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Music Box Movement Bell-Like Tuning and Optimization

We love music boxes and people. We know you want your music box to perform as well as it possibly can. We want that too, because we know your joy will be greater!

This is why we go to such lengths to make your movement sound great. After all, music boxes are all about MUSIC, right? Bell-Like Tuning is essential for clearness of tone and to reveal all the intricate harmonies present in good music box arrangements.

Steve designed and built this comb machine in-house, and I have been tuning combs on it since 2011. It really makes a difference. We think you'll agree that it is worth the effort.

We have included a recording of one of the worst-sounding Sankyo Orpheus movements you'd be likely to run across, followed by a recording of the same movement after our Bell-Like Tuning. Just click on the musical notes below to compare.


Factory 50 Note Sankyo Orpheus   Hear Poorly Tuned 50 Note Sankyo Orpheus                 Bell-Like 50 Note Sankyo Orpheus   Hear Bell-Like Tuned 50 Note Sankyo Orpheus


How our Music Box Comb Tuning Works


To greatly oversimplify it, our machine positions the grinding wheel behind each tooth. I pluck the tooth, then grind steel from the tooth in the right places to develop a ringing, bell-like, bright sound. The teeth of the comb will sustain their sound longer, adding to the richness of the overall sound as you can hear in the above recording.

For 100 Note Movements, I also adjust some pitches to produce Sublime Harmony tuning. Similar to a 12-string guitar, this tuning results in a celestial, richer, fuller, heavenly sound.

Of course, all of this is far more complicated than it sounds, but we do have to conceal some of our precious secrets!


Other Adjustments

We are able to make the other adjustments needed to assure the best possible sound of your movement, including comb adjustments. As I have often said, "There are a thousand positions that a comb can be in, but only one of them is really right. If a comb is not adjusted properly, it may be very quiet, lose sustain, or even have incorrect rhythms." I make sure the pins are in proper contact with the comb and that all the notes of a chord are struck at precisely the same moment (unless the arranger had other intentions). I also adjust the tempo if I feel it is playing too fast or too slow - or if a customer wants a special tempo. The result is that our average movement has proper timing in rhythm, and is more precise, and plays louder and brighter.

Why All this Extra Work

It's true that Sankyo does indeed produce musical movements that are mechanically tremendous. However they have a philosophy that I do not agree with. They thought that perfecting the sound quality further would drive the price up too much. Thus, their sound quality is not as refined or as consistent as it should be, and the prices increased anyway..

We believe the appeal of a musical movement is mostly due to its fabulous sound, and that losing optimal sound is truly a shame. It is hard to find anyone who can do this kind of work well, and the few who can would no doubt charge hundreds of dollars - or more - to do it. I am a trained and active musician, have been avidly collecting music boxes for at least 45 years. Therefore I know what a movement could sound like, what is causing each imperfect sound, and what to do about it. We have invested months in designing and building a machine to streamline comb tuning so it won't push the price up too much.

We also visually inspect each movement after adjustments are made, and we have a discount section for any movement with an unusual blemish. In addition to this, we use special tools to clean each movement just prior to shipping it to you. As far as we know, we are the only ones in the industry that go to these great lengths to make sure you'll love your music box.

We here at feel that this work is very important simply because it improves the sounds and tones of your movement. We care that your movement is in tip-top condition. This is one example of what is Better about We look forward to serving you.

Rick Epperly
(Updated 1/23/2018)

Customer Reviews

One musically skilled customer said "I purchased the 72 note Sankyo movement, La Campanella (K35), from Better Music Boxes.Com. I found their service to be excellent, and their interest in supplying me with the best possible product outstanding. The Sankyo movements are well constructed, precision built musical instruments, but I have to say that after Rick Epperly performed his optimizing, (voicing, tuning, and regulating of the standard movement), it went from a good music box movement to an outstanding one. The tonal quality is now bell like from top to bottom. Every note sings, and the sound is so refined you don’t want to stop listening to it. A great buy, LWP"

Others say "The comb on this movement rings longer than my other movements." Yet another customer of ours said, "The comb sounds much more bell like. I love it. Thank you very much for tuning my comb."

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