One of the things to consider when buying an accordion is how many voices it has. This page is therefore about accordion voices. A voice is often also known as a set of reeds / reed set, a bank of reeds / reed bank or often just a “reed”. e.g. a three voice accordion can be said to have three voices, three sets of reeds or simply three reeds and these terms all mean the same thing.
If an accordion has one voice in the right hand this means that, when playing, for each key or button pressed only one reed will produce a sound.
Even most small accordions will have two voices which means that each time a key or button is pressed, two separate reeds will produce a sound at the same time, at the same pitch (or more often, slightly out of tune with it). These two voices are often known as the eight foot reeds (8′) and a two voice accordion is said to have “two eight foots (8’8′)” or two eights.
Three voice accordions usually have one of two configurations. One of these has the same voices as the two voice accordion above but in addition there is a third voice available that sounds a reed one octave lower than the other two giving more registration options. This extra reed is known as the sixteen foot reed (16′) and this three voice accordion is said to have two eight foots and a sixteen (8′,8,’16’).
In other three voice accordions, the third voice is nearly the same pitch as, but slightly out of tune with, the other two voices giving a bright tremelo sound. This is usually known as “musette tuning” or (8′,8′,16′).
In a four voice accordion, they are usually the same as the three voice accordions but with one extra reed. With the musette type, this extra voice is usually a sixteen foot reed (8′,8′,8′,16′).
For the other type of accordion, the extra voice is a four foot reed which sounds one octave higher than the eight foot voice. This is often known as “double octave tuning” (4′,8′,8′,16′).