Featured in the 2016 Spring Issue of Accordion Life Today.
Rule Number One
What Every Accordionist Needs to Know
Regardless of my students’ age or level, I often tell them as a joke, “Rule Number One to play the accordion: first pull the bellows, then play.” Everyone smiles, but no one does anything. It may seem evident, but pulling the bellows is the first action before even choosing what note to play. We are so concerned about the fact that playing the accordion is complicated, and that there are so many things to think about at the same time. This is true. But let’s put things in order. It is not that there are so many ‘things to think about,’ but that we need to think in a certain order. That is where there is difficulty
Virtues and Inconvenience
The positive results of Rule Number One: pulling the bellows before playing
• Proper airflow of the mechanics of your instrument valves.
• Natural tension of your keys.
• Natural surface game.
• Minimization of the tension in your fingers.
• Immediate output of sound.
• See now the inconvenience caused by omitting Rule Number One.
• Keys are soft and not responsive.
• Your fingers flatten at the bottom of your keyboard.
• The strength of the fingers is at its maximum.
• The sound is wheezing and asthmatic.
Not pulling before you play, for example, is like a singer who does not take a breath before singing … or like trying to start the engine of a car and shift to first gear at the same time. Of course it is easy to understand and accept certain basic rules – but to be able to apply them is another matter. Reflex, reflection, and all these beautiful phrases that we will share together must be integrated into your musical toolbox. I’ll try to help you understand a few simple exercises which should develop sensations your body will naturally incorporate into your relationship with the instrument.
We always make the error of wanting to solve everything at the same time, which is totally impossible. Adults especially! You always feel you do not have the time, and you want to play better without necessarily analyzing problems … it is human. 🙂 The first little exercise that I propose today was taught to me by our late André Thépaz de Chambéry. It is the typical exercise practiced by all mono wind instruments: the wiring of a sound. Since our instrument is polyphonic, you are welcome to adapt accordingly.
The Control of the Sound
In my way of teaching, I like to have students practice exercises that seem simple but yield much fruit in the future when least expected. Let me explain:
1.) Press the first key of your right keyboard without pulling the bellows. Nothing should happen. A sound escaped from your instrument? This means your bellows were not controlled. Repeat and be sure to control the stillness of your bellows.
2.) Gradually pull your bellows. A sound should appear in a very progressive manner.
3.) Press a second key on your right keyboard. Make the second sound appear as discreetly as possible, without an accent. Look at your bellows and note the evolution of the opening speed.
4.) Then press a third and then a fourth note, then a lower left hand button of your choice.
What do you notice?
A Simple Sound
1.) Pull your bellows, then press a button with a sharp sound, in a strong medium volume. Watch your bellows and note the speed of the opening.
2.) While continuing to look carefully at your bellows, play a second note on the right hand keyboard without speeding up the opening of your bellows. Your bellows now open consistently.
3.) Gently push a third then fourth key on the right hand keyboard, then a bass on the left, always by controlling your bellows to accelerate their opening speed.