|What do the various reed configurations mean? |
|All accordions are free reed instruments with individual metal reeds for each pitch. Moreover, each reed is double sided to play the tone for both push and pull directions of air. If an accordion were built with one set of reeds for each note, however, the sound would be thin. Most accordions will have multiple reeds playing for each note akin to organs that have multiple stops to regulate octave and tremolo combinations. Accordion register switches will designate various combinations of the reeds to create a variety of sounds and the most common ones are listed below:|
L = Low = 16' organ pipe
M = Middle = 8' organ pipe
H = High = 4' organ pipe
Register Combinations Using 3 Reed Octaves
LM = Low + Middle = 16'8' = Bandoneon
MH = Middle + High = 8'4' = Oboe
LH = Low + High = 16'4' = Organ
LMH = Low + Middle + High = 16'8'4' = Harmonium
|What does musette tuning mean?|
|In the same way that thicken the accordion sound vertically by adding octaves, we can thicken the sound horizontally by adding additional reeds at the same octave. Typically this is done by adding reeds to the middle octave M = 8' reeds although on a few accordions you will find double bassoon options where the L = 16" reeds are doubled. |
Multiplying the reeds at the same octave will make the instrument louder and fuller. However, what gives an accordion its distinctive sound is the fact that middle reeds can be intentionally de-tuned to create a slow or fast tremolo effect. The speed of tremolo is determined by the number of "beats" you hear per second when the de-tuned sound waves cancel out.
German 2 Reed Tremolo Tuning
M = A440hz
M+ = A444hz
Number of Beats = 444hz - 440hz = 4 hz = 4 beats per second
We use the term musette loosely to refer to this effect in a general sense but a true French musette will have 3 middle reeds which are typically configured as follows:
French 3 Reed Musette Tuning
M- = A435hz
M = A440hz
M+ = A445hz
Number of Beats = 445hz - 440hz = 440hz - 435hz = 5hz = 5 beats per second symmetrically doubled
|What are other types of tremolo and musette tunings?|
We list some typical tuning below. Note that many people refer to tuning in "cents"which refers to percent detuning from the next half step. For example a German Tremolo A440hz to A444hz = 4 beats per second = 15% de-tuning = 15 cents. The conversion is roughly 1 hz = 3.5cents in the middle of the keyboard.
0 hz = 0 cents = Unison
0.5hz = 2 cents = Concert
1hz = 4 cents = Swing
2hz = 7 cents = Demi-Swing, Irish
2.5hz = 10 cents = American, Cajun, Quebecois
3hz = 12 cents = Slovenian, Tex-Mex
4hz = 15 cents = German, Italian
5hz = 18 cents = French
6hz = 22 cents = Old French, Old Italian
7hz = 25 cents = Scottish
We are happy to offer custom tuning services to suit your preference. Contact us for a quote based on the number of individual reeds we must de-tune.
|How often do I need to tune my accordion?|
|Unlike pianos and other string instruments which need to be tuned frequently, accordions will stay in tune for many years if they are maintained properly and not exposed to extreme temperature, humidity, moisture or other adverse conditions. That said, accordions will eventually go out of tune and need to be tuned by a professional. |
Tuning a neglected accordion can be a big job because each accordion will have hundreds of reeds. Consider a typical professional model:
4 Sets of 41 Treble Reeds = 164 Reeds x 2 Sides = 328 Treble Reed Tongues
5 Sets of 12 Bass Reeds = 60 Reeds x 2 Sides = 120 Bass Reed Tongues
Total 448 Reed tongues that need to be playing the correct pitch!
A proper tuning requires that the reeds first be serviced so that the wax, valve and tongue on each side are positioned properly. Then the reeds need to be filed, pitch tuned, and ultimately fine tuned so they are in tune in the accordion. We are happy to provide full reed servicing and tuning at our shop. Contact us for a repair quote which will depend on the number of reeds that require service and tuning.
|What is a chambered accordion?|
|The original concept of a tone chamber (cassotto) was to allow accordion builder to place larger 16' bassoon reeds in the treble section. Larger reeds without heavy weights move more freely and in general have a richer tone with less twang. Manufacturers achieved this by adding an extra section that was perpendicular to the normal reed placement. An added benefit was that the additional chamber created more resonance and the idea was expanded to a second set of reeds which is most commonly the 8' clarinet reeds. The downside is that a chamber adds some weight and makes the accordion more expensive to build and maintain because all key arms fork off into two pads that must be aligned with a great deal of precision. |
Most professionals play tone chambered accordions because they want the most powerful low reeds possible to obtain the greatest dynamic range. Tone chambers are often paired with handmade reeds to maximize the richness of tone.
There are a few other commonly found features:
- Amplisound - An additional resonance box is added inside the accordion that further enhances and amplifies overtones.
- Mute (aka sordina, tone modulator, tone labyrinth) is a feature that places a wood, plastic, or metal slide mute system across the treble pads. This has the effect of muting the sound to create a darker tone and can help reduce feedback on some microphone systems.
- Tube chamber adds small tubes to the grill to mimic organ resonance.