That golden sound!

PiedViperPiedViper New
edited September 2013 in Accordion Posts: 10
I've noticed that the accordions of many of the modern French musette players have a particular sound (e.g. Michel Macias' version of Montagne Ste. Genevieve). I also hear it in Julien Labro's (of the Hot Club of Detroit) accordion. I'm wondering how they get this. I see that many of them play Cavagnolo or Fratelli Crosio accordions. The reed combination sounds like 2 middle reeds dry-tuned ("violin" register). However, there is definitely something else present in the structure of the sound that I don't hear anywhere else. I haven't yet heard it in a piano accordion. It reminds me of a chorus effect. Can anyone identify this or explain how this quality is obtained in the sound? My best guess is that it's related to the resonating chamber on the instrument (boîte de résonance). Anyone know if this is this the same thing as a "cassotto chamber"? I've also noticed that these accordions are rather expensive. Also, does anyone ever dry-tune 3 sets of middle reeds?


  • brandoneonbrandoneon Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France✭✭✭
    Posts: 171
    Greetings to the forum!

    I believe you may be hearing two different types of French accordions.

    Playing with 2 middle-tuned reeds is part of the answer to your question. Players like Michel Macias, Jean Corti and Francois Parisi use this a lot. Whereas these accordions are likely equipped with tone chambers (which means the same thing as cassotto or boite de resonance), French accordions often do not have the middle reeds in the tone chamber. The particular sound that you may be thinking of can be obtained if there is a little bit of "wetness" to the tuning of the 2 middle reeds - in French they refer to this as something between "swing" and "americain".

    You may also be listening to accordions that have a "double bassoon" configuration. In this case, there are 2 sets of bassoon reeds, and both are within the tone chamber (which is almost never found with piano accordions). Both sets of bassoon reeds are tuned similarly, but one is louder than the other ... this gives a very special phasing sound, which you can hear in the playing of Julien Labro, Marcel Azzola, and Marcel Loeffler.

    Thus, there are 2 different ways of getting unique chorusing sounds - either by playing the "violin" register with reeds outside of the tone chamber (and a slight wet tuning), or with 2 sets of the low (bassoon) reeds within the tone chamber.

    Cavagnolos also have a unique type of construction. The case of these accordions is not made from solid pieces of wood (as in most piano accordions) but something like a mixture of wood chips and epoxy sprayed into a mold. This may also add a special "je ne sais quoi" to their sound.

    Yes, accordions with tone chambers are more expensive due to their construction. Often the chamber is made out of wood, and the reeds within the tone chamber are rotated 90 degrees (relative to the reeds outside of the chamber) which complicates their design a little bit.

    You probably won't find accordions with 3 middle reeds tuned in unison. If an accordion has 3 middle reeds, 2 will be tuned wet to get a "super musette" sound. Or two will be dry tuned and the third will be tuned (slightly) wet. This 2nd example is often accompanied with a bassoon reed, and a tone chamber.

    I hope the explanations make sense - send a message if you need more info.

  • PiedViperPiedViper New
    Posts: 10
    You're explanation helps a lot. I love that Julien Labro sound and I was wondering how to get that on a piano accordion since that's what I'm playing now. I haven't heard of having 2 sets of bassoon reeds in a tone chamber, but that makes sense given I can't recall hearing it in a piano accordion. Those Cavagnolos really do possess a unique sound.

    I think you're right about me hearing 2 different (or more) sounds. I'm somewhat new to this so I'm still in that state where I don't quite know what I'm hearing. The more I listen, the more I hear differences in the sounds I like. For example, I noticed that the accordion player for the Djangonauts plays a Sonola piano accordion. He gets a nice sound too, but it's not quite like that sound from the French players. It still, however, has some of that quality, probably from the 2 middle reeds phasing.

    I just bought a Titano T-72 with a "dry-tuning" from Busso music here in the DC area. It's still shipping from Castelfidardo. Originally I thought I wanted a slight musette, but Frank Busso played a dry-tuned Titano and I could hear the amount phasing I wanted. He explained that dry-tuning still means that the 2 reeds can be off by a couple cents.

    Is that intentional or is it simply too difficult to get them into perfect tune with each other? I would think that you'd always want some separation to clearly differentiate from the single reed registers. On a synthesizer, for example, you can perfectly hard-sync 2 oscillators, but it just seems to make the sound louder and a little thicker. It's only when you detune one of the oscillators that you get some interesting structure.

  • accent_musaccent_mus Philadelphia, PA✭✭ Siwa and Figli Super Cobra 18" Keyboard
    Posts: 21
    This is such an awesome post! Thanks brandoneon for the wonderful answer. And thanks piedviper for asking it. I am curious to hear this dry tuned Titano. I heard there is a Sonola that was made with two bassoon (LL). And I am curious to know what other piano accordions are/were made with LL.
    This is a great forum.
    Musette Band
  • brandoneonbrandoneon Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France✭✭✭
    edited March 2012 Posts: 171
    I saw this ad a while back for a used piano accordion with LL: ... umber=1749
    For new piano accordions, it looks like Titano accordions can be ordered with the LL configuration. On these accordions there is one L in the tone chamber and one L is outside the chamber. This is unlike the "French" accordions (Cavagnolo, Gadji, etc.) where both L reeds (LL) are in the tone chamber.
    By the way Dallas, nice band websites! What brought you to the accordion/swing musette?
  • Posts: 35
    I recently read about a Custom Guilietti 127 which had 5 Treble reeds, with two bassoon reeds in the chamber and two clarinet and a piccalo reed out of the chamber...Sort of an interesting combination of you could deal with a 32 lb instrument.............

    Bill Brown
  • brandoneonbrandoneon Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France✭✭✭
    Posts: 171
    I posted a youtube link where you can hear the sound of a French accordion (Cavagnolo) with LL in the tone chamber. I felt like it merited it's own post, it's over at 'Marcel Azzola with Mathieu Chatelain, Hommage à Django'.

    Oh, and Bill : 32 lbs????!!! :shock: Some days I don't even feel like hoisting my 20 lb accordion around! :lol:
  • brandoneonbrandoneon Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France✭✭✭
    Posts: 171
    I've now uploaded a video to youtube, where I use the double bassoon (LL) register in the recording. One L is in the cassotto, the other is out - unlike the French-style accordions.
    Hope everyone is having a fun summer with their squeezeboxes!
  • And here am I feeling sorry for myself having 7 lbs hanging from my neck :mrgreen:

    Interesting discussion on reed Setups and sounds....enjoyed the clip on youtube....
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • brandoneonbrandoneon Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France✭✭✭
    Posts: 171
    Haha! Glad you liked the video, and the technical discussions. If you play a full-size accordion while sitting, the weight rests on the thighs and the upper chest - so not as bad as someone who plays standing up like Richard Galliano, with 27 pounds of downward force hanging from your shoulders.
    Jazzaferri wrote:
    And here am I feeling sorry for myself having 7 lbs hanging from my neck :mrgreen:
  • AndyWAndyW Glasgow Scotland UK✭✭✭ Clarinets & Saxes- Selmer, Conn, Buescher, Leblanc // Guitars: Gerome, Caponnetto, Napoli, Musicalia, Bucolo, Sanchez et. al.
    Posts: 601
    my question - are there any reasonably priced piano accordions
    that will get me towards these lovely sounds??-
    i can't really justify spending the price of a new car on a new accordion... :cry:

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