Some people are scared of cross-rowing, and I was too once. I liked to just stay within the one row, play in C or G, or their associated minor keys, D and A minor. Once I shook myself out of my comfort zone and started getting into cross-rowing it was so liberating, and it’s not that hard. In the end it just makes things so much easier.

OK, why do we cross-row ?  Firstly to get more fluency in our playing, i.e. we’re avoiding bellows changes (changes of bellows directions). Too many bellows changes slow you down and it sounds like you’re fighting the instrument (of course sometimes a bellows change can produce a good effect, and bounce, I’ll talk about that later). But generally we’re trying to get several notes in a row -particularly those in quick succession – playing in the one direction, either on the push or the draw.

Secondly, we need to cross-row to play notes which aren’t available within just one row (e.g. a C#  or c# when you’re playing in D major).

The easiest way to start cross-rowing is to just play the notes from B up to e all on the push, starting with button G4, using the middle finger LH. To play the c use button C6 with index finger RH, then back to the LH index for d, and back to RH middle for the e. Practise this playing up and down continuously until it becomes automatic. So… B, c, d, e, d ,c, B, c, d etc.  Now come down from G ( index RH on button G6) to e, d, c, B, now a bellows change to play the A ( G3  with LH 4th finger) then G on the press again. That gives you a fluid descent which you’ll find in many tunes, with only 2 bellows changes, not the 7 you’d have to employ to play the same sequence staying wholly within the G row.

Now the converse pattern, this time on the draw, is as follows: play A on the G row (LH, G3) then B on the C row (RH C6), c on the G row ( LH G4), d (RH C7), e (LH, G5) , f# ( RH G6  index). That’s almost a whole G scale just on the draw. Again practise that whole sequence ascending, then descending. If it’s too much to take in in one go, play a shorter sequence (e.g. A to d then back) and add more notes later once you have that 1st pattern comfortable.

Also, if it helps, remind yourself that for these 2 sequences the LH fingers are on the G row  (buttons G3, G4 and G5), the RH fingers on the C row (buttons C6, C7  ). That used to help me anyway.

OK that’s really basic cross-rowing. If you’re already past that stage, let’s talk about using cross-rowing to play a D scale. This can be done several ways, and they all use cross-rowing.

Firstly try it largely on the press, with F#  and A on the draw: so –

 D (LH little finger, G2 )

E ( LH 3rd, C4)

F# ( LH little, G2)

G (normal position, G3)

A (either, LH 4th G3 )

B ( LH middle G4 )

c# ( RH index T6)

d ( LH index, G5).

Now try the D scale  mostly on the draw.

D (LH 4th  finger, C3)

E ( LH 3rdh, C4)

F# ( LH little, G2)

G (normal position)

A (either LH  4th, G3, or LH index  C5 )

B ( RH  index  C6 )   

c# (RH index T6 ), this is provided you have a double c# at  T6

d ( RH middle, C7)

These 2 cross-rowing ways of playing give you a feel for how you can play a passage of notes in one direction to avoid bellows changes. Of course, each such passage will normally be followed by a passage, or mini-passage, in the opposite direction.

For more on cross-rowing  you can read this article  which is based on the cross-rowing techniques taught by master Irish player and teacher Noel Hill – Playing Across The Rows

Also you can see the discussion threads on concertina.net:

http://www.concertina.net/forums/index.php?showtopic=8669 and ( less relevant) http://www.concertina.net/forums/index.php?showtopic=7187 , read selectively as  much of  the latter is just a rather tedious debate about whether Noel Hill is too strict, dogmatic.

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