The construction of the handmade accordion from Stradella

All the processing stages to create the famous instrument manufactured in Oltrepò.

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The first modern accordion model was manufactured in Oltrepò Pavese, more specifically in Stradella, by Mariano Dallapè in the homonymous factory, the last to be still active in the area. It is in this factory that about 150 auteur accordions are produced every year, the last ones still being manufactured.

The technique of making this instrument has remained unchanged over time and requires commitment and passion, but above all skill, because the accordion is a complex instrument. Its manufacturing, in fact, is divided into various phases, each one carried on by specialized artisans who creates and care for the part entrusted to them with their own hands in every little detail. 
The first components to be made are the two bodies of the instrument, respectively the canto one and the bass notes one. Obtained from the work of a wood artisan, with rasp and file, they are composed of: 5-layer mahogany plywood, poplar for the parts that must be rounded, alder to reinforce the corners, beech for the edging strips and satiné walnut for large internal reinforcements. Once assembly is complete, the two bodies are wiped with water and glue before being grouted and smoothed.
The next phase is dedicated to the metal parts, where the aluminum bottoms are applied to the two bodies (unlike the bass body, in the voice body the aluminum bottoms are assembled by tying the structure because it lacks a wooden countertop). Subsequently, the bodies are covered with celluloid, a recent procedure since in the past we proceeded with the ebony veneer. Before being used, the celluloid must be made softer to ensure good yield and adhesion, this happens thanks to its immersion in acetone. Once applied, the celluloid must dry to allow the bodies to mirror polish.
The bottom of the cassotto (the resonance chamber), inserted inside and placed perpendicular to the bottom, and the keyboard which can be chromatic or piano-like, complete the song body. In the latter the keys, made of aluminum and covered in wood, are positioned and the plexiglass vanes are fixed.

Not only are the bodies of the instrument built in wood, but also the soniere which, finished by hand, are made from fir and stone pine woods, distinguished by their particular sonority. On their sides, in the boxes, the "voices" are placed, that is duralumin plates on which there are two slits, useful for fixing the vibrating reeds. Once this part of the soniera has been fixed, tests are carried out to evaluate the outcome of the work.
Once the work carried out so far has been approved, we proceed with the construction of the bellows, the bellows that unites the bodies and provides air for the accordion. This element is obtained from a sheet of special cardboard, divided into folds of three and a half centimeters, covered entirely in damask fabric. On the corners there is an additional covering in leather and in metal for the reinforcement ones. Subsequently, the application of two wooden frames, necessary to fix the bellows to the bodies, takes place and its pressing under the presses to improve its elasticity.

Meanwhile, the work on the bodies proceeds under the hands of two other artisans. First, the "vocist" artisan places the reeds on the platelets, while, at a later time, the other artisan proceeds with the "roughing", an activity that acts on the sound of the reeds by thinning them, and with the "precisatura”, an electronic control of the issued note which completes the “game of voices”.
Then we act on the low voices with the "impellatura", to close the slits of the part without the reed with a pellet, and with the "fixing" through a compound made of beeswax, rosin and straw-yellow oil of the voices on the soniere.
After this step, the two bodies of the instrument pass to the tuner who, with a special test bellows, has the task of intoning the accordion, checking every single note. Other artisans, on the other hand, are dedicated to the creation of the last missing piece: the "tunnel", or the decorated cover of the mechanical part of the keyboard. Once the lid has been finished, all parts of the accordion are definitively finished and all that remains is to proceed with the assembly. However, one more step is still missing, the final one that closes the chain: testing. In fact, the master tester takes care of completing the work, testing the instrument by verifying its functionality. Among the various checks, the tightness test is also carried out, that is the instrument, with the bellows open and subjected to a slight pressure, must not have air leaks. This control phase is the most delicate and determines if the accordion is ready to be delivered.

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Music in Oltrepò

In an area rich in traditions and products such as Oltrepò, the musical aspect is not lacking. The Accordion of Stradella is the best known example of how a product of the territory, not tied to the earth, is known all over the world.

The Museum dedicated to it was born in 1997 with the aim of celebrating its origins and always remembering an important piece of history for Oltrepò Pavese, as well as being a way to introduce a particular musical instrument to all those who are passionate of music and who love to rediscover the territory in all its forms and facets.