Achieving perfection is difficult, and for that reason, making accordions takes so long. With thousands of pieces involved in the creation of its structure, dozens of craftsmen giving their best, and a process that lasts months, accordions are one of the most complex, elegant and creative instruments.
The accordion, despite being a rather complicated instrument, had its beginnings many years ago. Its origins date back to more than 2500 years BC by the hand of a Chinese emperor who made the Sheng, an instrument that is now known as the predecessor of the accordion.
In the 17th century, after many modifications and advances, the instrument took the name of the accordion and gradually began to penetrate the European music scene, especially in the folk music of various countries such as Ireland, Scotland, Russia, Switzerland and Germany. among many others.
Today, the accordion is used in all parts of the world, and in Latin America it has managed to become the king of traditional Colombian music, better known as the vallenato.
The variety of its tonalities and the complexity of its structure make the manufacture of this instrument considered an art, rather than a common manufacture. This is not an exaggeration, as it is an instrument with 120 buttons, and with approximately 24 to 41 keys that work together to offer sounds that resemble an entire orchestra.
In order for these instruments to reach the stores and into the hands of musicians, months of manufacturing and hard work must go through by many artisans who take care of even the smallest detail to be able to offer the best accordion of the moment . There are approximately 15,000 pieces used when creating a professional-quality accordion, and generally, about 12 craftsmen are needed for each instrument and a total of 3 to 4 months of manufacture, tuning and distribution.
How do you make an accordion?
If you really want to know the long work involved in making an accordion, you need to look at Castelfidardo, a small Italian commune in the province of Ancona. This is considered the world capital of the manufacture of accordions and this title is well deserved, since it is a town that for about 150 years has been dedicated to the production and export of these instruments, manufacturing approximately 20 thousand per year they go to various countries to keep many musical genres alive.
All accordions must be handmade in order to have the distinctive sound that characterizes them and the accordions that are manufactured in Castelfidardo follow every step to the letter in order to be one of the first choices of accordionists.
The manufacturing process
The first step is to cut the wooden frames that go on the ends of the accordion. The best wood for this is poplar; This is due to the fact that this type of tree produces a resistant material but quite light, which makes playing the instrument more comfortable and simple. This usually takes about 8 days due to all the details that are needed in manufacturing.
After that, the three main parts of the accordion are manufactured. The instrument is divided into the keyboard, the bellows and the buttons; the latter in charge of the low notes of the melodies.
The high main melodies depend on this piece, so it is important that it be perfect. You cannot use glue or any other adherent element that is not a unique mixture of beeswax with pine resin. The keys must be connected to the valves and these together with the rods must fit together to produce the sound. The pressure makes the valves move, emitting the sound of each note.
The bass, in charge of the low notes, must also make use of valves, rods and small levers. The rods should be placed matching each button and completing the 120 that are part of this area of the accordion. The levers are what allow the valves to lift up and let air through.
The bellows is considered the lung of the accordion and, like a human lung, the bellows expands and contracts as the instrument produces the melodies.
Manufacturing it requires a special pre-folded cardboard that is used due to the ease with which it adapts to movement, thanks to its low resistance. Leaks at the corners can affect the sound and for that reason they are covered with small pieces of stainless steel.
It is decorated by painting the cardboard or adding fabrics that stick in the folds. Finally, the bellows spends two hours under a hydraulic press that will give it the necessary pressure so that everything is in place.
Assembly and final details
Finally, the craftsmen make the reed bed bases that have wooden and metal pieces. These are inserted into the accordion and allow the valves to open as the keys are played and the reeds to vibrate in order to produce the sounds. These pieces are also glued with the mixture of wax and special resin.
When everything is ready, comes the tuning process. With an electronic tuner, the accordion is arranged until the notes are perfect. This is done by removing the reeds and passing a small sharp material over them to make them produce lower or higher tones.
To minimize the margin of error and deliver a product suitable for professionals, after machine tuning, an advanced accordionist is invited to take charge of verifying that all musical notes sound correctly.
Making an accordion is a long process full of hard work and love of music. For this reason, after learning about this art, it is much easier to appreciate this great instrument that gives life to thousands of songs and maintains ancient cultures through folklore.