The Heart and Soul of an Accordion - by Joe Petosa
~ a perspective from an accordion manufacturer and reed maker ~
by Joe Petosa Sr. ~ petosa accordions
Many people have an interest in accordion reeds. Reeds can be referred to as the heart and soul of an accordion; however there are other factors to consider. This mini-series will describe what reeds are, the benefits of improved quality, and the other additional factors that affect the reedʼs ultimate performance.
Episode Two: Reed Fundamentals
Reed material used for the grades defined in this article are made of quality Swedish Blue Steel, known for its characteristic blue tinge after the steel has been treated. Swedish Blue Steel is a specific type of spring steel known for its flexibility and lasting vibration quality. Reed quality is broken into three major categories; Machine, (Voce a mechanica), Hand-Finished, (Voce tipo a mano) and Handmade. (Voce a mano). Within each category there are variable qualities determined by the materials used, but mostly dictated by the skill of the artisanʼs craftsmanship. For example, there are some machine reeds that can be considered better than some hand-finished reeds, and there are even hand-finished reeds that can be considered better quality than certain handmade reeds.
Think of the accordion as a vibrating machine. The more dense the material and solid the surface, the better the vibration. Since the accordion is made of many different components and materials, the challenge is then to create the best acoustic environment surrounding the reeds to enhance their vibrating tone. This article is not intended to offer specifics on every detail of manufacturing, but to outline a broad overview of general principles. These principles can be used as a guideline when purchasing an accordion and to better understand the quality differences between various accordions.
Reed quality is the single item within an accordion that will affect the cost of an instrument the greatest; however it is by no means the only determining factor of value. The manufacturing rule for pairing what quality of reeds fit a given quality accordion is: “The cost of complete finished reed assembly should be minimally equal to roughly thirty percent of the price”. Therefore, today the cost of a standard quality 41 treble note 4/5 set reed accordion using genuine Handmade reeds will be around $9,500 plus. Other attributes such as reed leather material, pre-tuning, and quality of final tuning can increase or decrease this percentage. It doesnʼt make much sense to produce a low quality instrument with high quality reeds or vice-versa, so be careful if the price and expected quality of reeds donʼt match. Knowing the quality of reed is important if you are to understand the reasonable expectations of performance and longevity for each accordion. Later in this article we will explain that, although the reeds are the Heart and Soul of an accordion, great reeds alone do not make a great accordion; just as the best violin strings donʼt make for the best violin...