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Author Topic: Bellows pressure  (Read 1841 times)

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Dick Rees

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Bellows pressure
« on: April 30, 2019, 01:11:02 AM »

Other than volume/dynamics, how does air pressure figure into your playing?  Does a box have a "sweet spot" for how hard you skweez to make it sing?  What factors in playing are affected even in part by bellows pressure?

Thanks for your thoughts
« Last Edit: April 30, 2019, 01:55:42 AM by Dick Rees »
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Jesse Smith

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Re: Bellows pressure
« Reply #1 on: April 30, 2019, 02:48:02 AM »

Well, this is just such an enormous topic. I think the bellows are what makes a squeezebox different from just about any other instrument, because on what other instrument can you play a sustained chord and swell it up in volume? Brass and woodwinds can do individual notes but you need multiple players to do it with a chord. Strings are sort of the same way, but I don't consider the crescendo on a stringed instrument to sound the same as on a wind instrument. Maybe an electric organ or guitar with a volume pedal is the closest thing!

One thing I've recently been trying to explore is articulating the oom-pah with the bellows more than with the buttons. This can be very subtle. We hear it a lot with waltz time where the beat is transmitted through a pulsing of the bellows, but I also really like the sound of it in, for example, a jig, where the up beat surges or swells into the down beat with just the use of the bellows. So you get a rrrrrr-rup rrrrrr-rup effect (where the "up" is the down beat). I learned this from listening to John Kirkpatrick (though I'm sure others have done it as well). In his tutor video he says it sounds as though you're playing backwards, and it really does have that sort of backwards guitar sound. But it took me a long time to figure out exactly how this sound is made, and how it relies on sort of crossing the bar line with the note and swelling up with the bellows.

There's so much more one could say about bellows use but that's what jumps to my mind at the moment.
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Jesse Smith

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Re: Bellows pressure
« Reply #2 on: April 30, 2019, 02:51:31 AM »

Oh, and with regards to a "sweet spot" for bellows pressure, I think it exists to an extent although it is different for each box. My 4 stop plays louder with less pressure since there are twice the number of reeds playing. But I think it is less to do with absolute pressure and more with the attack on the notes. There's a certain quality of sound especially with right hand chords that comes with just the right sharpness of attack with the bellows. It reminds me of what tin whistle players call "chiff". A certain percussiveness of the reed sound. Hard to describe really but I hope people know what I mean.
« Last Edit: April 30, 2019, 03:46:34 AM by Jesse Smith »
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Dick Rees

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Re: Bellows pressure
« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2019, 03:13:16 AM »

Oh, and with regards to a "sweet spot" for bellows pressure, I think it exists to an extent although it is different for each box. My 4 stop plays louder with less pressure since there are twice the number of reeds playing. But I think it is less to do with absolute pressure and more with the attack on the notes. There's a certain quality of sound especially with right hand chords that comes with just the right sharpness of attack with the bellows. It reminds me of what tin whistle players call "chiff". A certain percuasiveness of the reed sound. Hard to describe really but I hope people know what I mean.

I know what you mean.  The transient response of the reeds is definitely pressure dependent as well as varying subtly between attack from pressing a button compared to attack by bellows direction change.

I think the basic thing behind my question deals with the necessity of maintaining pressure sufficient for the bellows to pick up and amplify the rhythmic pulse of the tune.  This might be perhaps one of the major differences coming with experience, but is it ever directly addressed in workshops?  I've learned on my own and have not attended any classes or even sessions of box players.
« Last Edit: April 30, 2019, 03:32:07 AM by Dick Rees »
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george garside

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Re: Bellows pressure
« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2019, 09:51:04 AM »

to me the bellowsare the very heart of the box and in some ways can be likened to what the bow is to the fiddler.  Fine control of the bellows takes time to aquire   is more important than just thinking in terms of 'pressure'.  When teaching I spend a lot of time  helping students to develop fine bellows control and the benefits that go with it  and getting away from the notion that the bellwos  are 'a bloody great air pump'.  A learning technique I particularly advocate is playing slow aires hauntingly and with great feeling using treble only  to emphasise the  wonderful dynamic scope of the box

george
« Last Edit: April 30, 2019, 09:53:33 AM by george garside »
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Alan Pittwood

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Re: Bellows pressure
« Reply #5 on: April 30, 2019, 10:35:10 AM »

to me the bellows are the very heart of the box and in some ways can be likened to what the bow is to the fiddler. 

For students, it is important to emphasise that they hold the treble side completely still and that all the movement of the bellows should be controlled by the left hand.   Bellows and air button control are vital techniques in the early development stage.

And that there should be no weight taken on the right hand that is then free to move quickly and accurately over the keyboard.
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george garside

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Re: Bellows pressure
« Reply #6 on: April 30, 2019, 12:54:01 PM »

to me the bellows are the very heart of the box and in some ways can be likened to what the bow is to the fiddler. 

For students, it is important to emphasise that they hold the treble side completely still and that all the movement of the bellows should be controlled by the left hand.   Bellows and air button control are vital techniques in the early development stage.

And that there should be no weight taken on the right hand that is then free to move quickly and accurately over the keyboard.

I agree and it is for that reason that I prefer and indeed advocate the use of two carefully adjusted shoulder straps

george
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Helena Handcart

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Re: Bellows pressure
« Reply #7 on: April 30, 2019, 01:09:57 PM »


I agree and it is for that reason that I prefer and indeed advocate the use of two carefully adjusted shoulder straps



Oh no... not the old 'one or two straps' debate. Quick everybody run.... ;D >:E
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george garside

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Re: Bellows pressure
« Reply #8 on: April 30, 2019, 01:24:06 PM »

indeed

G ::) >:E
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Dick Rees

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Re: Bellows pressure
« Reply #9 on: April 30, 2019, 04:00:52 PM »

The problem with two straps is that your wings are clipped.  If you're standing and moving around...maybe, but having your arms all tucked in stifles things IMO.

Referring to the "bellows as bow" analogy, as both a box and fiddle player, with neither do I want my arm position limited by a centered and fixed instrument position.
« Last Edit: April 30, 2019, 04:17:45 PM by Dick Rees »
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george garside

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Re: Bellows pressure
« Reply #10 on: April 30, 2019, 05:22:57 PM »

at risk of incurring Helena's wrath  exactly the opposite occurs because the box, being firmly attached to ones body leaves both arms totally free to forever wave is that is what is desired. Me I prefer to play with bellows as tight as possible  and to traverse the keyboard with finger and hand movement  rather than arm movement.

BUt as has been said before there are no rules and aeach to his/her own.

george -ducking for cover!
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Julian S

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Re: Bellows pressure
« Reply #11 on: April 30, 2019, 05:34:27 PM »

There are of course more than a few rather good players who seem to manage quite well with one strap...

J
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george garside

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Re: Bellows pressure
« Reply #12 on: April 30, 2019, 06:49:53 PM »

indeed!
g
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Helena Handcart

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Re: Bellows pressure
« Reply #13 on: April 30, 2019, 06:50:52 PM »

The problem with two straps is that your wings are clipped. 

I find the opposite. With two straps I'm free to move about as much as I like whether standing or sitting - those who have seen me playing for morris will probably know that I move about a lot when playing for dance.

Oh well YMMV and all that.
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george garside

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Re: Bellows pressure
« Reply #14 on: April 30, 2019, 06:54:26 PM »

 ;D
g
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Alan Pittwood

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Re: Bellows pressure
« Reply #15 on: April 30, 2019, 07:02:10 PM »

There are of course more than a few rather good players who seem to manage quite well with one strap...

And that, for beginners, is important, across the whole range of traditional music.   In some cases we are able to see a musician changing over the course of a musical life as new instruments are adopted.

For some, their choice of instrument - size and weight -  and the occasions in which they play will largely determine whether they will stand or sit and use one or two straps.
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Theo

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Re: Bellows pressure
« Reply #16 on: April 30, 2019, 07:11:37 PM »

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Re: Bellows pressure
« Reply #17 on: April 30, 2019, 07:14:35 PM »

I'd just point out that top one-row players - in my neck of the woods at least - certainly use the right hand actively in conjunction with the left to control the bellows, modulate the attack, etc. Those who use no straps and balance the box on their knee, anyway. Bit like playing the fiddle with two bows, really...  ;)
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mselic

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Re: Bellows pressure
« Reply #18 on: April 30, 2019, 07:54:17 PM »

I'd just point out that top one-row players - in my neck of the woods at least - certainly use the right hand actively in conjunction with the left to control the bellows, modulate the attack, etc. Those who use no straps and balance the box on their knee, anyway. Bit like playing the fiddle with two bows, really...  ;)

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Re: Bellows pressure
« Reply #19 on: April 30, 2019, 10:26:48 PM »

You can't actively move the melody end without a thumb strap.

Sweet spot....definitely there with the old three stop and it's steel bronze (brass?) reeds.

Did try putting it across my knee and working both ends. At that point the screw holding the thumb strap pulled out....
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