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  • Writer's pictureTony Peri - Owner of Reedworks Pty Ltd

Bandoneon Tuning

Updated: Apr 19, 2023

Bandoneons are one of the rarer types of free reed instruments you may encounter, but they are certainly interesting. Their design originates from the Concertina and they were first made in the 1840s in Germany.

This one pictured above, came into the Reedworks workshop recently for a major tune up and overhaul. It's an ELA branded instrument. It was beautifully made and constructed. But being approximately 90 years old it was also rather delicate. The soundboard - upon which the buttons and levers are on one side and the reed blocks, the other - was a thin piece of wood. All the internal button levers were also made of wood.

The exterior is black with lovely mother of pearl type binding and corners.

The bellows were in 3 sections with quality corners and finishings on the dividers.

As was the way in the pre-WWII era with accordion construction, the reeds were mounted on long reed plates and the reed blocks fixed in. All very nice - until it comes time to tune the instrument again!

The Bandoneon was out of tune and even then the original tuning was down near A435Hz.

Now its tuned to A440Hz, all the reeds work and everything is in order again.

The right side has 35 buttons and an air release lever. Some buttons are bisonoric, some not. Each button sounds 2 reeds in an MM configuration.

On the left hand side (below) there are 29 buttons. Interestingly, some are tuned MM and others are tuned LM. Plus some buttons are bisonoric and others are the same note on the push and the pull of the bellows.

So, when it comes to playing this bandoneon, you have different notes on each hand and different notes on the push and pull movement of the bellows much of the time.

Repairing and tuning this instrument took many hours of work. But it gives you a further appreciation for the builders who made the instrument and the musicians who master its design and character.

If you have a Bandoneon that needs tuning or repair, contact Reedworks.

For more information on the history of the Bandoneon, ELA America manufacturing and the origins of the instrument, there is an excellent page here in English to read:

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