are going to talk to Amadeo Flores from Alice,
Texas which is in south Texas. He is an acordionisto,
an accordion player, bajo sexto guitar
player, a performing artist, a recording artist
and he is also, among that, an accordion tuner.
What does that mean? Well, we are going to find
out what that means. The accordion is a musical
instrument, so it does require some maintenance,
just like a guitar or any other type of musical
instrument. So lets get into it with Mr.
Flores here and discuss a little bit about
tuning. First of all, how did you get into
tuning? What prompted you? Obviously you have
been playing your musical accordion for fifty
years now, but what happened that made you tune
your own instrument?
Well, in my time when I picked up on the
accordion, there werent that many tuners.
And, in fact, some of the tuners at times
didnt want to tune for other people
you know, the better their accordion sounded, the
better it was for them. So when I got into the
accordion in 1950I think it was in
1955 if I am not mistake I had
problems with my accordion, and I started
monkeying around with them. I would say that is
how I got to learn. I am self-taught in other
words. I finally found out the means and the how
to tune an accordion; what it needed to either
bring the sound up or bring the sound down; or to
control the vibration. Then as I went down the
line on it, I picked up some more on it, learned
how to change keys even on the accordion.
type of accordion has got keys just like a
harmonica: there is a G, C, F accordion; there is
a F, B flat, E flat accordion; there is an E, A,
D accordion. There are people that cant
afford to buy another accordion. They can work
with one accordion, but the key is too high.
There is a low tone or low key accordion, and
they want it higher, but they cant afford
to buy another one. So most of the time I tell
them you had better pick it out how you want,
because once I tune it, it stays tuned there and
you cant move it back and forth. After a
while you start wearing out the reeds. They can
only sustain so much tuning and then after that
you have to buy a new set of reeds, or stop
playing, I guess.
Ok, welcome folks, what we are discussing here is
accordion tuning. Amadeo Flores is sitting here
with me and he is an accordion player. We are
from Texas, by the way in case you
cant tell and we perform a
particular style of music down there called conjunto.
Conjunto refers to actually a music group
as an ensemble, but also refers to a particular
style of music that is accordion-based. And, in
addition to being a performing artist and a
recording artist he also tunes accordions. What
we are trying to do here is get an idea, an
insight, into what it takes to tune an accordion.
For some of you
who have never seen what is
inside of an accordion, these are what you call
the musical bars. It looks something like a
harmonica. In fact if you were to look through
these holes here on the side, you would get some
sounds emitted from there. In the old days, I
guess Amadeo, the standard method of tuning was
you would actually it was mouth
blown you would actually blow
through these things, something like that. You
would actually tune the accordion to the pitch
you heard in your ears. You would either have to
go higher or lower, whatever the demand was. And
then from there they moved into what? If you were
not using the hand blown or the mouth blown
method, what did you do after that?
some of the accordion tuners
that are in Texas started using a bellow from an
accordion to produce air or for pushing in and
out. What they do is take a bellow
take it off an old accordion put a board on
this side. Make it air-tight. Put another board
on this side, and make holes or square out,
depending on the type or system of tuning they
use. The tuning device, the mechanism, the
instruments of tuning, are so sensitive, that if
you pull too hard on the accordion, it is going
to register high. If you dont pull hard
enough, it is going to register low. You can
actually pull it to a certain point, make the
machine say it is tuned, and it is not tuned. So
I developed an electric device,to help tune the
accordion. And it turned out to be accurate. So
that is one of the things that gives me a lot of
work. I get work from all over the United States,
as far as Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California.
I get accordions not the accordions
they just send me the reed blocks, because with
this kind of system I don't need the whole
instrument. And as I was saying, I get them from
all over the United States. I really lucked out.
I have a friend that I tune for in Austin, and he
had a visitor from Australia. He heard my tuning,
and he brought his accordion and I tuned it for
him. And Id imagine he is supposed to send
me another one. I even have an offer from a guy
from Italy. I said, you know, you got tuners over
there, and he said: "Yes, but that is
Italian style of tuning too much vibration.
The Texan accordions dont use as much
vibration." That is what I do, knock down
vibrations to the specifications. That is what
keeps me busy.
Ok, so you got away from using the bellows of the
accordion to tune accordions. Because bellows
dont always give you the same type of air
pressure all of the time. Because the bellow
opens according to how much you pull it, you may
not pull it exactly the same every time.
Consequently, you are going to have that
difference in tuning.
one of the things to note also is the fact that
even though the accordion is an Old World
instrument coming from Germany, it is it is tuned
differently throughout the world. The Germans
play different, the Polish people, the Czechs,
the French, the Italians, the Cajunseach
one of those particular types of music requires a
different style of tuning. Within the state of
Texas, and for that matter throughout the world,
there is only a handful of tuners that actually
tune what we call Tex-Mex style or that would
work within the conjunto music variation.
Amadeo has been tuning for some forty years now
since the 1950s, since 1955, so
consequently he has developed a good ear for that
kind of stuff. In addition to that, he has been
able to incorporate that into the music. He has
made stylistic changes that have persevered.
I use two types of tuners. Ive got one that
is a meter type that I brought with me. And
Ive got one that is called a strobe: a
little wheel, with a lot of little. . .it has
about three or seven lines of little black dots,
square black dots. And if the key happens to be
low, the wheel will turn to the left, and you
raise it up until the wheel stops at a dead stop.
If it goes to the right, that means it is high.
So you lower the key down till it stops to a dead
stop also. So, it is vice versa. If it is high,
you raise it up to a 440 or bring it down to a
440. Then, on the factory tuned accordions, they
use a lot of vibration which is standard for
them. Like I say, in Texas, the accordion players
dont like too much vibration. Right now
they use a combination of keyboards. In an
accordion, the keyboard doesnt have
vibration. They want the lowest possible
vibration so it will jive or blend in with the
keyboards. Right now, I am going to tune about
two or three reeds to show you more or less how
it is done. I dont want to tune it all,
because I only got three bars for the rest of the
week. It only takes me, actually, about an hour
and a half to tune an accordion and to give it a
fine tune. I am only going to do two, maybe three
These reed bars, or these
particular reeds, are held onto this board with
wax, beeswax. Now, you said in the old days you
had to pop those reeds out and you had to file
them and put them back in.
Yes, we used to have to use air from our mouth.
There was no waywe didnt have the
knowledge of how to tune by leaving it on, so we
had to pop it out and work it on the inside; and
then, we put it back on and then try it again.
And if it was low, pop it back on, and it was a
continuous thing until we got it tuned. And, at
first when I first started to tune, I didnt
know what kind of a wax it was. And so we used to
use play putty. The accordion tuners used play
putty because they didnt know what kind of
wax it was. It just happened that I have a female
cousin that has a flower shop, and I asked her
what it is. She says, "thats
beeswax." That is how I found out what it
was. Then, and now, that is what we should use.
It keeps it in place. It creates enough suction
to keep it in place without having to use any
kind of before, they used to have tacks on
there and now they did away with that.
OK, now why do you think the beeswax is used? Is
it the components of it? Does it stay in place a
little better than other waxes? It doesnt
get as brittle, but it is not resistant to heat.
It will melt if you leave it in the heat long
It sure will, I had accordions brought to me with
the reeds fallen off inside the accordion.
Sometimes they are salvageable, but sometimes the
reeds get full of wax, and the little brackets
get full of wax where. You can salvage it, but I
mean timewise, it takes about four or five days
just to clean all of those, and nobody wants to
pay for the time. That is the only reason they
just go out and buy a new set of reeds or reed
blocks and just put them into the accordion.
Lets talk about that now. These musical
reed blocks on this accordion I am holding here,
which is a standard three row, is what we call
diatonic. Diatonic means that it is a button
accordion. It has thirty-two buttons on the
treble side, twelve bases on the bass side, but
offers you sixty-four different sounds. Diatonic
also means that you get one sound in if you push
in the bellows, and another sound if you pull out
with the bellows. . . .
transcript edited for clarity