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Off-Tune Notes

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I've been messing around and getting to know my new Morse Ceili and have noticed that --- how do I explain this --- two of the Cs that are supposed to be the same (right-hand second row and third row) sound a bit off, as in one sounds just a tich higher than the other. I can hear it, my perfect-pitch kid can hear it, but it doesn't register as a problem on my guitar tuner.


Am I just being fussy? Do new reeds need to settle in (they are metal, aren't they?)? Are they affected by Maritime Damp?


Thanks, all.

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My opinion is no, yes and no. See if you can pick it in a run of notes where you don't play the notes anywhere near each other and if you can't then it might not actually be a problem.


There is a explanation which may fit; the two notes can be correct in pitch, explaining the guitar tuner readings, but be different in their harmonic makeup. In the most likely scenario one of the notes will be missing high partials, giving it less presence. The reasons for this could be a reed with wider clearances, a heavier valve, or the pad could be exiting under your hand leading to muting.

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The Button Box generally tunes within 2 cents or less, but if one note is on the high side and the other is on the low, the spread can be more. Also, the pitch of reeds is dependent to a degree on the mass it is attached to, and moisture absorption can make a difference and affect reed's in different locations differently. Since the duplicate c's are in different directions, you won't be playing them in unison, so the question will be how does each sound in the music, and especially with the notes you may play at the same time. If your guitar tuner doesn't have an issue with them, the music likely won't either.

It is worth noting that instrument tuners ( outside of piano ) usually have a wide latitude for what is considered "in tune". Often +/- 5 cents is still in the green. I tuned my first concertina with a guitar tuner and while it showed everything was in tune, it clearly was not up to scratch. It wasn't terrible, but when retuned with a better tuner, it sounded much better.

If you want to check the notes, try playing them with the one an octave lower in the same row. They should be pretty smooth sounding. If one pair beats a fair amount and the other doesn't you know which is right. I'd play the instrument a lot and eventually when it needs retunning it can be dealt with then.


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Thanks, Dana. Now that Canada Day is over, I'm back to the computer!


Good tip to check the notes with the octave; they sound pretty well in tune when I do that. Interesting bit about the guitar tuner being not as picky as a piano tuner.


Thanks again,



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I would agree that an electronic tuner would not lie. But you need to make sure that you aren't accidentally changing the starting point.

My tuner has + and - buttons for calibration. The standard for concert pitch is A=440hz, but the calibration buttons can change that up or down.

If your finger hits the + or - button without you noticing, it can cause confusion.


Here is a site that I like and use now and then, if I want to tune by ear :




You can also cross-check your tuner against it for reassurance. Your tuner should show the notes to be absolutely perfectly in tune.

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  • 2 weeks later...

When you play them both at the same time, do you hear any beats? If so, then the number of beats you hear per second is the number of vibrations per second they are out of tune with each other. If you don't hear beats, they are in tune, and the difference you hear in the sound must be attributable to something else (sound quality, etc.).

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Thank you all for your replies. Now that I've had some time to settle in with the Morse, I think it is more of a timbre difference than a tonal difference. I guess I'm just coming at things from a background as a horn player; I was used to being able to lip tones up or down as needed.

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Sound quality is a funny thing. I think you actually gain from a variety in timbre. It adds interest to the playing without any effort on your part. If every button gave an identical tone, I think you start sounding like electronic keyboards rather than a live acoustic wood and leather instrument.

I have a D/G melodeon by Saltarelle, and the D row seems to me to have a different quality of sound from the G row.

I was a bit peeved at first, but now I like it, and hopping across the rows, you are adding variety.


Also, what you hear when you are playing is different to what other people in the same room hear.
I sold a melodeon once, I never particularly liked the sound. When the buyer played it, it sounded completely different to me,

(not just the playing). Just being a few feet away from it changed the tone completely, and I really liked the sound then. I was amazed at the difference.

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