• If you haven't done so already, please add a location to your profile. This helps when people are trying to assist you, suggest resources, etc. Thanks

Where did wet and musette tuning come from?

Matt Butcher

Prolific poster
Site Supporter
Joined
Apr 30, 2013
Messages
1,185
Reaction score
0
I was thinking, someone must actually know this but I've never come across anything definitive... Maybe I haven't looked hard enough.

Wet and musette tuning is a very distinctive sound, some love it (me, though you don't want it for everything), some hate it. It is a part of certain traditions. But where was it first developed, where did it first become traditional?

I have seen some theories:

1) the "margin of safety" theory. Free reeds were subject to the weather, the climate, getting beer and wine spilt on them, transport by donkey etc etc and they were at risk of going out of tune. Wet tuning provides some leeway before the instrument sounded wrong and lengthened time between repairs.

2) the "dancehall" theory. Free reed instruments were often played in dance venues without amplification. The musette sound cut through the murky mid-range noise so people could hear the tune.

3) the "bagpipe" theory. I thought of this but I'm sure it's not original. Wet and musette tuning is strongly traditional in Scotland, formerly in Ireland but now less so, Paris and Southern Italy. In all cases bagpipes were prominent trad melody instruments before the box took off and the box could be seen as a substitute - it certainly was in Southern Italy. Wet and musette tuning gives some approximation of the bagpipe sound. (In Paris I am going by the theory that musette music was formed when pipers from the Auvergne clashed with ballo liscio players from Emilia Romagna, but I don't know.)

But historically there must be some info on whether free reeds were wet tuned from the early days or if not how this tradition grew up or spread... Does anyone know?
 

Matt Butcher

Prolific poster
Site Supporter
Joined
Apr 30, 2013
Messages
1,185
Reaction score
0
Thank you! I saw that when I was looking and it says where the word musette came from, i. e. a kind of French bagpipe - I just don't know whether that means the tuning was invented in France or not.
 

landro

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 12, 2015
Messages
251
Reaction score
1
Matt Butcher said:
Thank you! I saw that when I was looking and it says where the word musette came from, i. e. a kind of French bagpipe - I just dont know whether that means the tuning was invented in France or not.

I know at least a few performers (US) who absolutely loathe anything but a dry / concert tuned accordion and it must be a cassotto model . That said , I would assume they have another one with some kind of wet tuning for those times when they want to play authentic French / Italian / ethnic . That is if they ever play anything out of the realm of classical or jazz.
Personally I prefer and all arounder with no tone chamber . If it doesn`t have musette I`m not the least bit interested in it.
 

Matt Butcher

Prolific poster
Site Supporter
Joined
Apr 30, 2013
Messages
1,185
Reaction score
0
I had another look at that link you sent landro and I think it may answer the question - if the bagpipes had some kind of wet tuned double reed business going on, then whether it was first done in France or not, that's most probably where the idea was from.
 

landro

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 12, 2015
Messages
251
Reaction score
1
Matt Butcher said:
I had another look at that link you sent landro and I think it may answer the question - if the bagpipes had some kind of wet tuned double reed business going on, then whether it was first done in France or not, thats most probably where the idea was from.

My thoughts of (musette) , be it discovery or invention , probably was more accidental than intentional. It seems to me wet tuning would go against the prevailing musical theory authorities of the times , and no doubt there had to be a lot of snobbery going on.
 

KLR

Member
Joined
Jul 3, 2013
Messages
98
Reaction score
0
In that link Mick Hursey states that the drones of the musette de couer were deliberately mistuned; in all of the recordings of that instrument I've heard the drones are perfectly in line with each other, as is the case with properly functioning instruments in most bagpipe traditions, including the Scottish, Irish, other French, and Italian. In other countries you often have multiple melody pipes which clash with each other, and perhaps this inspired the musette tuning. Also the bal musette players didn't play the musette de couer, which had been extinct for centuries - they played cabrettes. Why the tradition acquired the musette name I'm not sure. You can view clips of the musette being played on YouTube. All we know of its technique derives from old tutors, and I seriously doubt they advocated mistuning drones - these were instruments for the wealthy, sometimes made out of solid ivory with sterling silver metalwork.

An accordion tech I know suggested to me that the Scottish and Irish taste for very wide musette evolved out of salt air in coastal areas corroding reeds, which eventually became what people expected boxes to sound like, which I think is amusing and as likely as anything else. I was asking some friends last night whether they thought Irish and Scottish dance halls were noisier than those of other countries, hence the wetter tuning.
 

TomBR

Well-known member
Site Supporter
Joined
Nov 1, 2013
Messages
998
Reaction score
59
Location
SE. Gloucestershire UK
Who's playing a ceilidh tonight, can you do us a real world test with your wettest and dryest reed options, and see how they cut through! :D

The recordings I've heard of the C18 French musette bagpipe the sound is surprisingly harsh. Sounds like it was there to provide a bit of pseudo-peasant grit!
 

donn

Prolific poster
Joined
Apr 30, 2013
Messages
1,336
Reaction score
15
Location
Seattle, Washington
The first time I encountered this effect was in a harmonica. Mouth organ, that is. But I'm not old enough to have been been present at its invention.
 

Matt Butcher

Prolific poster
Site Supporter
Joined
Apr 30, 2013
Messages
1,185
Reaction score
0
Good point though even if you weren't an eyewitness, I always forget how important harmonicas were.
 

TomBR

Well-known member
Site Supporter
Joined
Nov 1, 2013
Messages
998
Reaction score
59
Location
SE. Gloucestershire UK
Doesn't musette really need three sets of reeds? I like the practical attitude on Emilio Allodi's site where he says that the coupler labelled musette may not actually be real musette, but it'll be the nearest you've got!
 
J

Jack Campin

Guest
It was common to tune clavichords with the paired strings 1/8 of a tone apart. (Clavichords are very quiet and this gave them a bit more power). So the idea goes back to the 17th century.

I would guess the idea goes back centuries before that in organ building.
 

donn

Prolific poster
Joined
Apr 30, 2013
Messages
1,336
Reaction score
15
Location
Seattle, Washington
TomBR said:
Doesnt musette really need three sets of reeds? I like the practical attitude on Emilio Allodis site where he says that the coupler labelled musette may not actually be real musette, but itll be the nearest youve got!

I gather if we insist on a True Musette, then its a sort of bagpipe.
 

TomBR

Well-known member
Site Supporter
Joined
Nov 1, 2013
Messages
998
Reaction score
59
Location
SE. Gloucestershire UK
TomBR said:
Doesnt musette really need three sets of reeds? I like the practical attitude on Emilio Allodis site where he says that the coupler labelled musette may not actually be real musette, but itll be the nearest youve got!

I gather if we insist on a True Musette, then its a sort of bagpipe.[/quote]

Adjective vs noun? :D
 

Matt Butcher

Prolific poster
Site Supporter
Joined
Apr 30, 2013
Messages
1,185
Reaction score
0
So I reckon, the techniques were already known to instrument makers (thank you Jack) and spread in the massive process of trial and error that followed the invention of free reed instruments. Wet tuning may have been particularly suited to rough and ready circumstances but may have taken the greatest hold on people's ears where there was already a strong tradition of noisy "buzzing" instruments such as bagpipes.

Great, thank you, I suppose the question I should have asked from the start is : when and where did two voice MM free reed instruments become widespread? Because once you have that everything else follows.
 
D

Deleted member 48

Guest
Harmonium makers, mouth harmonica makers and accordion makers most likely were all watching each others inventions.
Some historians say the tremolo harmonica influenced tremolo tuning in accordions, others vice versa.

The Thie mouth harmonica making company in Vienna , started 1830s, is sometimes named as having invented tremolo tuning in mouth harps
http://www.patmissin.com/ffaq/q1.html

In another book I read Müller in Vienna also made tremolo diatonic bisonoric accordions in Vienna in the 1830s.
And harmoniums also have tremolo registers, copied from tremolo tuned church organ registers... I think those tremolo church organ registers already existed in early baroque organs.

Yep, French musette accordion purists speak of musette tuning if 3 reeds/voices are tuned: 8+8+8

Most common tremolo tunings in accordion are 2 reeds/voices 8+8
 

AccordionUprising

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 1, 2014
Messages
348
Reaction score
12
Location
Vancouver, BC, Canada
I assume it was for volume – so you can be heard in a noisy bar. I'd guess simultaneous invention in separate places as soon as you had multi-reed instruments. It's not the kind of thing that needed to be invented, the concept and technology were there and the need drove it wherever it was.

So many places accordions took over from other instruments because they were louder (and easier to play than fiddles). Anything to make them louder the better. In Irish American dance-halls they had several boxes playing in unison with each box pushing six reeds per note. When you're playing for 1,000 dancers, subtlety is not an issue.

I assume the idea of differing tuning was well-known, as pianos and multi-coarse strings used it. Double-stop fingerings on fiddles were used for volume too.
Cajun players certainly handed this to accordionists, again to be heard in noisy dance-halls. Cajun accordionists play four-reed instruments, but use chords extensively, so at least eight reeds sounding at once.

After you get out of that dance-hall, or want to harmonize with other instruments, then going to a dry tuning is natural (and neighbourly).
 

Similar threads

Top