that in class. To fan or not to fan isn't as important as to control the bellows. simply allowing them to have their way when you press and draw will take away much of your responsiveness. In general for either way of playing, the less extended your bellows are the more responsive the instrument, but you need to open it enough so you always have enough air, so it is a compromise. Some tunes need a bit of planning ahead if you know you are going to have a long passage with a lot of presses or draws, but most of the time a few inches of extension is all that is needed once you master the use of the air valve.

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