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So you want a French sound?

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maugein96

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The French musette style captivates a lot of accordionists who wish to incorporate it into their repertoires. If they have an accordion with three MMM reeds and musette tuning, it will probably sound French enough, and the audience will be none the wiser.

However, the majority of French accordionists never played accordions with three MMM reeds at all, so what did they actually sound like?

Here are two tracks by Joss Baselli, both on Cavagnolo accordions, with no trace of any musette tuning at all. And remember this was in the days before Galliano became famous with new musette. These sort of tunings were generally preferred by accordionists who could play a bit, and never wanted to be tied down to that big loud musette sound.



A lot of people never quite took to those sounds, including me, until I became accustomed to it after years of listening to this kind of musette tuning:-


This old style musette tuning has now all but disappeared, as it was shattering all the cheap modern wine glasses in the cafes. A version of it still exists, but has been tamed down quite a bit. In its day it was the French accordion tuning, but only Maugein and Crosio could make boxes that sounded like that. Would you really want to play every tune with that sound?

Anybody elses version was fake, and recognised as such. Hundreds of box players would announce they were about to play French musette. The music was French, but the sound wasnt.

In these modern times you can hear various French accordions being played on different media, and be able to judge which sound you prefer. Remember in the 50s and 60s, and in the days before the internet, that wasnt possible and Scottish players thought their musette accordions sounded the same as French ones. For a start a Scottish box was tuned to 440Hz and a French one was 442Hz. Various recordings were made between joint Scottish/French accordionists, in an effort to demonstrate how similar the music sounded. If you ever find such a clip, please ensure your volume control is at 1 or less, as 4 detuned flute reeds all playing at once with different tunings will have the effect of making you want to jump through the nearest window. Even the two straight tuned reeds on the boxes concerned will be at least 2Hz out.

I used to think that Hertz was a car rental firm until I discovered accordion tuning. For the record both of my French boxes are tuned Swiss at 441Hz. That means I can play along with guys in Montreux, but not in Paris. Simple, isnt it?
 

OuijaBoard

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So Joss Baselli's box in those clips sounds quite sharp NOT because of sharp tremolo, but why? Because it is 442? Wonderful player, and one new to me . . .
 

Corsaire

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Joss Baselli's playing and accordion tuning is certainly far more listenable than the old style musette which could be pretty ear-piercing.

Thanks for posting all these links, John - tuning is a huge subject and I'm only just beginning to discover it. Up to now it's really been a question of liking or disliking the sound without thinking about how the accordion might have been tuned. The old style musette sees heavy and as you say, I wouldn't like to hear every tune played with that sound.
 

Geoff de Limousin

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I'm not totally convinced that the 442hz. pitch has much to do with the overal sound and stridance of the musette boxes leastways on a chromatic instrument that can be played in any key. To play a piece a semitone flater will surely more than negate the difference between 440 and 442hz. Of course choosing a suitable key for the effect one desires will make quite a difference.

My local mentor suggested to stay away from accordions from the 50's and 60's where the musette tuning can often be too strong. My musette accordions from the 1920's and early 1930's do have plenty of 'battement' ( wetness) but somehow manage not to grate on the ears anything like those post war recordings. Of course the lower pre-war pitch of 435 - 438hz may have something to do with the result. I was also persuaded that I needed a musette tuned accordion for my intended use as accompaniment to my wife's Cabrette and I can see now the reasons why but I also notice that some current professional players , like Hervè Capel, who also play often with Cabrettes, have chosen not to have much wetness in their tunings.

It appears to me that the very 'wet' tunings of the 50's - 70's period are not yet out of fashion with the 'Thé Dansant' musicians... I was listening to one last weekend who's Paso Doble was blood curdling!

For what I think is a more authentic musette sound, at least from the period when it became popular ( pre war) I suggest trying to find a copy of a CD recorded in 1996 by Michel Esbelin and Didier Pauvert. Didier plays three old accordeons, a Maugein, a Coopérativa Armoniche and a Ranco Luigi..... the disc is called "Quand on fait le même chemin' and the publishers are AMTA. Un fortunately I cannot find a link to an on-line shop or any videos on the internet... I'll search further.

PS Didier and Michel's CD can be heard on Spotify.
 
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maugein96

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OuijaBoard post_id=62432 time=1535774163 user_id=1746 said:
So Joss Basellis box in those clips sounds quite sharp NOT because of sharp tremolo, but why? Because it is 442? Wonderful player, and one new to me . . .

Hi,

I had composed a fairly comprehensive answer to this one, but yet again the gremlins forced a log out on me and I lost the lot. I really should use the save draft option when Im writing big articles, so here is a very brief consolation answer.

442 will only sound sharp when played alongside a 440 box, so that is not the issue. As much as I hate to say it I believe the actual sound on the second clip Apollo Valse was achieved by a mixing technique in the recording studio. Around the time when Joss Baselli toured the USA billed as Jo Basile, he made a few albums where just about every track was played with that same register combination. It sort of became his trademark sound, but only for a brief spell.

I have an old Cavagnolo like his, but without the H or piccolo reeds. I can get a similar sound to him if I select LMM, but my ears arent good enough to tell whether he has his bassoon reeds on or off in Apollo Valse. He may be playing MMH, but I just dont know. My box is swing tuned, and is slightly drier than his, so I cannot replicate the sound exactly, not that Id really want to, as I could never play anywhere near to what he does. However, its nice to know your box is up there with the good ones.

Giuseppe (Joss) Baselli died on stage in France about 1984, I think (Im frightened to look it up in case I lose this post again). He was about as French as you and I are, as both his parents were Italians. He was born in the north of France, near Douai, and had to switch from Belgian to standard Stradella basses when he became an accordion teacher in Paris. As far as I know the Italian element of musette players were instrumental in persuading a lot of players to come away from the three voice musette pur, and thereby put a more Italian stamp on French accordion. Even Cavagnolo, that most French of French makers, was set up by an Italian family.

Their accordions have a type of French sound that some people do not like at all. Here is a clip of the modern version of the Vedette 10 model. The one Baselli played would have been of heavier construction, which would have given it a slightly different sound, but even with todays technology youll probably never get two with exactly the same sound.

I know nothing at all about the technical aspects of accordion tuning in any country.

 
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maugein96

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Geoff de Limousin post_id=62438 time=1535795781 user_id=1371 said:
It appears to me that the very wet tunings of the 50s - 70s period are not yet out of fashion with the Thé Dansant musicians... I was listening to one last weekend whos Paso Doble was blood curdling!

For what I think is a more authentic musette sound, at least from the period when it became popular ( pre war) I suggest trying to find a copy of a CD recorded in 1996 by Michel Esbelin and Didier Pauvert. Didier plays three old accordeons, a Maugein, a Coopérativa Armoniche and a Ranco Luigi..... the disc is called Quand on fait le même chemin and the publishers are AMTA. Un fortunately I cannot find a link to an on-line shop or any videos on the internet... Ill search further.

Thanks Geoff,

Not having lived in France, or really spent much time there, it is difficut to get a true picture of what is actually going on.

I know there are still a lot of young players who are perpetuating musette pur, especially in the north, where it never seems to have died out at all.

Ive just had a look at some clips of Michel Esbelin playing along with Didier Pauvert, who is on a biggish looking red Paolo Soprani. I dont really know what to listen for, but on most of the tracks I cannot hear the accordion much, if at all, unless the cabrette is silent for a phrase or two. Good luck trying to get a box that can compete with one of those. You might want to consider a Draaiorgel from Belgium or The Netherlands, and at least it is on wheels so you can get further away from the cabrette player! Im not knocking the music at all and appreciate it is something you are very much into, merely making observations about how loud those cabrettes are, as Id sort of forgotten. Ive laid my headphones down and hopefully theyll make a full recovery. I had them set to listen to Basellis box, so I think I can definitely say that a Vedette 10 is not what you are looking for! A hornet in a jam jar would have a better chance of being heard.

IMHO guys like Verchuren and Aimable took that musette tuning to the absolute limits during the 50s and 60s, to the point where Scottish players brought more French material into their repertoires. The very strong musette tuning was the obvious attraction there.

My teacher has a three voice Ranco C system CBA from the 1920s with tiny (definitely no thumb!) treble buttons. Ill get him to let me hear it, as there arent a lot of pre war CBAs on these tropical islands known as the UK (remember them?). Im starting off from scratch again, but this time with a teacher. He reckons Im far better at playing Spanish type stuff than musette material, so I might end up looking for a Portuguese CBA, and if I find one of those in the UK Ill let you have my winning lottery ticket!

My new ambition is to find a cabrette/accordion duo where I can actually hear the accordion. The headphones have turned back to green from red, so Ill give it another go.
 
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maugein96

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Corsaire post_id=62437 time=1535789595 user_id=2107 said:
Joss Basellis playing and accordion tuning is certainly far more listenable than the old style musette which could be pretty ear-piercing.

Thanks for posting all these links, John - tuning is a huge subject and Im only just beginning to discover it. Up to now its really been a question of liking or disliking the sound without thinking about how the accordion might have been tuned. The old style musette sees heavy and as you say, I wouldnt like to hear every tune played with that sound.

Sally,

Youll have no doubt heard Scottish musette tuning, and most CBA accordions that have found their way to Scotland have that or Irish tuning, which Im told is even sharper. Ill take their word for that.

The old bals musette used to have competitions between musette pur and swing tuned accordionists. A clapometer was used after each tune, and the audience got to vote. Apparently civil war was looming, although stalwarts like Jo Privat, a dyed in the wool exponent of musette pur, decided to switch to swing tuning. He kept a bit of vibration in there as a tribute to the tuning he ultimately abandoned, and his preferred version was adopted by many players.

The technical aspects of it all are beyond me, although I ended up preferring the dry tuned accordion of the recording studio, rather than the big noise of the bal musette.

Bruno Lorenzoni, a famous player of the era, appeared on a documentary about it, and declared that musette pur was for dancing or playing at country fetes. He further qualified things by saying that advanced players wouldnt want to play everything in their repertoires using full three voice musette tuning. Regardless of that fact, musette pur is still the preferred tuning of a fair number of French accordionists, especially those who play in the folk styles.

Yet, Geoff recently made me aware of an excellent folk player named Herve Capel, who plays an identical Maugein Mini Sonora to mine, complete with americain tuning. Mind you those little boxes are quite loud compared with a typical Cavagnolo, and have a fair bit of grunt on LMM. Maugein are famous for loud accordions, and my wife knows when Im playing mine. I know that she knows as doors tend to get slammed harder, as well as the odd exclamation that can be heard over the Maugein, loud or no. The Cavagnolo has more of a calming influence on the household, and my neighbours daughter hardly bangs on her bedroom wall at all when I play it. I looked in the French dictionary and think they should have an entry corresponding to loud that reads Maugein. Im probably a bit loud as well, so wouldnt be offended.
 

Geoff de Limousin

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I'd written a nice post following your latest John , but time or something , swallowed it. But on a simalr theme:

This 442hz business is a real pain in the derrière when looking for a CBA in France that is in 440hz. As most of my musical associates play at International Standard Pitch this is an important desire. The only people who appear to know what the Diapason is ( of an accordion they are selling) are the dealers, and actually not all of them either. Trying to get any info out of jo pubique who is selling grandpere's wonderfull treasure recently found in the grenier ... forget it.

Most NEW accordions here appear to be 442 but they can also be 440. Some makes can be different again, 443 or higher... and I came across a very nice Fratelli Crosio at a fine price which was 446hz.

I asked for a rough quote from my local accordion repairman to drop the pitch of a almost new LMM instrument with Basson in Cassoto and 'a mano' reeds ... he came back with a figure between 1300 and 1500 euros !!
 

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John

And I thought that it was Brandoni that was loud ! One of our Australian shepherd dogs goes bananas when I start playing and its just dawned on me that shes jealous ! She squeaks and has actually nipped me a couple of times and she insists on staying in the room with me to ensure Im not up to anything with the mysterious box I appear to be cuddling :lol:

For our sea shanties I prefer the more musette sound of my old Delicia to the dryness of the Brandoni Ive borrowed. I dont think I could hack the heavy musette tuning for long. A light musette sound is evocative of bygone days, bars and cafés and other places where sailors used to hang out. As I play mostly folk, dance and French songs of the Piaf type, a light musette sound is ideal. Too dry and it can be too harsh for the effect I want to create.

Geoff - John sent me this link regarding tuning :
https://www.mon-accordeon.com/principe-accordage
Unfortunately when I rang our local accordion dealer about the tuning of a Brandoni I have ordered, his reference for tuning started at 5 Hz and not 0 (unison) which left me a bit flummoxed. The one the shop have lent me is so dry it sounds almost unison and was last borrowed by a jazz player. Its very harsh ... and loud.
 

Geoff de Limousin

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Sally,

I think there is a better, or perhaps just different, explaination of the various tuning styles at
diato.org/accord.htm

and somewhere else , that I must look for again, where one can listen to each stage of wetness.... I found it very usefull. but find it today I cannot.
 
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maugein96

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dunlustin post_id=62447 time=1535828643 user_id=70 said:
Agreed on the tea dance comment. I did wonder if that was alive (and well?), so I checked:

Its never really died out at all in the Nord area.

I love the music of the Nord, and guys like Claude Caron just wouldnt be the same without musette pur. However, when it all gets a bit like this Id rather go and watch a war movie in an auditorium with a front row seat.


Ive been listening to music played by Nord accordionists since the 50s, and this is about as hot as I can stand it. Gerard Desreumauxs big heavy monster Crosio box mellows it down a bit. :-


Those modern lightweight Hohner boxes just werent made for musette pur, at least not with todays amplification. .
 
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maugein96

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This is what eventually became accepted as the standard Paris accordion sound, as played by a Parisian on an accordion that was actually made in Paris.

Musette pur has continued to exist alongside it in tea dances, folk sessions, and in my beloved Nord region. However, Armand Lassagnes sound was Paris chic, if you can tolerate that type of expression.


Further proof of the Paris accordion sound is demonstrated here by Loulou Legrand on a similar Parisian made Fratelli Crosio (sadly no more). It was rumoured that his toupee actually cost more than his accordion, but dont tell him I told you!

 
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maugein96

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Geoff de Limousin post_id=62443 time=1535819820 user_id=1371 said:
Id written a nice post following your latest John , but time or something , swallowed it. But on a simalr theme:

This 442hz business is a real pain in the derrière when looking for a CBA in France that is in 440hz. As most of my musical associates play at International Standard Pitch this is an important desire. The only people who appear to know what the Diapason is ( of an accordion they are selling) are the dealers, and actually not all of them either. Trying to get any info out of jo pubique who is selling grandperes wonderfull treasure recently found in the grenier ... forget it.

Most NEW accordions here appear to be 442 but they can also be 440. Some makes can be different again, 443 or higher... and I came across a very nice Fratelli Crosio at a fine price which was 446hz.

I asked for a rough quote from my local accordion repairman to drop the pitch of a almost new LMM instrument with Basson in Cassoto and a mano reeds ... he came back with a figure between 1300 and 1500 euros !!


Hi Geoff,

Ive lost one or two big posts recently too, even although I had forgotten to sign out and was still logged in hours later. Im going to stop doing them.

Scotland is 440Hz, and I would doubt if there is much variation on that, but then there arent a lot of new or old CBA accordions here.

I just had my 30 year old Maugein Mini Sonora refurbed with a total retune from 442 to 441:- leathers, valves, tuning etc. About 25 hours work, and even if Id paid the full rate it would have only been around the £500 mark. I donated my old Cavagnolo bal musette to him for spares , as I couldnt bring myself to throw it in a skip. I suppose your man will have a shop/workshop with associated overheads, but even then thats one hell of a price for just a retune. Considering the price of a decent used box in France Im surprised he can justify prices like that.

Where Im from if he was charging people that sort of money, he would be re-tuning his shop windows or pulling the nails out of his car tyres every week. I appreciate hes probably a decent and well respected man in the area, and lets face it accordion repairers and tuners are getting pretty rare. Try telling him you know a Scottish hooligan wholl come over and throw a brick through his window if he doesnt do it for half price. I was about to say Id do it for free, but Im not made of bricks, so it would cost you! Decent brick throwers are getting pretty rare as well (but not in Scotland)! Every Monday morning there will usually be one or two big shop windows requiring attention. Serves them right for charging the prices they do!

A recent casualty was one of the local undertakers, whose bill had amounted to more than the original estimate. Nothing is sacred (except a decent brick).
 

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Nice clips. By and large it seems the dryer tunings are nicer to my ear. Then again, perhaps that's coming from a string background where I've had to train my ear. Even the fifths sound out of tune on the accordion, though I accept it as right.

Anyone else notice the odd difference in bellows timing push/pull on maugein96's last clip? It sure looks like his accordion has a one way automatic valve in it to me. Interesting idea, in that it may be easier on the left arm, in that it's less time lifting the bass side of the instrument.
 

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Thanks for the link, Geoff and Dunlustin - I think the explanation of beats per second matches the link John gave me, and it all makes more sense now. There's a really good simple explanation about the different types of tuning.
 
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maugein96

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maugein96 post_id=62461 time=1535878107 user_id=607 said:
Geoff de Limousin post_id=62443 time=1535819820 user_id=1371 said:
Id written a nice post following your latest John , but time or something , swallowed it. But on a simalr theme:

This 442hz business is a real pain in the derrière when looking for a CBA in France that is in 440hz. As most of my musical associates play at International Standard Pitch this is an important desire. The only people who appear to know what the Diapason is ( of an accordion they are selling) are the dealers, and actually not all of them either. Trying to get any info out of jo pubique who is selling grandperes wonderfull treasure recently found in the grenier ... forget it.

Most NEW accordions here appear to be 442 but they can also be 440. Some makes can be different again, 443 or higher... and I came across a very nice Fratelli Crosio at a fine price which was 446hz.

I asked for a rough quote from my local accordion repairman to drop the pitch of a almost new LMM instrument with Basson in Cassoto and a mano reeds ... he came back with a figure between 1300 and 1500 euros !!


Hi Geoff,

Ive lost one or two big posts recently too, even although I had forgotten to sign out and was still logged in hours later. Im going to stop doing them.

Scotland is 440Hz, and I would doubt if there is much variation on that, but then there arent a lot of new or old CBA accordions here.

I just had my 30 year old Maugein Mini Sonora refurbed with a total retune from 442 to 441:- leathers, valves, tuning etc. About 25 hours work, and even if Id paid the full rate it would have only been around the £500 mark. I donated my old Cavagnolo bal musette to him for spares , as I couldnt bring myself to throw it in a skip. I suppose your man will have a shop/workshop with associated overheads, but even then thats one hell of a price for just a retune. Considering the price of a decent used box in France Im surprised he can justify prices like that.

Where Im from if he was charging people that sort of money, he would be re-tuning his shop windows or pulling the nails out of his car tyres every week. I appreciate hes probably a decent and well respected man in the area, and lets face it accordion repairers and tuners are getting pretty rare. Try telling him you know a Scottish hooligan wholl come over and throw a brick through his window if he doesnt do it for half price. I was about to say Id do it for free, but Im not made of bricks, so it would cost you! Decent brick throwers are getting pretty rare as well (but not in Scotland)! Every Monday morning there will usually be one or two big shop windows requiring attention. Serves them right for charging the prices they do!

A recent casualty was one of the local undertakers, whose bill had amounted to more than the original estimate. Nothing is sacred (except a decent brick). My wife has just told me that the local Roman Catholic church is closing down. How soon that happens could also have a direct correlation between windows and bricks, as the joiners are running out of timber and the glaziers are getting short of glass.
 

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Maugein said:
Further proof of the Paris accordion sound is demonstrated here by Loulou Legrand on a similar Parisian made Fratelli Crosio (sadly no more). It was rumoured that his toupee actually cost more than his accordion, but dont tell him I told you!
Im fine with the tuning but that style of playing isnt my favourite ...

This is my former accordion teacher, Mickael Richard, today (I took lessons with him 20 years ago) and Im surprised hes doing this sort of thing today - he never said anything about singing at the time !



It sounds horribly europop to me but clearly theres a market for this sort of music.
 
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maugein96

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Corsaire post_id=62468 time=1535884795 user_id=2107 said:
Im fine with the tuning but that style of playing isnt my favourite ...

This is my former accordion teacher, Mickael Richard, today (I took lessons with him 20 years ago) and Im surprised hes doing this sort of thing today - he never said anything about singing at the time !

It sounds horribly europop to me but clearly theres a market for this sort of music.

Hi Sally,

It was the jazzy style that preceded new musette. I cant remember how long it actually lasted, but it became pretty standard fare vs musette pur. Most of the players I listened to played that style. The music was a bit more involved than the musette classics, and few of them played it as it was written. Definitely a niche within a niche, it could all end up running together, and some players simply got lost in it all. It was also frustrating for would be copycats (me) to get to grips with, but not impossible.

I had heard of Mickeal Richard, but his brother, Jérôme, is perhaps better known. I think thats him playing the white Ballone Burini in the second clip.

A similar pop style has been popular in Italy for some years. I love the sound of those big Lucchini boxes. No problems with sore backs or weight there. I did consider one of those accordion stands, but was worried in case it could play the box better than I could! I can manage the tunes OK, and Im just working on the facial expressions! No singing, just barking (like me!)

The orchestra, Castellini Pasi, is from Emilia Romagna where CBA is king/queen, and that same Lucchini box has been used by successive players. The original player, Roberto Giraldi, started off using the stand and it has never gone away. The orchestra had won its second golden disc award by 1978 and is still going strong today. I would therefore opine that Europop could be a worthwhile career with no back or other problems likely to be encountered, unless you decide to carry that big Lucchini around. A conservative estimate for it would be about 32lbs. {}

 

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maugein96 post_id=62467 time=1535881794 user_id=607 said:
Hi Geoff,

Ive lost one or two big posts recently too, even although I had forgotten to sign out and was still logged in hours later. Im going to stop doing them.

Scotland is 440Hz, and I would doubt if there is much variation on that, but then there arent a lot of new or old CBA accordions here.

I just had my 30 year old Maugein Mini Sonora refurbed with a total retune from 442 to 441:- leathers, valves, tuning etc. About 25 hours work, and even if Id paid the full rate it would have only been around the £500 mark. I donated my old Cavagnolo bal musette to him for spares , as I couldnt bring myself to throw it in a skip. I suppose your man will have a shop/workshop with associated overheads, but even then thats one hell of a price for just a retune. Considering the price of a decent used box in France Im surprised he can justify prices like that.

Well John ,
I guess your man is more reasonable, but in fairness I asked my repairer to give me a rough idea , sight unseen, and he quoted me a just in case of difficulties price and said that every reed would have to be taken off the blocks to do the job properly and his price looks like 3 to 4 euros per reed to tune each down to 440.. Im sure there is VAT and a garantee in that quote as well. But yes it is a sizeable chunk of money and I assume many other accordionists just play their aquisitions and plead ignorance regarding the diapason. Of course a good chunk of musette wetness will cover many disparities.
 

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