Intro to Accordion Bass Playing
1a. Accordion Bass 101
So many accordionists have come to the instrument – from the piano or another instrument. Please review these tricks – and positions. The accordion position – full weight is on the left leg – so the bellows are free to FALL to the left of your leg.
Left Hand Position
The tightness of your bass strap –is crucial. It should be snug enough to NOT turn your hand BLUE or prevent you from sliding up or down – but should NOT allow your wrist to have to HUMP in or out – when pulling your bellows. (See the Bellow Section for more bellow exercises).
Pull your hand through the bass strap enough to so that your fingers falls in a natural curve – with your longest finger (3rd) reaching the Bass row comfortably. This usually means the pad of your palm (by the wrist) will remain flat on the side of the accordion bass section – and the pad behind your large knuckles – will ride higher that the side of the accordion – allowing for free finger movement.
Fingertips should have a straight – downward action when striking the bass buttons – if you come in TOO LOW – you will catch the buttons behind. Test it out – your fingernail should be in alignment with the front side of the button.
Left Arm Position
Align the forearm – so that your hand is centered on the mid-range of the buttons you will be playing for the selection (or common position – line up with the C Bass). Never pull the bellows from a high or low position – when not playing the left hand – this contributes to poor bellowing technique.
Do NOT pull your bellows OUT – allow gravity to gently pull them DOWN – and allow the natural arch of your shoulder and forearm to ARCH the bellows backward. For the in stroke – you can just retrace the outward motion – or gently lift the bellows and allow gravity to assist you bring them back in.
Excellent Video Demonstration – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PPbJFqCStY
Interpreting Music (the Bass Line): as it should be played on the Left Hand of the Accordion
There is a distinct way that an accordionist READS the left hand notes – that is seldom explained in Accordion Method Books.
BASS PLAYING EXAMPLES – Link – Basic Accordion Bass Playing Examples
- The Quarter note that is WRITTEN for the Bass – is NOT to be played as a Quarter note. It is to be played like an 8th note followed by an 8th note rest.
- If the right hand is legato – hold the quarter note well past the 8th note bass and chord
- The only time a bass is held for the entire Quarter note value is during a bass solo or a walking bass line – and then it is not played legato – it is still separated from the following note (for percussive effect).
- Think of your bass like a BASS DRUM – it is impossible for the drummer to play a LONG bass drum note! The bass pedal has to swing back and then re-hit the drum.
- Bass styles vary – like in a Waltz – you want a strong bass – but do not slur it to next chord.
- ALTERNATING basses – on Major chords you play the bass for the given chord – then – the next bass should be the 5th of that chord (the bass above it)
- ALTERNATING 7th chords – ALWAYS play the 5th (the bass above it) FIRST – then the bass for the given chord.
- Don’t forget – whatever the style you play for bass and chord – it is to emulate the percussion section of a band. Most CRITICAL – LISTEN to the ORIGINAL SONG on You Tube – Listen to the Bass line movement and rhythm!