Clavietta Labourdette

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    Hello melodica lovers,

    this is my report about the Clavietta Labourdette prototype that I bought some weeks ago.

    First of all some photos:

    There are some things that leap to the eye:

    1. The Labourdette is constructed not like a Clavietta but like an accordina; this means that the reeds are not placed underneath the keyboard but beside the keyboard in an angle of 90°.
    2. There is a cover for the reeds that can be removed easily to have full access to the reeds; so tuning is a breeze.
    3. The air chamber is fixed with three screws and can be removed easily without wear.
    4. As you see, the Labourdette is not a masterpiece of craftsmanship as it is only a prototype, but it gives you a good hint what it could look like if built properly (which, unfortunately, Monsieur Labourdette will not do any more because he ended his career as an accordina maker – he now builds guitars…)


    Now I would like to compare the Clavietta Labourdette to the Clavietta Borel:

    Apart from some minor differences (the Labourdette sounds perhaps a little more sharp than the Borel) the sound of both is quite similar; it is airtight even after opening and closing again (which I do after each round of playing to let it dry properly); the keyboard action is at least as good as in the original Clavietta (the keys are taken of an old Clavietta…); it is a little bit but not remarkably louder than the old Clavietta but has a fantastic dynamic range from pp-ff; the response of the reeds is extremely good (double/triple tonguing, flutter tongue etc.), and especially growls sound awesome; it has no handle or anything but is very good to hold, especially as it is remarkably lighter than the Borel (I don’t know exactly but it may be made of ABS).

    Some sound examples:

    This is what you can hear:
    1. Melody with diaphragm vibrato (0:00)
    2. Growl (0:36)
    3. Chords in close harmony (1:04)
    4. Chords in open position (2:17)
    5. WahWahs (2:56)
    6. Fast bendings (3:17)
    7. Melody with double tonguing (4:35)
    8. Chords with double tonguing (4:47)

    All in all my impression is that the Labourdette is a little superior to the original Clavietta (although it is just a prototype and therefore not worked too properly!).


    There are two things that are really remarkable in comparison to EACH other melodica:

    1. CHORDS sound much better than with other melodicas, there are nearly no distortions or harmonics or whatsoever. I guess this has to do with the outside position of the reeds; so the notes come out quite undisturbed and mix “in free air”, not inside of the instrument.
    2. BENDINGS: Ooh, this is magic! The construction with the reeds outside allows you to bend with the left hand (I repeat: WITH THE LEFT HAND!) just by covering the reeds, so the right hand can play whatever it wants and the left hand simply “adds” bendings to the melody, at each tempo you want to, at each intensity, you can bend whole chords, and you can even play a bent note just like a “normal” note. And that is EXACTLY what I hoped when I first saw that instrument! The only problem is that I had to construct a cover for the reeds and that there isn’t enough space to bend properly because the key springs are in the way. So I’m thinking about a construction different from that, maybe with buttons instead of keys (but still with a piano layout).

    Again some sound examples for bendings:

    That’s what you hear:
    1. Melody with bendings and bending vibrato (0:00)
    2. Melody with real half-note bendings (1:24)
    3. Chord bendings (1:52)
    4. Melody with bendings and growl

    Tatu Salmela

    That sounds wonderful! Really love the smooth chords!


    Awesome sound Quetscher, Is the note bending you do by limiting the air that passes thought the reed? Or by blowing a little harder. Labourdette, had the right idea with this design. These reeds appear to be larger than the Clavietta. Congratulations


    This sound is really grand!

    Alan Brinton

    You have amazing technique, Quetscher. The instrument sounds great.


    Thanks to you all for your comments on the Clavietta Labourdette which delighted me very much! This is a highly interesting instrument and I really hope that one day it may be produced properly. I’m in touch with an accordion maker but I will have to do a lot of persuading as he is not convinced of the necessity of a bending mechanism – he claims a harp can do better bendings anyway…

    : For smaller bendings I do not increase air pressure but I only limit the passing air either with my fingers or with a cushioned metal stick that covers the whole set of reeds. This works quite well with higher notes, unfortunately the lower reeds vibrate too strong so that they touch the cushion (or my fingers) which leads to an ugly buzzing sound.
    The Labourdette reeds are actually bigger than the Clavietta reeds, they are 3-3.8mm in length, 3mm in depth and 10mm in width.

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