From the MiTek series on the American Craftsman, comes the story of Acadian Accordions. This story comes from the visual storytelling artist, Tadd Myers, a photographer who has captured the heart of the American craftsman in a pictorial masterpiece.
To some, it’s a funny-looking instrument; to the makers of the Acadian accordion, it’s serious business. As with learning to play Cajun music, learning to build an accordion is a lifelong process.
Marc Savoy has been playing, making, and tinkering with accordions since he was twelve years old. It’s an old craft. Yet he sees no reason why traditional methods can’t coexist with innovation and process improvement. This attitude goes all the way back to the very first accordion he created. As Savoy says, “not too long after I completed it I lit a fire in the barbecue pit and burned it. I knew I could do a better job on the next one.” He adds, “Even after those many years of discovering ‘what makes it tick’, we continue to make improvements as better materials are found and techniques refined.”
Crafting an Accordion
Marc Savoy, and his business partner, self-taught luthier Tina Pilione, are just as picky about their materials as they are about the end product. First, only handmade Italian reeds will do for the makers of the Acadian accordion. Reeds are critical in the construction of an accordion. Their vibrations produce the distinctive sound of the instrument.
The wood of an accordion is comparatively—and surprisingly, to some—less critical to the sound of the instrument. The wood is dried then for a year or more. Their standards are often higher than the suppliers they buy from. Sixteen different types of wood can be used to make an accordion. Then it’s up to the buyer to decide the wood they’d like based on personal preference. Owners love the classic looks of the high-quality woods the makers use.
After the accordion is built, next it’s time to tune it—and this is where the makers of the Acadian really shine. Tuning is key to the resonance and beauty of the instrument. It can only be accomplished by tuning individual reeds to a state-of-the-art electronic tuning device. Human ears then add finesse to the technical process. Careful listening will ensure the accordion sounds as good as it looks.
Today, the Savoy Music Center continues to make accordions according to their own exacting specifications. Musicians can focus on the timeless craft they love: Cajun music. And the band plays on.
This story was sourced from the American Craftsman Project website, with permission by the author, Tadd Myers. MiTek appreciates the heart of the American craftsman – the men and women who perform their work according to principles of integrity, hard work, quality and a desire to forge something that will create not just a lasting product, but a lasting relationship.