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How Can My Reed Organ Be In Tune and Yet Out Of Tune?

The truth is, most reed organs rarely, if ever, go out of tune.  Once the brass reeds are tuned at the factory they usually stay that way – it’s not like a piano. 

However, what most reed organ owners don't realize is that back over a hundred years ago there was no industry standard.  So reed organs (as well as a lot of pianos) were tuned to A-435, or A-440, and yet others were tuned to A-452 or A-462.  Of course today the music industry standard is A-440. 

Some reed organ owners ask me if there's any way their organ can be retuned to A-440.  The answer is yes, but it's not an easy task.  In order to accomplish this, each brass reed must be removed and readjusted and replaced for testing.  However, the catch is that it usually takes several tries to get a reed correctly adjusted.

It’s largely a matter of trial and error.  In order to make an adjustment you need to carefully file off a small amount of brass from the tongue of the reed, then replace the reed back into the reed chamber, play the note and see if you're at the right spot.

If you file off too much, then you'll pass by the point where you should be.  On the other hand, if you didn't take enough off, you need to keep at it until it's sounding at the right pitch.  And if your reed organ happens to have 4 or 5 hundred reeds, it's a major project.

 


 

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