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Am I Teaching Myself Bad Habits?

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Ok. Lets say I’m playing 2 sequential notes on the same button, but one is a push and the other a pull (say C to D on the C3 button). Should I play the C and then simple reverse the bellows to play the D, or should I play the C, lift my finger to stop the note, reverse the bellows and then push the button to play the D. It’s very tempting to just reverse the bellows and keep holding the button down, particularly when playing triplets or fast bits, but I kinda think that this might be a bad habit… :unsure:


What say ye all?

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There will come (I hope) answers from colleagues with more experience, but for me it is a good exercise to stop the note before reversing the bellows direction. It helps me in more exact timing.

However when I play fast, I very often leave the finger on the button and just reverse the bellows direction.

An example is the triplets that you hear in a hornpipe that I posted: The boys from bluehill. There it works very fine for me.


have fun!



Edited by Henk van Aalten
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It’s very tempting to just reverse the bellows and keep holding the button down, particularly when playing triplets or fast bits, but I kinda think that this might be a bad habit… 

Definitely a bad habit, like chocolate. Develop it! ;)


Now for my serious answer:

I was told years ago by more than one anglo player to always lift the finger and strike again. But I don't believe they always did it themselves. As the advocate of flexibility and versatility, my own advice is to practice doing it both ways... and at least two other ways.


It is good to be able to lift the finger and strike again. It insures crispness. It also gives you something with which to compare the sound of the keeping-the-finger-down version, so you can learn to control the crispness and dynamics of playing using both techniques, to make them do what you want... presumably different things at different times.


Two other ways?

.. 1) Use two different fingers for the two notes. (On that C/D button try ring finger-middle finger or vice versa, depending on what comes before and after. I sometimes reach down there even with my index finger.)

.. 2) Try an alternate fingering, if one is available, so that you're using two separate buttons. (For that particular example, using the push D in the G row lets you change buttons, rather than bellows direction.)

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I agree with Jim's philosophy of flexibility and multiple approaches. Try them and see what best fits the phrasing of the tune.


One thing I've found is that while holding a button down through one reversal often sounds OK, holding it through two reversals (say, AGA) does not ... to my ears.


For what it's worth: Niall Vallely's anglo tutor does not mention switching or lifting fingers on repeated notes, and from the videos I've studied closely, he doesn't appear to be doing either.


The same issue arises in another instrument I play, button accordion. I recall a stern admonition from someone on the Internet a few years ago to always lift or switch the finger on repetitions. When I finally got to take some classes with James Keane, I asked him about this "rule," and he dismissed it.

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It's a tricky balance between listening to those with experience, and finding what works for you. A major consideration: what kind of music you're playing. The system Noel Hill preaches works great for Irish music, with all the ornamentation, less well for some other genres, where chords are more important, ie contra dance and Morris music.


Having said that, you're wise to seek input early in the process; habits on the concertina are incredibly hard to break.

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I think it is important to note that when it comes to music there is no such thing as a hard and fast rule. When I first started learning to play the B/C accordion I was always very careful to lift my finger between reversals in bellows directions and sometimes I still do.. but everything depends on the tune, the circumstances you are playing in, etc. There are times when I am playing the same note two times in a row where I won't even even lift my finger but simply stop the bellows for a brief moment. It all depends on what you are trying to do.


Personally I think all these things constitue elements that go into developing ones own style.




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It certainly helps to be able to lift the fingers and stop the note. At least you then have the option of doing it or not which means you can vary the feel of the tune. This gives more interest if you are repeating the tune a number of times.


I don't know if anyone has done research on whether it is easier to lift the fingers at the end of a push note or a pull note. It may depend on the way you hold the instrument and may effect how and where you stop the note. Personal preference again I suspect. I find it easier to hit repeated notes with the same finger on the push, but that is with a 40 button anglo, an English may be completely different.


As far as accordians go I can think of a couple of people who should lift the fingers off all the time :) .


Robin Madge

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Very nice playing from Henk! Also, an interesting version of Boys of Blue Hill. Most of what's been said here I agree with. It is important to be able to lift the fingers between notes when changing direction, but I would STRONGLY discourage anyone from doing it between every note. This would seriously tend to slow you down, and at the very least tend to make your playing stacatto. This is OK if that's what you want your style to be like, but I think it's important to have the flexibility to play stacatto and legatto. I have a student who got into this habit over the summer and he finds it very difficult to speed up his playing. However, there are the exceptions that prove the rule.

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