Bulgarian Accordion Tutorial - Prall-Triplet Mechanics

Pralls are the most common ornament in Bulgarian accordion music, consisting of a base note, a quick switch to the chromatic upper auxillary and a return to the base note, with the 3 notes total taking the equivalent time of an 8th note. The term 'prall' is non-standard in the literature, with other authors using the terms 'inverted mordent', 'mordent', 'trill' or 'turn'. I use prall here for conciseness and precision.

Depending upon the rhythmic context, the prall may be notated as an 8th note decorated with prall symbol, or as two consecutive 16ths of the same pitch with a grace note between them on the upper auxillary. The prall symbol is always used when first note falls on a strong beat. 2 16ths are used when they straddle a bar or major rhythmic divisions. Some cases are ambiguous and may be notated either way. The following fragment of a Boris Karlov "Shopsko horo" features 3 pralls, each on a different part of the beat:

The exact timing of the 3 notes of a prall is somewhat subtle and will be discussed later once the mechanics are understood. For now, realize that the 3 notes are definitely not all the same length.

To discuss the mechanics of executing pralls, we will group a prall with an additional 16th in what I call a "prall-triplet". (Note that a prall-triplet consist of 4 notes - 3 in the prall, plus the additional 16th.) Prall-triplets are extremely common in Bulgarian music (especially pravos). Sometimes long passages contain little else, as in this passage from Kocho Petrovski's "Pravo Shopsko":

Prall-triplets are the fundamental unit of instruction here because the additional 16th is used to balance hand motion so the sequence can repeat with minimal effort. In this lesson, we will consider the execution of the simplest prall-triplet, placed on E:

Audio (slow)

This passage is not as artificial as it might first appear. This exact passage appears at least twice in the Boris Karlov canon. Furthermore, this passage lays bare the basic mechanics of prall-triplet execution in way obscured by more complex melodies.

First off, the student should review the paragraphs on key depression with 2-5 and with the thumb in Keyboard Basics, since those mechanics are fundamental to prall-triplet execution.

Execution of a prall-triplet consists of 3 separate actions:

  1. Gently depress the base note (E) with finger 2.
  2. Lightly brush finger 3 on the auxillary (F), momentarily interrupting the E, but then quickly redepressing it with finger 2. Meanwhile, extend the thumb forward under finger 2 in preparation for the step 3 below.
  3. Depress E as the thumb is drawn directly away from the keyboard. As the thumb draws out, its angle with the key increases and the wrist correspondingly elevates. Meanwhile, the entire hand rolls forward in preparation to repeat the sequence.

Some points to bear in mind:

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