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Author Topic: Playing like Émile Vacher  (Read 1760 times)

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squeezy

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Playing like Émile Vacher
« on: September 29, 2015, 11:06:26 PM »

I've loved his playing since before I played the melodeon - I had an old compilation tape of French musette music and it had 2 or 3 Vacher tracks on it which always stood out head and shoulders above the other greats of the era for me (Guy Viseur etc.)

Prompted by recent conversation about his instruments and their layouts here on melnet I re-visited a piece which I've attempted to copy in his style in the past, the classic Les Triolets - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Qg_W0fM8qU&spfreload=10

I'm playing a box which is very similar to his in that it is a fifth apart diatonic with fully chromatic right hand by way of it's 3rd row and stradella basses ... and I like to attempt to copy players note for note as an exercise in understanding what they are doing - I realise that Vacher's playing is of such a high standard that an accurate replication is almost impossible though.

The piece is called Les Triolets - meaning the triplets ... but this is misleading ... in some places (thanks to various slow-downing software) I've worked out that he is also playing sextuplets and quintuplets as many of the ornaments at machine-gun pace.  The pace of the quintuplets on a single button in the B section of music is quite perplexing because I cannot replicate it on any of my fastest instruments as a technique and of course as there is no video I have no idea what fingering he might be using in order to achieve it ... to my ears it sounds like a 5 finger triplet - but obviously that's impossible as you only have 4 fingers on one hand!

Does anyone else fancy having a listen and a guess at what is going on fingering-wise?  This kind of close analysis of his playing really shows it to be of a truly phenomenal standard - especially given the technology of the instruments in the 1920s that he's getting these lightning fast effects on.
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Squeezy

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Clive Williams

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Re: Playing like Émile Vacher
« Reply #1 on: September 29, 2015, 11:30:57 PM »

By elimination, I'd say the triplets/cinqlet are probably 2-fingers-alternating-on-one-button jobs.

Difficult to do a full 3/4 fingered trill and get the 5th with such similarity to the others; I did wonder if he was using 2 fingers across duplicated buttons (like D/G players can on D and E), but assuming he's playing a G#/C#/? thing, which is what his chords seem to suggest, the trills aren't on notes likely to be duplicated, unless he had a *very* odd layout designed to enhance such ornaments.

Which leaves us with hit the same button with 2 fingers, one hitting the left half of the button, one hitting the right?

squeezy

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Re: Playing like Émile Vacher
« Reply #2 on: September 30, 2015, 12:02:15 AM »

Good point Clive ... I'd say that due to the crispness of the "triplets" there's no question that they're done on a single button in a single direction.  In which case I struggle to think of another player who can pull off such accurate 2 finger triplets - sextuplets anywhere in my extensive record collection! 

The reason I didn't immediately think that they were 2 finger ornaments is due to the sheer speed and crispness of them.  A 3 finger triplet is a single continuous movement which involves one muscle group only going down in to the keyboard and dodging off the button as soon as it's been played allowing the spring to snap the button back.  A 2 finger triplet is very different technique indeed as it requires each finger to use 2 muscle groups down and up before the next finger gets ready to do the same in a split second.  I have experimented with 2 finger triplets, quintuplets and sextuplets and I cannot get anywhere near the speed of Vacher without significant RSI type pain on the back of my hand and I also cannot get the crispness.

Maybe I'm just not good enough ... that's quite probable ... but I wonder if he's using some kind of other technique like the thumb-ring-index type ornament used by piano accordion players to a similar effect ... in the absence of videos I'm reduced to mere speculation I suppose.
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Chris Ryall

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Re: Playing like Émile Vacher
« Reply #3 on: September 30, 2015, 10:51:10 AM »

I have seen triplets taught as one finger technique in Francd and seen them done. As a 3 finger dabbler myself, I'll never achive this but I think it might be what is going on. The reason? They are all on single notes, no cuts onto adjacent buttons
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squeezy

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Re: Playing like Émile Vacher
« Reply #4 on: September 30, 2015, 12:43:29 PM »

By the way I think he's playing a G/C/B box but it's either in an older pitch or the recording speed has been changed slightly - Les Triolets is normally played in the key of D.
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Mike Hirst

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Re: Playing like Émile Vacher
« Reply #5 on: September 30, 2015, 01:11:13 PM »

I have seen triplets taught as one finger technique in Francd and seen them done. As a 3 finger dabbler myself, I'll never achive this but I think it might be what is going on. The reason? They are all on single notes, no cuts onto adjacent buttons

Philippe Bruneau was emphatic in insisting that triplet repeats should be played using one finger.

This technique can be studied in this video of Susie Lemay playing the Philippe Bruneau composition "Hommage à Denis Pépin".

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKzqCQuJdEE
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Stiamh

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Re: Playing like Émile Vacher
« Reply #6 on: September 30, 2015, 01:12:09 PM »

Notice that in the photo he [edit: Vacher in the YT clip photo] has his right thumb on the edge of the keyboard. That is how I play, and I use alternating fingers to play repeated notes - a lot, and all the time.

Experimenting briefly just now I don't think it would pose too much of a problem to develop those Vacher-like repetitions using two fingers, although obviously he is a master of the technique - fast and beautifully even.

Then I tried with my thumb behind the keyboard and, ooh boy, this is not so easy at all. Although since I never play that way, this observation may be of little value.
« Last Edit: September 30, 2015, 01:14:14 PM by Stiamh »
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Chris Ryall

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Re: Playing like Émile Vacher
« Reply #7 on: September 30, 2015, 01:22:10 PM »

Philippe Bruneau was emphatic in insisting that triplet repeats should be played using one finger.

…  the very same, under a tree at St Chartier in about 1995! Pignol also does/teaches this. But not being Bruneau, he doesn't shout at protegés who can't achieve it (wasn't me  ::))
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KLR

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Re: Playing like Émile Vacher
« Reply #8 on: September 30, 2015, 11:46:21 PM »

For what it's worth, the notation of Les Triolets just shows triplets.  The book I have it in is called 15 Standards Accordeon facile volume 5.  When I slow Vacher down I still hear triplets followed by a pair of 16ths, which certainly can sound like a quintuplet etc, but it probably just gets in the way to think of them as such...I do think I hear him playing the odd quint- or sextuplet, too, btw, and his playing departs from the score here and there, but not by much.

He could have played these two note triolets in various ways - using just the bellows, or playing them in one direction, which might be feasible both on the row or crossing from row to row, depending on the notes in question.  You could work up a C/B/G layout and stare at it and see if that yields any insights.  The score shows a lot of ABA triplets in the final part, for instance.  You could play those on the pull on the C row, or crossing from the G row to the C, or on the pull on the G and on the push on the B.  What the context of the tune is would matter, too.  They are usually played (3ABA ^GA BAFA.  The "^" symbol means the following G is G#, if you don't read ABC notation.  That G# would be from the B row on the pull, getting to that might dictate how you approach the playing of the triplet.

Will Starr also recorded a quite noisy take of Les Triolets, if you want to hear the tune on a different tuning in a different tradition. 

I've a bunch of compilations of old bal musette music - wonderful stuff.  Medard Ferrero Et Ses Clochard also recorded it, did some wonderful things with harmony - and he also sounds like he's playing a mixte box as well.  You might enjoy this doc, too:  Paris Musette - Documentaire arte - YouTube  I think there's a scene where a fellow tries to make sense of one of Vacher's bisonoric boxes, with predictable bafflement.  Or maybe I just dreamt that?   ;D Only watched it the one time. 

Looking for images of Vacher I came across this melnet thread:  GCB learners?  Which has a pic of a fellow holding one of Vacher's 3 rows.  Pictures of the man himself show him with the thumb against the keyboard.  Playing triplets with how many fingers at speed is just a matter of doing it in slow motion at first, and speeding up just a bit until you have things down pat.  Norteno player Noe Garza has a video demonstrating Accordion Technique which shows, among other things, playing the single note triplets.
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pgroff

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Re: Playing like Émile Vacher
« Reply #9 on: October 06, 2015, 05:34:08 PM »

Hi all,

As I see it, any one person's failure to achieve a performance skill (such as sounding like Vacher with two-finger iterations of the notes, sounding like Vacher with one-finger iterations, etc etc) tells us nothing about whether that skill is possible. 

*If* we should succeed in sounding like Vacher (not likely for me, if I were to set that goal at my age, and possibly unlikely for anyone at any age) -- that success would prove that that skill is possible to achieve . . . but would not prove that our successful technique is exactly how *Vacher* managed to sound like Vacher. 

We'd need other evidence, which may be available (films? from his writings or from the writings of those who knew him? students?).

PG

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