Fingering on CBA? Need help!
#1
Sad 
Hello my fellow accordionists, I have a question.

I'm learning to play the CBA for a year now and I'm doing it by myself without a teacher. 

Recently I've realized that I never use my thumb and pinky while pressing the buttons with the right hand.
I'm seeing many accordionists playing with all five fingers and I'm getting really worried that I've learnt it completely wrong. 
I've now tried to use my thumb and pinky more often but most of the time I just don't know when to use them and continue to only use the other tree fingers. 
I really don't know what to do now... 

Please Help!
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#2
I'm self taught too...at first i rested the thumb on side of keyboard and used only three fingers...you can get away with plenty tunes like this...later on you my find it easier to stretch alittle further with your pinkie...and as you develop later you may well find your thumb adding some bassier tones....i wouldn't worry to much if you're competent and happy with the tunes youre playing...just see it as natural progression....
other than that i found the Medard Ferrero tutor book a great guide
good luck...and most importantly ...enjoy the learning curve...
Right or wrong make it strong...when in doubt miss it out...
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#3
(13-05-2019, 08:06 PM)Koala Wrote: Hello my fellow accordionists, I have a question.

I'm learning to play the CBA for a year now and I'm doing it by myself without a teacher. 

Recently I've realized that I never use my thumb and pinky while pressing the buttons with the right hand.
I'm seeing many accordionists playing with all five fingers and I'm getting really worried that I've learnt it completely wrong. 
I've now tried to use my thumb and pinky more often but most of the time I just don't know when to use them and continue to only use the other tree fingers. 
I really don't know what to do now... 

Please Help!

Hi,

You don't say what type of music you play. It may be that you've watched players in your home area and copied them. 

A lot of players when playing folk styles on CBA don't bother with the thumb, and this Swiss guy doesn't make much use of the pinky either, if at all. His fingering is adequate for the style of music he plays, which will probably be familiar to you. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fN8_w5dlfAs

If you're watching "modern" French players like Galliano they're making jazz chords, where use of the thumb and pinky makes everything easier. Most modern CBA teachers will insist that you use all five fingers of your right hand, but here is a clip featuring another Swiss player, sadly now deceased. I appreciate the music is not from your part of Switzerland, but Rene Dessibourg never used his thumb any time I watched him play, and I don't think he bothered too much about what other people thought of his technique. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfGIrtFmOV8&t=37s

Depending on the styles you want to play, you may benefit from learning to use all five fingers, but Aimable Pluchard, the second most prolific French recording accordionist after Verchuren, played his entire repertoire using the same three fingers that you currently use. He wasn't a very technical player, but was possessed of that "X factor" that sold the albums. Verchuren was also a three finger virtuoso, but he played B system. Neither Verchuren nor Aimable were held in very high regard by the French accordion cognoscenti, but they probably sold more records between them than all the other accordionists in the world put together. Verchuren alone sold about 75 million records, and they stopped counting Aimable's total after he had recorded no less 10,000 different titles, featuring his own "three finger" version of music from all over the world. Most non-French types will have never heard of him, as he died in 1997. A true entertainer, even if he was deemed to be a player of inferior ability by the men in suits and bow ties.   

Django Rheinhardt managed the guitar with two fingers of his left hand from the age of 18. Joe Rossi couldn't play the accordion with 5 fingers as he only had 4 after losing one in WW2. The list goes on.

Just play as you are at the moment, and don't worry whether it's right or wrong.
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#4
I mainly use my thumb on the outside row (C row on C system.)
I think my main worry is that I use it too much!

I guess the essence of it is that the thumb plays a note and the other fingers can "go past it" either up or down giving the option of legato fingering without jumping.

I think it also helps with keeping the right hand fingers pointing straight across the keyboard, perpendicular to the rows, without the wrist being twisted up or down.
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#5
As others have said you can do a lot with just 3-finger technique but it’s worth remembering that the 3 fingers only, thumb on the side, goes right back to the days when there were only 3 rows. There is no right way - only what works for you.
That said, the other two digits do open up the options.
Here are a couple of uses you might try:
Start a scale with the thumb and see how the other fingers fall
Play a chord/arpeggio with the root (eg: C ) using the thumb and see the wider stretch you have. Also, this leaves the ring finger available for a 7 chord (cegBb) or the octave with the little finger.
Once you get the habit of the gap, it’s possible to use on the next (inner) two rows as well.
I often use thumb for a run down from/up to the root (eg: cba,abc) and anywhere else where it feels handy.
After years of different layouts I still find the little finger is the least agile and so it’s best used where stretch is more important than speed.
Richard
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#6
(14-05-2019, 09:57 AM)dunlustin Wrote: As others have said you can do a lot with just 3-finger technique but it’s worth remembering that the 3 fingers only, thumb on the side, goes right back to the days when there were only 3 rows. There is no right way - only what works for you.
That said, the other two digits do open up the options.
Here are a couple of uses you might try:
Start a scale with the thumb and see how the other fingers fall
Play a chord/arpeggio with the root (eg: C ) using the thumb and see the wider stretch you have. Also, this leaves the ring finger available for a 7 chord (cegBb) or the octave with the little finger.
Once you get the habit of the gap, it’s possible to use on the next (inner) two rows as well.
I often use thumb for a run down from/up to the root (eg: cba,abc) and anywhere else where it feels handy.
After years of different layouts I still find the little finger is the least agile and so it’s best used where stretch is more important than speed.

I might be able to help you on this.
If you pm me .
Godgi
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#7
(14-05-2019, 09:07 AM)TomBR Wrote: I mainly use my thumb on the outside row (C row on C system.)
I think my main worry is that I use it too much!

I guess the essence of it is that the thumb plays a note and the other fingers can "go past it" either up or down giving the option of legato fingering without jumping.

I think it also helps with keeping the right hand fingers pointing straight across the keyboard, perpendicular to the rows, without the wrist being twisted up or down.

Hi Tom,

You've obviously noticed that adherents of the "no thumb" school end up with their wrists and fingers in uncomfortable looking positions. If they started young enough they'll be used to that, but those of us who started playing in relative maturity can struggle. 

Eric Bouvelle spent several years under the tuition of Maurice Larcange, and is probably one of the few modern players who still glues his thumb to the edge of the keyboard. Players from the very north of France like Larcange were split between B and C system, and B system is apparently easier to perfect without requiring the thumb. It just so happened that those of them who chose C system followed the same principle. What cemented that into the head of old school players was that Medard Ferrero, probably the most respected of the old French teachers, made a big issue out of telling students that if they used their thumbs they wouldn't acquire such a good technique. For the early French musette style, and the other typical accordion compositions of the day, that was actually true, and a lot of the "classics" of the French musette genre are actually easier to play without the thumb. When the thumb is introduced it is often necessary to use fingering which can be awkward at times (to someone who learned to play without it). 

Your mention of fingers at right angles to the keyboard follows the Italian teaching methods as advocated by Anzaghi et al, although Italians like Wolmer Beltrami, a classical wizard, and Gigi Stok, opted to play without their thumbs. Beltrami preferred not to wear shoulder straps either, but I don't think many people could have justified criticising his methodology. The fact he also played with his bass buttons mounted on the side cover of the bass side was neither here nor there. 

At least one German CBA teacher was down to three fingers left on his right hand and even wrote a method book for people who were possessed of all 5 fingers!  His name now escapes me, but apparently he had to play the box upside down.

Guys like Django Rheinhardt are proof that playing music is not so much about doing things correctly as to being able to apply oneself to the task in hand. The loss of the odd finger or two can be overcome. 

To illustrate my point, this guy, Aimable, had all five fingers but his thumb and pinky are redundant. Try and play the tune the way he does using whichever fingering you like and see how you get on. He developed a unique playing style involving bellows control and button trills. Nobody I know of has been able to replicate it. Shame about the tuning of his accordion, but he wowed them in the days when people liked that kind of stuff. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZCShQtbBXw
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#8
(14-05-2019, 10:33 AM)maugein96 Wrote: At least one German CBA teacher was down to three fingers left on his right hand and even wrote a method book for people who were possessed of all 5 fingers!  His name now escapes me, but apparently he had to play the box upside down.

You may be talking about Rudolf Würthner?

He ordered a CBA to be played upside down (it has the keyboard and bass side mirrored so with the accordion upside down the keyboard side would still have the low notes at the top and the high notes at the bottom).

Regarding fingering on CBA: there are many "right" ways as the keyboard offers alternative fingerings, especially using all five rows. In older times many people never used the thumb but nowadays every teacher will teach you to play with all five fingers (on the keyboard side). People tend to use the little finger less because it is weaker, shorter (makes it harder to reach some buttons) and often not as well trained either.
Paul De Bra (not Debra...)
http://www.de-bra.nl
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#9
(14-05-2019, 12:52 PM)debra Wrote: He ordered a CBA to be played upside down (it has the keyboard and bass side mirrored so with the accordion upside down the keyboard side would still have the low notes at the top and the high notes at the bottom).

Regarding fingering on CBA: there are many "right" ways as the keyboard offers alternative fingerings, especially using all five rows. In older times many people never used the thumb but nowadays every teacher will teach you to play with all five fingers (on the keyboard side). People tend to use the little finger less because it is weaker, shorter (makes it harder to reach some buttons) and often not as well trained either.

Hi Paul,

Yes I do believe that was him. Did he effectively play the treble with his left hand in that case?

Here in Scotland, and probably throughout the rest of the UK, it seems to have always been five fingers across five rows, in the manner you mention. 

For reasons unknown the old French school preferred students to work in developing strength in the pinky, rather than make habitual use of the thumb. 

Even although I taught myself to play using the French system, in thirty odd years of playing I never really was able to build the required strength in my little finger, so I caved in and got the thumb onto the keyboard. I don't use it as much as most, but it still gets called in when things get a bit tricky. 

I've never seen a modern C system CBA tutor book which doesn't call for the use of all five right hand fingers. Some of the old French musette type sheet music had suggested fingering, which often made prolific use of three note chords using fingers 3,4, and 5, with finger two being free to commence the next run, and finger one being given the "thumbs down", and kept off altogether. 

At a rough guess the three finger technique was carried over from the days of the conversion from diatonic to "systeme mixte", then to CBA in France, and nobody bothered to explore the use of any other fingering system until the music became rather more advanced. By the early 70s every newly published French method advocated use of all five fingers, although they still stuck with 4 rows only at the tuition stage. The issue was that even then a lot of tutors still swore by the then old fashioned Ferrero method, even although Raymond Gazave, a "rival" classical professor and teacher, had identified the advantage of using all five fingers. 

The arguments for and against the best CBA fingering will probably remain with us for the foreseeable future. Most of us end up just working things out to suit our capabilities and limitations. In my own case I eventually managed the treble side by use of a combination of just about everything I'd read on the matter, although I do still find that fast right hand chord changes can be problematic.

I wish somebody would publish a concise method on what to do about the bass side, but even if they did I don't have another 30 years left to make a decent job of playing the bass.
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#10
(13-05-2019, 08:06 PM)Koala Wrote: ...... and I'm getting really worried that I've learnt it completely wrong. 

That's the great thing about CBA, there is generally no "completely wrong" as shown by the fact that there is no agreement on what is right!

To help us help you with more specifics - which system are you? B or C
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#11
(14-05-2019, 02:42 PM)maugein96 Wrote: Yes I do believe that was him. Did he effectively play the treble with his left hand in that case?
Yes he effectively played the treble with his left hand and because it was a mirror image of a normal CBA he could use the exact same fingering.
Paul De Bra (not Debra...)
http://www.de-bra.nl
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#12
(14-05-2019, 04:56 PM)debra Wrote:
(14-05-2019, 02:42 PM)maugein96 Wrote: Yes I do believe that was him. Did he effectively play the treble with his left hand in that case?
Yes he effectively played the treble with his left hand and because it was a mirror image of a normal CBA he could use the exact same fingering.

I found a few photos of him playing a Hohner 4 row. The bass side had been altered somehow. I don't know what the issue was with his right hand, as there is a photo of him writing a composition with his right hand. Possibly fingertips missing. 

Talking of the unorthodox, here is Raul Barboza playing the Argentinian version of what the French stole and called it La Foule. I prefer the Argentinian versions, such as here. 

B system chromatics are played by a few in Argentina, and those who were taught by Barboza also only use the right shoulder strap (well almost). No thumb allowed, but it is B system. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g9zC5PhIMHU

The box is either a Piermaria he brought back from France, or the South American equivalent Pampiana. Don't know why the brand name is taped over. Probably because of advertising policies. The "international" bass buttons arranged 4/2 suggest it is a Pampiana.
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#13
(14-05-2019, 02:58 PM)TomBR Wrote:
(13-05-2019, 08:06 PM)Koala Wrote: ...... and I'm getting really worried that I've learnt it completely wrong. 

That's the great thing about CBA, there is generally no "completely wrong" as shown by the fact that there is no agreement on what is right!

To help us help you with more specifics - which system are you? B or C

Hey TomBR

I'm playing the C system.
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