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Running out of qualified accordion repair persons?

Alan Sharkis

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I live on Long Island.

I have access to an accordion repair person. He's about an hour's drive away. I am also aware of some others who are one to two hours away from me. I consider myself lucky in that regard, since many people in the United States live much further away from a qualified accordion repair facility.

The old Italian masters of the craft who have made their way to the United States are dying out. Those who trained under them have the additional challenges presented by microphone and midi installations, trouble-shooting and repairing those installations, and working on accordions that are not made by traditional European methods and/or are made with non-traditional materials.

As much as some thirty years ago, I went with my son, then in school, to a musical instrument repair facility to buy some accessories for the 'cello he was learning to play in school. Although I was not playing accordion at that time, I asked the store owner if he knew anyone that repaired or tuned accordions. His reply was that he could handle repairs, but not tuning.

Just two years ago, I tried taking trumpet lessons from a man who owned a music store with a heavy school rental and repair business. He was trained to work on brasses and woodwinds and had sources to send stringed instruments to when they needed repair. I asked him about repairing accordions, and he just shrugged his shoulders.

My piano technician was amazed that the nearest accordion repair facility to me is an hour away. he told me that although the local Piano Technicians Guild has few members, and that there are several non-guild piano technicians working on Long Island, at least a piano owner on Long Island had a choice and doesn't really need to pay extra travel time to have someone tune their piano. Yes, I know, pianos get tuned about twice a year (if their owner is doing it right) and accordions can go for much longer than that without needing to be tuned. The same is probably true for mechanical repairs and maintenance.

But let''s say that at some point down the road, my accordion technician decides to concentrate on sales, or performance, and get out of the repair business for any number of reasons. Let's also say that the same thing happens to the others who are relatively close to me. Where does that leave me? It's even worse for people who are several hours away from an accordion repair facility or are so far away that they must ship the accordion and have it shipped back after repairs (and we know what potential hazards there are in shipping an accordion.)

I can only hope that as the popularity of the instrument and those who play it increases, there will be those who will learn to repair accordions and invest in such a business.

Alan
 
W

wout

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But! You can always learn it yourself! maybe you can get family members interested as well and pass on the knowledge. Maybe your guy wants to share some knowledge and show you some of the tricks!

Don't know how old you are but never to old to learn!

I am getting really into it! I am currently just buying to practice repairs and discovering new things every day! And if you make a good overhaul or even if it's just lets say some treble valve replacement, you can sell it for more than you paid for anyway. Doesn't matter to me if the work outvalues the instrument, its nice to learn and in all cases the material I needed was less costly then the profit after :). Time is money they say, but the time you invested will pay back if you need to fix our own main instrument :)
 

TomBR

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I think the significant word is "qualified." I'd say that, due in no small part to sites like melodeon.net, Youtube, and the internet in general, there are now more people willing and able to tune and repair diatonic accordions than ever before. BUT, quality varies and there are generally no recognised qualifications to rely on.
"Full size" accordions, PA and CBA are a different matter, they are more complex, there are many more reeds, etc etc.
Given the amount of time involved in accordion repairs and "the demands of modern life" I think the future of accordion repair may lie with older "second careerists," empty nest, no mortgage, first-career skills superseded, etc etc....
[Realise I should say I'm thinking of the UK here.]
 

debra

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TomBR said:
I think the significant word is qualified. ...
There is training (some of the major brands offer maintenance and repair training, but many repairmen learn the trade from an older repairman) but often the work on an accordion is more like detective work than just a routine you learn through a basic (or advanced) training. And when you think that major brands delivering brand new expensive instruments will deliver qualified work (perfect mechanics and tuning), better think again. About half of the repair and tuning I have done was on brand new instruments that needed repair and tuning. Expensive convertor instruments have mechanical (bass) problems. There are unwanted vibrations on the bass side. There are notes out of tune... And when you repair old instruments you really need detective skills to find why notes go sharp or flat, play when they shouldnt, ... I did learn some basics from a skilled old repairman, but I have had to find many problems that are rare and certainly not covered in basic training.
 

Theo

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TomBR said:
Given the amount of time involved in accordion repairs and the demands of modern life I think the future of accordion repair may lie with older second careerists, empty nest, no mortgage, first-career skills superseded, etc etc....

Thats how I got into the business. Started with repairing my own, then friends instruments, renovating old wrecks etc. It was several years before I felt confident to work on modern and expensive instruments. I have no formal training but I have been helped by many people, sometimes with explicitly offered advice, sometimes people I watched who were unaware of how helpful they were. I am truly grateful to them all. I think the best thing I ever learned is that I have to keep learning all the time. Which is another way of agreeing with what Paul de Bra wrote:
debra said:
There is training (some of the major brands offer maintenance and repair training, but many repairmen learn the trade from an older repairman) but often the work on an accordion is more like detective work than just a routine you learn through a basic (or advanced) training. And when you think that major brands delivering brand new expensive instruments will deliver qualified work (perfect mechanics and tuning), better think again. About half of the repair and tuning I have done was on brand new instruments that needed repair and tuning. Expensive convertor instruments have mechanical (bass) problems. There are unwanted vibrations on the bass side. There are notes out of tune... And when you repair old instruments you really need detective skills to find why notes go sharp or flat, play when they shouldnt, ... I did learn some basics from a skilled old repairman, but I have had to find many problems that are rare and certainly not covered in basic training.

detective skills

Yes exactly.
 

debra

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TomBR said:
...
Given the amount of time involved in accordion repairs and the demands of modern life I think the future of accordion repair may lie with older second careerists, empty nest, no mortgage, first-career skills superseded, etc etc....
That does describe me pretty well (except the first-career skills superseded) part. I am ready to retire from my day job in the near future and have been learning more and more about accordion repair, through training by a professional, reading and a lot of doing because every repair job brings new challenges.
 

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