Technical Difficulty or A Series of Simple Parameters
Those who have seen me teaching, they know I always address the technical issues the same way, whether the accordionist is a beginner, junior, senior or world champion apprentice, and for good reason…they all have the same fault — they play the accordion. 🙂
A difficult issue is nothing but a series or accumulation of simple things. I’ve repeated many times that the error, whether technical, mnemonic or musical, is simply the result of a previous problem. What does the accordionist (the small, the great, the good, the not so good … all!) do? He cultivates his mistake, his misunderstanding, develops it, and finally resigns himself. And how does all this happen? Oh, it’s simple, he repeats the technical transition 5, 10, 15, 20 times … [trial & error] hoping he will have better luck next time. At this level of playing, you should already feel concerned.
So, in your defense, I will admit that it is impossible to correct oneself, to control the many parameters required for the performance of your technical passage with assurance, hassle-free.
I am fortunate in my everyday life to be both a teacher and a student — an accordion teacher, of course, and a student in a totally different discipline: horseback riding. You never will see a rider training for any major performance without the observation and feedback of a coach. This is for good reason, it is impossible to control everything in these situations, since the feeling is the same sensation that should be used for any type of performance. The feeling (feeling of movement for riding) and music for the accordion is about the same, or at least involves the same qualities of the performer, since everything depends on the movement.
The Movement Creates Sound
In my teaching, I remind students to work in front of a mirror to check a few things essential to achieving effective bellows changes. You need only to pay attention to a few specific points and the exercise becomes more simple. As I said previously, the difficulty lies in the multitude of perameters to control. One could compare the situation to a tangled ball of yarn. It doesn’t do any good to get frustrated. Trade your frustration for patience and try to find the right end of the yarn.
So, as you are alone with your accordion and your mirror, I’ll slip you some tips to organize a few things before playing — limiting potential room for errors.
Take the example of riding, the rider would never dream of working his horse on ground that is too hard, or too soft, with holes or bumps, causing serious injury to the horse which lessens the desired outcome. It is critical to maintain the ground of the training location before attempting to work with your horse: to groom and care for the surface to maintain solidity and evenness of the ground. This is logical, is it not?
It is exactly the same in regards to the regularity of your keyboard. I know from experience that this is not a concern for many and I won’t cast a stone at you. This is the first cause of error for my apprentice world champions who are at the highest technical level, so why not even you?
I have already written several teaching sequences about this, but I have to develop new small tricks for some artists — as is the case for Pavel Zyabko (Russia). He is extremely talented musically, artistically, and technically, but like any self-respecting talent, he uses his reflex. Making improvements or changes is only possible through reflection. On the contrary. The artist that plays only by reflex finds it nearly impossible to improve the parts of the music that already are mastered.
I, therefore, offer you small, simple exercises to develop qualities necessary for the proper use of your instrument.
Elasticity of Keyboards
I mentioned earlier the importance of a quality surface on which a rider with his horse would move. Now it’s our turn to improve the soil on which we will work: keyboards.
The regularity of the tension and elasticity of your keyboard lies in the regularity of the action force — the left side. Basically, to play without too many hitches requires your left arm to pull in the same direction, consistently and regularly, without accents, without violence, neither too strong nor too weak. To aid in this, keep the elbow of the left arm out and away from the accordion as seen in Photo 1 on the previous page.
The regular tension on the bellows causes the suction on the instrument’s valves to be even. The keyboard is neither too hard nor too soft. It feels “elastic,” meaning that each time you touch a key, you would feel a “trampoline” effect that will help you play with effortless touch.
The best way to experience this sensation is to practice this exercise on a single note, without trying to achieve an accuracy with a musical text. If, as I said earlier, a technical difficulty is only an accumulation of simple things, we will first take care of the simple things.
Voltage & Rebound
Hold your fingers as shown in Photo 2.
You can affix a small coin between thumb and index finger as shown in Photo 3 to control your fingers without thinking. This helps keep your fingers gathered naturally during the exercise.
Play each note of your first row two times, going up five to six keys. Then do the same, going back down, using only the index finger. Photos 4 and 5 demonstrate this process.
After you have returned to your starting point, move your position to the second row and repeat the exercise, always playing each note twice to feel the response of the keyboard. Always keep a regular tempo, and repeat the exercise on the 3rd, 4th, and 5th rows of your accordion. Photo 6 shows the position of the arm for the 4th row.
This exercise focuses on the chromatic ‘button’ keyboard, but of course you may do this on a piano keyboard by replacing rows by color: 1st row = white keys, 2nd row = black keys. See Photos 7 and 8. Click on the photos below for a larger view.
Once you are familiar with this exercise, you can change as follows:
• Start in the 2nd row; play a note two times, then jump directly to the 3rd row, play a note two times, then jump directly to the 1st row, and so on. Always keep an even tempo (speed) and the same articulation (sound).
• Increase the number of repetions on each note, moving up to three times, four times, etc.
• Gradually increase the tempo of the exercise – always maintaining even playing and articulation.
I don’t have time to explain the entire process here. You can learn more about this and other techniques in my course Deschamps Technique on AccordionLife.com
Good luck jumping on your notes, I return to jumping with my horses.