"The poor man's piano"sang Léo Ferré in 1954 with great success.
A song and an expression that will be often repeated and will remain in the memories until our days.
Léo Ferré spoke in his song about the popular side of the accordion and not about its price. Indeed, the accordion has always been a rather expensive musical instrument.
An accordionist told me, some time ago, that in the 1960s, when he bought his accordion, a professional chromatic model with standard basses, the price of his instrument was about equal to that of a Renault Dauphine!
The Dauphine came out of the Renault factories in 1956. It was a small four-door saloon car, more spacious than the 4cv, which was already a great success.
A professional accordion for the price of a car! This is an economic reference that shows us the price level of an accordion in the 60's.
We are talking here about professional models. It is important to know that a wide range of student accordions or mid-range accordions allowed most people to play the accordion with a more moderate budget.
It must also be said that at that time, the success of the popular dances and of the accordion in particular could allow the accordionist to amortize the price of his instrument rather quickly.
Why has the accordion always been an expensive musical instrument?
To get the answer, let's take a tour of the production facilities...
1 - The workforce
The accordion is still handmade with the help of machines of course, but the hand of man is involved in all phases of the manufacturing process. Each piece is adjusted or shaped, polished, mounted, tuned, etc... by hand.
"Up to nine thousand parts can be necessary to manufacture an accordion", says the Manufacture d'Accordéons Maugein. This workforce is European (Italy, France,...) for most of the well-made models. It is a workforce that is both specialised and diversified, requiring a high level of qualification in each speciality necessary for the manufacture of this complex instrument that is the accordion.
The implementation, adjustment or tuning of each part, bellows, case, buttons, blades, mechanics of all kinds and the diversity of materials used, steel, aluminium, brass, wood, skins, cardboard, fabrics, celluloid, paints, varnishes, mother-of-pearl, etc... requires very diverse and applied skills.
2 - Machine tools
Modern accordions require a great deal of precision in their manufacture in order to acquire ever better sound, ergonomic, aesthetic and lightness qualities.
Accordion makers must use state-of-the-art machine tools for metal and woodworking, laser cutting, micromechanical milling, numerical controls, riveting, welding, etc.
Of course, these high-performance tools require significant investment.
They bring greater precision to the human hand but do not replace it.
3 - The diversity of accordion systems
There is a great diversity of systems for the same family of instruments called "accordions":
First of all, there are two main families: the chromatic and the diatonic (see our blog post on the subject)
- Within the diatonic systems there are many different systems depending on the country, or even the region of each country. To each system, one can add a choice of different tones...
- for chromatic instruments, the choice of right-hand keyboard with piano keys or buttonsshould be noted.
Among the keyboards with button keys, there are several different keyboard layouts: C-Griff for the French or Italians, B-Griff for the Russians or Belgians, Finnish, and many other less commonly used systems.
The left hand will benefit from a keyboard with or without a chromatic bass converter.
Chromatic basses will use different keyboard organisations depending on the country or region where they are played, standard basses also...
To the great diversity of all these chromatic or diatonic accordions, we add the choice of the aesthetics, the choice of the pitch and the choice of the Brio (see our blog article on the subject).
We can also add the choice of sizes: Accordions for children or adults, for concerts or travel (the accordion has always been a traveller), to play standing or sitting, for small or large hands, etc...
- It is easy to understand that with such a diversity of systems within the same instrument, it becomes extremely difficult for an accordion maker to organise the production on rational and economically efficient quantities or series.
Beyond the cultural richness that this diversity can bring, it also brings an economic handicap in comparison to more standardised musical instruments such as the piano, the guitar, the violin or many wind or string instruments.
Everyone can find an accordion to suit their budget. The accordion is available in a very wide range of models, from those for study to professional models for the stage.
It ispossible to acquire an accordion of satisfactory quality at a price affordable to all.
Simple and inexpensive models suitable for study are available on the market.
Thesecond-hand market is also very large and can offer opportunities.
In the latter case, we will focus on the maintenance necessary for the longevity of the instrument. You can keep your accordion all its life if you take care of it by having it regularly maintained.
However, you should know that a good professional quality accordion is the result of a European know-how, of a qualified and specialised workforce, of an always advanced technology and of an adaptation to each accordionist of this planet through multiple regional traditions. This quality has a cost.
At Fonteneau Accordions, we have chosen among the many different models of accordions of all brands and all ranges, to always indicate clearly the price of each accordion so that you can choose the accordion choose clearly the accordion that you will like.
Take a look at our shop to get an idea of what you are looking for