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Cajun Accordion

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Does anyone have building templates on cajun accordions? We can sahre our templates, ideas, and drawings to help others share the culture of the cajun accordion, allowing people to learn to build and play the cajun accordion. If you have any add-ons to this message, please feel free to place ad.



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I'm not aware of any templates/plans being available, but the older makers in Louisiana seem to have all got started by studying the construction of the original German 'tit noirs, either of the Sterling or the Monarch brands. John Doucet, who made mine, told me that he started out in this way, with one he found in a trash can (in fact he showed me the remains of it !).

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  • 15 years later...

As Stephen Chambers posted years ago, this seems to be a tradition passed on by trial and error and by oral tradition. I'm not aware of any plans. Long ago I got to spend a week working with Larry Miller learning some basic repairs and tuning. He shared all sorts of useful information (how to make sliders for the stops that don't bind but also don't get too loose, etc.) that he had gathered or learned the hard way. Copying an existing instrument seems to be part of that tradition, but my impression is that getting a decent, very good instrument takes a while. Marc Savoy has the story of how he taught himself on his website (or at least it used to be there, try the wayback machine if it is no longer posted).



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I made a 1 row melodeon at a workshop conducted by Emmanuel Pariselle about 5 years ago.   Emmanuel runs melodeon construction workshops in France and UK in which he guides the building of 1 row or 2.5 row melodeons.  Well worth attending one of these courses if you'd like to know how to build a melodeon - and the resultant instruments are extremely good.

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  • 6 months later...
  • 4 weeks later...

I've played Cajun accordion for many years...a Le Capitaine brand made by Danny Dyson in Lake Charles (no new orders now) and a Bon Tee by Larry Miller. 

First thing you need to know is the design of the reed blocks on the 4-voice Cajun box is different than the majority of single row melodeons. The tuning is also different. The community of builders are close and share techniques, parts, etc. Reeds are top quality Italian as well as things such as straps, bellows, etc. The frames, reed blocks and many small parts are hand made. There is no comparison between a good hand-made Louisiana box and other "cajun" accordions. One secret is the tuning of the 3rds. 

Check out the videos by Marc Savoy. He will say that if you want to play, you first need to immerse yourself in Cajun music first and make the songs part of you. Preferably from the time you are born. I guess you would have to be raised in SE Louisiana for that to happen best, or at least visit often.

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On 6/23/2021 at 3:36 PM, Everett said:

First thing you need to know is the design of the reed blocks on the 4-voice Cajun box is different than the majority of single row melodeons. 


Copied from the Sterling, Monarch, etc. boxes of a century ago, like my antique Globe "Gold Medal" in the photo:





The tuning is also different, ... Reeds are top quality Italian ... One secret is the tuning of the 3rds. 


The flattened thirds work for Cajun players, but sound sour to those of us who use our melodeons to play other musical genres, though (ironically) the full-on Just Intonation of the original German makers (still used on harmonicas) sounds beautifully sweet and would suit either purpose.


The original reeds were also of high quality, made by Dix in Germany.

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On 6/23/2021 at 3:38 PM, Everett said:

Also, a Quebecois accordion is NOT a Cajun accordion. They are fine instruments, but have many subtle differences, especially in the tuning.


Though a Cajun accordion CAN be made as a Québecois accordion - I got one made for me by Marc Savoy, after he'd decided (from our conversations) that what I needed was a box in "strong Québecois" tuning.


It's tuned in Equal Temperament, with 15 cents of tremolo between the middle reeds, and it barks!


The sound of it caused quite a stir at the Saturday morning music session in Mark's shop, when I went to collect it.



Edited by Stephen Chambers
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