You ask some interesting questions that most of us have probably not given much thought to, but here goes.
1) If the tension is too soft, you will get air leaks. Not sure it can be too hard, other than making it more difficult to play.
2) Yes, somewhere between too soft and too hard is perfect. Is this a trick question? LOL
3) I suppose the springs might become looser over a very, very long time. Seems possible, but unlikely. Also easy to fix by either replacing them, or by removing a coil or two to shorten them.
4) How to communicate your preference to a builder would be challenging. It never occurred to me that I might want to do that. The degree of tension is a somewhat relative thing, and not easily measurable or defined in absolutes. But, I imagine that each builder has a set routine for how they set the springs. If the player could get a hold of one of the boxes made by the builder, they could simply say that they want theirs to be a bit harder or softer.
5) I am not sure how hard spring tension affects things such as stronger louder faster. If the springs are unusually tight and you get used to it, congratulations, you are stronger. Yay! But, I think the only way to answer this is to experiment.
6) I don't know if soft tension makes you smooth, even toned, slow and swanky. Again, experimentation seems to be the way to find out.
7) It should not take long or be difficult to adjust the button setting, and charging someone a lot to do so seems justified. I suppose it might **** them off if they are a jerk. LOL.
In some cases, I have adjusted springs myself. It was to increase the tension in order to minimize air leaks. The first time, I didn't know what I was doing and I did it the wrong way, which was by bending the nails. Later on, we were talking about this topic on this forum, and it was suggested that a better way to do it was to remove the spring and shorten it by cutting off a coil or two or three. If you want it softer, buy new springs and cut them to your preference. In any case, it is not difficult or time consuming, and also not like you're going to ruin anything in the process.
At the end of the day, spring tension is in the category of things that don't need a lot of attention, and mostly comes down to personal preference. But like you say, this topic is given very little thought by anyone, and we might be missing out on something useful if we dont' give it some consideration.
Awesome Dave!! I agree with every thing you said. Well thought out. I have a couple things to add without taking anything away from your breakdown.
1) The FELTS and the SHEEP SKINS!! They have to be double thick and soft right off the bat. Then they will form themselves to the sound holes better. If your flapper felts are up to specs and correctly installed, they will noticeably effect the feel of the button press and that nasty and annoying clap clappy sound. New sheep skins and thick felts will certainly help to seal them leaks and soften the effect of them springs slamming your flappers back against that accordion facing.
In the past, an accordion builder shut me down on my insatiable and seemingly impossible quest to find the perfect button tension. He did this by immediately suggesting that I let him change my FELTS AND SHEEP SKINS and install and adjust new springs. (Greg Mouton. Mouton Accordions). Oh and to back you up on one of your answers Dave, yes, tell the builder to set your button tension and feel to match the accordion that you either try out in his shop or your friend's accordion that has the button tension you want. A good builder should know the right button tension just by asking you a few questions or playing on your accordion.
2)To tighten springs, you have to change the springs or cut some coils off. To loosen springs is easy. I once watched an old Cajun accordion builder take a 12 inch stainless steel ruler, place it's edge into all of the button springs at once, and bend downward in one quick and sure motion which stretched every spring to the exact same tension in about 3 seconds. Smart ole feller.
And lastly....remember folks, that playing the Cajun accordion by ear has much to do with the way IT FEELS. You don't have to memorize the note of each button, just the feel of the button location, and the sound that that located feeling produces.
But if you were to label your got dam accordions, this will shorten your trial and error years 10 fold!!!!! For you will be adding the "Visual" to the senses of "Sound" and "Touch". Which will eventually bring knowing and understanding of dat got dam accordion and how to play on it from your got dam heart!!!! LOL I'm not fussing, I'm just excited about it all.
And yeah, I forgot how to loosen the springs. I guess because I never had a reason to do it. I remember now that it was explained by someone on the forum how to separate the coils with a knife blade.
I might actually try that sometime soon on my Master Bb. Way way back, I tightened the springs for various reasons.
But that box has been sidelined for a few years because the flapper rod broke for the second time. Can you guess which one broke? If you guessed button #5 you be correct. I hit it too dang hard with my index finger all the time.
I did fix that rod with some West System Epoxy, but I don't really trust it. It's just been sitting around while I used my Bon Temps Bb (on which I broke the #5 flapper rod eventually) and then my Acadiana Bb. I'm down to one working Bb! Can't have that.
So last week I arranged to drop it off with my buddy to fix it up. Before I packed it up, I played it a bit and I noticed how tight the springs were compared to my other accordions. I had forgot all about that. Once I get it back, I might do some comparing with the looser Acadiana and see if I notice any advantages/disadvantages/preferences between normal and tight.
That's why this topic was very timely because I had been asking myself some of these same questions during the last week. If I decide I don't prefer it tight, now I have been reminded how to loosen it up. Kewl!
Are you talking about the bent and contorted highly visible brass rods that hold each wooden finger flapper in place? It doesn't seem possible to break those things by hard button presses.
My Grandfather once let another man come up on stage and play a song. I'm told that the man kept asking him to play. Well, the jack a$$ plays his song and politely grabs and bends two of those finger flapper rods back and way out of place so that my Grandfather couldn't play any more songs. Jealousy and who knows what made that man do such a thing. But those rods didn't break, just got bent to all hell.
If I could travel back in time to that particular night at that particular dance, I would have let some air out of one of that man's driver's side tires, waited for him to leave the dance hall, followed behind him at a distance until he stopped to check the tire and change it out with the spare. Then, I would have turned off my lights and sped towards him at a considerable speed and .......................................? Hey, wait a minute, this is starting to sound very familiar.
Yes, that's what I'm talking about. And yes, I have broken several of them over the years. Sometimes they have only bent, not broken. And it's always on button #5.
I think it is an inherently weak design, subject to bending or breaking due to metal fatigue.
As to the material they are made from, that varies from one builder to the next.
I have an Acadian in D, and that one seems to use heavy gauge copper electrical wire. On that one, I never broke the wire, but I did bend them to the point it was causing air leaks.
On my Master Bb, the rods are square in cross section. I have been told that they are some kind of welding rod, not copper, but a silver colored metal, which is an alloy of some kind. The alloy is more stiff or brittle than copper and that is why they break rather than bend.
I also broke one on my Guerrini triple row, and those are made of aluminum alloy, and are also more likely to break rather than bend.
Usually the place where they break is where they go into the small pivoting wooden blocks in the keyboard. In one case, it broke on the screw hole where it is attached to the wooden flapper pallet itself.
There should be a hot place in Hell reserved for that dude that messed up your grandpa's accordion like that! Hard to imagine where he was coming from to do something like that.
Dave, I handle my accordion like a fragile baby, constantly trying to keep from scratching them. You should handle yours like that. Don't play football with them. LOL, I still can't imagine what is happening to those rods. Nothing is really ever supposed to touch them. Do you have a brat kid running around? He or she might be the culprit. LOL, Just joking.
Take out that "D" accordion Dave if it ain't broke. This is Octa Clark's version of J'etais Au Bal in the key of "A" on a "D" accordion. Live at Mulatte's.
Donkey Trot Tempo..........
Nothing is touching the rods - they are breaking due to metal fatigue. I assume it is happening when I release the key and the pallet slams back into the face plate.
It's true, I do not have a light touch. In addition to playing accordion, I play electric bass as well. Time was that I would get so fired up playing that I was breaking bass strings on a regular basis. That is not something that usually happens - it takes a lot to break a bass string. But I did.
I know I should try to play with a lighter touch, but I don't know. The die is cast.
Beau Jocque was a big man, and was known to play so hard that he was ripping up the bellows, breaking reeds, etc. Larry Miller told me how he was always picking up the pieces of wreckage and putting them back together.
I would think that new felts and skins would ease a good bit of that slap back. Or a higher grade of rods, wood, and screws. In my mind, it's a got dam conundrum that those rods/screws would come apart just from hard button pressing and releasing. Are you sure there's no young kids messing with your accordion? Because I know first hand, that when you put your accordion into the hands of a toddler, the first thing they go for are the flappers. They love to catch one or two of them and push, pull, or bend them for some reason. "You're never too young to learn Cajun accordion"?? LOL, yes, you can be too young to learn Cajun accordion. That's why the old men dared us to touch their accordions. Didn't want us to mess them up. There's two kinds of players.....wild or smooth. If you choose to be the wild player, be ready to spend a whole lot more money to keep your accordions playable. Ok grasshopper? LOL. Or, you can learn to play the drums, symbols, or the cowbell.