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How can a layman assert if an instrument plays in tune

Happy girl

Well-known member
Oct 31, 2013
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When considering the purchase of a second hand instrument, gauging quality for money is, quite rightly, based on make, age & cosmetic appearance.

My concern however is, does the accordion in question play in tune?

Descriptions such as excellent/ good/, fair condition, plays well, plays with good compression, in good tune etc, are ambiguous, & to me, confusing.

How can a layman, without professional help, rely on their own judgment & knowledge to make a correct decision about tuning?

‘Go & try it out’ I hear you cry, but I personally don’t trust myself to know for sure if an instrument is in tune, so this answer would not satisfy me..

Is there a reason why dealers & individuals alike shy away from asserting categorically that their wares are in tune?:unsure:


Dec 20, 2020
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I can think of two ways you can try to check it:
-get an electronic tuner and check whether the notes show a green light or, if not, how far off they are. You may want to play a bit with the settings so that your reference note shows green for a start as the box may not be tuned to 440. Note that this will really only work with a single reed (or dry tuned reeds) as tuners generally don't like vibrato.
-the second way is to try to play either octaves or root+fourth/fifth, and listen for the vibration. If the reeds are tuned well to each others, the sound should come together in a pleasant way, whereas if they are out of tune you'll hear a vibration coming and going due to the interaction between the two frequencies.

Tuning is something that takes a fair bit of ear training, and really the only way to get better is to try again and again and have a reference point of what you should be aiming for, so that you know how to recognise it when you see it...


Prolific poster
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Nov 1, 2013
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SE. Gloucestershire UK
There are plenty of tuner apps for your phone. Apart from lots of listening to notes and chords, press and draw, different registers etc to hear if it sounds good to you the other thing to beware of is what pitch the accordion is tuned to. It may be beautifully in tune with itself and sound lovely, but if it's tuned to A442 it's going to sound nasty when played with A440 instruments. A tuner or app can help with this.


Been here for ages!
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Jul 16, 2014
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Eindhoven, the Nnetherlannds
The suggestion of using a tuner app for the phone has already been made. But... the reality is that I have yet to see the first used accordion that is actually playing in tune, and that includes instruments bought from stores and supposedly recently tuned by a professional!
So the reality is that you can only check whether 1) all the notes play well on draw and push, and 2) it does not sound horribly out of tune, and then 3) take it to a tuner you trust to get it to actually play in tune.

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