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What to Look for When Buying a New or Used Accordion

Buying a new or used accordion can get extremely tricky if you have very little idea about the instrument. Which is why, it is not recommended to buy this instrument from online music stores because you will not get to inspect or detect its flaws.
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Tips to buy a used accordion
Quick Fact
An accordion is assembled with wax, and thus, cannot tolerate too much heat or cold. Temperature ranging between 45 - 85ºF is suitable for storing this musical instrument.
The accordion can be found in four designs which include concertina, piano, diatonic, and chromatic. Then again, the piano accordion has electronic and 'Music Instrument Digital Interface' (MIDI) variations that are suitable for making New Age music.

Anyone who has played this aerophone will know that this musical instrument is not as simple as it looks. It requires rigorous practice, many failed attempts, and consistent technique, to get the perfect sound. This Buzzle article discusses what to look for when buying a new or used accordion.

Buy Only from a Reputed Dealer
Unless you're well-versed with a specific make and brand, it is inadvisable to buy this instrument online, because you will not be able to test the instrument before buying it. However, you may research online and make notes on the ones that appeal to you. Thereafter, you can try to find the same make at the music stores in and around your place of residence. If feasible, try to find a store that specializes in accordions, since the experts there will be able to cater to your needs and answer your queries. Seek the guidance of reputable dealers who have been selling accordions for several years, and have sufficient knowledge and experience to back them. Contact experienced accordionists so that they may refer you to experts who service this musical instrument.

Check for Air Leaks
Irrespective of whether you plan on buying a new or used accordion, the rule of thumb is to actually test the instrument and check for air leaks. The bellows will need to be tested to check for such leaks. You must not hear any air escaping while trying to move the bellows, and nor must there be the fainest trace of a note playing, when none of the keys or buttons are pressed. The bellows should be tight and not pry open easily, unless the keys or buttons are pressed. Secondly, even if the bellows do pull out, you mustn't hear any whooshing sounds. If the bellows open and close rapidly without pressing the keys, the instrument is faulty and must not be considered for purchase. Test the reeds as well, for any unusual noises and obstructed movement.

Check for Tuning Problems
You will need to play each key to find out if there is anything wrong with the tuning. If you do not know the difference between good and bad tuning, you can ask an experienced accordionist to explain the difference. Most importantly, you should play each key and hear the notes in order to tell if the tuning is wonky. If any key sounds bad, do not go ahead with the purchase because it is expensive to repair or tune an accordion. You will also need to know the difference between wet and dry tuning methods. Dry tuning is predominantly used in popular American music and Jazz, whereas, wet tuning is used in European folk music. Therefore, go in for an accordion that is standard tuned according to the type of tuning sought by you.

Things to Examine When Buying a Used Accordion
Do not be deceived by the external beauty of this musical instrument because it is quite complex from the inside and has several components. Though we shall not go too much into detail about its parts and functions, you will need to do the following things to check the quality of the musical instrument:
  • Check for any visible dents and scratches on the outer body of the instrument. Also, check for any missing nuts and pins.
  • You will need to check the keys for fingernail gouges. If you see such unsightly impressions on the white key caps, be assured that the keys are made of plastic instead of plexiglass. In which case, you will need to get the key caps replaced, which can exceed USD 700, depending on the service cost as well as the quality of the new keys.
  • Avoid buying an according that makes rattling and squeaky sounds when shaken gently. Apart from shaking the instrument, try to gently tilt it to check for any loose parts.
  • Make sure the bass buttons have equalized spring action and press easily without being too loose. The buttonboard must not be damaged, bent, or loose.
  • The only way to check if the bass reeds are functioning optimally is to check for clarity, and keep an ear out for muffled and muted sounds.
  • Albeit unusual, you will need to check the instrument for any odor. The reason being that many of the internal parts of an accordion are made of leather, wood, and iron, all of which are susceptible to moisture and excessive heat or cold. The instrument must never smell damp, rusty, or of mildew. If you detect any of these odors, do not proceed with the purchase.
  • Scrutinize the keyboard for misalignment, noise, and friction between two keys. A lot of people try to sell accordions with damaged or lifted keys that have either been pushed into the sockets or glued to temporarily stay in place. Therefore, make sure that you gently pluck each key upwards to check for any loose or broken keys.
  • Lookout for any hints of rust on the outer surface of the instrument. This instrument contains plenty of iron parts that can rust rapidly. The presence of rust on the outside indicates that the insides of the instrument are likely to be in worse condition.

Age
You must also ask the seller for the age of the instrument so that you can assess whether it's worth the money or not. Really old accordions may look great but may no longer sound good because of excessive use or neglect. In case, you like the sound and feel of a really old accordion, you can pay half its price to the seller and seek permission to get the instrument inspected by an expert. Also, make arrangements with the seller to have the instrument returned in case it turns out to be too damaged for further use. The leather and wax inside an old accordion must be in good condition for it to have any resale value. Sometimes, sellers will try to sell off damaged instruments by claiming that it was hardly used. However, the lack of use in itself would have caused severe damage to the accordion, thereby, making it unworthy of repurchase. Ask to see the original sale receipt of the musical instrument so that you have actual proof to rely on, rather than believing the words of the seller.

Weight and Size
Some old accordion models were quite bulky, large, and difficult to play. The size and weight of this instrument will vary according to the number of keys and bass buttons present, and the material used for making the instrument. It is preferable for beginners to opt for a lightweight 12 bass and 25 keyed accordion, and gradually upgrade from thereon. While buying this instrument for an adult, choose one that has ample space in between the white keys for the fingers to maneuver.

Guarantee
Make sure you buy an accordion that has all its papers intact. Ask for maintenance and repair records in case the seller claims that the instrument has been inspected by a professional and given clearance for resale. In case of online purchase, ensure that the seller offers proper warranty and return policy, safe shipping, and a complete refund if the instrument is delivered in a damaged condition, or is unlike the one booked by you.

While buying a new or used accordion, inquire whether the instrument comes with an inbuilt microphone and tone chamber. These features can come in handy for those who wish to perform in public and need a fuller sound. While selecting this instrument, try to go for one that is sold with a case and strap.
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Published: October 17, 2013
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