In this article, you will discover a way to diagnose your accordion at home. This method is extremely simple and it is however probable that you have never heard of it. It will allow you to avoid many visits to a repairer who will charge you for a diagnosis that you could have done at home in 10 minutes. This method is based on 4 simple steps that will allow you to discover the most common problems easily, to evaluate the repair costs, and for some of them, to remedy them immediately.
You may have already found yourself in this situation: one day your accordion makes a strange noise when you play it. You don't know what's going on, it's the first time. You are afraid that it will be damaged and that it will get even more damaged, so you take it to your accordion maker. Once there, he takes it to his workshop, does a little manipulation and brings it back to you 5 minutes later. It works perfectly. You didn't understand what happened, or you didn't remember, but you lost an afternoon for less than 5 minutes at the repair shop. Now it's time to know what to do first to quickly and simply diagnose your accordion before deciding whether or not to take it to the repair shop. You could even avoid the simplest problems which are sometimes repairable at home in a few minutes and even without tools!
This method is used by the vast majority of accordion makers. It saves valuable time by going straight to the point, quickly reviewing the main elements that may be causing a breakdown. This is the first step in the repair process. It is important because it will allow you to clear up simple problems. Some faults can be easily corrected without the need for more extensive or costly interventions. It is therefore important to use this method every time you notice a problem to avoid problems later on and, above all, to carry it out carefully so as not to damage your instrument even more! Don't worry, nothing is insurmountable if you follow the 4 steps that follow scrupulously. We have been using this method ourselves at Fonteneau Accordions for years and it has never disappointed us, allowing us to save a considerable amount of time in searching for a fault.
Step 1: The low notes
In this step we will focus on the left hand and more specifically the lower notes of the left hand. You may have noticed some strange noises coming from these particular notes, if so then this step is for you. We will explain what these noises are due to.
Many beginner accordionists come to us after noticing vibrations coming from these low notes even after releasing the note. You might wonder where these strange noises come from, because it seems logical that the sound of these notes stops as soon as you release the key as with all other notes.
The intriguing sounds you hear coming from these notes probably sound suspiciously like a jew's harp. As you know, the sound of the accordion is produced by different sized blades (or reeds). As they vibrate thanks to the air inhaled from outside or exhaled via the bellows, they produce the notes. These blades are very similar to those found on harmonicas and also to those found on jew's harps. Remember that the accordion is a free reed instrument like the harmonica, the harmonium... or the jew's harp. For those who are not familiar with the sound of a jew's harp, here is an extract of a jew's harp solo, you will surely find a resemblance with this famous sound coming from your low notes:
So, when you play, you make the blades of your accordion vibrate. And when you press a key you open or close a valve allowing the air to feed or not the blades underneath it. When you release the key, the air doesn't flow anymore. However, the blade continues to sound slightly by inertia because nothing in the accordion stops this blade in movement. Most of the accordion's blades being small, they stop by themselves very quickly but the biggest and heaviest blades, for the basses, sometimes continue to vibrate for a moment before stopping. One could also compare this phenomenon of inertia to that of the bells which continue to swing after being deactivated.
Another comparison: When you play the piano, the strings are struck with hammers that make them vibrate. When you release each key on the piano, a damper is placed on the string to prevent it from vibrating any further. This system does not exist for the accordion. So the lowest notes all continue to vibrate for a short time when you release the keys.
If you thought it was due to a damaged spring or a piece of mechanics, don't worry and don't run to your accordion maker, it's nothing serious and it's even quite normal. All accordions with a low bass make this little noise when played. It is simply the inertia of the blades. So don't worry. It is normal!
Step 2: The silent notes
For the second step, you are going to check that all the notes of your instrument work properly. Take your accordion on your lap, put your straps on and play all the notes of your instrument from the lowest to the highest. If you notice that a note makes a strange noise, close to that of the horn, or even does not make any noise at all, do not worry, it may be nothing serious.
This problem is very often linked to two major causes which we will explain to you and you can, very often, solve it at home in a few minutes.
The first of these causes is due to the temperature of the instrument. The accordion is a wind instrument and like all wind instruments, it needs to be warmed up. Indeed, before each playing session, you must bring your instrument to room temperature. Warming up has the effect of relaxing the blades and the mechanics of your instrument, warming up the metal and allowing all the notes to work properly and at the right frequency.
We are going to warm up your accordion by putting it at temperature in 2 simple steps: Take your accordion on your knees and attach it, then, with the air button only, let the air enter and leave your instrument several times by inflating well and retracting the bellows of this one without playing any notes, simply thanks to the air button. This manipulation will allow the air of your accordion to renew itself and to be at room temperature.
After that, you will play all the notes of your instrument, one after the other, from the lowest to the highest, several times in a row and in both directions of the bellows, at first not too loud, then insisting a little more. This will allow the blades of your accordion to warm up by making them vibrate in the air that was warmed up in the previous step. If notes "honk", insist very gently "pianissimo" but for a long time. It can take several minutes to make this noise disappear. On a very cold accordion, you can repeat the previous step by inflating and deflating the bellows through the air valve. Be aware that accordions that have been transported by carrier sometimes need several hours to reach a temperature that allows them to sound properly. It is then necessary to let them rest at room temperature before playing them. This step of bringing them to room temperature very often makes the horn sounds generated by some cold blades disappear.
On the other hand, if, in spite of warming up, you have a high note that makes little or no sound, it is because the blade is no longer vibrating. This may be due to dust that has become lodged under the blade: this is the second major cause of this kind of problem. Since sharp blades are very small, they can be blocked quite easily by small dust. In this case, you can try to play a cluster* including the silent note and play in bellow-shake*. Even if it seems trivial and counter-intuitive, the vibrations and the activated air can force this dust to dislodge itself and free your note. It doesn't work every time. Sometimes it will be necessary to take your accordion to your repairer so that he can open the instrument and dislodge the dust. This operation will take about one or two minutes. It is sometimes frustrating when you have travelled several kilometres to consult it.
To sum up: Always remember to warm up your instrument before playing and never forget that the accordion is a wind instrument that must always be warmed up before playing.
Playing all the notes on the keyboards systematically before starting to play also prevents dust from settling on the notes that are not used often.
cluster: play a bunch of neighbouring notes with your hand flat on the keyboard.
bellow-shake: make short quick trips with the bellows.
Step 3: Leaks
In the third step, you will learn to look for leaks! To do this, put your accordion in front of you (while taking care to place it in a place where it won't fall!). Fill the bellows with air and push lightly on it without playing any notes in order to let air out through the potential leak. Hold the ear.
The secret here is to walk around your instrument with your nose or lips close to your instrument. These two areas of your face are the most sensitive to air currents and you will be able to feel the slightest breath much more easily than with your hand.
Here you must proceed methodically, concentrating on the bellows seals, bellows corners, belt lugs, bellows fixing pins... going around the accordion on all sides.
If you feel a trickle of air coming out, depending on where the leak is, your repairman will be able to fix it. The best thing to do in this case is to take your accordion to him, taking care to remember the location of the leak in order to save precious research time. Your repairer will then be able to tell you the possible solutions, sealings, etc...
If you don't feel anything coming from the bellows or the case, try to see if you can hear a slight "popping" sound on the grill side when you push moderately on the bellows. Leaks often come from valves that are not perfectly sealed. Be careful! If you push relatively hard on the bellows, it is normal for the valves to start leaking a little air above a certain pressure, but they must remain perfectly tight when the bellows are opened, regardless of the pressure. If you have noticed a leak on the valve side, then you should go to therepair shop without delay and indicate what you have done and discovered as a result of these manipulations.
An isolated leak on a valve can probably be repaired by cleaning and adjusting the valve or replacing the valve skin. If the air loss seems to be generalized in all the valves, it is a typical symptom of old accordions. The compression will have to be reviewed globally by your accordion maker. This operation can be quite expensive especially if your accordion has a resonance box. Ask for an estimate before starting the work.
To know: An accordion is never 100% waterproof.
Step 4: Mechanical noise
Finally, in the fourth step, you will diagnose the keys of your instrument themselves. Indeed, you may find that the mechanics of your accordion make a lot of noise when you play. However, this may also be a sign that your instrument needs to be serviced.
The mechanical noise of the keys of your accordion is very often simply due to the quality of manufacture of the instrument, to the model or to its ageing.
Here is what you should look for: First, you must check whether the noise is produced either whenthe key is pressed or released.You must first check whether the noise is produced either when the key is pressed or when the key is released. of the key.
If the noise is produced when the key is pressed If the noise is produced when the button is pressed, this is a purely mechanical problem. The most frequent case is the impact of the piston (under the button) on the edge of its hole. First check the alignment of the button. It may be bent (see our article on accordion handling and maintenance). In this case, go and see your repairer. By untwisting a button yourself, you risk breaking the button or the stem that supports it and then the problem gets worse. Another hypothesis: On the left hand of your accordion, the holes that receive the keys are not lined with felt inside. In this case, there is nothing to do. The noise is due to the design of the instrument. In all other cases, go and see your repairer.
If the noise is more like a clacking sound when releasing the keys of your instrument, then the problem may be with your valve skins. Indeed, the valves are lined with skins that are in direct contact with the soundboards. These skins ensure the tightness of each note of the accordion. When they are new, they have a suppleness and a softness that generates a muffled sound when releasing each key. If these skins have dried out, your valves will start to hit the tables noisily, to slam. Moreover, the general compression of the accordion will become less efficient. In this case, an appointment with your accordion maker is advised to consider replacing the valve skins (as seen above for compression or leakage problems).
You now know how to make a simple and quick diagnosis of your accordion in order to identify the most frequent breakdowns or questions and thus avoid too many trips to your repairer.
This quick and easy method is your best chance to avoid unnecessary travel or even repair costs that could easily be avoided. So don't worry about anything else by adopting this quick and easy diagnostic method for your instrument. In case of doubt, don't hesitate to ask your favourite accordion maker right here : Contact.
Reminder: For a long life and a constant performance, your accordion must be regularly overhauled in a workshop by a professional. On average, we recommend a revision every 4 to 5 years.