Bulgarian Accordion Tutorial - Summary of Basic Technique
"I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I
fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times." - Bruce Lee
The techniques described in the previous lessons constitute the
basics of Bulgarian accordion. Well executed, they are sufficient to
play, for example, about 95% of Boris Karlov's recorded repetoire (I'll
clarify that statement in a bit). Good execution in a matter of
practice - lots of practice. Lots. To facilitate such practice,
I present below a summary of the "basic" technique.
Basic Bulgarian Accordion Technique
- Maintain good posture, arm and hand position.
- Use the clarinet switch (single, middle-range reed) for practice
purposes (as well as for most of Boris Karlov's repetoire).
- Depress keys with fingers 2-5 with a gentle closing motion
of the hand, as if lightly squeezing a tennis ball.
- Depress keys with the thumb using by drawing it directly
aways from the keyboard, progressively angling it so that the
wrist slightly raises. Prepare this by inserting the thumb into
the keyboard before the stroke.
- Pralls are fingered 232, counted 1-2 and use the half-step
auxillary. Count 1: depress the base key with finger 2. Count 2:
lightly brush 3 on the auxillary, briefly raising finger 2, which then
immediately redepressed the base note.
- During prall-triplets, insert the thumb during the 3-2 brush-change in
preparation for key depression. During the thumb stoke, roll the hand
forward to be in position for the next prall.
- Choose smooth or sharp pralls as per your taste. Sharp pralls
are executed by pushing the 3-2 brush-change earlier in the
- Position your hand before a prall start, arcing fingers and angling
the hand as fits keyboard geometry. Further adjustments may be made in
different keyboard octaves.
- Use fingers 1, 2 and 3 most of the time, and 4 and 5 only
- Maintain Bulgarian legato at all times. Switch fingers on repeated
notes (except between double drop notes).
- Relax the hand to achieve larger 1-2 and 1-3 spans.
- Use double-note onset for all holds.
- Alter drop note timing to bring out melody.
- Trills provide a smoother alternative to prall-triplets, but
take more practice to master.
Performing Boris Karlov's Repetoire
Boris Karlov's recorded repetoire has some characteristics that make
it playable with only the basic technique above. Understanding what they
are will help you understand when a tune you want to play requires
additional techniques. Those characteristics are:
- Uses keys with a few sharps. Flat keys (popular with clarinet
players) are avoided.
- Augmented seconds used are most often C-D# and F-G#. Double-black
note augmented seconds common elsewhere (especially Bb-C# and Eb-F#)
are usually avoided due to fingering issues.
- Ornaments are sparse compared to other Bulgarian styles.
In particular, consecutive pralls or trills are avoided since that
requires fingerings other that 2-3.
- Frequent use of drop-note ornamentation compared to other Bulgarian
styles (especially bitov tunes). Drop notes are a natural fit with
prall-triplets fingered 232-1.
- The thumb is rarely placed on a black key. The only exception is
that F# is often dropped to from B, which is slightly easier than
others due to keyboard geometry.
NOTE: I'm not saying that the real live Boris Karlov only used the
basic techniques above. I have no firm information how he played, only
suppositions based on my studies of technical mechanics and of his
recordings. I've heard some general sayings and speculations about his
technique from various 3rd or 4th hand sources, which I considering
interesting but undefinitive.
Furthermore, I'm not saying that your performance of Boris Karlov
tunes can't be improved by incorporating some of the techniques that
come. In fact, there are some spots where I think finger glides, 121
pralls and mordents (all covered later) are well advised. However, you
don't need to use these techniques to play Boris Karlov tunes
What I am saying is that, in line with the Bruce Lee quote
at the top of the page, your playing will be better if learn a few
techniques well rather than many techniques poorly. You should feel
no necessity to proceed to more advanced techniques before you have
a good grasp on the basics.
Copyright 2015 Erik Butterworth. All rights reserved.