CAJUN ACCORDION DISCUSSION GROUP
This is a big subject! I have a couple thoughts to add to what you have mentioned.
First and foremost, tuning is mainly about personal preferences: if YOU like it, it is good.
Also, there are some myths that have been perpetuated, and it is worth being on the lookout for them. The biggest myth I have seen is along the lines of "Cajun music uses dry tuned accordions, but zydeco requires wet tuned accordions". The reality is that there are some cajun musicians and zydeco musicians that prefer wet tuned single row accordions (which is totally fine), but most players in both genres use dry tuned single row accordions.
As to the HA-114, you are correct about the tuning choices on the standard HA-114. But, for a while, they made a Cajunized variant (I think it was called the HA-114 C), that was painted all black and had Cajun tuning. This is the model I purchased in 1990. The tuning was much drier than the normal HA-114 and used the just tempered tuning system rather than the equal tempered system. I believe this model was created in response to a request from Marc Savoy who needed a source of beginner accordions that would work well for Cajun music. For sure, I know of people who purchased HA-114's prior to that time, and they had them retuned to Cajun style. When tuned Cajun style, there is not much reason to mess around with the stops - all the stops would typically be open, just as is most often the case with LA handmades.
And, as you say, the LA handmades, primarily have the one sound that is used, but there are exceptions. There is one builder in particular, who seems to be fond of wet tuning, and he seems to have encouraged many clients to go with a wetter tuning, and has also suggested that they can open the wet tuned reed bank to get a zydeco sound, and close it to get a cajun sound. I know of more than one player who ended up with a box like that from that builder by default, not perhaps realizing what they were getting. But some like it that way, and that is fine too. My point is that there is some variety out there. However, preferences aside, I must say that I believe that this builder is one of the people who has perpetuated the myth about wet tuned zydeco accordions.
As for variety, there are also builders on the opposite extreme, who suggest that the stops should NEVER be closed for any reason whatsoever! Their opinion seems to be that the stops exist for the sole purpose of tuning the instrument. I am not sure I agree with that, but on the other hand I always play with all the stops open because that gives the sound I like the best. If the slightly wet tuned reed bank is turned off, it is TOO dry for my taste.
There really is a standard for Cajun tuning, but there are likely to be some variations from builder to builder. Plus, all of them will follow the wishes of the customer - if the customer is knowledgeable enough to have an opinion at any rate. The standard is as described in another post on this thread. One of the best decriptions of Cajun tuning I have ever seen is on "The Gospel Accordion to Marc, Vol. 2" by Marc Savoy. He REALLY gets into the technical details, and also the history of how it it came to be.
Again, there are differences between builders. I had a negative experience with one guy, whose interpretation of the meaning of Cajun standard tuning seems to be quite different from the rest. He is the one I have referred to earlier who likes wet tuning. I had sent my box to him for a repair, and he called me up and said the accordion was out of tune, and did I want him to fix it while it was at his shop. I hadn't thought it was out of tune, but I figured he was more an expert than I, and it made sense to take care of everything while it was there, so I told him to go ahead. When it came back, it was MUCH wetter than it had been before, and that was not what I wanted at all. Apparently, this was his interpretation of Cajun standard tuning.
I always send my accordions back to a Louisiana builder for tuning. There is no way I would trust any local accordion shop to do it right.
Come on, David - at least give us a hint who we're talking about?
"First and foremost, tuning is mainly about personal preferences: if YOU like it, it is good."
I just want to clarify so as not to be misunderstood: I agree with this way of looking at tuning as personal preference. However, there are also some objective -- and very measurable -- standards of tuning. An octave that is not a perfect octave is out of tune no matter how you look at it, for instance. And 15 cent flat (from equal temperment's standard frequencies) is 15 cents flat. So my point, which I guess I wasn't being clear enough about, was that when dealing with a tuner, I think it's not a good idea to use terms that are debatable, such as "Tune it for Irish music," but rather, terms that are based on an objective, measurable standard, such as "tune it to equal temperment, with the tremelo reeds tuned 8 cents sharp," etc. Using terms like "dry", "swing" etc. will get different results with every tuner.
Yes, even "dry" can be different with each tuner, since "dry" can be anywhere from 0 to 2 cents difference between the 2 middle reeds. A tuner who uses only electronic tuners with a margin of error of + or - 2 cents will produce a different result than a tuner who gets the 2nd reed into a certain sound by ear!
I think one of the scary things about sending a box to a tuner is: exactly what will it sound like when it comes back? Will he follow -- or even understand -- my instructions. Sending to a Cajun tuner might involve getting the box tuned to his liking, not yours, but that's the risk you take. Sending to a "generic" tuner who tunes boxes of all style, you might also not end up with what you like.
The problem is, you might or might not really know for certain how to communicate the tuning you like most -- so what are you supposed to do, go to a tuner and just say, "tune this to my preference"? He won't know what the heck you want!!
Probably a decent route to take is finding someone else whose box' tuning you like, ask them who tuned it, then send to that tuner and request that it be tuned like so-and-so's box.
Another route to take is not to be so picky about tuning!!!!
Another thing to keep in mind is that even if you find someone with an accordion that has the the sound you like your accordion may not sound the same even though you have it tuned the same way. Wheee!!
Right. The things are amazingly inconsistent, even when apparently identical!
Boy I sure thought that myth about the regesters (stops) being only used for tuning had been put to rest long ago. You guys (Andy and David) are giving them some good information. I sure hope they use it.
I agree that it boils down to what a person likes, now getting it may be tuff.
The best piece of reference I have seen around "how to tune" a box is the Marc Savoie dvd volume II. I've attached the link above. Once on www.savoymusiccenter.com Go to "store", then to "films" to see it.
I imagine someone who is used to tuning accordions (wet or dry) would be certainly be able to understand the tuning method displayed on the dvd and do.
Buttons 1,4,7 and 10 tune 15 cents flat on push. Buttons 2,6 and 10 tune 15 cents flat on pull.
Buttons 4 and 8 tune 15 cents sharp on pull.
All rows are tuned the same for dry tuning.
Use an electroinc tuner like a Peterson Strobe tuner. Check each note for beating (there should be non for dry tuning).
All notes tuned at normal playing pressure.
A Big thank you to you all.
That's it. Not much to explain.
Dry or slightly wet sounds good for Cajun in my ears.
I want to get a hohner tuned only 5 cents. The thing is so wet, it's drenched.
Anyone know how much that kind of job would run from a builder? Can anyone email me with their preference of builder by pricing?
I don't know how many builders are still willing to do that job, I only know that Junior advertises that kinda work. Don't know if Larry would any longer. I know Marc won't
Joe wrote: "That's it. Not much to explain."
Not exactly. That's one version of tuning that goes beyond just flatted thirds, so it's going to please some ears and offend others.
I'm not doubting its authenticity. I just don't think that it goes without saying it's not the "basic" tuning. It's one answer among many.
It also didn't handle how to tune the two mid-range reedbanks in relation to each other, i.e. how dry is dry.
I'm also wondering how many of you out there have Cajun boxes where the indicated notes are sharp 15 cents, and if so, which makers tune this way?
My John Doucet box is tuned 15 cents sharp on 4 and 8 pull. The one I made is also that way. I'm pretty sure Jude tunes his the same. I belive Martins are also. Acadian I think is not. Maybe Dana will chime in here he has some tuning experience.
the most popular tuning for cajun accordions is for instance, on a C accordion. E's and B's 15 cents flat and all F's 15 cents sharp. Acadians are tuned this way.
Tuning is a touchy subject.
Most "Cajun tuning" I have seen is mainly the E's and B's like Joe says. Marc is one of the few folks that also tunes the F's from what I have seen.
Are ya happy, Bruce? :)