Sunday, January 07, 2007

Post-Seasons Greetings

Yes, I've been seriously out of touch here for some time, but now that the dust has settled on the xmas cards and 2007 is in full swing, I promise to bring you some interesting new articles and more, besides.
Thank-you to those who have emailed me over the past month or so, either to make contact or with holiday wishes. Your messages are appreciated.
Since I put the moderation setting on comments here, I notice things have become very quiet. That's a shame, as there had been some interesting and thought provoking comments posted previously. I certainly did not mean to discourage these! If anyone has tried to post comments and had difficulty, do please let me know by direct email, and I will see what can be done.
I hope we can have a fun and informative year together with our accordions.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Sorry! Posts are Now Moderated

It's just the way of things on the internet, I guess, but It seems this little site will be a happier place if I moderate your comments from now on.

If I understand it correctly, you just need to leave your comment as usual, it will come to me as an email and I will then okay it being posted. 99% of the comments that are left here are great. Please keep them coming!

If you experience any problems with this new system, contact me at my email address.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Third Floor - Going Up

I recently had a question from a reader about left hand technique. I thought I would share it here, as a few regular readers have mentioned a need for some help with the left hand. The original question went like this:
I took up the accordion and getting on pretty good. I am a violinist and used to busking the jigs and reels etc. Is there a way I can be more confident on the feel of the left hand on the buttons to be able to move from one chord to the next when the chords are quite distant from each other. I suppose it is a firm placement of the left hand on the instrument. Other than that I would be grateful for any help
My answer: As you can imagine, the whole answer to your question is potentially very long!! As a string player I should think that your left hand will be fairly good at accurate placement, dexterity and visualisation of where its going. However, one thing you say is incorrect (if I understand you rightly) - that is about "firm placement" of the left hand. You have a 16 inch bass keyboard to cover, so the hand actually needs to be as free as possible. I refer to this briefly, and how to achieve it in my artricle on bellows technique entitled I've Only Got Three Hands, You Know! You'll find it here:

Further to left hand technique, once you have found the position described in the above article, I suggest you try the following couple of exercises:

(1) Numbering the fingers as thumb = 1 and pinkie = 5, place your 3rd finger on the Bb fundamental bass, and your 2nd finger on Bb Major. Your arm should be positioned as in the bellows article, low enough that you are reaching up very slightly for the Bb, with arched fingers. Now slide your fingers over the F row and onto C Major, then slide on up to the D row, this time move your 2nd finger over to the D minor. Work your way up and down between these three chords. You can play any rhythmic pattern on each row that you wish. I have chosen these 3 chords because you have a marked button (C) in the centre of the pattern. However, it would be good to pick some other places on the bass keyboard to practise the same pattern, once you are confident.

The key is to slide your fingers over the rows, not to hop. Register both mentally and physically each row that you slide over. The best thing is to think of it by name, as opposed to simply thinking "up two rows" or whatever. (Think of it like going up a tall building in an elavator. You don't necessarily stop at every floor, but there is always a sign that registers each floor as you pass it.) Also move on to sliding from the Bb to the Dm without playing the C, just registering it. Then move on to playing this exercise with your 4th and 3rd fingers instead of your 3rd and 2nd. I very strongly suggest spending several weeks/months getting confident with this method before moving on to the next exercise. Although using the same finger on all the fundamentals is a rather basic technique, I am convinced that it is tremendously important to the brains process of spatial mapping of the bass keyboard. If you are bored in the meantime, try increasing the distance by playing Eb - C - Am. Not very logical harmonically, but good exercise!

(2) Now go back to the original three chords (Bb - C - Dm). I want you to change the fingering so that you are playing the Bb and C with you 4th and 3rd fingers, but the Dm with the 3rd and 2nd. As soon as you can do this, move on to using your 5th and 4th on the Bb. So now it's 5th finger on the Bb bass, 4th on the C and 3rd on the D. Again, move on to shifting from the Bb to the Dm, only registering the C. However, now you should not be sliding up and down, just touching the C with 3 as you reach up. Work toward being able to do the whole sequence while keeping your 5th finger lightly anchored on the Bb bass.

A word about position. If you have not been using your 5th finger, when you begin to do so you will probably need to alter your hand and arm position somewhat, especially if you have a 5th finger that is a good deal shorter than the others. I have been asking you to start the chord sequence with the Bb, as that will help position your hand at the start of the exercise. However, in real music (such as an Irish tune in Dm - probably really in Dorian or Aeolian mode) you would more likely be starting with the Dm. In that case, I would suggest that you take your hand position from where the pinkie will need to be before you start to play! That is always a good plan. Notice the lowest bass button you will be playing before you start, and position your hand so that your pinkie will be able to reach that button. You should be reaching up for everything else.

To continue developing this technique, have a look at some of the pieces you are playing which involve a wide range of chords. In most Major or modal type minor tunes, the minor chords will be placed highest on the keyboard, moving downward onto major chords. This is only a general guideline, but start by playing all the minor chords with fingers 3 and 2. Use 5 and 4 for the lowest row (at least if it is a Major chord) and for any situations where the preceding or following chord is up several rows. Use 4 and 3 for whatever chords are left.

Alternating bass lines and 7th chords (not to mention diminished ones) will create their own challenges. I don't believe it is wise to create too many rules for bass fingering. It's good to have some clever strategies for getting the most out of the 4 fingers we use, and it's good to be flexible enough in your thinking to "find a finger" when you run out of fingers! This is another reason I advocate starting by moving one finger up and down the fundamental row before graduation to the 4 finger approach.

- Kris

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Phrasing and the Bellows

If You Get My Meaning
I'll start by defining my terms, as people use the words "phrase" and "phrasing"to mean several different things. For example some people refer to things like slurred groups of notes, or the use of staccato, legato, tenuto, etc. in music as phrasing. This element of music is more correctly called articulation, and is not what I mean by phrasing here. When I talk about a phrase in this article I am referring to a section in the music, typically about two or four bars long, which stands on its own as a musical idea. In the case of a song, this would be the part of the melody which forms exactly one line of the lyrics. Within a phrase, there are sometimes two or more "sub phrases" - for want of a better term, and so like almost everything in music, there is a subjective element to identifying the phrase structure in some pieces of music.
So what has this got to do with playing the accordion and using the bellows? The accordion is a wind instrument. I believe it is essential to use this fact to its fullest potential, not ignore it and hope it will go away. Used well, the air travelling through an accordion should have the same impact and immediacy as that controlled by the cleverest brass or woodwind player. It should contribute to the expression and phrasing with the same facility and subtlety as the air pumping through the lungs of a great singer. To settle for less is to settle for utter mediocrity!
When I was not too far into learning to play the accordion, I was lucky to have a few lessons from a great Scottish player called Freeland Barbour. (He led the Wallochmor Ceilidh Band for a number of years and is a player I'd say is really worth a listen.) Probably the first thing he pointed out to me was the importance of phrasing, and of changing bellows direction at the start of each phrase and doing it cleanly. Talk about a blinding flash of the obvious!! I had sung, worked with choirs and played woodwinds for most of my musical life up to starting the accordion. But like everybody else I was busy learning tunes and coming to grips with the left hand and hadn't given the phrasing enough thought. I'm grateful to Freeland that I got this lead in the right direction from him early on.
I believe that phrasing is the thing which makes our music accessible to the listener. It cuts the music into "bite sized pieces" which the listener is able to deal with. Here's a little's the answer...and the next idea...and so on. Have you ever heard someone reading out the news on the radio, and they are a bit nervous or in too much of a hurry. They rush through the items and hardly draw breath - except when they stumble in mid sentence! At the end your think "I have no idea what that guy just said." Without good phrasing, this is the exactly the effect our playing has on our listeners. Especially if they are not familiar with the music we are playing. No matter how sensible our tempo, or perfect our rhythm, or flashy the piece - without phrasing it is really just a meaningless collection of notes.
Deep Breath
So, now we know what phrasing is and why we want it. How do we get it? Let's take a Scottish song that most of you will know. (Apologies to Robert Burns experts, this is just the way the words might commonly be sung without too many Scots spellings).

Ye banks and braes of Bonny Doon

How can ye bloom sae fresh and fair

How can ye chant ye little birds

And I sae weary full o care

This song is in three time, like a waltz. The syllables I have highlighted are the ones that would be emphasised when the song is sung - because these are the words/notes at the start of each bar of music. If you play this on the accordion, and accompany yourself with a simple waltz time left hand (bass note on the first beat of the bar, followed by chords on the second and third beats) the notes for these words should fall on the bass note beats.
However, and this is a big however, the phrases start with those little words "ye" and "how" and "and". So this is where the bellows movement needs to start. That's right, the bellows movement is dictated by the phrasing, which in many, many pieces of music is slightly out of phase with the strong beats. And this is where I have to part company with anyone who says that changing bellows direction every two bars is a good way to play the accordion!! Just imagine a singer doing this:

Ye (gulp)

banks and braes of Bonny Doon How (pause)

can ye bloom sae fresh and fair How (wheeze)

can ye chant ye little birds And (gulp)

I sae weary full o care

Not a very entertaining prospect, is it? Of course, I'm exaggerating a bit. In a lot of cases, box players who don't know about phrasing with the bellows get pretty good a camouflaging their problem. Sometimes they manage to sweep it almost all the way under the carpet almost all of the time.....
If you want to take this on board, start with songs, and start each song with just your right hand. Get the bellows movement right at this level first. Some of you will find even this a challenge. That's fine. At least you can see something that, if you work on it, will improve your playing a lot! One of the best methods I know for working on this is to play a line of the song in one bellows stroke, then take a HUGE pause, do the next line, another HUGE pause, etc. This gives you plenty of time to think, and builds in a good habit and an awareness of phrasing. When you are doing this, there are two pitfalls to avoid. (1) Chopping the last notes of phrases off. Hold the last note of the phrase a little extra, instead. (2) Thinking of changing direction at the ends of lines. Associate the change of direction with the start of the line, rather than anticipating it. This will set you up for success when you put the left hand back in.
And when the time comes to put that left hand back in, take it nice and slowly, be aware that you are starting each phrase in mid bar in many songs. Don't allow your left hand to "come out in sympathy" with the bellows or vice versa. Here's a little exercise in waltz time that might help you on your way:
Get ready to do a waltz time vamp with your left hand. Your C bass and C Major chord will do for starters. So the rhythm is bass - chord - chord; bass - chord - chord; etc. Now try it like this: bass - chord - chord; bass- chord - CHANGE DIRECTION chord; bass - chord - chord; bass - chord CHANGE DIRECTION chord; etc.
Good luck with this, everybody! It's one of the great "secrets" of accordion playing that should not be a secret at all!
- Kris

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Keeping In Touch

It's been a bit quiet here lately, but it's nice to see new people adding to the comments, and I have now added another article, below.
Just a few thoughts...

When leaving comments, perhaps you could date them. The blogger doesn't seem to do this for us (or maybe I can't operate it!) and it would be nice to know when you have visited.
Perhaps you would also consider sending me an email at , so that I have your email address. I PROMISE that I will not pass it on to anyone else, or use it to endlessly harrass you to buy things from me, etc. What I might do is send you an update very occasionally (not more than once a month) to let you know about developments here. If you want to get off my mailing list - you only have to ask once. And that's a promise, too!

- Kris

The Ear Thing

When I was growing up with music, I can remember people around me being very impressed by the idea that someone could "play by ear." There seemed to be a mystique surrounding this amazing talent which, when you think about it, is pretty illogical. After all, we talk "by ear" before we can read! And most of us can sing "by ear" better than we could by reading music. It leads me to think that a lot of music readers take a rather mechanical approach to playing a musical instrument. In the past, at least, this mechanical approach was even encouraged by many music teachers, who often said that "If you let them start playing by ear they will never learn to read the music properly." I believe that this last statement is one of the most limiting and destructive myths surrounding music education - but that's another story...
So You Want to Play By Ear
That's great! So how does that work? Well, just like if you want to make a certain sound with your voice you need to know how to make it, you need to know how to make the sounds on your instrument. In the case of your voice, you experimented as a baby. You figured out how to get high and low sounds, different vowels and consonants, louder, etc. etc. If you're new to the accordion, and to piano keyboards, you will need to do this before you can play a tune by ear. People all over the world pick up musical instruments and figure out how to play them "from scratch" every day. You will probably get on quicker with a teacher, but it can be done! The teacher saves you a lot of time and mistakes, that's all. This is not the place to coach you through this process, however, so let's assume that you have some knowledge of your instrument and have maybe been playing from written music up 'til now.
In this article I am only going to cover playing melodies by ear. Chords and other left hand accompaniments are another subject. For some people they come easily, not so easily for others. One thing is certain, you will find it impossible to put the left hand in if you are not confident with your right, so first things first. There is absolutely no shame in playing melodies with your right hand and giving your left hand a little holiday while you learn to do this.
Start with something familiar. Utterly familiar! Happy Birthday or Jingle Bells or something like that. A complicated pop song or something flashy you have got on a CD is not going to be that easy. If you want to improve your ear playing, you could do worse than simply try to play the first simple tune that comes into your head every time you pick up your instrument to play. However, for your first serious attempt, I suggest that you start with a song. Write the words down, or get a copy of them. If it's a long song, you probably only need the first verse and the chorus, if there is one. If you can't sing it, you're going to be struggling. I don't mean sing it beautifully, just pretty accurately. This simply proves that you really know how it goes. When does the melody go up, go down, and by how much. The words are simply there to give you some landmarks and keep you from feeling totally lost.
Okay, so you've got your words in front of you. Your next question probably is which note to start on. Actually, it's not very important. Any melody can be played in any key, and can therefore be started on any note! However, if you don't want to end up with a lot of black keys in your tune, C or G is probably a good choice. Let me emphasise something here: The note you start on is not necessarily the same as the key you are in! So starting on G doesn't mean you will be playing in the key of G. However, if you start on a C or a G you probably won't end up in a key with lots of black keys. Do pay attention to where you started, maybe make a note of it somewhere. Life will be easier if you start on the same note every time you play a given tune.
Now comes the hard graft. Figuring the thing out. This is where a lot of people simply give up. Playing by ear is an experiment. If you are new to it, you are going to play lots and lots and lots and LOTS of wrong notes! That's good!!! That's how you learn. That's right. Trial and error. But pay attention. Try your best to be aware of where you are on that keyboard all the time. Notice where you are putting your fingers. I often see people trying over and over to play a phrase, and repeatedly making the same mistake. They know they are wrong every time, so they must not be paying enough attention to what they are doing. If the answer wasn't F# the first three times, it's not going to be the answer the fourth time either. Even more important, notice what the right notes are!
Of course, when you find the right notes, you're probably going to be tempted to write them down. Well, I can't stop you, but my advice is: DON'T GO THERE! As soon as you start that lark you are not playing by ear anymore. Think of a baby trying to learn to walk. He doesn't need crutches - just practise and determination. You are learning to do something new, hang in there.
Let's say you've got the first line of your song now. Play it over a few more times. Notice very particularly what note that line starts and finishes on. Notice even more particularly what note the next, and subsequent, lines start on. That way, if you get stuck on the third or fourth line, you won't have to keep going all the way back to the beginning of the song to work on the awkward line. By being aware of as many points in the song as possible, you create lots of starting places. This will save you a lot of time, and it is really worth developing the self discipline to start near the problem area, rather than constantly going right back to the beginning.
I know that this process will turn out to be easier for some of you than for others. I also know, from experience, that the vast majority of people are surprised at how easy it is to play by ear, once they overcome their fear of starting, and of making mistakes in the trial and error phase. It turns out to be something that most of my pupils find tremendously rewarding and fun. Each new melody is a little easier than the last, and before you know it you can be having a lot of fun with this.
Moving On
There are two other aspects of learning by ear that I would like to discuss. One is learning from recordings, the other is learning directly from another person. These will both be easier once you have got some basic skills through playing well known songs. Learning in person may be helpful if you are stuck. But only if the person you are learning from has the skill and patience to help you. If they also play by ear, and especially if they teach music orally then they will probably be a great help. Learning from recordings is also great fun, and has some advantages, like being able to listen again and again without imposing on another musician. There are also a number of bits of computer software available which allow you to slow digital recordings down to make learning easier. Not to mention that there is simply a lot more recorded music readily available than can be found in written form - especially if your interests are a bit specialised.
In both scenarios, familiarity is again the key. The day may come when you can learn an unfamiliar tune "on the fly". Many jazz and traditional musicians do this regularly. But it is a skill in itself, involving being able to both remember and categorise many musical phrases very quickly. When this starts to be easy, you know you are really getting somewhere, but it is perfectly normal to find this difficult. Focus on what you are able to do, and what you are getting better at - not on what you can't yet do.
When I find tunes on CDs that I think I may want to learn I put them all on a compilation cassette. (You can use a CD or iPod - I'm just a bit of a dinosaur sometimes.) Because I spend a bit of time in my car every day I listen to this tape in the car. I only have this one tape in my car! I listen to it over and over and over for a month or two or three. I usually find that I can just start playing these tunes after awhile. Yes, I usually have to go back to the recording to check a few notes here and there, but it works for me.
I can learn less familiar things a phrase at a time from a recording, but I find they don't stick in my mind quite as well. Occasionally, though, I have to resort to this method either because I find the tune too elusive or because I am in a hurry for some professional reason. If I am just in a hurry I often choose to transcribe it rather than learn it, if I have a choice, as the chance of forgetting it is higher. The elusive tunes are an interesting question. Sometimes it's because the performance on the recording is not that clear. The player is running their notes together, playing very fast or simply hard to hear. At other times it is because my brain is supplying me with how it supposes the tune goes rather than actually listening. I don't know why our brains do this, but I know that it is very common. My brain is substituting a more "probable" or "logical" phrase, maybe simplifying the melody - just looking for an easier route! The best way I know to get around this is to play the tune for awhile, then go back and listen to the recording again. Usually the differences will jump out at me then.
In my corner of traditional music, learning tunes from other players is pretty common, whether "on the fly" or in a situation where a friend or teacher sits down and teaches someone a tune. The advantages here are that you can ask questions, and hopefully have everything explained until you understand it. You get immediate feedback as to whether you are right or wrong. The only possible downside is that you get used to a bit too much spoonfeedng. But spoonfeeding is a great help at first! If you are learning from someone who plays the same instrument as you, you can also see what notes they are playing and maybe get advice about technique as you go along, too. Fingering in particular. However, this is also something that you can become either overly dependent on, or which can become a distraction from listening. For this reason I sometimes turn away and don't allow some pupils to look at my hands all the time, as they look and forget to listen. Beware of reducing your playing to mechanics!!
I would approach it something like this, and what follows is also a good model for breaking tunes down when learning from recordings. First I would just play the tune through a few times. If I'm teaching, I would probably then ask questions like - "What note did it start on?" "What note did it finish on?" "What sharps or flats were used?" "What was the structure of the tune? Were there repeats, recurring themes, etc?" "Was it major or minor?" "What was the rhythmic structure?" I usually need to play it a few more times for the pupil to be able to answer these questions. This gets them listening harder (and watching me, too) and they become even more familiar with the tune. I might even do this for a couple of weeks before I actually start teaching the tune. I find this process very helpful when learning from recordings.
In Scots and Irish music, we are usually dealing with 8 bar sections, or parts. Commonly the tunes are made up of two parts, known as the A and B parts. Quite often the A and B part each repeat, either exactly or with differing endings, giving a 32 bar tune. This structure is pretty common in other music, too, although far from universal! I mention it both to set us up for what follows and to highlight the importance of being aware of structures in whatever kind of music you are learning. It is much easier to digest and remember information within a structure, rather than just learning it sequentially. (Remember my advice to know each line of a song independently, rather than having to keep going back to the beginning?)
So let's say I'm teaching a 32 bar tune with straight repeats. Once we are familiar with it I play the first 2 bar phrase. It may not be exactly 2 bars, but near enough. Think of it as the opening question. Once the pupil has learned it and can play it confidently, I teach the next 2 bar phrase - think of it as a sort of answer. When the pupil can play this phrase, we have a go at putting them together. At this point I may play the whole of the A part over once or twice, so that we don't lose sight of the big picture. The third phrase is often similar to the first one (kind of like repeating the original question), and the fourth phrase is usually a more definitely "finished" sounding answer, which usually finishes on the keynote of the tune. When we have the third and fourth phrases, we try stringing all four together. Usually, the first two are now a little wobbly, but we soon get them back and get the whole thing going. The process is the same with the B part. Often there is a bonus here, as some of the phrases may be ones we learned in the A part. Many tunes and songs are highly repetitive, whether we're talking Schubert, jazz, reels or pop. (Did you find this to be the case in the songs you tried?) This process may be completed in one session, or may happen a bit at a time over the course of weeks. It doesn't matter, just enjoy the process.
Yes, that's the key. Enjoy!
- Kris

Sunday, October 01, 2006

A Little Gold Mine

I just stumbled onto this excellent catalogue of CDs of traditional Irish players on the Claddagh Records website. They have 65 different CDs by accordionists from the big stars to the older regional-based players. Some real classics there! Mostly button accordion, of course, but some great players who are worth listening to. A real who's who of Irish box.
Here's the link
- Kris

Saturday, September 30, 2006

I've Only Got Three Hands, You Know!

The accordion is a three handed instrument, I always say. There are many things which set it apart from the piano, one of which is the bellows. It has a little more in common with harmoniums, most forms of which have a bellows system of some sort, but only the accordion family have the added facet of a bellows which changes direction while the instrument is played. This creates much more freedom for the player, but as usual, with freedom comes responsibilities and complications.
The first step to bellows control is holding the accordion effectively. Before we start, I would encourage all players who are still learning basic and intermediate bellows control to play sitting down. The ideal height of chair is one that puts your hips just slightly higher than your knees when you sit squarely. I find sitting nearer the front edge of the chair, rather than right back in it, helps to put me in the right position, as will a cushion for many people. I believe that the accordion needs to be positioned so that the right hand keyboard is just about in the middle of your body - so under your chin. This is why there is a long and a short strap in a pair. If your straps are not allowing you to get into this position, try adjusting them. Often the right strap is still not long enough to achieve this. You can make a simple extension by adding a loop of very strong cord between the bottom strap bracket and the leather loop created by doing up the little buckle on the strap which is normally used to attach it to the bracket. An overhand knot should be safe enough as long as you leave a bit to spare beyond the knot in the unlikely case of slippage. Now your accordion probably feels too loose! If you aren't using a back strap you probably should be, and now that you have lengthened you right strap (and probably tightened your left one) you may well need to shorten your back strap as well.
There are a number of reasons why this is an advantageous position for holding the accordion, but from the viewpoint of bellows technique the main reason is that it allows you to apply pressure to the back edge (the corner where the back of your accordion meets the left end) in order to push the bellows in. This is crucial!!! The left end of your accordion must be further to the left than the left side of your own ribcage when the bellows is closed. If it is not, your own torso will be in the way of you using your arm effectively to operate the bellows.
If you push the bellows in with the palm of your hand, the heel of your hand or by using the inside flat of your forearm on the whole of the left end of your accordion, you have got yourself stuck in a position where it is now difficult to move your hand freely around the bass keyboard. People often ask me "Which part of my hand/arm should I push the bellows with?" That really depends on how long your arm and fingers are relative to the size of your accordion. What counts is that you can move your hand around the bass keyboard without affecting the bellows. The two things need to be highly independent - a tall order considering that the basses are played with the left fingers and the bellows is worked by the left arm, plus most of us are right handed!!
Here's how to find the right position: place your left fingers on the bass buttons where they need to be to play easily. It's best if the ends of your fingers hit the buttons in a sort of hammer action, as opposed to putting the pads of your fingers on them. The first position means that your fingers will be somewhat arched and have more clearance over the buttons you are not using. Everything else is determined by where your fingers need to be.
Now that you've found this position, arch your wrist slightly, so that the flat underside of your forearm and the heel of your hand come off the accordion slightly. This arch should stay the same whether you are opening of closing your bellows. This means you will need to apply pressure to the all important back edge in order to push the bellows in. This may well feel very unnatural for awhile. That's okay. Learning something new is rarely entirely comfortable! You will find this easier if you position your arm so that you are reaching up slightly for whatever row of buttons your fingers are on. In other words, your fingers are pointing slightly upward when you play, not parallel to the ground. Also check that your bellows strap is loose enough to accomodate this slight arch in your wrist - but not so loose that there is a great deal of play when you change bellows direction. Remember, this strap works loose gradually as you play, so you need to develop the habit of checking and adjusting its position regularly.
Hang in There!
This can be quite a big shift both mentally and physically - especially if you have been holding your accordion differently for some time. Be patient with yourself, but if you really want to improve your bellows control hang in there! Try to think in terms of forming a new habit rather than breaking an old one. You might do this by not playing all your familiar pieces and exercises for a few days. Begin by spending awhile just holding the accordion in this new position and playing some long notes with the right hand. Just get the feeling of going in and out. Listen for a steady, controlled, unwobbly sort of sound. Experiment with loud and quiet. Then play a little with your left hand. Just something which you consider to be very simple. A few bars of waltz time in C might be a good place to start. Practise taking your bellows out different distances. Not too far at first, further when you are ready to stretch yourself. Work on being conscious of changing direction, not just letting it happen. This will set you up for success with the bellows.
Well, no pictures so far, but I think I may have come near the 1,000 word mark! There is so much more to the bellows, but I am going to leave it there for now. If you want to learn more about the bellows, make a start by getting going on this. Give yourself a week or so to assimilate and experience these ideas. I will write another installment soon, so that you can begin to put this new position to work for you to improve the following:
  • dynamics (loud and quiet)
  • phrasing
  • accentuation
  • tone

and much more.

In the meantime, please feel free to ask questions about this topic if you are feeling stuck or unsure. You will probably be doing ten other people who have the same question a huge favour!!

- Kris