Bulgarian Accordion Tutorial - Prall-Triplets on All Scale Degrees

Having developed basic prall mechanics on E, we now extend the technique to other scale degreees.

Note the geometry of the keyboard above. In particular, note that each of black keys (C#, D#, F#, G#, A#) has a geometric relationship to the adjacent white keys that is distinct from the others. Only G# is directly centered between adjacent white keys. C# and F# are set left of the center-line, with F# more so. D# and A# are set right of the center-line, with A# more so.

Bulgarian pralls are (almost) always played using the chromatic auxillary. For rapid execution, the fingers 2 and 3 must be placed above the prall base and auxillary before the prall starts. There is simply not enough time to move finger 3 into position after finger 2 is depressed.

For white-black-white (WBW) pralls (e.g. D-Eb-D) and black-white-black (BWB) pralls (e.g. G#-A-G#), the white key is depressed with the finger as close to the line of black keys as possible (do not play between the black keys, there isn't enough space). Black keys are depressed with the finger as close to the end of the black key as possible (but the entire fingertip should be on the key). This means that, for WBW pralls, finger 2 will be more curved under the hand than finger 3. For BWB pralls, the reverse applies.

To position the fingers correctly, the hand must be angled appropriately - angled slightly left for WBW pralls, slightly right for BWB pralls. (For the two all-white pralls (E-F-E & B-C-B), the hand is unangled.) Since each black key has a distinct geometry, each WBW and BWB prall has a different ideal hand angle. This makes 11 different angles in the course of an octave (the two all-white pralls use the same hand angle).

This is, at first, a bit of an overwhelming concept. However, there is a practical approach - to realize that each time you prall you need to move into an appropriate position. In the context of prall-triplets, this is actually a simple matter. As the thumb is drawn out of the keyboard on count 3, the rest of the hand rolls forward into position for the next prall. As the hand rolls forward it has an ideal opportunity to reangle itself appropriately.

Let us begin:

The first two bars should be familiar from the last lesson. Preparation for the F# prall (F#-G-F#) in bar 3 begins on the last 16th of bar 2. As the thumb is drawn out, the hand rolls forward somewhat more that previously and reaches out the the right so that, when it comes time for the F# prall, the keys can be depressed with usual closing motion of fingers 2 and 3. To accomodate this hand motion into the keybard, the thumb is drawn outward slightly less that usual.

Now in position for the F#-D prall-triplet, repeating it through bars 3 and 4 should be a simple matter. On the last 16th of bar 4, preparation must be made for the E prall starting bar 5. This is accomplished by drawing the thumb outward a bit more that usual so that when the hand rolls forward to the E prall it will not overshoot.

Also note how the F# prall is easiet to play with the hand angled slightly right, which the E prall is easiet to play with the hand unangled.

Lots of slow practice is useful here, thinking forward to the next change of position. Once this feels comfortable, you can try making the change more often, as in:

and eventually

Let's consider some WBW pralls:

The pralls here are A-Bb-A, G-Ab-A and F-Gb-F. The classical convention would be to indicate the chromatic auxillaries with flat symbols over the ornament. In Bulgarian music, pralls are assumed to be chromatic unless otherwise noted.

Note the progressive change in hand angle required in bars 1-3. A-Bb-A requires the least angling because the Bb key is relatively far to the right of the A key. G-Ab-A requires a bit more hand angling because the Ab key is (relatively) closer to the G key. F-Gb-F requires the most angling, because the Gb key is very close to the F key.

As with the previous exercise, practice this with both infreqent changes of position and frequent ones.

The most difficult passages are those in which hand angles change abruptly. This happens when alternating between WBW (hand angled left), BWB (hand angled right) and all-white (hand unangled) pralls. The following example is provided for practicing such transitions, and not for its musical value:

Stretches of up to a 6th in prall-triplets are typical in the canonical repetoire. I limited the exercise above to a 5th because large stretches are a distinct technical problem from hand reangling. Large stretches can be practiced with the exercise below:

In these exercises, don't worry about rhythmic exactitude, but take a little bit of extra time on the last 16th of bar 2, relaxing the hand a bit more than usual as your thumb slides off the key. Depending on your hand size and flexibility, there may be a bit of a gap between thumb release and subsequent prall onset as your hand moves to the new position. With continued stretching, this gap may disappear. Even if it doesn't completely disappear, if you strive for a smooth motion, even this gap can made to be largely unnoticable within the usually strict demands of Bulgarian legato.

If your hand is unusually small or inflexible, you may need to seek alternative fingerings for prall-triplets larger than 5ths. These will be addressed later in the tutorial. These generally result in inferior execution, however, so you are invited to get as far with stretching as is reasonable for your body.

One final note here regards the different octaves of the keyboard. Due to the fixed position of your shoulder in relation to the instrument, the range of comfortable hand angles in relation to the keyboard varies as you move through different octaves. In low octaves, it's easier to angle your hand left. In high octaves, it's easier to angle your hand right. Being aware of this and relaxing appropriately can solve most problems. In some cases, settings may need to be adjusted or alternative fingerings used for good execution.

Copyright 2015 Erik Butterworth. All rights reserved.