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Accordion Musette Tuning Guide



Purpose:

The purpose of this web site is to provide actual examples of how various accordion manufacturers tuned their musette accordions. However, it is important to point out that the information contained on this site was gained directly by testing numerous accordions and NOT by contacting the various accordion manufacturers directly.

1) Youtube Videos:

If you are interested in building your own 'Tuning Table' to assist you with all tuning activities, you can view several informative videos on Youtube submitted by the founder of this web site (Dennis Amott) as follows:

            - Accordion tuning table part 1 click here.
            - Accordion tuning table part 2 click here.
            - Accordion tuning table part 3 click here.

Watching these three videos will also give you a quick introduction and overview on both the construction of the reed blocks and how to go about tuning the reeds etc..

Model

2) Accordion Non-Musette Treble Reeds:

On the treble side of an accordion i.e. the keyboard side, there could potentially be any combination of:
            - one reed block that holds all the longest sized low pitched reeds (termed the 'L' reeds)
            - one reed block that holds all the middle sized middle pitched reeds (termed the 'M' reeds)
            - one reed block that holds all the shortest sized high pitched reeds (termed the 'H' reeds)

These non-musette reed blocks (L,M,H) are always tuned exactly one octave apart. The low L reed block is simply tuned one octave below the middle M reed block while the high H reed block is tuned one octave above the middle M reed block. For example: if the middle A4 (M) reed is tuned to concert pitch 440 c/s then the low A4 (L) reed is tuned to 220 c/s and A4 (H) reed is tuned to 880 c/s. Hense, when these three L,M,H reeds are played together NO musette affect/sound is heard.
The term 'c/s' is short for 'cycles per second' which means the same as the terms 'frequency' and 'pitch'.

NOTE: It does seem that in nearly all cases, manufacturers of non-musette accordions do choose to tune the L, M and H reeds reeds to concert pitch i.e. the middle M1 A4 reed is tuned to 440 c/s. However, this may not always be the case.




Model

3) What is a Musette accordion?

A musette tuned accordion must have at least TWO sets of middle reeds (termed M, M1). If the M and M1 reeds are tuned to exactly the same pitch they will all sound like ONE reed is being played but with a slightly thicker sound. The trick with a musette style accordion is to tune the M1 reeds to a slightly different pitch than the M reeds. When played together these two slightly ‘out-of-tune’ reeds will fight each other producing a rich waa, waa type of sound. The more out of tune with each other they are the stronger and faster the waa waa sound is made.

To produce an even thicker sound, many musette accordions have THREE middle reeds (termed M, M1, M2). In this case the M1 reed is usually tuned slightly higher than the M reed while the M2 reed is tuned slightly lower than the M reed. But this is not always the case. For example, both the M1 and M2 reeds could be tuned higher than the M reeds. The various ‘Tuning Charts’ on this web site, show exactly how numerous popular accordion makes and models are tuned. To do this, we show how many ‘cents’ different each M2 or M3 reed is tuned from the non-musette M reed.

NOTE: It is the specific tuning of each of the M2 and M3 reed blocks that produces the musette sound of the accordion.

4) Typical musette accordion sound:

Some examples of various manufactured musette accordions are shown opposite -->

IMPORTANT NOTE:
When seeking an accordion that has the kind of musette sound that you like, there are actually TWO important aspects to look for as follows.

1) REED QUALITY: If the metal reeds are somewhat on the thin side then the overal tone will tend to be brighter and more metallic in mature. In general terms, it seems that accordion built in the early 1920 - 1940 do have a much brighter and metallic musette sound.

2) ACCORDION CONSTRUCTION: Just as important to contributing to the sound of the instrument is the actual design, structure and materials that are used to build the accordion. Modern accordions built from 1940 onwards do, in general, tend to have more mellow musette tones simply because of the way they are made.

Sample musette tunings

5) What is a ‘beat’?

As mentioned above when the middle M reed is played together with the slightly 'out-of-tune' M1 reed, a second new sound is added in the form of a new vibration, or waa waa, to the total sound. For example, if the M reed is tuned to A=400 c/s and the M1 reed is tuned to A4 = 442 c/s the a new sound is created being a slow beat of about 2.5 c/s is added to the original 440 c/s note. This extra 'beat' is what is called the 'musette' sound. The more the M1 reed is miss-tuned slightly above (or below) the M reed, the faster the resulting 'beat' or musette sound is produced.

6) What is a ‘cent’?

A ‘cent’ can be thought of as the percentage difference between a particular note and the next note a semi-tone up. There are 100 cents in a semi-tone. To obtain a musette tone the musette reeds will will typically have to be tuned anwhere between 2.5 cents to 30 cents either higher or lower than the none musette reeds. Your ‘Tuning Device’ will normally display the number of ‘cents’ out-of-tune a particular reed is vibrating at.

7) What is accordion ‘base frequency’?

All pianos are tuned such that the middle A4 note is tuned to ‘concert pitch’ which is 440 c/s. Hence the ‘base frequency’ of a piano is A4 = 440 c/s.

However, in the case of accordion manufacturing, for some reason, this is not always the case. It does seem obvious that many accordions as they come out of the factory, are actually tuned to a base frequency somewhat higher than normal concert pitch. One reason suggested for this is, that the accordion will 'stand out' better when played with other instruments. It should also be noted that some of older accordions (1910 - 1940) base frequency may actually be tuned lower than concert pitch say A4 = 438 c/s.

a) Non-musette accordions:

In the case of non-musette accordions, the lower, middle and high reeds are all tuned exactly one octave apart. The base frequency is then automatically set to the frequency of the middle M A4 reed. In most cases, non-musette accordions this middle reed will be tuned to concert pitch of 440 c/s.

b) Musette accordions:

The 'base' frequency of a musette tuned accordion will depend on the average result of pairing two (or more) middle reeds. So for example if the M A4 reed is tuned to 440 c/s/ and the M1 A4 reed is tuned to 444 c/s then the combined results is that the accordion base frequency will be about 442 c/s.

Another example if the M A4 reed is tuned to 440 c/s/ and the M1 A4 reed is tuned to 442 c/s and the M3 reed is tuned to 438 c/s then the combined results is that the accordion base frequency will be about 440 c/s (concert pitch).

8) Two different approaches to tuning reeds:

There are basically two different approaches that can be used to tune an accordion with the required musette sound as follows.

a) Use of 'beats' to create the required musette sound:

It seems apparent that some people will prefer to think of a musette tone as being the number of 'beats' that can be heard when that note is played. In this case they would tune the entire middle reeds by somehow listening to, or perhaps measuring the the number of beats being produced between any two notes.

To listen to what beats sound like, click on the examples in the table below. Remember in these examples the M reed is always tuned to A4 = 440 c/s

M1 reed tuned up 2.5 cents A = 440.7 c/s

Beats = 0.7 beats per second             click here -->

M1 reed tuned up   5 cents A = 441.3 c/s

Beats = 1.3 beats per second             click here -->

M1 reed tuned up 10 cents A = 442.6 c/s

Beats = 2.6 beats per second             click here -->

M1 reed tuned up 15 cents A = 443.9 c/s

Beats = 3.9 beats per second             click here -->

M1 reed tuned up 20 cents A = 445.2 c/s

Beats = 5.2 beats per second             click here -->

M1 reed tuned up 25 cents A = 446.6 c/s

Beats = 6.6 beats per second             click here -->



b) Use of 'cents' to create the required musette sound:

Perhaps the easiest way to tune a musette accordion is to use the method using 'cents'. This method would undoubtable require the use of electronic tuning equipment or a computer app. Use of such equipment means that the user does not have to make all required measurement 'by ear' which would undoubtedly require some significant skill set. When using a computer app to tune an accordion all that is required is to simply tune each reed to the required 'cent' level as displayed on the computer screen.

For an overview of the connection between 'cents' and 'beats' the following graph is available. For example the graph below shows that for the M1 A3 note tuned 15 cents higher, the beat rate would be 2.0 c/s.

Sample Crop Shot

To view the full graph click here.

9) Tuning Checkup Table (TCT):

In order to keep track of your tuning activity, we recommend you use the ‘Tuning Checkup Table’ (TCT) as shown here. This table will help you keep track of which reeds have been tuned so far and the number of cents each reed was tuned too.

You can download the TCT by clicking here.

Model

10) Sample Musette Tunings:

The following examples shows how various accordions were tuned. Click on the right column to view the Tuning Checkup Table. These measurements were taken from several old instruments and it cannot be guranteed that this was the way the instrument was first tuned when it left the factory.


Frontalini

Irish jig

Model


(L,M,M1, M2) Base frequency A4 = 440 c/s

To view the 'Tuning Checkup Table' click here.


Flli Guerrini

French waltz musette

Model


(L,M,M1) Base frequency A4 = 440 c/s

To view the 'Tuning Checkup Table' click here.


Hohner Tango II

Quebecois folk tune

Model


(L,M,M1) Base frequency A4 = 438 c/s

To view the 'Tuning Checkup Table' click here.


Hohner Carmen

Polka (Roll Out The Barrel)

Model


(L,M,M1) Base frequency A4 = 440 c/s

To view the 'Tuning Checkup Table' click here.


Hohner Verdi V

Scottish jig

Model


(L,M,M1,M2) Base frequency A4 = 440 c/s

To view the 'Tuning Checkup Table' click here.


Paolo Soprani

Italian waltz musette

Model


(L,M,M1,M2) Base frequency A4 = 440 c/s

To view the 'Tuning Checkup Table' click here.

Many thanks go to Vancouver resident Mr. Haike Kingma for playing many of the sample musette tunes above.

11) Tuning Technique:

The following explanation assumes that you are using a tuning device (TD) such as the FMJ Chromatia Tuner as shown opposite. We highly recommend using a computer app as it much more simple, accurate and efficient to use.

To visit the FMJ web site click here.

Also, we recommend keeping track of how each reed is tuned by noting down the 'cent' offset for each reed in our recommended Tuning Checkup Table (TCT) as outlined in section 9) above.

Model

Step 1: Establish the accordion treble reeds ‘base frequency’

a) First, make sure your TD base frequency is set to A4 = 440 c/s.
b) Test about a dozen low L non-musette reeds and mark on your TCT table the number of cents higher or lower each reed is tuned.
c) Test about a dozen middle M non-musette reeds and mark on your TCT table the number of cents higher or lower each reed is tuned.
d) Now examine these results and try to decide what the factory setting for the A4 note was. For example, if all L and M tunings seem to be 15 cents too high, then reset the TD to say base frequency A4 = 443 c/s. This adjustment will mean that the TD will register zero cents for the A4 note (443 c/s) on the accordion even though the A4 it is not truly set to concert pitch (440 c/s). The object at this stage is to set the base frequency such that the majority of non-musette reeds register zero cents (or close to).

Step2: Tune all non-musette reeds

Now tune all of the non-musette L,M,H reeds as close to zero cents as practically possible. Don’t worry if you are a few cents off either high or low. Just do the best you can.

Step 3: Tune all musette reeds

Now tune all of the musette M1 and M2 reeds using the sample 'Tuning Chart' (TC) of your choice. Tuning these musette reeds means that you will be deliberately tuning each musette reed to a non-zero cent value. For example, the reeds on the lower end of the scale maybe +25 cents off while reeds on the higher end of the scale may be only +5 cents off.

12) Other sources of information:

- Talking Reeds web site: here.
- Peterson Tuners web site here.
- Dirk's project here.
- Liberty Bellows here.




Thanks for visiting 'Accordion Musette Tuning Guide'

Disclaimer: I make no guarantees regarding the accuracy of any information included here. If you know of any corrections, please let us know via email by clicking here.


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