How to Tune an Accordion

Written by brooke ashley
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How to Tune an Accordion
Corrosion of metal can cause changes of pitch in an accordion. (an accordion. image by Alexander Lukyanov from

The accordion is a complex instrument consisting of reeds, valves and plates. Proper cleaning prior to tuning will help keep the instrument sounding good since missing valves, rust and chipped wax can cause poor pitch and tone. Reeds must be cleaned, rust-treated and re-waxed to ensure proper tune. Based on the type of accordion and its age, tuning style falls under two categories: "wet" or "dry." Finally, an electronic tuner or digital tuning software can be used to ensure the accordion's precise pitch and tone.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Vinegar
  • Accordion wax
  • Small knife
  • Electronic tuner

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  1. 1

    Remove reeds and valves from the reed blocks. Using a small knife, carefully remove reeds and valves. Depending on the age of the accordion, the condition of the valves may prompt the need for plastic replacements. If damage is not visible, use a knife to remove glue residue from each valve. Place reeds in a non-water-based cleansing solution, such as vinegar. Water-based solutions can cause rust and must be avoided. After cleansing, remove any visible rust by hand, using a scouring brush. Chemicals for rust cleaning are not recommended, as they can permanently damage the reeds. Place the reeds back in order and refasten the valves to the reed block with new accordion wax. Fasten them securely but not too tight as that could hinder the sound quality.

    How to Tune an Accordion
    An accordion must be inspected for missing parts and cleaned prior to tuning. (detail of an old accordion image by Tomo Jesenicnik from
  2. 2

    Check the pressure of each reed. Once cleaned, reeds should be checked for pressure through the tuning bellows on the accordion. The tuning bellows consists of the layers of cloth and cardboard within the accordion, which help produce sound. If air is not correctly exiting the reed when pressed, the bellows will not produce sound. Check each reed to make sure its airflow is adequate. If the pressure is too tight, the reed and valve must be slightly loosened on the reed block.

    How to Tune an Accordion
    The tuning bellows is made from layers of cloth and paper and is essential to the instrument's sound quality. (accordion boy 30 image by Paul Moore from
  3. 3

    Choose "wet" or "dry" tuning methods. Wet tuning primarily takes place on antiquated accordions that have a "musette" shift button. Once pressed, this setting allows tuning to take place through the #3 reed set on the accordion. To dry tune the accordion, select reed sets #1 and #2 to adjust pitch and tone. Both of these methods require each reed to be played, removed if necessary, sanded with a file, then replaced. This process continues until optimum tuning is complete.

    How to Tune an Accordion
    The accordion is tuned through the sharp reed sets, primarily #1 through #3. (accordion music image by Alexander Ivanov from
  4. 4

    Gauge tuning with an electronic tuner or digital software. After tuning each key manually, check the results with a tuning gauge. These tuning tools are programmed to define the accordion's pitch and tone correctly. Make reed adjustments as necessary until tuning is complete.

    How to Tune an Accordion
    Correct pitch and tone can be determined with an electronic tuner. (accordion image by Paul Moore from

Tips and warnings

  • Store the accordion in a cool, dry place to avoid moisture from affecting the components. Also, protect it from warm temperatures as they could cause the reed wax to melt.

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