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Replacing all reeds in reed bank

Neoscan

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Hi, 
  I’m in the midst of repairing an old Casali Verona accordion. I’ve update the bass mechanism, replaced valves etc but am realising that the reeds are of a very poor quality and will need substantial work to get them playing again properly. I have a salvaged Excellsior which has really nice reeds so was thinking of swapping them over. They metal reeds are almost the same size. 

Can anyone tell me if this should be fairly straight forward of if there’s anything I need to watch out for??

Also, any tips on making the keyboard smoother apart from replacing valves/pallets and replacing felt under it??

Thanks!

N
 

debra

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If the basic tuning is the same (not putting reeds from a 440Hz accordion into a 442 one or vice versa you should be ok since the size of the reed plates appears to match.
 

Neoscan

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debra said:
If the basic tuning is the same (not putting reeds from a 440Hz accordion into a 442 one or vice versa you should be ok since the size of the reed plates appears to match.

Hi, 
  Yes, I think I’ll replace them all and hopefully it’ll work.

Thanks!
 

Mike K

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Okay for those of us who are ignorant.....what is the difference between a 440 hz and a 442 hertz accordion, how would you tell and what is the signifigance.
 

debra

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Mike K said:
Okay for those of us who are ignorant.....what is the difference between a 440 hz and a 442 hertz accordion, how would you tell and what is the signifigance.

The ISO standard says that the "normal" A should have a frequency of 440Hz.
But what happens with standards? People ignore them.
Many (symphonic or philharmonic) orchestras tune the A to 442Hz. When an instrument of 440Hz and of 442Hz both play that A together there is a 2 Hertz or 8 cents difference, resulting in a clearly audible tremolo (without needing to use a tremolo register). In any type of ensemble all instruments should be tuned to the same standard. Alas, for accordions there never was a standard...
Before the ISO standard accordions were mostly tuned anywhere between 440Hz and 444Hz but 440 and 442 were most popular. Some people had their instruments tuned to 441 to be just slightly out of tune with each of the others.
Most people cannot hear these differences as long as you only hear one accordion. But then two accordions that are tuned differently play together it becomes very clear that "something is wrong".
Note that the main reason I have found for why symphonic orchestras have gone from the standard up to 442Hz is that this requires more tension on the strings of string instruments, resulting in higher sound volume. (It may not be a big difference, but every little bit "helps".)
Sadly when you order a new accordion no factory will ask you how you want it tuned (440 or 442). The reason is economic: when they ask the customer the ignorant will not know what to answer and will walk out without buying an accordion. The customer goes to a different factory that does not ask and the customer buys an accordion, not knowing what will come out later... and as long as it's a soloist that's fine.
I play in an accordion orchestra with 4 accordions tuned to 442 (2 Pigini, 2 Victoria) and over 20 accordions tuned to 440 (all different brands, but Bugari and Hohner are popular) and our conductor has a very hard time creating parts for the 442 instruments that do not clash too badly with the other instruments. I also play in a quintet with 1 accordion tuned to 442 (Pigini) and 3 to 440 (Bugari) and 1 bass accordion tuned to 440 (Pigini, ordered specifically with 440) and we often struggle with the 442 accordion...
 

Dingo40

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Paul,
I have a Bugari bearing a plaque saying A438, 440, 442 (there being evidently 3 M reeds available).
To complicate the  issue,  one of these M reeds (don't know which) can be disconnected (with a switch) at will.
How would this fit in your ensemble? :)
 

boxplayer4000

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Neoscan,
The first accordion I looked at seriously was an old Casali Verona accordion/melodian rescued from a waste re-cyling centre. It was probably c. 1930s and my thinking was that if my efforts went wrong then not much has been lost. I improved the Casali, in stages, over decades and finished up with a very acceptable instrument. I felt that the Casali reeds were superior to the more common Hohner T reeds of that period.
I was surprised when you said you thought the Casali reeds were inferior though it’s not impossible Casali had more than one source of reeds.
Before make the drastic step of replacing all the reeds may I suggest you look for other causes which may be affecting their performance?  The first one is the state of the reeds and wax but in older instruments distortions in the wood parts is common in some climates and unless reed blocks are sitting perfectly flat and close to the sounding board then there will be problems with sound quality and tuning.
 
M

maugein96

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Dingo40 said:
Paul,
I have a Bugari bearing a plaque saying A438, 440, 442 (there being evidently 3 M reeds available).
To complicate the  issue,  one of these M reeds (don't know which) can be disconnected (with a switch) at will.
How would this fit in your ensemble? :)

Dingo,

Paul will be able to answer your question, but I have a 2 pence piece burning a hole in my pocket, so I'm going to put it in. 

I've never seen the type of accordion that you describe, but logic would say the most natural choice of reed bank to be disconnected would be the 438, or low off tuned reeds. That would leave you with what would pass for a very pleasant modern standard "French" tuning of 8 cents, using the 440 and 442 reeds. Most, but not all, French accordions are LMM without "flat tuned" reeds. MMM is still found in folk and retro musette bands. 

I reckon there should also be a switch on your Bugari to select the 440 on its own, and maybe even one to select 442 on its own. 

If you Google standard orchestra tuning in countries around the world you might be surprised that different orchestras in the same country often stipulate different pitch. When I needed a French made accordion retuned a few years ago I lived in Scotland where the pitch is nominally 440. The tuner took it down from 442 to 441, as 440 and 441 were the only two pitches he was comfortable with. All I actually needed was one or two bassoon reeds and a couple of "High M" reeds adjusted, but the whole box was redone. The issue was the subtle adjustments that need to be carried out to off tuned reeds the higher up the register you go. I believe that most tuners use some sort of chart, but if they are working in an unaccustomed pitch they won't have the available information. The alternative would have been to take it to France, which would have been great, but my wife couldn't travel at the time. 441 is common in west Switzerland, so I just call it my Swiss accordion now.  

With stringed instruments and certain other types there is scope to alter the pitch using minor adjustment, but the accordion you have has its own unique tuning. I don't have as much experience as others on here, but I've never yet discovered two accordions that are tuned to precisely the same pitch. Close maybe, but no cigar! 

Even so called "factory tuning" is almost never spot on. If you ever get the chance to pick up two brand new accordions of the same make and model and try them out I can almost guarantee that you'll detect a difference between them, however slight. Just about every accordion has one set of off tuned reeds, and therein lies one of the issues. 

Sorry, found another few 2 pence pieces, and it turned into a short story as usual.
 

Dingo40

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John,
Thanks for your input :)


I'm not sure, but the markings on the couplers suggest:

Violin, MM 438/442?

Musete, MMH 438/442+H?

Clarinet, M 438?

Flute, M  442?

Accordion, LMM 438/442?

Sax, LM442 ?

Bandoneon, LM 438 ?

etc

To all of these can be added an extra M voice  (at will), presumably 440?

That's what the marks on the coupler switches suggest by the placement of the dots on them (one to the left or right or both left and right, but none in the middle). :)
 
M

maugein96

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Dingo40 pid=71411 dateline=1587379976 said:
John,
Thanks for your input :)


Im not sure, but the markings on the couplers suggest:

Violin, MM 438/442?

Musete, MMH 438/442+H?

Clarinet, M 438?

Flute, M  442?

Accordion, LMM 438/442?

Sax, LM442 ?

Bandoneon, LM 438 ?

etc

To all of these can be added an extra M voice  (at will), presumably 440?

Thats what the marks on the coupler switches suggest by the placement of the dots on them (one to the left or right or both left and right, but none in the middle). :)

Dingo,

Unfortunately all four of my accordions are either French built or made to French spec, so the names of the register combinations are not given anywhere, and there is no real scope to put dots on rear mounted couplers, as you cannot see them when youre playing.  

No French box Ive seen has had the facility to select an off tuned reed bank on its own, like the sax you mention, and Ive never owned an accordion with more than two M reeds for a very long time. 

I seem to recall a guy playing a demo on You Tube of an accordion similar to yours, and he called one of the couplers (possibly the second one from top?) a colour switch. Apparently it boosts the musette register by some means, but its not something Ive ever seen or heard of before. It might have been a mute facility, but I cant remember. 

The list you provided suggests that your bassoon, straight flute, and piccolo reeds are tune to 438, which would be unusual, especially if you have other reeds at 440 and 442. 

I believe there are some apps you can get for your phone that should be able to tell what pitch your reeds are. 

There is also a facility to try out a thing called Dirks accordion tuner on a download for a PC or laptop, and that would also tell you how sharp or flat any of your reed banks are in relation to each other. 

I have used it in the past, but dont currently have it on my laptop. 

https://www.dirksprojects.nl/index.php?Lan=english&Page=Tuner/accordion_tuner_22.php

Mobile phone apps and I dont tend to be a very good mix, so I dont know the names of any of the relevant ones.
 

Neoscan

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UIboxplayer4000 said:
Neoscan,
The first accordion I looked at seriously was an old Casali Verona accordion/melodian rescued from a waste re-cyling centre. It was probably c. 1930s and my thinking was that if my efforts went wrong then not much has been lost. I improved the Casali, in stages, over decades and finished up with a very acceptable instrument. I felt that the Casali reeds were superior to the more common Hohner T reeds of that period.
I was surprised when you said you thought the Casali reeds were inferior though it’s not impossible Casali had more than one source of reeds.
Before make the drastic step of replacing all the reeds may I suggest you look for other causes which may be affecting their performance?  The first one is the state of the reeds and wax but in older instruments distortions in the wood parts is common in some climates and unless reed blocks are sitting perfectly flat and close to the sounding board then there will be problems with sound quality and tuning.
Hi, 
  Thanks for that. I initially restored the outside of the instrument and decided it wasn’t worth the hassle of doing the intervals but with this lockdown I have lots of time so stopped everything back and tried to improve things. The actual reeds may be okay but they’re in a bad state and thought I’d save myself some work by replacing them with the Excelsior ones and not having to strip them all down completely. It may be worth having another look though. 

Re/ 440 vs 442. A lot of the modern Italian instruments come tuned to 442 especially the ones used in classical music. As stated above, the difference isn’t huge on its own but not Ici lie more when playing with other instruments. That varies too though. Sometimes it’s not too noticeable depending on the music/line up.
 

Dingo40

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John,
Thanks for your trouble. :) ( Unfortunately the app isn't iPhone compatible)

However, on further reflection, I notice adding the third M voice actually makes everything "wetter " sounding.
SO, it probably is the 438 reed, as you suggested (above) after all, the dots on the couplers being suggestive only, rather than actual.

It makes sense!

Thanks again  :)
 
M

maugein96

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Dingo40 pid=71415 dateline=1587392283 said:
John,
Thanks for your trouble. :) ( Unfortunately the app isnt iPhone compatible)

However, on further reflection, I notice adding the third M voice actually makes everything wetter sounding.
SO, it probably is the 438 reed, as you suggested (above) after all, the dots on the couplers being suggestive only, rather than actual.

It makes sense!

Thanks again  :)

Dingo,


The guy in the demo was from the US, and made comment that he never felt it necessary to use the color register at all, as the musette was strong enough without it. 

Musette is an unfortunate description, as some people use it to describe MM with a sharp tuned high reed thats maybe up to about 20 cents. In fact when the reeds are as far apart as that I often cannot tell if the box is MMM or MM. All I can hear is a very wet sounding accordion. If the player has MMM and switches it on from just MM Ill hear it coming in, but from a standing start I would struggle to tell how many reeds were sounding.

If your box has a similar color/colour switch then my money would be on your 438 reed coming into play, with all of your straight tuned reeds being 440. Seems your box is configured to give you musette on two M reeds, one at 440, and the other at 442. The boost on your musette will most probably be the 438 reeds being brought into play giving full MMM musette, with the lower M being 8 cents flat, and the higher one 8 cents sharp, normally a very pleasant musette sound, although maybe not so nice with your bassoon reeds. 


I never asked, but do you know if your accordion is LMMM, or LMMMH? 

I found a similar Bugari Armando advertised for sale in the UK, but they describe it as a four voice musette It appears to be an LMMM with double cassotto, but Ive never seen an instrument with four banks of M reeds, so it probably is an LMMM. The selling point is that it is suitable for both Scottish and French styles. Thats like saying if you can speak fluent Arabic you should be able to speak Greek at the flick of a switch. Scottish and French musette are not the same, end of story. 

Serves you PA players right for wearing big pianos on your chests with so many switches on them that youll probably never have any use for. 

Italian LMMM with 13 registers?! What are they all for? Alto sax, tenor sax, cello, xylophone, tea with 2 sugars and milk?  ;)

French LMMMs usually only have 6 or maybe 7, and I cannot cope with all of those, so I now just have LMMs with 5 registers.
 

boxplayer4000

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Neoscan,
Maybe you can pull this thread back to the main/original theme ie.  refurbishment of your Casali. Could you publish pictures of the Casali and a few close ups of the treble reeds?
Reeds are amazingly robust and are probably all capable of being saved with the exception of those with extensive rust and those which have been badly filed/drilled/bent.
 

Dingo40

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John,
Thanks again for your thoughts on the matter. :)

It seems, to me, to be to be tuned LMMH, or (with "all stops out") LMMMH.

The musete, then, you have the option of MMH, MMMH, or even MMM.

To my ear, the MMM sounds pretty good.  :)

Neoscan,
I apologise for taking up so much of your thread. Sorry! :blush:
 

Neoscan

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boxplayer4000 pid='71424' dateline='1587412525' said:
Neoscan,
Maybe you can pull this thread back to the main/original theme ie. refurbishment of your Casali. Could you publish pictures of the Casali and a few close ups of the treble reeds?
Reeds are amazingly robust and are probably all capable of being saved with the exception of those with extensive rust and those which have been badly filed/drilled/
Haha, yes, I’ll try! ;)

The Casali reeds probably can be saved but I just thought it would be easier to swap them over for the Excelsior reeds which are in great shape. I’ve just reached a point where I’m getting a little tired of working on it. I’ve just stripped down the bass end, cleaned all the parts, refelted the pallet/valves etc, added extra dampening as well. And then had to adjust all the leavers because of the slight adjustment in height of things due to the new felt...

I’ll try to find some pics.
 

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debra

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Dingo40 said:
Paul,
I have a Bugari bearing a plaque saying A438, 440, 442 (there being evidently 3 M reeds available).
To complicate the  issue,  one of these M reeds (don't know which) can be disconnected (with a switch) at will.
How would this fit in your ensemble? :)

That's simple: This accordion is tuned to 440Hz. When you select an MM register (sometimes called violin) you get an 8 cent tremolo between the 440 and 442 reeds and when you select MMM you get more tremolo: -8, 0, +8 cents playing together.

The indication 438, 440, 442 also is a bit strange, for two reasons: 1) normally there is no such plaque to indicate what the tuning is and 2) the tremolo reeds (438 and 442) are not really tuned like a 438 ro 442 middle reed would be tuned because that would mean you hear more and more tremolo as you go up to higher notes. The way tremolo should be tuned in an accordion is that the deviation in Hertz (the number of wha-wha-wha beats you hear per second) goes slightly up along the keyboard, while the deviation in cent (percentage of the distance between two half-tones) goes a bit down along the keyboard. So the reed bank that says 442 here actually goes a bit "flat" as you go up the scales, otherwise you get way too much tremolo in the highest notes. Tremolo tuning is the hardest thing for an accordion tuner to get right!


Dingo40 said:
John,
Thanks for your input :)


I'm not sure, but the markings on the couplers suggest:

Violin, MM 438/442?
Musete, MMH 438/442+H?
Clarinet, M 438?
Flute, M  442?
Accordion, LMM 438/442?
Sax, LM442 ?
Bandoneon, LM 438 ?

etc

To all of these can be added an extra M voice  (at will), presumably 440?

That's what the marks on the coupler switches suggest by the placement of the dots on them (one to the left or right or both left and right, but none in the middle). :)
That's not what the markers on the coupler switches actually mean.
Without even seeing or hearing your accordion I can tell you what they are, judging from what you thought they were:

Violin, MM 440/442
Musete, MMH 440/442+H
Clarinet, M 440
Flute, M  442
Accordion, LMM L + 440/442
Sax, L + 442
Bandoneon, LM L + 440

The extra M reed you can enable or disable is the 438.
 

Dingo40

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Paul,
Brilliant analysis and entirely compatible with actual playing experience! :)

Thank you so much for your excellent response!  :)

It all makes sense, now :)
 
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The Casali reeds would probably be v nice if you can clean them up, revalve etc. This may turn out to be less trouble than replacing them, esp if the sizes are slightly different. Often these old reeds are hand finished (yours have hammered rivets which points to this) and sound pretty good. But the bulk of the work on restoring an old accordion is expended on getting the heart of the instrument... it’s reeds...back up and working. Of course the Casali reeds might be tuned to 436 or somewhere quite a bit south of modern tuning, so you'd either have to leave them there or raise the pitch a bit. Old accordions eh?
 

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I have done many reed transplants between accordions, also complete reed replacements with new sets, and every time there were adjustments required! Do not expect anything to be "straightforward".

In my experience the reed plates were never exactly the same size as the originals. Worst case is when the reed plates are longer than the originals, and you need to "extend" the reed block. In the opposite case, there might be space around the reed plates that need to be filled with small pieces of wood so the reed plates sit correctly in place.

Incidentally, I just transplanted last weekend the "M" reeds from an old Hohner Verdi to a Soviet bayan box, recovering also some reeds from the bass side because the treble side has 58 notes. Funnily enough, most of the Hohner T reed plates were smaller than the originals, which look like East-German reed plates. But the low notes on the Hohner sound much better than the bigger, longer reeds they replaced. They are also much more responsive.

Bottom line, it's a project, you will need to take your time. If you use wax you will also need the proper supplies and equipment to seal the reed plates. Spare valves are also handy.

Lastly, be ready to spend a couple of hours fine-tuning the reeds in their new instrument! Tuning reeds is very unforgiving... you need to be very careful. But at the end, it's great fun to give a squeezebox a new life.
 

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