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Author Topic: Bass buttons and air button  (Read 3886 times)

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Ellie

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Bass buttons and air button
« on: September 05, 2008, 01:30:46 PM »

Hi all, another stupid question from me. I have just discovered a fatal error in not using the bass button at all for the first 6 months - now when I'm playing them, I find it nigh on impossible to keep my thumb anywhere near the air button. If I try and use it whilst playing the bass then my brain has a bit of a fit ("what the hell are you trying to to DO?!?") and everything stops working, even the R hand!!

In hindsight, I can see that keeping my fingers at least on the bass buttons from the start would have helped because then at least my hand position would have been right. Do I just need to re-train my left hand to this position?

Also (while I'm asking silly questions...), what's the general opinion on use of the air button during tunes? I'm trying to train myself out of using it in between phrases because it sounds awful - is it just practise to fit in a small burst of air during the required push/draw note, or is there a cunning trick to remembering to take the thumb off the air button again quick enough?

I've probably just answered all my own questions there, but any advice from the venerable sages that lurk hereabouts welcome :)

Matthew B

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Re: Bass buttons and air button
« Reply #1 on: September 05, 2008, 02:14:55 PM »

Ellie,

I doubt you're stupid, and I'm certainly no sage (I'll discretely pass over the "venerable" bit), but I'll have a go at an answer anyway. 

I have always found that adding any new thing into my playing causes a neurological train-wreck of some kind, accompanied by immediate paralysis.  Thus talking (as in trying to answer the question "what key are you in"), switching tunes, singing, and most recently foot-percussion (by far the hardest yet) all cause the whole enterprise to halt in its tracks.  The most effective solution I have found to all of these problems so far is to pick something simple and then practice it at a snail's pace.  I can then think through where all my limbs, digits, vocal chords and so on have to be at any given time, and pin down the hard part, whatever it is, and practice it.  Then I can gradually speed it up until I like the way it sounds.

As for the air button, I find that you can often sneak in a quick gasp of air to get the bellows where you need them while playing along with the tune.  If you get it right you can keep things rolling right along and pop it open as you play.  The bellows move a bit faster, and you're set.  This said, I really like the sound of the air button itself at times.  If you get a chance to listen to Tony Hall's CD "Mr Universe" there's a great tune there called "Slow Hornpipe".  It starts with a huge wheezing gasp of air at the beginning, and then again periodically throughout.  Brilliant.  It's the melodeon equivalent of that funny squawk-and-drone that bagpipers make at the beginning of a tune. 
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Québécois

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Re: Bass buttons and air button
« Reply #2 on: September 05, 2008, 04:10:12 PM »

<...> I find it nigh on impossible to keep my thumb anywhere near the air button. <...>
Sometimes the air button location might be a bit of a problem depending on your hand size and playing position. Some people even have the button re-located in extreme cases.

As for its use, I think it's a matter of practice. While playing a tune we can study the phrasings and see how much bellows we need for each of them. For example, when there is a long sequence of notes on the push, we then  need to make sure that the previous part played pulling will grab all the air required.

Learning to play while using the air valve to get air in or out without killing the sound can be done using simple phrases at first, just as a skill to acquire and include in your playing progressively. After a while it will become a reflex.
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Re: Bass buttons and air button
« Reply #3 on: September 05, 2008, 04:33:06 PM »

When you can use the air button is very often dictated by the tune, sometimes it's unavoidable to do it where it's not noticable.  However, I advocate learning the bass and air buttons at the same time as the tune: this may be slower to start with but benefits later when you don't need to unleard how to play the right hand and re do it to fit into the requirements of the basses and air button.

I find that (and I've got small hands too) that I rarely use the thumb on the air button,  more usually it's the fleshy ball of the thumb, which enable my hand to be far enough through to easily reach the inner row of bass buttons.  (I admit I play a tommy but this works for me too on normal sized boxes).
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Re: Bass buttons and air button
« Reply #4 on: September 05, 2008, 05:01:09 PM »

Do I just need to re-train my left hand to this position?

Probably  :(

I have fairly large hands (and everything else  :)) and ended up modifying the air buttons on my Hohners to move it down a bit, simple job to just elongate the hole whence it pokes from the bass end and then bend the lever a bit. Personally much prefer the Castagnari/Saltarelle type of button that you push in rather than down.

As to playing it, you really need to play it at the same time as the basses wherever possible, mind you I still have much more trouble using the air button to close the bellows during minor key tunes than I do using it to open the bellows in major tunes????

Ellie

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Re: Bass buttons and air button
« Reply #5 on: September 05, 2008, 07:26:18 PM »

I have large hands too  ::) (part of the problem?!) Have just had a quick play trying to keep all fingers ready to play the basses and using the air button - it's hard keeping it there, but I'll keep at it! I suspect I also don't put my hand quite far enough through the bass strap, which is perhaps where part of the problem is now that I'm putting it further through to reach all the basses.

Lots of useful advice there - thanks muchly  :)

george garside

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Re: Bass buttons and air button
« Reply #6 on: September 06, 2008, 10:48:35 AM »

I have large hands too  ::) (part of the problem?!) Have just had a quick play trying to keep all fingers ready to play the basses and using the air button - it's hard keeping it there, but I'll keep at it! I suspect I also don't put my hand quite far enough through the bass strap, which is perhaps where part of the problem is now that I'm putting it further through to reach all the basses.

Lots of useful advice there - thanks muchly  :)


 bass strap needs to be roughly where your watch would be if you were wearing it to enable fingers to come over bass in a U shape so bass buttons are pressed with finger ends rather than finger sides.  probably simpler to just use 1st & 2nd fingers on bass at least to begin with, ( I normally only use those 2 on melodeon bass as its easy to reach all 8 bass, on the other hand I use fingers 2 & 3  for bass & major chords on stradella leaving1st finger for minors & 7ths.

a useful way of planning where to take in (or out) air is to get used to only using it when there is a long note in the direction you require to move the bellows ( or 2 or 3 shorter notes simultaneously occuring in the same direction) this avoids 'random jabbing in utter panic!'.  Press air button fully & almost immediately release it fully as keeping it pressed after the bellows change direction, even for a fraction of a second, can result in losing what you have gained so to speak.  It is usually possible to get 2 to 4 inches of quick bellows extension by this method, the tune being kept going by slightly increasing the amount of pull or push when the air button is pressed so the box breathes & plays at hte same time.  Anticipation & forward planning is important  as some tunes have (on DG box) passages with many consequitive blow notes - you need to know when this will occur & using the method described extend the belllows in stages prior to the long blowy bit, returning the bellows to a more manageable length for better bellows control thereafter.

hope this helps

george
« Last Edit: September 06, 2008, 11:27:47 AM by Theo »
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Hello

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Re: Bass buttons and air button
« Reply #7 on: September 06, 2008, 03:47:42 PM »

All good advice.

I find that you really need to learn a tune with both hands together, as what bass chords you want to play often dictate the bellows direction and the row on which the correponding melody note(s) is played. This seems dauting at first, but do it very very slowly and a bar at a time, gradually building up. Once you've got the fingering then keep playing it over and over to really get those neurons sparking.

Personally, I think the air button differs from the other buttons in that you rarely depress it fully (there are exceptions of course). Eventually you'll find that you are continually making small adjustments to the bellows using varying amounts of air button -toning it much as you would an accelerator on a car.  With practice this will enable you to control the extension of the bellows with no audible effect.
At first you'll have to plan where to use it and its operation will be a bit crude, but eventually you'll sense when the bellows need adjusting and it'll become second nature.
It's worth noting that air button use is affected by the speed of the tune. If you're playing things very slowly (which you will be when learning) then you'll need a lot more air button than when you play the tune up to speed.
Also the size of your instrument may affect how much air button you need. Generally those with a smaller bellows capacity require more use of the air button that those with a larger capacity.
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Ellie

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Re: Bass buttons and air button
« Reply #8 on: September 09, 2008, 08:19:01 PM »

Quote from: george garside
bass strap needs to be roughly where your watch would be if you were wearing it to enable fingers to come over bass in a U shape so bass buttons are pressed with finger ends rather than finger sides.

Blimey George, you must wear your watch differently to me!! I can reach all the buttons if I have the hand through so the strap is just at the end of the thumb joint :)

Quote
probably simpler to just use 1st & 2nd fingers on bass at least to begin with

Too late! Already using 2nd and 3rd fingers for the G basses, and 1st and 2nd for the Ds. Think I need to practise some of those bass runs Theo was talking about...

Still struggling with the 'brain train wreck' syndrome, but will keep at it....thanks :) I seem to have reached the stage where I'd really like someone to tell me exactly what I'm doing wrong and what I should be practising (I tend to end up just playing tunes rather than actually working on improving my playing), so it's all a bit frustrating  :-\

Matthew B

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Re: Bass buttons and air button
« Reply #9 on: September 09, 2008, 08:32:59 PM »

Quote
I seem to have reached the stage where I'd really like someone to tell me exactly what I'm doing wrong
Well this is the easy question.  If you search through the opinions of this forum's many contributors you will find that everything you are doing is wrong. 
Quote
and what I should be practising (I tend to end up just playing tunes rather than actually working on improving my playing), so it's all a bit frustrating. 
But you can take some comfort from the fact that everything you are doing is also right.  Including this. 
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Rob2Hook

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Re: Bass buttons and air button
« Reply #10 on: September 11, 2008, 10:53:05 AM »

OK, so I sit down to practice...  and let's assume that by some miracle I don't doze off.  Often, I can't even remember which tune/phrase I wanted to improve by the time I've picked up a box and slipped on the straps.  Playing tunes is what its all about, so that's never wasted time.  Once into playing mode, and after a number of tunes have flowed unbid over the keyboard, I remember why I picked up the box and probably also where I should have been by ten minutes ago!  Strangely that never includes doing the washing up or hoovering!

Just enjoy!

Rob.
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joe

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Re: Bass buttons and air button
« Reply #11 on: September 11, 2008, 12:13:43 PM »

Probably a useless addition to the mix but I seem to use the air button subconsciously now, sometimes I have it pressed for long passages as it just seems to make the tune flow, reducing the 'clunkiness' somehow. Itslike the bass, if you practise on a few tunes then you will find yourself using the air button more often in other tunes.
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Ellie

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Re: Bass buttons and air button
« Reply #12 on: September 11, 2008, 01:50:06 PM »

Good to know I'm not the only one! Last night yielded success, along with sore left arm and hand, and tired brain  :D And an hour and half when I should have been tidying the house spent playing - ooops  ;D Also the discovery that actually playing bass buttons with all 4 fingers is actually easier than with two - not what I was expecting at all! Haven't actually had to sellotape my thumb down yet to make it stay...

The no right way and no wrong is singularly the most wonderful AND the most frustrating thing about the melodeon - having the right frame of mind helps rather a lot :) Thanks again all!

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Re: Bass buttons and air button
« Reply #13 on: September 11, 2008, 01:57:36 PM »

At least the Erica has nice rounded off edges, unlike the pokerwork. Its a bit easier on the wrist.
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