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Bellow Technique – Phrasing

Many accordionists attempt to shape their phrases entirely with the right hand, and the result is often a dry, shapeless sound. You must always keep in mind that the accordion is a wind instrument. The bellows are where the sound begins and ends – and therefore the best place to shape and control the tone.

The hands play the notes, and the bellows give them shape. This opens up a multitude of possibilities. After all, each note in a phrase could be bellowed independently! What you learn here – will give a whole NEW LIFE to your music. AND remember the piano CAN NOT change the volume of a note after it is struck – and the ACCORDION CAN!

Please review – this article – if you have not already – before going on – Intro to Bellow Technique – Reed Response (search Exercises)


This requires a combination of right hand technique AND bellows. We DO NOT TALK in a monotone – but rather with changes in pitch, speed, and volume. SO our music should be the same.

  • General Rule of Legato – “SMOOTHLY moving from one note to the next”.
  • General Rule of Phrasing – “Crescendo into and Diminuendo out of a Phrase with no Bellow direction Change” with a “breath” in-between phrases (place to change bellows!). AND generally if the music passage is going UP – crescendo – and if passage is going DOWN – Diminuendo.

THIS IS A BELLOW EXERCISE: Practice these scales – DM, AM, BbM ad EbM (If a beginner – use ANY SCALE) – using each of these techniques in this order. The distance OUT and the distance IN should MATCH – or you are NOT pulling or pushing evenly (which translate that you are too loud or too soft either direction).

DO THESE EXERCISES OUT THEN IN. The attack of the note should be even enough – that the bellows will take the same amount of air in or out!

  1. Play up scale (out) & down scale (in) one octave – evenly – but STACCATO (NO change is volume)
  2. Play one octave – evenly – this time DETACHED (NO change is volume)
  3. Play one octave – evenly – lastly LEGATO (NO change is volume)
  4. Play one octave – evenly – NOW STACCATO (soft to loud out and loud to soft in)
  5. Play one octave – evenly – DETACHED (soft to loud out and loud to soft in)
  6. Play one octave – evenly – LEGATO (soft to loud out and loud to soft in)

NOW Do ALL 6 exercises on each scale again – this time two octaves. DID YOUR BELLOWS MATCH ON #1-2-3 ABOVE? DID YOUR BELLOWS MATCH ON #4-5-6 ABOVE?

One final exercise – before we PICK some songs to use them on.

  1. Refer to the “REED RESPONSE” bellow exercise you did last month – this is now going to be our PHRASE ENDING and PHRASE BEGINNING!
  2. Start each phrase from a DEAD STOPPED BELLOW! and END each phrase at a DEAD STOPPED BELLOW!
  3. HOLD a D7 or G7 chord and play a bass style for 4 measures OUT and STOP YOUR BELLOWS – Restart your bellows on the way IN this time with the resolved chord (D7 resolves to GM or G7 resolves to CM) (again for 4 measure – and STOP BELLOWS.
  4. NOW – do 2 measures on the 7th chord and stop bellows on the way out – then restart on the Major chord for 2 measures – still going OUT. DO the same on the IN BELLOWS.
  5. Repeat this exercise – and add a little crescendo into each section and a little diminuendo Out to the stopped bellow.
  6. Repeat this exercise and add a little SPEED UP into the phrase and a little SLOW DOWN out of the phrase

Here are some sample songs to practice on: PLEASE remember to start by OVER-DOING the dynamics, phrase stops, and even slight tempo changes. Observe the slurs (phrases) – STOP at the end of each. Crescendo and Diminuendo.

Tempo Rubato is the expressive and rhythmic freedom by a slight speeding up and then slowing down of the tempo of a piece at the discretion of the soloist or the conductor

When I listened to these songs – I really have a hard time even HEARING the count. It just flowed – slower – then faster – so these are great examples of Tempo RUBATO!


BONUS – Tremolo OR Vibrato?

NOW – view this video – to get a great demonstration from Shelia’s DVD for BREATH YOUR MUSIC https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EnFukiK64gE