Accordion/Operating the Bellows

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The bellows are the engine for making the sound in an accordion. They are the lungs of the instrument - depending on how hard the bellows are pulled, the sound will be softer or louder. A well-maintained accordion can have a good dynamic range from pianissimo to around a forte. When totally stationary, the instrument is silent. With accordions that also have inbuilt electronic synthesizers, the electronic sound will continue as long as keys are depressed (but this is beyond the scope of this book).

The bellows should be operated with your left hand. Bellows can be somewhat fragile, so don't pull them too hard or too far out. When pulling or pushing, avoid jerky motions and move them cleanly.

Eventually you'll need to change direction and move the bellows back in to keep playing. This can be a bit tricky to do correctly. When changing direction, try to move smoothly yet quickly so avoid a break in the melody or make the dynamics change suddenly. Resist the temptation to jerk the accordion. It's advisable not to pull the bellows out too far, because it's uncomfortable for the left hand to be extended like that and it affects accuracy.

If you're finding you have to move your bellows a lot, check to see if they aren't leaking by letting the bellows fall open on your lap without touching them or depressing any keys. If they move quickly (or you hear a "whoosh" noise), there's likely a leak, which means the instrument consumes more air than is necessary. (If they just creep out slowly, that's okay. Most accordions naturally let out very small amounts of air.) Find a reputable accordion repairman and have it fixed - you can't play properly with leaking bellows!