Left hand issues - contributions welcome
#1
Accordions can be physically challenging to play correctly. I would appreciate any positive comment and criticism on the following section, which may appear in a new book:
==============================================================
Playing the chromatic left keyboard presents physical challenges different from those encountered in
playing the right keyboard. The correct positioning of the right hand, with the wrist flat in line with the
forearm makes for a relative ease in playing and doesn’t change with respect to the movement of the
bellows.

In contrast, the fingers of the left hand must curl over the left keyboard, comparable to the positioning
of the fingers in playing a string instrument such as a violin or a guitar. Additionally, the left arm has
the responsibility for moving the bellows.

The player needs to concentrate on keeping the left elbow down with the inside of the forearm flat
against the panel on the left side of the bayan, particularly when closing the bellows. The player’s
natural tendency when closing the bellows is to lift the elbow and move the forearm to an angle with
the wrist, so that the heel of the hand applies pressure to the left panel. Changing the orientation of
the forearm and the wrist while closing the bellows alters the angle of attack of the fingers to the keys
different from the angle of attack when opening the bellows.

An incorrect orientation strains the shoulder joint, and can lead to early degeneration of the shoulder
joint and rotator cuff muscular complex. Surgical repair of the rotator cuff often needs at least 3
months of physical therapy later. After any shoulder surgery the use of the upper extremity isn't
returned to "normal" function until 6–12 months after the procedure.

Carpal tunnel syndrome affects the median nerve and the palmar surface of the first 3 digits of the
hand, along with pain, decreased sensation, tingling, and muscle weakness. This can also require at
least 8 weeks of physical therapy treatment or surgical repair if the injury is progressed.

In addition to proper positioning of the arm while playing accordion, preventative exercises including
forearm stretching, chest stretching, and strengthening of shoulder and back muscles will be helpful.
For specific preventative exercises, contact a Physical Therapist for an evaluation.

For these reasons, the player must concentrate from the beginning in keeping the left elbow down
with the forearm flat against the instrument’s left panel while moving the bellows in either direction so
that this positioning becomes embedded in muscle memory. As Prof. X mentions earlier in this
book, at the onset of any pain, stop and rest the arm.

The bellows strap should be adjusted so that, when the wrist is positioned flat on the panel, the strap
provides pressure sufficient only to help keep the wrist flat when the bellows are opened. The tension
of the strap should not prevent movement of the wrist that would impede access to the upper and
lower ranges of the keyboard. Also, wearing a fingerless glove on the left had reduces friction
between the wrist and the bellows strap and between the palm of the hand and the bass section
panel.

Finally, and of no less importance, the player should position the instrument in their lap such that the
weight of the instrument rests on the left leg and that the back straps lie between the shoulder blades.
Ensure that the length of the right strap is enough to allow the body of the instrument to sit fully on the
left leg. Incorrect adjustment of the back straps can pinch nerves in the shoulder, which can lead to
numbness in the hands and pain in the shoulders. Larger individuals, 82 kg (200 lbs) or more, may
need to use back straps longer than normal.
I want to play the accordion badly – and I do.
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#2
(31-07-2019, 07:28 PM)fphlpsnrg Wrote: Accordions can be physically challenging to play correctly. I would appreciate any positive comment and criticism on the following section, which may appear in a new book:
==============================================================
Playing the chromatic left keyboard presents physical challenges different from those encountered in
playing the right keyboard. The correct positioning of the right hand, with the wrist flat in line with the
forearm makes for a relative ease in playing and doesn’t change with respect to the movement of the
bellows.

In contrast, the fingers of the left hand must curl over the left keyboard, comparable to the positioning
of the fingers in playing a string instrument such as a violin or a guitar. Additionally, the left arm has
the responsibility for moving the bellows.

The player needs to concentrate on keeping the left elbow down with the inside of the forearm flat
against the panel on the left side of the bayan, particularly when closing the bellows. The player’s
natural tendency when closing the bellows is to lift the elbow and move the forearm to an angle with
the wrist, so that the heel of the hand applies pressure to the left panel. Changing the orientation of
the forearm and the wrist while closing the bellows alters the angle of attack of the fingers to the keys
different from the angle of attack when opening the bellows.

An incorrect orientation strains the shoulder joint, and can lead to early degeneration of the shoulder
joint and rotator cuff muscular complex. Surgical repair of the rotator cuff often needs at least 3
months of physical therapy later. After any shoulder surgery the use of the upper extremity isn't
returned to "normal" function until 6–12 months after the procedure.

Carpal tunnel syndrome affects the median nerve and the palmar surface of the first 3 digits of the
hand, along with pain, decreased sensation, tingling, and muscle weakness. This can also require at
least 8 weeks of physical therapy treatment or surgical repair if the injury is progressed.

In addition to proper positioning of the arm while playing accordion, preventative exercises including
forearm stretching, chest stretching, and strengthening of shoulder and back muscles will be helpful.
For specific preventative exercises, contact a Physical Therapist for an evaluation.

For these reasons, the player must concentrate from the beginning in keeping the left elbow down
with the forearm flat against the instrument’s left panel while moving the bellows in either direction so
that this positioning becomes embedded in muscle memory. As Prof. X mentions earlier in this
book, at the onset of any pain, stop and rest the arm.

The bellows strap should be adjusted so that, when the wrist is positioned flat on the panel, the strap
provides pressure sufficient only to help keep the wrist flat when the bellows are opened. The tension
of the strap should not prevent movement of the wrist that would impede access to the upper and
lower ranges of the keyboard. Also, wearing a fingerless glove on the left had reduces friction
between the wrist and the bellows strap and between the palm of the hand and the bass section
panel.

Finally, and of no less importance, the player should position the instrument in their lap such that the
weight of the instrument rests on the left leg and that the back straps lie between the shoulder blades.
Ensure that the length of the right strap is enough to allow the body of the instrument to sit fully on the
left leg. Incorrect adjustment of the back straps can pinch nerves in the shoulder, which can lead to
numbness in the hands and pain in the shoulders. Larger individuals, 82 kg (200 lbs) or more, may
need to use back straps longer than normal.

While I have no medical background I recognize this description as sound advice for accordion players.
Apart from keeping the left arm/elbow down to prevent the onset of physical discomfort keeping it and the whole left side of the accordion down also gives better bellows control leading to better control of musical expression while playing during closing the bellows.
Some early accordion teachers (in conservatorium and music schools) told their students to simply always play with the bottom bellows strap closed. While this ensures the correct arm position it limits the amount of air you can use and it also makes certain playing techniques impossible, like ricochet.
Paul De Bra (not Debra...)
http://www.de-bra.nl
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#3
Dear Many-Consonants,
Good work!
Being completely self-taught on the accordion, I’ve had to learn things the hard way, often painfully, and I applaud you.
One of the things that caused real pain was thinking I had to move the entire bellows in and out , like a cartoon accordion player. It made for a good show, but was harmful. So, the idea of using the weight of the bellows to assist the muscles of the left arm is a good thing to teach, as is the idea that the bellows, for most passages, opens and closes like a fan, rather than moving the whole bass box in and out. That seems to be what you’re saying by keeping the elbow close, but in teaching, it sometimes helps to say the same thing many different ways.
All the best, Many-Consonants!
Bugari “Blue 72”, Tiger Combo ‘Cordeon, Iorio Concert Accorgan G Series (electronics removed), Hohner 1974 Melodica (Piano 36)
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#4
(31-07-2019, 11:18 PM)Eddy Yates Wrote: ...using the weight of the bellows to assist the muscles of the left arm...

That is a good and useful point. The accordion is a "breathing" instrument. Using the mass of the bass section to assist this process adds a major factor of efficiency.
I want to play the accordion badly – and I do.
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#5
https://youtu.be/5PPbJFqCStY
Right or wrong make it strong...when in doubt miss it out...
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#6
(01-08-2019, 06:54 AM)losthobos Wrote: https://youtu.be/5PPbJFqCStY

Cathie Travers’ “Tips for the left hand.” Thank you! Excellent.
Bugari “Blue 72”, Tiger Combo ‘Cordeon, Iorio Concert Accorgan G Series (electronics removed), Hohner 1974 Melodica (Piano 36)
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