On January 8th 1946, in Tupelo, Mississippi, Mrs Gladys Presley bought a guitar at a local store for her son Elvis’s 11th birthday (for $7.75) and within a few short years the world was rockin’ and rollin’. Big swing bands with intelligible vocalists (and quite often an accordion) were ‘out’ and tunes which seldom exceeded 3 chords and where the vocalist was preferably unintelligible were in! Almost overnight the guitar was ‘king’!
From the late 50s the accordion diminished in the public eye though to a dedicated minority it remains ‘king’.
Due to accordion market contraction and the need for viable, ever larger production/marketing units many manufacturers no longer exist. The arguments are many on the supposed supremacy of older instruments versus the newer, mass-produced ones. Who can deny that construction has not improved at least in the fields of faster/lighter keyboards and general weight reduction?
It follows that a market reduction is accompanied by a reduction of retailers and repair staff. It becomes harder and harder to find competent repairers as the volume of work falls and few retailers seem able to justify an ‘in house’ employee. The remaining repairers operate on a part-time basis, many appear to be self-taught and reputation is all. Apart from a sharp ear and a lot of patience a wide variety of skills is brought to accordion repair and at least some understanding and appreciation of carpentry, metalwork (fitting/soldering/brazing), metallurgy, plastics/polymers, fluid mechanics/air flow, adhesives, fabrics, physics/acoustics and some basic mathematics is required.
Being vaguely aware that accordion repairs were best left to an expert and that ‘a little knowledge is dangerous’ an opportunity arose a few years ago when an old instrument came to hand which had been rescued from a waste disposal unit. My mind was made up to attempt restoration as the instrument was in poor health with broken reeds and poor bodywork.
The following pages contain brief notes gathered along the way from personal discovery, books, other enthusiasts and web sites. The notes are purely personal and the only hard ‘advice’ offered is that beginners start experimenting with an old instrument.
From other enthusiasts’ contributions it is hoped to add to this site and any information on such matters as sources of material/spares, glues, felts, techniques, the possible use of an oscilloscope, tuning styles etc. would be welcome.
P.S. My early attempts at tuning placed a heavy emphasis on reed frequency alone while ignoring reed tone and attack.