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Author Topic: Cajun tuning  (Read 8302 times)

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Aaro

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Cajun tuning
« on: December 11, 2007, 09:26:27 AM »

I have question. What is originally Cajun tuning. I Know that is dry, but how the sound is still differend what dry tuning.
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BruceHenderson

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Re: Cajun tuning
« Reply #1 on: December 11, 2007, 07:11:49 PM »

That's an easy question to get answered.  Just find three Cajun tuners and you'll get three answers in a hurry!
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Theo

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Re: Cajun tuning
« Reply #2 on: December 11, 2007, 09:45:12 PM »

Hi Aaro

The main thing as I understand it is that it does not use an equally tempered scale, but instead has the third and seventh notes of the scale flattened by about 15 cents, which is an approximation to just intonation.

So for example, and assuming the box is pitched in C, then E and B are each flattened by about 15 cents.

In equal tempered instruments the major thirds are significantly out of tune which is particularly obvious of you listen to the harsh sound that you get if you play G and B together in the top octave a D/G box.
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Steve_freereeder

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Re: Cajun tuning
« Reply #3 on: December 12, 2007, 01:12:16 AM »

Hi Aaro

The main thing as I understand it is that it does not use an equally tempered scale, but instead has the third and seventh notes of the scale flattened by about 15 cents, which is an approximation to just intonation.

So for example, and assuming the box is pitched in C, then E and B are each flattened by about 15 cents.

In equal tempered instruments the major thirds are significantly out of tune which is particularly obvious of you listen to the harsh sound that you get if you play G and B together in the top octave a D/G box.
Is it also to do with the Cajun method of playing - i.e. playing in G on a 'C' box? Is the tuning done so that the scale of G is tuned to just temperament, and therefore when you try playing in C, as most non-Cajun players would do on a C box, it sounds very out of tune?
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BruceHenderson

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Re: Cajun tuning
« Reply #4 on: December 12, 2007, 01:58:22 AM »

(snip) has the third and seventh notes of the scale flattened by about 15 cents, which is an approximation to just intonation.
So for example, and assuming the box is pitched in C, then E and B are each flattened by about 15 cents. (snip) 

__.  Is it the third or the fourth ... or have you and I been talking to different Cajun tuners??????
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Theo

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Re: Cajun tuning
« Reply #5 on: December 12, 2007, 11:58:45 AM »

Is it also to do with the Cajun method of playing - i.e. playing in G on a 'C' box? Is the tuning done so that the scale of G is tuned to just temperament, and therefore when you try playing in C, as most non-Cajun players would do on a C box, it sounds very out of tune?

Steve,  I don't think its a good idea to talk about 'out of tune' in this context.  It is really a matter of what your ears are used to.  To my ear a major third in equal temperament sounds harsh and I could say 'out of tune'.  A major third where the  third is slightly flattened sounds much sweeter.  A major third in just intonation (which is about 14 cents narrower that in ET) sounds sweet and pure.  In practice I use this when I'm tuning the left hand chords on a melodeon:  I usually tune the third of each chord slightly flatter than ET.  I normally go no more that 5 cents flat which is enough to improve the sound of the chord without introducing a noticeable clash with the same note on the right hand side.

Try listening to the second example on this page

Coming back to your example of a Cajun box in C played in C major then it has this pure third, so playing C and E together will sound sweeter, but playing the notes separately you may notice that the interval is 'different' from what you expect. 

This is a huge subject!  just try Google for "just intonation" "equal temperament"
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Andy in Vermont

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Re: Cajun tuning
« Reply #6 on: December 12, 2007, 05:28:21 PM »

Coming back to your example of a Cajun box in C played in C major then it has this pure third, so playing C and E together will sound sweeter, but playing the notes separately you may notice that the interval is 'different' from what you expect. 

Yes, and note that the "seventh" (in C, the B) is also tuned differently, and that B is the third while playing the G chord.  It sounds really nice to my ears.
To answer Bruce's question above -- the fourth is sometimes tuned differently, but this is not universally part of Cajun tuning, whereas the "flatted" thirds (E and B on a C box) are standard.  I put "flatted" in scare quotes because they are not actually flat except from the perspective of the conventions of modern tuning. 
-Andy

Malcolm Clapp

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Re: Cajun tuning
« Reply #7 on: December 13, 2007, 01:00:26 PM »


From my (very limited) experience of Cajun style boxes and tuning, I have found the fourth (F on a C box) is tuned "sharp" by somewhere around 8 or 10 cents.
But that's from a very small sampling of such boxes.

MC
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Re: Cajun tuning
« Reply #8 on: December 13, 2007, 09:16:36 PM »

Hi Aaro

Marc savoy has a DVD video out on the subject, 40 minutes of tuning instruction. Called The Accordion Gospel no2 or something, available at the savoy music center. His Cajun accordion tuning: 3rd and 7th 15 cents lower, and some tuners like Jr Martin even also tune the fourth slightly sharp. A lot of players like that. hb
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melodeon

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Re: Cajun tuning
« Reply #9 on: December 13, 2007, 10:49:49 PM »

"Cajun " tuning  is "just" tuning

3rd and 7th flatted 15 cents and the 4th sharped 15 cents.. this was the "universal" "Cajun" tuning of past years

these are approximate but what most Cajun tuners used to do

Correct Savoy and a few others are now NOT sharping the 4th

and I have heard some where the flattening is lessened

The reason for the "just" tuning is to favor chords..

I have purchased custom made Cajun accordeons where

the tuner  did not first tune all the reeds to exacting tolerances in the tempered scale as reeds are delivered ,and simply flatted and sharped

tuning was wretched..  not only that but the base was left tempered

another recent trend is toward  wet tuning but still just... 



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Rees

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Re: Cajun tuning
« Reply #10 on: December 13, 2007, 11:06:52 PM »

I also, have noticed that some recent imports from Louisiana have less flatted 3rds and 7ths (8 - 10 cents) and maybe 5 cents sharp on the fourth.
Mind you, Bruce Hendersons answer is nearest the mark!

Hey Theo, I wonder if this thread will provoke a huge rush of one-rows in for Cajun tuning?
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BruceHenderson

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Re: Cajun tuning
« Reply #11 on: December 14, 2007, 01:28:42 AM »

(snip) another recent trend is toward  wet tuning but still just...  

__.  And on the other hand, I was in Louisiana last month.  Blake Miller (Larry's grandson, out of Red Stick Ramblers, yeah) had played my Beltuna and liked the "pivoted flappers".  He asked me to show it to Larry who reckoned that the pivots were snazzy and it really was air tight but "oh, Jee, that thing is *wet* -- why do they tune it like that ?????  I hate that sound".  So, it's another case of ... Cajun tuning!   ;D
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Andy in Vermont

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Re: Cajun tuning
« Reply #12 on: December 14, 2007, 03:28:28 AM »

His Cajun accordion tuning: 3rd and 7th 15 cents lower, and some tuners like Jr Martin even also tune the fourth slightly sharp. A lot of players like that.

That's my point: the sharp fourth is NOT done by all the tuners, but the flatted thirds are. (I'm calling the 7th a 3rd, because it is the third of the draw chord.)
What Rees mentioned about the 7 or 8 cent flatness (instead of 15) relates to my experience with boxes that Marc Savoy called "equal tempered."  I got a box from him for playing French Canadian music and specified equal-tempered.  It sounded great!  However, I checked it out with a tuner and discovered that the F# and C# (it was a D box) were between 7 and 8 cents flat.  Marc explained on the phone to me that this was a tuning that he had been delivering to French Canadian players.  I'm certain that Marc would not call it "Cajun" tuning, although I suppose that it is "Cajun" by virtue of who he is.  So there you go.
-Andy

C age ing

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Re: Cajun tuning
« Reply #13 on: December 16, 2007, 12:34:28 PM »

Coming from a jazz/blues/folk background following the standard teenage 'classical' revolt, the initial attraction of the melodeon for me was that Cajun sound. Following this learned discussion, it has clarified the similarities between the two genres. Flattened thirds are common to blues and Cajun with the same idea of playing the minor third on the lead instrument against a major third of the backing. This gives a feeling of tension and is frequently repeated on the seventh. Yet again there is a similarity on the fifth but the music theorists argue about whether the blues scale which is pentatonic plus the odd one, features a flattened fifth or a sharpened fourth but that's the theorists for you. The only drawback of the melodeon as a front line instrument for these forms of music is it's inability to reliably bend notes for the normal duffer like me, much easier on guitar and the single-reed woodwinds or the brass which can be 'lipped' up and down relatively easily.
Now, how much did Cajun give or take from the blues? ???
BTW Andy in Vermont, would you please shorten your user name to Andy IV. The original always triggers off the great Kenton Moonlight IV reading and I have to reach for an instrument for a quick chorus. ;)
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Andy in Vermont

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Re: Cajun tuning
« Reply #14 on: December 16, 2007, 04:29:52 PM »

C aging,
If I read your post correctly, you are saying that the thirds on a Cajun box are essentially minor thirds.  This is not correct.  They are at most 15 cents flat from the frequency required for equal temperament.  This actually makes them PERFECT major thirds, not minor thirds at all.  What you say about the sound of these "flatted" (actually perfect) thirds versus the "in tune" (i.e. actually sharp) thirds of the accompaniment is true, however, to my ears -- it produces tension. 
For anyone interested in why this topic is controversial to some musicians (and instrument builders), I wholeheartedly recommend the book _Temperament_:
http://www.amazon.com/Temperament-Became-Battleground-Western-Civilization/dp/0375703306/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1197822283&sr=8-1
This goes a long way to explain why, for some of us, the notion that the Cajun thirds are "flatted" needs to be put in scare quotes.  In fact, they are true thirds, whereas all of my "in tune" accordions are actually "out of tune".  This may sounds theoretical to some, but there is a reality in the difference that tuning can make, and the default, which we get when tuners rely of the equal tempered scale, is in fact a kind of hegemony of chords that don't sound as good as they could, which is a compromise that we make for instruments that can play chromatically.
Best regards,
Andy

Theo

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Re: Cajun tuning
« Reply #15 on: December 16, 2007, 07:25:32 PM »

which is a compromise that we make for instruments that can play chromatically.

So a chromatic instrument can play equally out of tune in all keys!

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Theo Gibb

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Andy in Vermont

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Re: Cajun tuning
« Reply #16 on: December 16, 2007, 07:53:43 PM »

So a chromatic instrument can play equally out of tune in all keys!

Hi Theo,
That is so true!
The sad part is that we have become so accustomed to this that it sounds normal to us.
I've had some interesting discussions about this with friends who have "perfect pitch." 
I think that it would be fun if the Streb melodeons could be programmed to play in multiple temperaments.
-Andy

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Re: Cajun tuning
« Reply #17 on: December 18, 2007, 11:02:36 PM »

What would happen if you took an instrument such as a club accordion and tuned it Cajun style with "perfect" thirds? Would it sound sweeter as well? And what if you did it to Irish boxes: B/C, C#/D etc ? 
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Andy in Vermont

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Re: Cajun tuning
« Reply #18 on: December 19, 2007, 01:15:59 AM »

What would happen if you took an instrument such as a club accordion and tuned it Cajun style with "perfect" thirds? Would it sound sweeter as well? And what if you did it to Irish boxes: B/C, C#/D etc ? 

John,
If you did that, which "thirds" would you re-tune?  On a Cajun box, there are only two chords and a limited number of keys in which tunes are played.  So, on a multi-row box, you'd have to choose which notes to consider "thirds" by choosing which keys would have perfect thirds.  Especially on a B/C box I think that this would present some difficulties unless you limited the changes to sweetening the B and the F#.
I have played on non-equal tempered multi-row boxes -- the difference in sound when playing "single notes" can barely be noticed.
-Andy

Stiamh Jones

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Re: Cajun tuning
« Reply #19 on: December 19, 2007, 02:58:55 PM »

As a former fiddle player, equal temperament is one of the less attractive aspects of playing traditional music, especially Irish music, on the accordion. Some time ago I had an exchange of correspondence with Paul Groff, who has done a lot of thinking about non-ET tunings for concertinas and other squeezeboxes. I asked him specifically about the implications of trying to tune a C#/D box to 1/4 comma meantone (which is used by some players and tuners for Anglo concertinas particularly).

He said that 1/4 comma meantone would have a number of disadvantages on a C#/D box and a better idea would be to "maybe best to pick one or two key centers, like the pipers do, and optimize them."

After pondering on Paul's replies I decided that the idea of any sort unequal tuning on my C#/D box was too much of a can of worms for me at the moment, but I'm still thinking about it...

I read a post recently on one the yahoo irish box lists by someone who had had his box tuned by Peter Hyde to "Kellner"  (I think) tuning. And I have been wondering whether tuning the entire box to the system advocated by harpsichordist Bradley Lehman (http://www.larips.com/) would work - can't see why not.

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