Are the accordion and melodeon high maintenance?

Are the accordion and melodeon high maintenance?

I’ve always enjoyed the sound of tunes on the accordion and one row melodeon, but they strike me as temperamental and high maintenance (Outsider’s perspective) in regard to temperature and humidity. How often do they need to be tuned and how is it that melodeons thrive in hot and humid Louisiana? Maybe I’m wrong altogether?

Re: Are the accordion and melodeon high maintenance?

As with most instruments, so long as they’re properly cared for I don’t think they’re overly temperamental. I keep my accordion in a climate controlled environment (read: my living room), store it upright, and play it often to keep the air flowing through it and have no problems. I don’t worry about humidity as much (not like the box is a wooden flute or anything) - basically if the humans in the house are comfortable, the accordion probably is too.

As for tuning, it depends on the quality of the reeds - crappy reeds will drift out of tune in a few months, but better reeds can hold their tuning for years. I have always wondered about the Cajuns… I bet they do tune their boxes more frequently.

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Re: Are the accordion and melodeon high maintenance?

There are a lot of moving parts, so there are a lot of things that *can* go wrong. But if an instrument it is well-made and, as Lanair says, properly cared for (i.e. stored away from damp or extremely dry environments, away from heat sources, out of direct sunlight, protcted from dust, spilled coffee etc.), such problems should be rare.

Re: Are the accordion and melodeon high maintenance?

I can only speak for my melodeon, which I have had for about 15 years: it is kept in the “middle room” in our house, which is perhaps the least susceptible to temperature and humidity fluctuations, and I usually put it back in its case when not in use.
In that time, I have had 2 broken reeds (one of the basses, one of the trebles) and one full re-tune. Repairs were done by recommended experts, and the re-tune was quite expensive, so I wouldn’t be up for doing it more frequently unless the instrument was very obviously off key. Said repairers were respectively 70 and 50 miles from home: the one repair was done on the spot, the other required 2 journeys. I could have posted and insured the instrument, but that would probably have cost as much as driving there and back!
So all in all, very low maintenance, compared with, say and stringed instrument.

Re: Are the accordion and melodeon high maintenance?

Not in my experience! My Castagnari Giordy (small soprano 2 row diatonic button box) was perfectly in tune when I got it used 12 years ago, & still is. The action remains very low effort (keys & bellows), & it remains a joy to play. Comparatively, my hammered dulcimer I think of as very high maintenance since it frequently needs to retuned & that means attending to most or all of the 68 strings!

I agree with the above comments that a well designed & made melodeon should be essentially quirk & trouble free. Castagnari is a very respected make of melodeon & is handcrafted in Italy by a small maker that has been owned forever by the same Italian family. It is not made as cheaply as possible in a country with cheap labor & sold in large quantities. That might be an important difference. For example, the folks I know who play Hohner accordions—a "popular" & therefore typically less expensive brand—usually have old Hohners from the days when they were made in Germany, not cranked out cheaply in China as they often are today.

Anyway, I’m not an accordion—let alone button box—expert, but these are my observations from 12 years of interest & experience dealing with my Castagnari Giordi & having friends who are heavily into diatonic 2 row Italian & French button boxes or German piano accordions (for example, ones made by Weltmeister).

Hope that might help with your question.

Re: Are the accordion and melodeon high maintenance?

As a professional melodeon fettler I would say they are mostly low maintenance. A tune up every 5 years or so is a good idea, after 15/20 years the wax will need redoing as it hardens and does not hold the reeds properly, if the box has leather valves they will turn crispy in much the same time period and need replacing.
Most the work I get though is caused by poor looking after, store the box away from extremes of heat and cold, don’t pour beer in the keyboards, keep your belt buckle off the back of the bellows, don’t think you cat looks cute in the case as it will leave hair which will be sucked into the box and jam reeds, don’t play your box out in the rain etc etc.
ps WD40 is never a good solution for any ill in your melodeon all it does is become sticky and gum things up.

Re: Are the accordion and melodeon high maintenance?

My Cairdin 2 row has been almost trouble free for the 12 years I’ve had it , similarly my Junior Martin C Cajun box , thought it did suffer from mould and sticky buttons after I had it stashed away unplayed and untouched in a cupboard under the stairs for the best part of a year - as others have said, keep the box in a room where people would be comfortable and play at least once a week!
As to how Cajun boxes survive in Louisiana, the same question could be asked of the Hohner accordions of the Tex-Mex border or parts of South America where there is a squeezebox tradition?

Re: Are the accordion and melodeon high maintenance?

No, but their operators can be a real handful sometimes.

Re: Are the accordion and melodeon high maintenance?

If concertinas (similar construction to accordion in some ways) are relevant, I can say that my concertina requires the least maintenance of the instruments I play or dabble with (brass instruments, fiddle, recorder/blockflute, and Irish pipes).

Ken

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Re: Are the accordion and melodeon high maintenance?

Ha-ha! The cat in the case! That did happen to me once at a friend’s house when I was stupid enough to leave my case open! I did have to give the case a very thorough vacuuming when I got home. At least it was a ginger cat in a black bag, so the hairs were visible!

Re: Are the accordion and melodeon high maintenance?

Thank you all for the great responses and a few good laughs. I know more than I did a few hours ago - happy playing!

Re: Are the accordion and melodeon high maintenance?

You take it out of the case, or pick it up from the floor, you play it, and then you put it back again.

No tuning before you start, no bow to tighten and then rosin, nothing to assemble, no drones to spend ages tuning, no chanter reeds to faff around with, no pick to lose, and nothing to wipe or swab out afterwards.

What’s not to like?

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Re: Are the accordion and melodeon high maintenance?

Piper commenting here merely to laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh and…

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Re: Are the accordion and melodeon high maintenance?

you can literally kick a paolo soprani across the room, pick it up, and start playing it like nothing happened, and chances are everything will still work and be in tune.

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Re: Are the accordion and melodeon high maintenance?

Now, now, let’s not start giving people ideas!

Re: Are the accordion and melodeon high maintenance?

Perish the thought ; )

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Re: Are the accordion and melodeon high maintenance?

"you can literally kick a paolo soprani across the room, pick it up, and start playing it like nothing happened, and chances are everything will still work and be in tune."

Everything but your broken foot!