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In this section we explore some of the techniques which result in the
characteristic sound of the instrument. Our examination is by no means exhaustive.
The best source for new techniques is to listen and watch good players!
Note: The sheet music images are shown on this page at reduced
definition. For sharper detail, please use your browser to view the image
Ascending and Descending Bellows Reversal
While long runs (especially on the draw) are a
large part of playing the three-row, there is a lot to be said
for simply playing the instrument like a melodeon, that is, walking
up and down one row reversing the bellows when necessary. This
is more difficult on the three-row than on the smaller instruments
such as the two-row and one-row, but it is still practical.
The thing to remember is that the bellows hand is
imparting the impelling motion. The fingers don't exactly piston
down on the buttons; to a large extent they respond as the bellows
movement makes the right side rock, kind of like a surfer paddling
about on his or her board responding to the wave motion underneath the
Double stops are two notes played at once in a passage.
There are two ways to play passages consisting of double stops:
Here are two examples of the two techniques (click
on the image for a larger view of the music):
- Indulging in bellows reversals.
- Avoiding bellows reversals where possible.
More complex chords can be handled likewise. In a simple
pop song, melody-led triads, that is, placing the melody note at
the top of the appropriate inversion of the triad of the harmonizing
chord, can be very effective.
Trills, Flutters, and Staccato
The characteristic trills, flutters and staccato
are produced, again, primarily by the bellows motion. The left
hand is shaking the bellows to impart the pressure and also some of
the motion of the right side resulting in button presses.
- Trills are performed by pairs of fingers with the bellows accenting
- Flutters are performed by rapidly press-and-partial-release of
the button(s) with the fingers catching the motion of the fingerboard
as the bellows rocks same.
- Staccato accent is heavily bellows dependent. Basically, you are
rocketing the valve closed against pressure.
The player's technique for executing all three ornaments can
be enhanced by considering the possibility of swapping fingers on one
button. That is, if you are going to trill back and forth between two
notes which sound on the same button, switching between two fingers
as you rock the bellows back and forth takes advantage of the fact that
it's more rythmic to switch between fingers than to try to flutter one
finger. The same applies in general to playing melody using bellows reversal
instead of long draw runs.
There is a nearly infinite variety of other figures which suggest
themselves to the player. For instance:
All these techniques are illustrated in the
-- click on the image for a larger view of the music.
- Alternate thirds press and draw on a single row: If your
fingers are on three consecutive buttons starting from a root note, e.g.,
your first, second and third fingers resting on press, you can play
the first two press, then draw the first two, then press the second pair,
and back again, all without moving the second finger.
- Boogie-Woogie walkup shifting rows for the flatted seventh
: A boogie-woogie / blueslike walk up to the flat seventh can be achieved
from the same position on the I row, resting on , with press on all
three, then a draw on the second two F - A, then take the second
two up to the IV row draw for the G - Bb, then back.
- Arpeggiating by bellows reversal: Rendering a chord a single
note in one bellows direction followed by a pair of notes in the opposite
direction (or variations of this technique) can be very effective,
- playing a draw D on the I row followed by the press pair
F - A on the IV row.
- playing draw F - A on the I row followed by press hi
C on the same row.
- Sixths and tenths: Tenth interval and sixth interval
ascents and descents, possibly trilled, can be very pretty and are easily
achieved on the instrument.
- Ascending and descending turnarounds: You can ascend and
descend within a range of notes reversing the bellows at the turnaround
- In all figures which involve bellows reversal: The correct
technique is to shape the figure by the rythmic (possibly asymmetric,
e.g., 2-and-1 or 3-and-2) bellows motion, hitting the key(s) at the right
In summary: Discover! Invent! Improvise!
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