Welcome to old and new friends who are interested in discussing Cajun and other diatonic accordions, along with some occasional lagniappe....



General Forum
Start a New Topic 
Can someone explain what Wet Tuning mean?

Some of you have often referred to @Wet tuning@ (i.e. the Hohner HA-114 and others). On a few occasions, I've also read about using a hot rod for the Cajun tuning...???
Could someone explain all of this?

Re: Can someone explain what Wet Tuning mean?

My understanding is that wet tuning refers to a pair of reeds, one of which is on pitch, and one of which is tuned slightly off from the other, which produces different levels of dissonance depending on the number of cents difference between the reeds. Geno Delafose plays one-row accordions set up with what I've heard Larry Miller call semi-wet tuning. It's not as dissonant as the very wet sound you often hear with 3-row accordions, which have a wider gap between the on-pitch reed and the detuned reed. I've also heard this called musette tuning (the very wet sound). When I started to play accordion, I met Geno Delafose who was playing a show here in Rochester, NY, and I was astounded to see he played Larry Miller accordions. I had just bought a used Miller C from the Button Box, and I promptly sent it to Larry to be set up semi-wet. I've since gone back to dry tuning on my C accordion, but still have a semi-wet B-flat. In the late 90s, I played in a band called Chanka Chank, and we had the privilege to open for Boozoo Chavis a few times. I offered him my semi-wet accordion to get his opinion. He did not like the sound, and said that the wet tuned accordions didn't project the way he liked. On the one-row accordion, it's one of the two middle-octave reeds that gets adjusted for the wet sound.

Re: Can someone explain what Wet Tuning mean?

Wet tuning is the type of tuning you will find on most commercially built accordions, and in most genres that use accordion. There are a few exceptions. On a Cajun accordion there are four rows of reeds: Low(L), Middle(M), Middle(M) and High(H) which are often referred to as LMMH. The L and H, as well as one M is tuned to pitch while the other M is tuned anywhere from 5 to 20 cents sharp depending on the type of music being played. Cajun wet tuning is usually not more than 10 cents sharp.

Larry Miller uses what he refers to as "graduated" wet tuning which starts with the top button being 12 cents sharp and working its way down one cent per button until the tenth button is only 2 cents sharp.

The reference to Cajun tuning is two-fold. Cajun tuning typically means that the accordion is dry-tuned, but also it refers to tempering of the thirds. For example, on a C accordion, all of the B's and E's are tuned 10 to 12 cents flat. In addition, the F would be tuned 10 to 12 cents sharp.

Because of Marc Savoy's efforts, Hohner has begun to ship its 112's and Chinese Ariettes with Cajun tuning but wet. If you buy a Cajun King from Mike Gabbanelli, he will not tune it Cajun. He tunes everything straight up, or just.

I hope this helps. Even thought the difference in sound is very noticeable, it took me years to understand the signifigance of these subtle changes.

Slightly different slant

__. As the posters mentioned above, the "correct" way of setting up reeds for Cajun tuning is H, L and one M set to "pitch" and the other M off with as much wetness as is desired. Boxes set up this way just sound right.
__. But there's a different kind of tuning out there. In this one, the H and L reeds are set to pitch (appropriate to their octave) but the M reeds are set up one a little below pitch and one above. Because of the dynamics and mathematics, it's necessary to make the lower one a little less off pitch (lower number of cents). The reason for all this is that the ear hears the two off-pitch reeds as making a sound at a pitch between the two individual reeds. When reed group is set up this way, the ear hears the three octaves as being "in tune" with each other ... although a lab instrument will tell you that there is a complex mixture of tones in there.

__. As I said before, this isn't the sound you want for Cajun music (and I'm told that it drives fiddlers crazy trying to tune to it and play by ear to it) but it's a great sound for traditions that use "standard orchestral tuning" and it works very well with accordions that are played in a band with pianos and are therefore tuned to "equal intonation"/ the Cajun tuning that Ganey describes is very much like what music theorists call "just intonation" -- it sounds better (more "perfect pitch") with fiddles but not so good with pianos. And thinking about it shows how complicated all this tuning stuff is.

__. The theory behind this is also linked to why Larry Miller's "graduated tuning" works so well. You need to have the octave buttons (for instance, the third button and sixth buttons) sound as if they're in tune with each other and graduated tuning helps with this. I've also heard tuners set up a graduated tuning by setting "beat rates". If you set the tuning for the third button to the wetness you want, you'll hear the tremulo beating at a given frequency. You have to change the amount of cents on the different buttons but when you have each button playing the same* beat rate, you have the same wetness up and down the range of the instrument.
__. Hope this helps, Bruce Henderson, Wallace NC USA

(* Actually, it's pretty much impossible to get exactly the same beat rate on the highest button versus the lowest one but the idea is to flatten the curve as much as practically possible. Larry's method is a pretty good way to do that.)

Re: Slightly different slant

And complete dry tuning (all reads "dead on" pitch) isn't that great either. My pref would be dry with one of the middle reeds barely sharped (or flatted whatever the case) so there's a certain "chorus" effect such that it just mixes in and sweetens the sound.

I guess this is pretty much the typical cajun sound and that's what I expect out of an accordion.

Marc Savoy uses an old Korg guitar tuner with a an analog needle to set the pitch on his. I think he puts the middle reed about 5 or 10 cents off for that barely wet sound. We should call it DAMP tuning lol. By I like the idea of the graduated tuning. Therefore you get the same amount of beats across the board.

If you want to hear some wet tuned accordions, listen to most of the old (pre-1950) stuff like A Ardoin, and Iry Lejeune to name a few.

Re: Slightly different slant

Is there an absolute value as a percent wavelength that is a 'cent'? I understand the stuff about beats but not how to get different tones to beat at the same time based on the degree of wetness (expressed in 'cents') the the tuning varies from dead on. Thanks for the info.

Re: Re: Slightly different slant

__. There are 100 cents in the interval between one note in a scale and the next. The kicker on this is that the number of Hertz (vibrations per seconds) varies between adjacent notes. So, 1 cent is one percent of the distance between one note and the next but the "true distance" varies based up whether they're low or high notes.

__. Um, this isn't a very good explanation, is it?

Re: Can someone explain what Wet Tuning mean?

There are some sound files illustrating degrees of wetness at the bottom of this web page:


Re: Re: Can someone explain what Wet Tuning mean?

I looked up on the link to listen to the samples.
There isn't a huge difference. It's very interesting anyhow.

Jamey Hall's most excellent Cajun Accordion Music Theory

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

LFR1.gif - 1092 Bytes The April 2011 Dewey Balfa Cajun & Creole Heritage Week

augusta.gif - 6841 Bytes

Listen to Some GREAT Music While You Surf the Net!!
The BEST Radio Station on the Planet!