Questions and answers on our reeds and our company
What are reeds?
Reeds are the main sound principle of the accordion. In other words, they are the physical element that creates the sound of the instrument. The Italian word for reed, voce (lit. voice), may refer to the idea behind the invention of free-reed aerophone musical instruments, like the harmonium, from which the accordion seems to derive: the attempt to emulate the sound of the human voice, which is thought to be the perfect instrument.
Reeds are metal components. A reed is made of two high carbon steel tongues, an alloy aluminium frame called a plate and two rivets that secure the tongues to the plate. Reeds work with air, and they are made for air; air is their invisible, though fundamental, element.
The reeds, being the sound principle of the accordion, constitute the fundamental premise of the musical instrument and they can significantly influence the final acoustic results. Of course, every single part of the instrument is an important means to this end and has a different and specific influence on both the functional and acoustic aspects; but everything starts from the reeds and develops around them.
How can I check whether your reeds have been fitted in my accordion? When buying a new or used accordion, how can I be sure that your reeds are fitted in it? When purchasing an accordion, how can I be sure what kind of reeds are fitted in it?
Voci Armoniche, for each set of reeds complete with treble and bass sections (right and left hands), delivers an adhesive certificate of quality and origin for one of the reed blocks inside the instrument; and an exterior certificate of quality and origin on a string, to be tied onto the new accordions. One reed in the centre of the treble section bears our mark engraved in the metal on the plate. See the page 100% made in Italy.
For the hand-finished, handmade and BlueStar® reeds, the adhesive certificate bears the name of the corresponding reed type. If the certificate bears the neutral phrasing “Certificate of quality and origin”, it refers to super durall, or type C reeds.
The manufacturer of the instrument is responsible for applying and attaching the certificates onto the instrument correctly. Our certificates are a way of ensuring transparency and clarity to those who purchase an accordion.
How can Voci Armoniche certify that the reeds produced are 100% Made in Italy?
Voci Armoniche declares, with Chairman of the Board of Directors Mr Lorenzo Antonelli taking full responsibility, that all the reeds sold by the company, without exceptions or exclusions, are 100% manufactured in the plant in Osimo, in Italy. The fact that our reeds are made in Italy is a primary and essential element of our corporate identity and mission. The company is willing to undergo audits to verify that its products are 100% Italian-made. See the page 100% made in Italy.
Today your reeds are sold under the Voci Armoniche brand: practically speaking, how is the tradition embodied by the Antonelli and Salpa brands currently reflected in your products?
The reeds manufactured by Voci Armoniche today are in fact the result of a continuous, uninterrupted production partnership between the company and the Antonelli and Salpa brands. The merger of the two companies, in 2002, made it possible to develop the tradition of the two historical brands, projecting it more dynamically into the future. In our reeds, production processes, machinery and production equipment and above all, in our people, from top management to the craftsmen and women in our workforce, the Antonelli and Salpa tradition continues, and is still physically present within our company. See the page History and tradition.
What kinds of reeds do you sell?
Our range consists of four types of reeds, a series of high notes, five types of basses and the series, in different sizes and shapes, of the Helikon basses for Styrian harmonicas. See the menu The reeds, and the page Reed comparison table. The range is designed and assorted to offer a full, wide-ranging selection capable of meeting a variety of tastes and musical requirements, all in the name of quality and reliability.
Can I buy reeds directly? How do I place an order?
Voci Armoniche is a production company which can only sell to companies or business owners, i.e. the self-employed, and can therefore not sell its products directly to consumers. We are gradually organizing a network of distributors for the sale of our reeds and spare parts, so that we become the go-to supplier for musicians in all locations, offering qualified service activities. For accordion manufacturers and those who offer technical services, our sales office is available for information, as well as support for technical issues and sales.
We advise potential customers who are not business-owners to contact our accordion manufacturer customers, our distributors or qualified service and technical support centres. Purchasing our reeds through one of our partner manufacturers, an official distributor or a qualified service centre, facilitates the operation, ensures you receive reliable, updated information when choosing the product and ensures top quality technical support. Please contact our sales office for information.
Ordering reeds is very easy if you follow a few simple rules. The Nomenclature for ordering page of the Support menu provides a check-list of the essential elements that need to be communicated to us for an order, or a quotation complete with the information that we need to respond quickly and effectively. If you have the code for the set you wish to order (visible in the accompanying documents and invoices), placing an order is even easier: simply indicate the code in the order. Providing full details when you place an order or request a quote saves time. This way there is no need for us to request further information and we can issue the order confirmation earlier. Above all, there will be no mistakes at the time of delivery, or possible misunderstandings. We recommend you place your order in writing rather than by phone, to ensure both parties are clear on the details and to prevent misunderstandings. Orders should be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If I want to change the reeds in my accordion, what should I do?
Contacting the manufacturer of your instrument is the safest option, especially if they are one of our partners or customers. Otherwise, contact one of the service centres recommended by the manufacturer. Alternatively, of course we and our distributors are always available to offer advice and technical support.
The fact is that reeds cannot be fitted in the accordion like batteries in an electrical appliance: specific know-how and precision are essential, from optimising the reed blocks to suit the reeds to the final tuning: the value of our reeds can only be perceived if the precise conditions that enable them to sound good exist. Taking a DIY approach is not recommended. Relying on expert support is always key to solving problems. In certain situations, tuning the accordion well may be sufficient to restore its musicality. In other cases, the problem may concern the valves or the reed blocks; in others the reeds: obtaining a good diagnosis is often a good part of the solution.
How can I communicate the specifications of the reeds I need to you: the dimensions in relation to the notes etc.?
In the Technical documentation page of the Support menu, it is possible to download technical tables that enable you to identify how to match the notes with the plate numbers for chromatic or piano accordions; and the plate number with the outer dimensions. For diatonic accordions, things get slightly more complicated, as you need to refer to tables that identify the plate number. This is why supporting our partners and customers is important, as is the assistance provided by our distributors, as they are familiar with the tables and the layout of the notes in relation to the sizes (numbers) of the plates. They can supply indications immediately and have a preferential communication channel with us. Voci Armoniche provides support to customers and service and technical support centres that intend to forge and maintain a commercial relationship that lasts. We believe in long-term relationships and are opposed to the “cut and run” approach.
How long does it take, from when an order is placed, until I receive your reeds?
It depends on various factors: the degree of customer loyalty; whether the order is for “standard” products, i.e. sets of reeds with a fast rotation rate and are in stock, or instead for customised reeds, not in stock, whether the sets ordered are for piano or chromatic accordions or for diatonic accordions. It also depends whether the reeds need to be tuned, and supplied with or without valves. On average, from the order confirmation date, the reeds are delivered in from three to six weeks, based on the parameters described above. Orders of customised reeds can take from six to eight weeks to deliver. Obviously, being able to schedule orders streamlines the delivery process, whereas urgencies tend to complicate it. We therefore recommend regularly placing smaller orders for scheduled delivery dates, rather than occasional large orders for urgent shipment.
The order confirmation, which we always send, may take longer to arrive if the order is more complex. It is very important to provide full information to reduce the order confirmation time: in fact, incomplete orders take longer to confirm as all the missing information has to be collected. The order confirmation indicates the technical specifications of the items ordered, the code, price and delivery date. We usually send the order confirmation from three to six days after receipt of the order. We are committed to ensuring precision and promptness in our deliveries. See the page Nomenclature for ordering.
What are the VM96 and VM99 surcharges applied to the list prices? Why are surcharges applied?
Surcharges are extra charges applied for individual reeds which are rarely or never requested, which we do not have in stock and are therefore not sold at the list price.
These are customised reeds, in combinations of notes that are seldom requested, which must be fitted in very small quantities, for which the assembly cost is therefore very high. VM96 is for additional reeds or reeds that replace rows in stock, in such a number and position that they do not alter the rows. VM99 is for replacement reeds that alter the rows in stock and for which the preliminary study of the table, the preparation of the semi-finished part and the assembly take longer. The amount applied as a VM99 surcharge may differ and is calculated on a case-specific basis.
The surcharges are applied to ensure that the price correctly corresponds to the costs. A customised product is more expensive than a product assembled in line with criteria or organisation and division of the work into phases. The surcharges are therefore applied based on the criteria of fairness and fact. Obviously, for orders containing sufficient total quantities of customised reeds, the list price can be applied, and no surcharges need to be added.
Why does Voci Armoniche not sell the detached parts of the reed?
We supply our partners and customers with spare reeds for their technical support and servicing activities; we also provide them with a limited quantity of tongues and rivets, only for use as spare parts. Instead, our semi-finished parts are not for sale to be assembled by third parties, since we strongly believe that the quality of a reed is achieved through the execution of separate procedures, combined within a single coherent process. Our brand Voci Armoniche guarantees this specific overall check, and certifies the reeds as finished products. We believe that clarity, transparency and honesty are values to be cultivated and promoted: this is why when we sell our reeds, we always identify them with our own brand.
What is the difference between a unisonoric reed and a bisonoric reed?
The unisonoric reed has two tongues that open and close identically, in terms of size and pitch. The bisonoric reed has tongues with a different pitch and often also of a different size. Bisonoric reeds are used in diatonic scales.
How are your Super Durall reeds made? What acoustic characteristics do they have compared to your other high end reeds?
Super Durall reeds are the foundation of all our reeds. They are precise, strong, simple and complete with all the elements that make up the quality of the sound. Like all the reeds in our range, they are 100% Made in Italy. Their characteristic, in the context of a classical, balanced timbre, is a brilliant, lively note. In common with high end reeds, Super Durall reeds follow the Italian manufacturing tradition and display excellent acoustic potential. See the Super Durall reed product description in the menu The Reeds. See also Handmade, hand-finished and commercial reeds, in the page Comparative Reed table, in the menu Support.
Where did the handmade (a mano) reed get its name? How can it be identified? Why do handmade reeds have a blue-edged square base? What is the “nastrino”? Today what are the real characteristics of your handmade reed?
The handmade reed is so named because, many years ago, it was entirely handmade: every aspect of the tongue and the plate was hand-crafted and it was completely assembled and and finished by hand.
It can be identified by its sound potential and by its meticulous finish, rather than by the presence of the blue edge on the square of the tongue, which must be present, but cannot be considered a guarantee of the quality of the reed.
The blue edge of the square base on the tongue of a handmade reed is the element by which it can be most easily identified at a glance: for this reason the blue edge of the square base has become the distinctive characteristic of the handmade reed. The blue edges of the tongue, in the two sides of the square base, are the blue colour of the steel strip from which it is made, which is narrowed to eight millimetres for reeds and so is known as “nastrino” or “narrow strip”.
It is not true that the steel of the narrow strip - nastrino - used to make handmade tongues has superior metallurgical properties to those of standard steel strip: the only thing that differs is the width. Instead the metallurgical properties are identical. Its use in making handmade reeds was favoured because, given the limited equipment available at the time, it was easier to make the tongues from the narrower “nastrino” than from the much wider strip itself.
Our handmade reeds are made strictly in line with the authentic Italian handmade reed crafting tradition, expressed in its acoustics and shape. See the handmade reed product description in the menu The Reeds. See also the more detailed information in Handmade, hand-finished and commercial reeds, in the page Comparative Reed table, in the menu Support.
What is a “bombata” handmade reed? What is a “tirata” handmade reed?
The bombatura – the tongue “convex” shape - of a handmade reed is the result of the finishing process carried out on the surface of the tongue, which is done by hand using a specific method. The finishing process refined the previous work of the file that shaped the tongue, and it was performed with a wooden stick, with a piece of emery cloth attached. Today, the bombata reed is a version of the handmade reed where the surface of the tongue is finished by hand with emery cloth, using a stick, exactly as it had been done in the past.
The slang term for the profile of a hand-finished tongue was “tirato”. For decades now, nobody has made the tongue profile entirely by hand, using a three square file and starting from the solid piece. And those artisans that performed all the assembly phases of a handmade reed individually no longer exist either. Today, a reed that is entirely handmade, like those crafted in the thirties, would cost between 15 and 20 Euro, with no guarantee that it would be superior to a well-made modern reed.
Where did the hand-finished (Tipo a mano) reed get its name?
In the early fifties, Luigi Antonelli invented the hand-finished reed because he found it impossible to obtain consistent, constant quality from the artisans who produced handmade reeds. In fact, naturally every artisan had his own personal style, and even when the level of craftsmanship was high, there was no guarantee that the reed would be identical. Additionally, handmade reeds were only available in small quantities that did not meet the demand. Quite rightly, Luigi Antonelli designed and made a valid alternative to the handmade reed, while still continuing to produce it, leaving its original characteristics intact and uncompromised. And for this reason he called it the Tipo a mano – handmade-style finished reed. See the more detailed information in Handmade, hand-finished and commercial reeds, in the page Comparative Reed table, in the menu Support.
What is the difference between a handmade (a mano) reed and a hand-finished (tipo a mano) reed?
For our reeds, the basic difference lies in the timbre of the sound, which is due to the geometry of the tongue: slightly trapezoidal in the hand-finished variety and tending towards parallel in the handmade reed. Both are high end reeds. The handmade reed has more finishes and, by tradition, the tongue is obtained from steel in the nastrino format, whereas the hand-finished reed is obtained from the same steel in the wider steel strip format. The handmade reed is more delicate, while the hand-finished reed is very resistant and versatile. These characteristics, except the use of the narrow steel strip nastrino for handmade reeds which is common to all, are only applicable to our reeds: some other manufacturers have the same geometry of tongue in handmade reed as in the hand-finished reed; and in general, unlike ours, the hand-finished reeds are not of such high quality as the handmade ones. In our range, it is incorrect to classify the hand-finished reed as having an inferior quality to the handmade type. It is not inferior, only different. See the hand-finished reed product description in the menu The Reeds. See also the more detailed information in Handmade, hand-finished and commercial reeds, in the page Comparative Reed table, in the menu Support.
What are the characteristics of the new BlueStar® reeds? What is the difference between these and handmade reeds? When will they be available to purchase?
The new BlueStar® reeds are a natural consequence of our company vision oriented towards music and the musician. They are the conclusion of a process of observation, study and improvement applied to our work and to our product, reeds. And they are a new beginning, for the positive implications that they will have in furthering the improvement of the accordion.
A BlueStar® reed is not a handmade reed. It is not a hand-finished reed. It is not a variant, or a restyling of either of these. The BlueStar® is a new reed, which is completely different from its predecessors and those on the market today because it hosts substantial innovations and differences.
The basic thought process that led to the creation of the BlueStar® reeds is the consideration of the benefits to be achieved by combining modern improvements with the experience handed down to us throughout the history of our production. The idea of combining tradition and innovation, and simplicity with the highest possible quality possible for us, in terms of functionality and acoustics. In our reeds, the BlueStar® is at the top of the range, even bettering the sound and functional potential of the handmade reed.
At the time of presentation, more information will be posted here on the website. BlueStar® reeds will be launched in the second half of 2021: in the early distribution phase, they will be made available to our partner manufacturers who have adjusted their reed blocks to achieve the full expression of the sound potential offered by the new reeds, so adding value upon value.
How can I learn about your reeds and where can I find updated technical information about how they are best used in the accordion?
You can read about the many new improvements introduced over the last few years in the pages of this website. We are always available to provide technical support. Our partner manufacturers and distributors can also supply reliable, updated and detailed information about our reeds, their properties, the best way to fit them on the accordion to make the most of their sound potential and their maintenance. See the section How to exploit the sound potential of reeds on the Concept of construction page: this section is very important and we highly recommend you read it.
How do I evaluate a reed? What are the elements that determine the quality of a reed?
There are many aspects that determine the excellence of a reed: the quality of the sound is the most important factor, i.e. the end result. This is determined by reduced air consumption and the functional properties. The stability of the tuning for very reduced tremolos, reliability and long-term durability are elements that are just as important. See the section Concept of construction, here Voci Armoniche expresses what it considers the new paradigm of acoustic quality for reeds and the accordion.
What are the most common functional flaws a reed can have?
The functional flaws of a reed are also and always acoustic defects. The excessive consumption of air, which determines a sound lacking in colour and intensity, the instability of the tuning frequency and the stress-driven breakage of the tongues are the most obvious and common faults. These can be caused by a number of reasons, because the reed is complex and therefore so is its production process. Then, there are also other, less evident defects, which concern the versatility of the reeds, their tonal stability in the variations of intensity, the attack transient and the overall consistency. Some defects are intrinsic to the reeds, while others are caused by shortcomings in relation to the tuning methods, which can loosen or damage the tongues, or the combination of the reeds in the reed blocks. The latter aspect determines whether the sound generation dynamics are of a good or bad quality.
Why and when might a tongue break?
The breakage of a tongue due to stress is not a natural occurrence. The quality of a reed must indubitably include its resistance and durability, the possibility of achieving fortissimo without fear of breaking the tongue. Quality manufacturing involves taking specific steps to prevent breakages, and especially premature breakages. In other words, a good reed does not break easily and can last for a long time if it is not damaged. When an accordion undergoes a series of different breakages in a short space of time, something important is wrong. Sometimes, breakage can be caused by flaws created when the tongue is cut, or its profile is made; more often it is caused by faults that concern the tuning process, if this is performed incorrectly. Rarely, connections between breakage and how the instrument is played may be identified: it is crucial to remember than the accordion is an acoustic instrument, and that as such it should be used with awareness of how the tongues interact with the air.
What is the relationship between the reeds and the accordion?
Reeds are the acoustic heart of the aerophone instrument, the sound principle of the accordion: starting from the reeds, the rest of the accordion production process consists in extracting the sound potential from the reeds, expanding and further developing it. In these perspective, each phase of the instrument crafting process is an essential, delicate step that creates a high level of value and enables the reeds to fully release their sound potential by combining with the wood and the air. See the section How to exploit the sound potential of reeds on the Concept of construction page.
What is the relationship between the reeds and the reed blocks?
Reeds and reed block are an inseparable binomial for ensuring sound quality: only if the ideal air dynamics inside the cells of the reed block are precisely identified and achieved can the full sound potential of the reeds be extracted.
In practical terms, this means regulating the air flow, pressure and speed: it is a crucial aspect because air is the element which makes the reeds work and is decisive for their performance. To use a metaphor, the reed and reed block combined are the engine of the instrument, the air is the fuel: the reed block regulates the fuel supply.
Thus, in order for our reeds to express their full acoustic potential, the reed block must be designed and built to suit the reeds, the volume and shapes of the cells must be adjusted to achieve the optimum conditions in which the reeds can fully express their acoustic potential. See the section How to exploit the sound potential of reeds on the Concept of construction page.
How can I protect the reeds in my instrument from rust?
Rust poses a constant threat to the tongues, which it can deteriorate and make unusable over time. The best arm to use in combating rust is prevention, that is, the set of methods and tips that can help prevent the oxidation process from starting. Rusting is a natural oxidation process that attacks steel, turning it into iron oxide; it is activated by the oxygen present in the air and in water. This is why the steel of the tongue must always be protected by a specific antioxidant product.
The acidic substances launch a rapid oxidation process: acid-based chemical products, such as bleach for example, must always be kept away from the reeds. And the same can also be said for the pH of the hands in both the acidic and physiological values, which constitutes a powerful spark for igniting the oxidation process. As a result, the tongues must never be touched without the protection of gloves. Humidity, which contains water, which in turn contains oxygen, is an oxidising element: the reeds, like the accordion, must never be exposed to humidity, or to sudden temperature changes that might create condensation on the reeds and cause oxidation. In non-new instruments, the reeds should be treated to protect them from oxidation each time they are tuned. See the section How to exploit the sound potential of reeds on the Concept of construction page.
What is important when it comes to tuning and reed maintenance?
The maintenance of the reeds in the instrument is a very delicate matter. How long the reeds last is critically dependant on the quality of their maintenance. In fact, if maintenance is performed correctly it can bring great benefits, but it can also cause a considerable amount of damage if performed incorrectly. The reeds should always be maintained by a technician with an officially recognised level of professional expertise.
Tuning is performed by removing material from the tongue. It must be done carefully and gently, without loosening the tongues or altering their profile. Improper intervention can cause tuning instability, premature breakage of the tongues, and irreparably impair the functionality and acoustic quality.
Important effects are already determined from the initial tuning process, since its technical execution and final result of the tuning process have a decisive influence on the musician’s acoustic assessment of the instrument. Tuning, when done well, enhances and adds the finishing touch to all the work contained within the instrument, enhancing its nature and acoustic identity.
During the tuning phase, whether it is the preliminary tuning or a periodic maintenance operation, small but fundamental adjustments are made to the position of the tongues that determine the optimal attack transient; and the valves are checked to ensure that they act correctly, verifying their condition and function. To prevent the formation of rust, maintenance is extremely important, as it acts on the cleanliness of the reeds and anti-oxidises the surfaces of the tongues. See the section How to exploit the sound potential of reeds on the Concept of construction page.