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Reed banks / register orientation (for builders / techies)


On my cajun accordion, the registers (stops) go like this:

MLMH (reed type)
_ | | _ (orientation, i.e., flat or standup)

I suppose it is the standard approach.

Now as one can see, the two M reed banks are in a different position (one standing up and one laying flat). When messing with the stops playing one reed bank at a time, it is obvious that the 2 M banks have very different tones. The flat one (_) is warm, mid rich, slightly muted. The standup one (|) is piercing and louder in the treble range. Both together yield a complex, rich and full tone. The classic cajun accordion tone.

This little experiement shows that laying a reed flat tends to improve the lower end (bass and mids) while making it stand up improves the higher end (treble presence).

Now if we look at the L and H reed banks, the L is standing up and the H is laying flat. This to me seems counterintuitive, as common sense would dictate to do just the opposite (laying the L reeds flat to make them bassier and making the H reeds stand up to make them treblier).

So here are my questions:
1/ Has any builder ever tried to switch L and H reeds position, in order to make the L reeds even bassier and the H reeds even more trebly?
2/ Or perhaps the L reeds can't be laid flat because of their extra size?
3/ Or perhaps laying the L reeds flat would make them muted and too low while raising the treble reeds would make them too shrill and piercing?

Sounds like fun experiments could be carried out.


Re: Reed banks / register orientation (for builders / techies)

Size is the main reason the L's are upright, it's a squeeze getting a M and H down. You probably could do that on some of the higher keys by thinning down the frames and maybe re-positioning the holes.

What you found may not be standard if you checked others. What I've mostly noticed is the upright M has less volume and punch than the flat one, but there's all kinds of variables.

Also, your layout is not standard, it's usually MMLH, starting from the holes closest to the keyboard

Re: Reed banks / register orientation (for builders / techies)

In a Castagnari all reeds are standing up.
I thought that the Weltmeister also have that, but I'm not sure.
The interference between the sounds is also different if the position of the reed-blocks is different, isn't it ?

Re: Reed banks / register orientation (for builders / techies)


Thanks for chiming in.

Meloderon, I honestly could not tell whether reed block position has an impact on the tone (provided the orientation - flat or standup - is the same).
What I can say is on my Hohner HA114s (all reed blocks are standup), I do hear a little difference between the two M reed banks. The lower reed bank (closer to the fingerboard) has a bit less edge (presence / treble) than the upper reed bank (away from the keyboard). This could be to the position of the reeds. It is also not a fair comparison since one M reed block is attached to the big L reed block, while the other M reed block is attached to the smaller H reed block. I would bet real money this has an impact on the tone, perhaps more than the position itself.

Bryan, I decided to open up my accordion (C box Evangeline) and yes, it's definitely too cramped down there to even think about laying the L block flat. However, just as you say, it might be possible to do it on a high pitched box (like F) with smaller reeds. Perhaps fattening up the L reed bank (laying it flat) could yield promising results.

It is kinda interesting my Evangeline has the L and one M blocks reversed. This accordion seems to have a couple unusual features. I'd love to discuss this with the builder as he probably did this on purpose.
Contrary to your findings Bryan, I don't hear much difference in overall volume between the 2 M banks ON MY ACCORDION (yes it's a sample of one, so take it with a grain of salt!). I do notive though that the flat reed bank is fuller while the standup one is thinner and more piercing. The difference is quite dramatic. The two together gives a full broad frequency range (BTW all the reeds are Binci Professional).

Now, while messing around with my stops, I noticed that 2 reeds do not sound on the push (button 10). They're not broken, the reed tongues are all there and shiny but they do not sound for the life of me. How can I fix that?

Re: Reed banks / register orientation (for builders / techies)

I doubt it makes a whole lot of difference on whether L or M is on which side, most just put the 2 Mids together just because. There may be some tonal difference but not sure. The only think I'd wonder, and it's pure speculation, is the close the sound hole is to the player, the less of an opening there is where the flapper comes up because of the angle, and I'd think you'd want the L reeds as far out as possible to give it as much opening as possible.

A reed not sounding is usually a piece of dirt or wax stuck in the reed, and it can be REALLY small, or the reed gap has closed. If you look at the end of the reed, there should be a gap between the reed tip and the reed plate about equal to the thickness of the reed, if you see no gap, that's the problem. If it's dirt or wax, just stick a knife blade under the reed tip and plink it, that usually dislodges it. If it's the gap, stick the blade under the reed tip and gently lift it up a little at a time til it bends enough to have that small gap. Sounds scary to someone not used to tinkering with accordions, but it's not a big deal.

Re: Reed banks / register orientation (for builders / techies)

"In a Castagnari all reeds are standing up."

Nope.. almost correct...
All the reed blocks are standing up, however the highest register reeds are lying down on a wing/foot extension of the reed block.

Re: Reed banks / register orientation (for builders / techies)

You're right Jeff, I forgot that.
I think it had to do with room/space
It's also possible to take the two reedblocks out as I remember this right.

Bryan, no horror stories anymore please about lifting reeds with a knife (even gently)

Re: Reed banks / register orientation (for builders / techies)

Don't worry Ron, no blood was spilled in the tweaking of those reeds.

I think the main reason (speculating) the Euro accordions has all stand up reeds is that many of them make the reed blocks removable.

Re: Reed banks / register orientation (for builders / techies)

All the reed blocks in the Castagnari melodeon are removeable.

The only Castagnari I am aware that has laydown fixed reed blocks is the 2 row single reed Lilly.

Re: Reed banks / register orientation (for builders / techies)

I'm staring at a Gabenelli Cajun King key of "D" tuned to sound exactly like Nathan Abshire's "D" accordion and it also plays very well along with Amedee Ardoin's "D" for his recordings.

From near the keyboard the setup is HMLM.
The H & M are wax mounted on each a side of one standing reed block.
The L & M are wax mounted on each a side of the other standing reed block.

Oh, and I see somebody (a Louisiana builder friend) slipped me an old brass reed for button 10 on the High row. Hadn't noticed that before. He must've broke the original gabenelli steel reed while retuning this accordion for me or did he replace it with brass on purpose?!!!. This gab "D" is not a very powerful accordion in terms of volume output, but it sure is sweet to hear and the play action is as good or better than my Acadian "C"(tuned exactly like Iry's "C" accordion). In fact, I had the Acadian button springs re-adjusted and flappers re-felted to match the feel of that Cajun King. After this was done, I stopped searching for the perfect accordions. Two builders that made it all possible....Well, I can't say because it would expose me. They both listened to me closely and to what sound I was looking for, they made a few suggestions and made it hap'n Cap'n!

Oh, if anyone wanted to know, the tuning that gives you an Iry Lejeune sound is 15 cents wet on HA-114 Hohner "C" reeds. But only on 1 row! Man I love giving up all these secrets!

Re: Reed banks / register orientation (for builders / techies)

To tune exactly like Nathan's and Iry's boxes, you'd have to duplicate years of smoke build up, and slightly out of tune from playing. Those guys are examples of the fact that even an out of tune accordion sounds good in the right hands. My friend Cory McCauley told me once, when I offered to fine tune the tuning on the accordion I made for him, that he doesn't worry about minor out of tune reeds ever since he picked up an accordion Marc Savoy had been playing at a jam, and making sound awesome, and noticed it was way out of tune, but in Marc's hands you couldn't tell.

I've seen those brass reeds for the smallest reed, and sometimes the smallest two reeds, in other Euro made boxes. I was told they did that because brass responds better in the small reeds, and those 2 small reeds are notoriously hard to get to start. Seems like a Weltmeister I had had two brass reeds.

I don't think you get the volume out of 2 stand up blocks that you get out of laying down 2 of them. On the removable blocks like they Welty's have, I also think you lose volume from not being directly attached. I modified my Welty by removing the blocks and taking out those cheesy plastic runners and slides, and directly gluing the blocks back to the faceplate. Lost the registers that way, but got more sound.

I like the sound of the Weltmeisters and Gabbanellis. Is as close as you'll come to the old Saxony sound of those Sterlings and Monarchs from factory boxes, at least to me.

Re: Reed banks / register orientation (for builders / techies)


Bryan, thanks for your trick. I now have one of the two muted reeds sounding just as it should. The other muted reed(the highest / button 10 H reed) still wheezes but does not start.
Good to know a brass plate reed is easier to start.

Greezy, what do you mean by 15 cents wet 'only on one row'?


Re: Reed banks / register orientation (for builders / techies)

Typically, getting a wet sound is done by tuning one row a certain amount "off" from the other 3. There are some, though, that may tune, say, one mid row 7 cents high and the other mid row 7 cents low, it's still technically about 15 cents off, but doesn't sound as wet. I haven't tinkered a whole lot there to see the differences, well that and I don't like the wet sound much.

That highest reed is a pain. I've heard Marc doesn't even tune it, and I've also heard that Randy Falcon waxes it shut. Most people don't miss it, but some do. It sometimes starts and tunes with no problems, sometimes you have to perform voodoo and gri gri on it to get it to work, and it's always prone to stopping. Getting a little more technical, you sometimes have to alter the shape of the reed. Some can get it to sound better by turning the reed around where the reed tip is directly over the sound hole. Some drill a small hole in the reed block next to the reed. Like I said, voodoo.

Re: Reed banks / register orientation (for builders / techies)

Say Boudreaux. I was going to come back and clear up which row of reeds of the HMLM order gets the 15cent wet tuning to sound "Iry" like. If the order is HMLM (high, medium, low, medium) starting closest from the keyboard block, then the first "medium" row you come to would be tuned 15cents wet. Only one row of the mediums is tuned 15cent wet because you can close that second stopper from the keyboard if you want to hear just dry tuning, and the other remaining medium row farthest from the keyboard is still there to do its job while the wet tuned row is closed. Yes, the accordion loses power closing off that wet tuned reed bank, but you get your dry sound. Remember, for that unique Iry tuning, I ordered Hohner HA-114 reeds for my Acadian "C". The match was the best I've ever heard. Like Bryan said, it's hard to match Iry's accordion for it sounding slightly out of tune. After a while of playing, that sound and feel coming from this "Iry" accordion sort of pulls you into a cervical time continuum and magically helps you to play Iry Lejeune songs. It's a rare experience. Eventually, if you try hard enough, you see the music and feel it the way Iry felt it. And you are able to present it more like he did. Takes a long time though. That son of a gun (Iry)only took from 13-15 years from when he began playing accordion to accomplish the talent we hear on his recordings when he was 20 years old or there abouts. FYI, many people avoid Iry music and his style because they are simply not capable of accomplishing it...ever. Partly because their accordions are not tuned correctly, and partly because they refuse to open their mind enough to connect with Iry's playing. He is the "avoided Master" in some cases. You get to know these things when you have a CD of all of Iry's songs in your kitchen always playing on the cabinet mounted radio. Listen to Iry and play his songs long enough, and you finally get it! The man had some serious hidden dynamics in his playing style. Dynamics that absolutely demand that you become one with your accordion or you will fail to do it like he did!

Re: Reed banks / register orientation (for builders / techies)

So Bryan, from what you say and what I'm looking at on this gabanelli, brass reeds used on the smallest high reeds are not a fluke nor the result of a mistake! It is actually practiced on purpose by some builders. What a concept! The mixing of brass and steel reeds? It would be my guess that brass reeds are cheaper in price? They are softer and give less of a piercing sound? They seem to keep their tuning just fine, and they tune quickly.

The big question is, are all Louisiana builders aware of this "brass" practice and are they willing to do it for you without being asked to in order to make the accordion sound and perform better? In other words, are they willing to act in your best interest and not just their own by being solely motivated by the quality of the product they produce for the accordion player. Are they willing to throw away 1 or 2 perfectly good steel reeds of the whole set and purchase 1 or 2 good quality brass reeds to replace them? I don't think most of them are ready to do that. This is the first brass reed I ever see in any of the 5 accordions I've owned. 4 of them were Louisiana made. The only one to have this brass reed set up was the Italian gabanelli. Interesting.

Lastly, Ive seen reeds held to the reed blocks by screws and then waxed or vice versa. I've seen reeds only held in by wax. You say you glue them? Which way produces the best sound. I did not get a good sound in the past with a box I had which had the reeds held on by screws and waxed. No bright lively sound. Seemed to produce a so so sound. Kind of dull. The two accordion I have left are both waxed and only waxed. No screws.

Re: Reed banks / register orientation (for builders / techies)

I don't know how common the brass plated high reeds is, but I know I've seen a couple and heard that some Euro builders do it as a practice, I imagine they order their reeds that way. And it's not the reed that's brass, it's just the plate. From my limited experience, a whole set of brass plated reeds has a more piercing sound than aluminum plates. It's not always necessary for that brass plated high reed, I can usually get the high reeds to sound fine on aluminum plates and apparently so do most other builders. Sometimes it's easy from the start, sometimes it takes some tweaking, a few take a lot of tweaking. It's just more sensitive to reed shape and gap.

I don't glue the reeds in, I wax them, I was referring to gluing the reed blocks. Some in Europe screw the reed plates in on top of cork gaskets, but I've never seen a La builder do that. I have seen an Acadian with screwed in reeds on top of leather valve material. Marc and several other builders now screw in the reeds and wax them.

One thing I've experimented with is changing one mid row out to a different brand. My thought was that 2 mids I think were probably originally meant to be tuned differently, but if dry tuned, it only gives a little fuller sound. I thought maybe putting a different brand, or one row of brass based reeds to an aluminum set, would add a little character to two mid rows tuned dry. It was somewhat successful, but not spectacularly so.

One surprise on a whole set of brass plate reeds is it is noticeably heavier.

Re: Reed banks / register orientation (for builders / techies)

Greezy, in your Gabby, was the reed itself brass?? That would be new. Brass reeds were used in the very old boxes, and they switched to steel, at least in part, because brass reeds do not hold tuning and are not very loud. The first steel reeds were on zinc plates, which is what the old Sterlings and Monarchs had. Zinc seems similar to brass in weight.

Re: Reed banks / register orientation (for builders / techies)

Brass reeds are more prone to metal fatigue, main reason they were abandoned. Brass reeds are mellow compared to steel.

brass or steel on zinc gives you disparate metals and lead toward corrosion.

There is no sound like steel on zinc.. long used on bandoneons and still used on bandoneons.. a very special sound..
and the most difficult accordion to learn to play.. see Tango bandoneon..
for the way they are played and the incredible sound. Astor Piazolla (RIP) was the master and near innovator of the bandoneon as the heart of Tango.

Re: Reed banks / register orientation (for builders / techies)

Bryan, I opened up that "gabby" again and had a closer look. That single reed plate for the #10 button high row is brass for the plate and the reed by itself looks to be steel. Good call! And on your comment of a whole set of brass reeds adding significant weight to the accordion. We cannot have that happen! I had owned one heavy accordion. A bflat Martin. I did not like the sluggish feel of that heaviness. Needless to say, I sold it pretty quickly. I first came aware of my preference of a "light weight" accordion when I got my hands on a pine wood accordion. It was for a man I know. He let me play on it. It felt really lite and the action and sound was quick and bright. When I purchased this gabby, once again I was glad to see that it was light in weight and quick in feel. No fancy exotic heavy African babinga wood there, and I'm glad for it!

Re: Reed banks / register orientation (for builders / techies)

I'm much more of an experimenter and hobbyist than serious builder. Hearing some players talk about their preference for light boxes, I did an experiment to see how light I could make one. I made it out of spruce, with balsa reed blocks. It weighed about 5 1/2 pounds, and is one of the best sounding boxes I've made. Very rich and clear, and at least in my mind, did away with the commonly held believe that the reed blocks needed to be maple or some other very hard wood. I can't take credit for that, I got the idea from an Aussie builder named Peter Hyde, who used to make the whole box out of balsa, and now uses some kind of marine foam. I think the light weight boxes seem to transmit sound real well, and mellows the tone. May not be for everyone, but I considered it a successful experiment. Doesn't take bangs and dings well, though.

Re: Reed banks / register orientation (for builders / techies)

Well there you go, "where 2 or more shall gather there shall be a church". I'll back you up on that 5 1/2 pound accordion until the cows come home. Light is better!

Re: Reed banks / register orientation (for builders / techies)

Boxes with full brass reed plates are extremely bright and very heavy. Beware of installing these in the higher octaves and in higher pitch ranges.

MAUGEIN of France has always screwed or nailed their reeds on chamois (a kind of goat) leather..
Interesting Savoy does this.. as there is a way and a place to put the screws/nails.. and he doesn't do it. The middle is not the place. Nor are the extreme top or bottom edges.

Using two different brands and profiles of reeds may lead to a discordant result as they would speak differently, and at different times, and have different overtones.

Re: Reed banks / register orientation (for builders / techies)

I don't think so. Where I've found it has a place is that some people think Binci reeds are too bassy, and some think Ciccarelli reeds are too high, and for those people, taking one set and changing out a mid row balances it. I've taken a Binci set and changed out one mid row with Ciccarelli, and then put the Ciccarelli set with the one Binci in another box, I like the sound of both.

Re: Reed banks / register orientation (for builders / techies)

I've also had a box with a mano on the treble and tipo a mano on the bass...
no appreciable difference.

Re: Reed banks / register orientation (for builders / techies)

I've often wondered if someone set two boxes, one with a mano reeds, and one with tipo, and asked a player to tell which was which, how many could really get it right. Other than the 50/50 odds, I'd bet not many.

Re: Reed banks / register orientation (for builders / techies)

The notable thing about that Mr Lafleur is that "you often wonder and think". That's how things eventually change and get better if wondering and thinking are accompanied by "concern". You seem to have all three in working order unlike some accordion builders I've dealt with. Good job!

Re: Reed banks / register orientation (for builders / techies)

"I've often wondered if someone set two boxes, one with a mano reeds, and one with tipo, and asked a player to tell which was which, how many could really get it right. Other than the 50/50 odds, I'd bet not many."

Completely agree.. I couldn't tell especially if the reeds are well tuned.

About 10 years ago Castagnari stopped using "a mano reeds" as standard because buyers could not tell the difference. Castagnari clearly states that the reeds they now use are "tipo a mano" and aren't trying to fool anyone.
They use Antonelli tipo a mano 99% of the time. They are excellent reeds.
They now also state on their newest price lists (2016 and 2017) they no longer will fit "a mano" reeds by request. They even discontinued that.

Also one Cajun box maker of some fame, who will remain unnamed, often used a second grade of Binci reeds and not Binci Professional reeds.
He even tried to sell these reeds to other makers as if they were the top of the line Bincis. Butt that's history.

Also beware of makers that claim that their reeds are "a mano"

All it takes is a little gun bluing.. to make a "tipo a mano" looklike an "a mano". One importer rebrander in California does this with his 3 row Tex Mex/ Norteno boxes of modest quality and sells them at outrageous prices.

Also "a mano" means very little when the reed might be from one of the lesser quality reed makers (also will remain unnamed) . GAbanelli in Texas will use whoever is cheapest.

The best quality "tipo a mano" can be better than the best quality "a mano" form another maker.

About 10 years ago there was a "reed war" between some Euro box makers.. bragging that their boxes had handmade.. this following many complaints of the "dural" reds being used.. Dural is a good reed quality but below "tipo a mano" and "a mano".

This is when Castagnari went the other direction and used the best quality "tipo a mano" reed available and another maker bragged about his (cheap quality) "a mano" reeds as a selling point but not as good as Castagnari's Antonelli "tipo a mano"

You would be surprised at the sound of a well tuned "tipo a mano" reed.

I quite like them and have no need to specify.. "Binci Pro" tipo a mano.

I am a toatl novice on reeds.. there are builders (most in Europe) who have all this dialed in from years of expoereince of building and tuning..

An example would be Bergflodt in Norway, Gaillard in Brittany,France, Beltrami in Italy...

Bryan.. why not build a Cajun box with some Antonelli or other "tipo a mano" reeds and see where that goes?

Also reed origin and quality.. It is well known that the finest reeds have traditionally come form Italy, however the Czechs ( part of my heritage) are coming on strong.

The main reason Chinese boxes are inferior is the reed quality and the reed blocks and of course they are not an accordeon culture therefore are clueless.

Jamey Hall's most excellent Cajun Accordion Music Theory

Brett's all new Cajun Accordion Music Theory for all keys!

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