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Bellow Technique – Movement

If you put a clarinet, drummer, guitarist, and an accordionist center stage – before the first note is hit – all eyes are on the accordionist!. YES – it is unique to see an accordionist today. YES people are mesmerized about the left hand and bellows and they EXPECT a certain level of HAM from the accordionist. SOOOO – lift those bellows for your IN BELLOWS – use long strong bellows for your expressions, and by all means make eye contact with the audience – let them see YOU having fun!

Learning to START and STOP your bellows and ADD Dynamics

This might sound pretty basic – but EVERY BELLOW STROKE should have a change in dynamics! This exercise will allow you to FEEL YOUR MUSIC – not just use your bellows like a PUMP ORGAN!

In the below exercise – use a basic OPEN and CLOSE bellow technique. Which means – PULL OPEN – down and slightly backward and PUSH CLOSE – retrace the open pattern – up and forward. This is one of many bellowing styles.

  1. Hold a C Major chord in the right hand – with bellows closed – NO SOUND
  2. Start bellows slowly – “very soft” – then gradually speed up the pull – pull harder – then slow the bellows down and bring the bellows to a complete stop in the OPEN position. (Keep the keys depressed)
  3. Repeat step 2 – this time for the In Bellow stroke. (Stop before you bump!)
  4. REPEAT – sets 1 & 2 & 3 – this time – COUNT an even beat of 8 for each of the out and in bellows. (Maybe add basses – Bass Chord Bass Chord etc)
  5. Practice this until you can MATCH the out and in bellows in the volume attained at the peak of the crescendo and within the 8 counts! It is HARD!!!

Remember – you are on the back side of the accordion and ONLY BY MATCHING bellows (OUT AND IN) – can you know that you are NOT playing louder for the OUT than the IN bellows.

If you are adventurous – try the above exercise – by LIFTING the Bass section and do a DOWN action for the IN BELLOW. BEWARE – KEEP THE SAME DYNAMICS AS THE OUT BELLOWS!

Here is another technique:

To QUOTE Charles Magnante: Remember, it is the changing of the bellos that eventually is the most important part of phrasing. Opening the bellow is quite easy. Closing is a bit more difficult. Changing the bellows requires more skill. Try to imagin you are waving a flag with your left arm. The upper section of the bellows moves first – the loser section follows behind. In changing or closing the bellows, the same trick is applied: the upper bellows proceeds to lower. Avoid hitting the frame of the bellows as you close. This technique of changing the best of all my theories. It tends to bevel or smooth out the sound. I call this “legato changing.” as opposed to “staccato changing.”

Never change the bellows in the middle of a note, nor in the middle of a phrase. Avoid over-extending the bellows, at least in the early stages of training. Playing softly for these exercises is preferred to playing loudly.

Check out the “flag-waving” bellows exercise by depressing one single right hand key, holding it throughout, while you wave the bellows for five minutes. Now, try opening and closing, depressing one right hand note, without waving (straight pull), out and in: you will hear a “staccato change.” which is what we don’t want for this study.”

My translation of this “flag-wave” is:

Think of a FIGURE-8. Starting at the top right of the figure 8 – move the top of your bellows to the left (open) – following the downward stroke. Allow the gentle downward and backward stroke – then – without stopping the downward stroke of the bottom – turn the top of the bellows – back to the right (inward). Technically – the top is coming in WHILE the bottom is still going out. After the top is moving inward – then change the bottom to inward.

This style bass is easiest practiced – using the air button.

Next Bellow Technique: Phrasing and Accents