The accordion bellows are very important in the musical instrument. The bellows are metal reeds that make melody by pressing the bass buttons on the bass side and the piano on the right hand of the instrument.
What accordion bellows are made from
The accordion bellows are made out of metal reeds. These metal reeds can be contrasted and expanded while playing music. Sometimes, the reeds may be covered with leather to prevent rusting of the accordion bellows. The bellows when the accordionist pull and push while pushing against the keyboards on the right and the keys or bass buttons on the left produce sound. The bellows are covered with a cloth fabric in some cases. The cloth covers the leather and cardboard materials.
Types of Accordion
There are different types of accordions, these are the piano accordion and diatonic accordions.
The difference between the two instruments is that the piano accordion has two sides made with different keys. On the right-hand side is a set of the piano keyboard which is played with the fingers on the right hand, except the thumb, and then on the left side is a group of buttons called basses. The bass buttons have different notes. The piano side is used for the treble sound.
The diatonic button accordion is very much different from the piano accordion. The diatonic accordion is also known as the chromatic button accordion because on the right side, it has many buttons in black and white, not all of these buttons can make the accordion bellows produce sound. The bass buttons are few on chromatic accordions or diatonic accordions.
The chromatic button accordions are not as famous as the piano accordion. Also, the sound that comes out of this accordion depends on the direction the bellows are pulled or pushed by the accordionist, the diatonic accordion is indeed one of a kind.
Free bass accordion
Free bass accordions offer an easier system that the stradella system. This instrument is easy for those that want to learn how to play the accordion. The bellows are just like the standard accordions. One side has bass buttons (left side) while the other has a keyboard (right side). Each key represents a different note. The accordionist can play pretty much different kinds of music including popular music, classical music, jazz, etc.
This kind of accordion is also called the standard accordion. It is called standard because it has a complete set of bass buttons on the left-hand side. The standard accordion has 120 buttons on the left side. Any tone is achievable because of the complete number of buttons. Stradella accordions are usually tough to learn it are mostly used by professionals but it does not mean that they cannot be learned by beginners. The bellows are also present on this as any kind of accordion that exists.
This kind of accordion can play any tone that the player wants to make. The good thing about this accordion is that it can be switched between the free and stradella accordion with a lever on it. Just like any accordion, the bellows are also present on it to produce sound. It can come in a chromatic form or a piano form.
What is the best position to be while playing the accordion bellows?
An accordionist can play the accordion bellows or the instrument itself shall we say, in any position that is comfortable to him or her. Most accordionists prefer to sit while playing the accordion bellows and pressing the keyboard on the right with 3-4 fingers and the keys on the left with 4 fingers. If you sit while playing the instrument, you get to place the accordion on your knees and be able to use your stronger hand to play the bass buttons.
Other accordionists may prefer to stand while playing. They use the straps available on the accordion to hold the instrument around their shoulders. Then use whichever hand they prefer to play either the keyboard or bass notes.
Another way is by putting the accordion on a stand. This way, there’s no weight of carrying the instrument on the composer, he or she can simply play the note and keyboard, and still press the bellows.
Other instruments that make use of the bellows
As seen already, accordion bellows are made from metal reeds which allow the instrument to produce sound. There are some other instruments both traditional musical instruments and contemporary. Let us look at them below.
- Cheng – the cheng is a traditional musical instrument that had reeds that help it to produce sound while playing it. It was founded in China in ancient times.
- Concertina – this instrument is a lot like the accordion. Just like the piano accordion, the Concertina has bellows which control the sound that the composer makes while pulling and pushing it. It is made of metal reeds too. In most South American countries this instrument is called the bandoneon.
- Reed organ – This one is like a traditional instrument, but it is not so old. It was made in the 17th century. The reed organ has notes on it, and the bellows are internal. They are pulled by the petals.
- Pipe organ – This instrument is similar to the reed organ, only bigger.
- Portative organ – The portative organ has pipes that are blown by the composer and then the bellows are played one note after the other.
Accordions are not the only equipment that makes use of buttons and bellows. The direction of the bellows usually dictates what kind of melody is produced by the instrument.
How to take care of your accordion bellows
As a performer or accordionist, you should make sure that you take good care of your accordion as a whole, but also the bellows. Your accordion life depends on your bellows, without the bellows, your accordion will be pretty much useless since it cannot produce sound. Though the bass side and keyboard side (treble) are important because they are what make the bellows able to make sound, once the bellows are damaged, your accordion will no longer function properly.
The first two things you must avoid as an accordion owner are:
- Never put your hand in between the reeds. This is so that you avoid bending the bellows. If you do not know how to fix the bellows, make sure that you do not put your hand on the bellows.
- Make sure you do not blow it with air. The accordion bellows should not be blown with air to avoid any form of scattering to the reeds. The reeds are a very delicate part of the accordion. This is why you should take good care of it.
How to repair your accordion bellows
Repairing bellows on the accordion can be something. It will require enough knowledge and skill. We recommend that if you want to learn how to repair bellows in an accordion, you do so with an old dusty one. If you do not have any, you can go down to a music store to get one. The repair can be done with folds of cardboard. Especially if the damage is from the side of the accordion, you can repair it from the inside by sticking a folded cardboard in it. Accordions are usually coated with leather, so what you will have to do is cut the leather, and the place inside it, a folded cardboard in the corner you think is broken.
If placing a folded cardboard in-between the leader does not work, you may try out pins or roll tapes for your repair. The leather can be replaced with another.
Yes, just like the piano accordion, the chromatic accordion has different button numbers. The basses are not just limited to 8 notes. The note on the chromatic or diatonic accordion numbers up to 120. On the bass side, one key has a different note from the other.
The 120 accordion has the single note rows on chords. The chords occupy 4 different columns. They are the major chords, minor, minor 7th, and diminished chords. On the other side, the accordions. Button accordions bellows are played in a different direction by the player so that they can form a melody together with the keys on the right side.
Kind of songs the accordion bellows can play
The accordion bellows can surprisingly play many songs from different musical traditions. Some of these sounds that it produces include the following:
- Popular music
The instrument can be used to produce sounds for any music. Around the 90s, this beautiful instrument was used to create various kinds of songs. The 90s was nicknamed the golden period of the accordion. It is called so because during that time, when world economies crumbled and it seemed like everyone was depressed, the accordion brought back life, and in no time, the beautiful melody produced by the bellows began to be played in theatres.
Most bands had someone who played the accordion. There was even a particular one that won a grammy. The 90s was a time when accordion-playing grew tremendously in jazz, and cajun music, along with other kinds of this music.
- Traditional music
The instrument also plays traditional music. Folk accordionists use the accordion to play traditional songs. Folk musicians most especially use the instrument whether the piano accordion or the button accordion.
The bellows are capable of playing jazz tones. The chord side of notes is used for making songs in this genre. Some musicians in this category are Steve Bach, John Serry Sr., and Bernard Lubart.
- Classical Music
The accordion is mostly believed to be used by folk musicians but it has been shown that even some classical accordionists did exist. Free basses are used to play classical songs, convertor accordions and the stradella accordions too can be used to compose classical songs. Some artists that used this instrument to make music during this time include – Paul Hindemith and John Serry Sr.
- Country music
Many accordionists also play country music with the accordion bellows. Some of the countries that do so include Mexico. We see in most telenovelas where a band is called to perform in restaurants.
Brazil and China, also make country music with the instrument.
Mistakes that can damage your bellows
The accordion is an air instrument. The bellows in the equipment act like the lungs in the human body. What this means is that the bellows produce sound with the air that comes into it when you compress or expand the equipment. Together with pressing the buttons or keys, and pushing or pulling the bellows produce sound. Bellows are very crucial in the accordion but many accordionists tend to ignore some things about it. This section will point out some of the mistakes made by players with this equipment.
The movement of the bellows is very important. While playing the accordion, try not to move it around carelessly because it can break or rupture your accordion bellows. The metal reeds may tear through and damage it. You mustn’t draw it too far apart.
Exposing it to elements
Especially if you have the metal one, you might need to avoid leaving your accordion open. This is because it can damage easily. Aside from the bellows, leaving your accordion for elements to keep touching it is bad. If you want it to last, it is good to keep it in a cool clean place and regularly clean it. You can perhaps get an accordion bag or case to keep your equipment neat.
Dropping the accordion on the floor
Leaving your accordion on the ground is another mistake some accordionists make. If you do so you expose your accordion to dust. Also if it is dropped carelessly on the ground, it can spoil the bellows. What you should do instead is to get a stand. A stand correctly holds your instrument preventing it from being damaged.
Mistakes accordionists make while using the bellows
This has to do with opening and closing the bellows while performing. There is a format in which the accordion bellows should be opened and closed while you play. Doing so in a proper manner will allow the tone of your accordion to be pleasant. Notice how it opens, not giving too much gap at the bottom, but it has a gap at the top. This must continue to be followed by the player to allow proper melody from the accordion bellows while pressing the button. If you get this wrong, the sound that will come out of the instrument will not be rhythmic at all. You will most times be on the off-key.
The movement and pressing of the keys on the accordion are like breathing in and then out. To get the proper rhythm, you want to notice when you press the buttons and open or close the bellows.
Moving the bellows in a structured manner
Most players move the bellows in an unstructured manner because of how many buttons are already on the accordion. It is understandable, but it is important that you should know when to move the bellows so that the sounds you make are in the right tone. Make sure you do not panic and with continuous practice, you will be able to get a hang of the structural movement of the bellows. There is a method that accordionists take to structure their bellow movement. They assume that with every movement, there is a thought in their mind. This can be helpful in moving the bellows in a structured manner.
Changing the direction of the bellows
Some people might think that it is easy to change the direction. Though it is true that it is easy, most plays change the direction without even caring. The bad thing about changing without caring is that the tone you expect to hear might not be what is produced. There is a technique for changing the accordions bellows direction and it has to deal with when you press the buttons on the accordion.
Are there wood bellows?
Yes, some bellows instead of metal reeds are made of wood.
Where can I get bellows equipment?
If you want to shop for the bellows materials to keep take care of it, you may shop online, or go to a store to shop. A local shop might have what you need to repair the accordion bellows.
How does the accordion produce sound?
The equipment is air-based, so whenever the composer wants to make the accordion wants to make noise, it needs air pressure. This air pressure is generated by pressing buttons on each side of the accordion and moving the bellows. If it’s the piano accordion, one side will have buttons with notes, while the other will have piano keys. If it’s the chromatic one, one side features a pressable button, and the other will have buttons with musical notes.
Instruments with bellows are air-based.
How long will the bellows work?
The bellows are well made and designed to make them last for a long time. It combines many materials that make it durable. Without repairs, good accordion bellows should last more than 17 years. This will also be possible if the owner takes good care of it. That means proper maintenance is necessary on the part of the owner.
How much does it cost to fix an accordion bellows?
If you want to take the instrument to a repairer, it might cost quite a lot. The reason is that the bellows have some features like some valves on them which makes it move as it does. The tiny valves can call off after a long period of using the equipment. If you want to replace it at a repair shop, it should cost you about $600-$1400. In some cases, it may even cost more.
Is it worth it to fix an old accordion?
You might own an old accordion that is spoilt and you’re just wondering if it is worth it to repair it. The truth is if the note side and the keyboard are working fine, perhaps, only the bellows have a problem, it is worth fixing. As long as it’s not missing any of its scales, you can decide to revive it.
How do I clean the bellows?
You can head to a shop around you and get a soft brush if you do not have one. You can use the soft brush to lightly dust the bellows. What you are trying to do is to remove dust from or prevent dust from settling on it. Dust on the accordion bellows can be dangerous for the cloth fabric. Dust makes cloth fabrics wear and tear easily.
What is a half note?
A half note is played when the accordion button isn’t pressed to a full stretch. If you want the sound coming out of the instrument to be quick, do not pull the bellows too far apart while pressing the buttons. A half note is good especially if you are a beginner.
How do you know you have hit a different tone?
A tone on the accordion is known when you press the treble and bass buttons together with moving the bellows. An accordion tone determines the kind of sound that comes out of the instrument while it plays. Chords and the buttons on the first two rows dictate the tone or melody.
Circle of fifths on the accordion
This has to deal with the fingering process or method of the note on accordions. There is a way by which the note on the buttons is arranged. In a circular manner. From the C major usually, to the chords, and then back to the C major.
Accordion buttons are important, but so are the bellows. Without the bellows, the buttons will pretty much be useless. Many accordionists do not take care of the bellows and in the end, they damage fast. When pressing the bellows, it is good to do so lightly so that you do not damage it. You can get some kits that you can use to clean up your accordion bellows time after time.
To keep accordions safe, you can get a stand on which you can keep them. Doing so will prevent it from any accident that might happen if it is on the floor, plus it will be very visible for anyone to see. You can also protect your accordion by getting a case. The case will help keep the instrument from elements.
My introduction to accordion music was by way of Zydeco and Tex-Mex music. Once I got my hands on my very own squeezebox, I was hooked. Let me tell you, playing the accordion is every bit as fun as listening to it. Thanks for joining me in my exploration of the awesome world of accordions and all its amazing versions!