Tuning an accordion: Paul Chamberlain travels to Italy

Wednesday 5th February 2014

Keeping an instrument in tune can be a nightmare for any professional musician, what with travelling to gigs on bumpy roads or playing in chilly concert halls. But few instrumentalists can claim to have as much of a journey as our client Paul Chamberlain: the classical accordionist has just come back from Italy where he had his accordion tuned in the small town where it was made.

Because of the complex nature of the accordion’s mechanisms, tuning Paul’s instrument requires a trip to Castelfidardo in Italy, an important centre of accordion making with around thirty different manufacturers. When flying with the accordion, Paul has to purchase an additional seat as the instrument is just a little too large for normal hand-luggage requirements. Fortunately, tuning is only required every three or four years.

The complex tuning procedure involves splitting the accordion at the bellows to gain access to the instrument’s reeds, of which there are over 900. Each reed must be checked and double-checked until the tuning is correct, which most professional tuners are able to do by ear.

“Once all of the reeds have been tuned the accordion is re-assembled and a final check of all the reeds is done. I returned the following day to check everything and any minor corrections can be then done immediately,” says Paul. Saves a flight back to Italy!