Playing chords











          One of the assets of the concertina is its ability to play chords and polyphonic music. Although
          playing chords is relatively easy on a concertina, it is important to pay attention to the basic rules
          regarding fingering.

          Never use the same finger for two adjacent notes in a legato phrase
Perhaps the most important rule of any keyboard instrument is: Never use the same finger for two adjacent
          notes in a legato phrase
. Although it is tempting sometimes because the alternative is often much more
          difficult, and many so called 'good' players do it.  Just remember it is almost always audible for
          the trained ear and it sounds very amateuristic.  
          The reason for this is very simple. When you play  4 note chords in succession, you actually play
          four melodic lines at the same time. If you would, in the example below, use the same finger, for
          two adjacent chords, for instance finger 2 (middle finger) for the 'f' and 'c' in the first and second
          chord , you will disrupt the phrasing of the melodic line.


           This example consists of 4 separate melodies:

          The phrasing of this example is indicated by the slurs. The composer of this piece, Giulio
          Regondi, wanted these chords to be played in groups of two. The standard notation for this
          is a legato slur connection two chords. The chords not connected by a slur should not be played
          legato. The effect can be compared with a comma in a text.


          Bellows phrasing
          Never change bellows direction while playing a legato phrase. In this case, don't change the
          bellows between the chords under a slur.  Playing chords on a concertina requires a lot of air.
          Chances are you can only play a few large chords on one bellows direction. Therefore it is best
          to play chords with bellows phrase movement (see Bellows technique 1: Basic control and
          movement). An other advantage of this technique is that you can phrase more accurate than with
          periodical bellows movement, because you stay within the controllable part of the bellows
          movement. The bellows phrase technique can be compared to bowing on string instruments,
          dividing the music in 'words' rather than 'sentences' as with periodical bellows movement. In this
          example just change direction between slurs.

          Listen to the openings measures of  "Thou art Gone from my gaze" for solo baritone concertina
          composed in 1872
by Giulio Regondi. This piece consist of an introduction and theme with two
          variations on a popular Victorian song. The introduction printed below, is a good example of
          playing chords on a concertina. Although it is meant for a baritone concertina, you can also play it
          on a treble (fingering is identical). The sound file continues after the introduction with the first
          measures of the theme (not printed).

          The instrument you hear is a brass reeded Lachenal baritone built in the early 1890s

Sound file     See the instrument


          Technical advise
          Make sure you start with the bellows slightly open in the "V" position. Press down all the notes
          of the chords at the same time. Pay attention to evenness of the chords, they should all be the
          same volume and not get softer at the end of a chord because of shortness of 'air' . Make sure
          you don't hear bellows changes. Practice difficult chords and jumps (e.g. measure 4) separate.
          Play the low 'G' in measure 7 with finger 4 (little finger). Before you start practicing  take the
          time to mark the fingering first. If you solve fingering problems before you start it can save you
          a lot of time and frustration later.