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What Tools Do I Need To Tune Reeds?


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#1 anglobox

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Posted 17 June 2017 - 11:31 AM

Im building my own tuning table. (bellow for air control) not a vacuum 

 

But I need peoples opinion on what tools i need to modify the reeds. Scrapers, grinders, metal support, or w/e.   Ive no intention of going past amature. But regardless, I am still trying to learn how to repair these instruments for myself.  I do have plenty of garbage reeds to start to learn on.  also what do you use for holding the reeds in place? both accordion style reeds and concertina reeds.

 

I'm taking plenty of pictures of this rig, and hopefully ill beable to document it, for free, so other people can learn how to do it for themselves.... or at least learn from my mistakes.



#2 anglobox

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 07:18 AM

Im still designing my small table. This is what im thinking about for the bellows... I want to keep this as cheap as possible.... Ive even read about people using the metal on 3.5" floppy disks to hold the reeds in place.

 

 

 

 

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#3 Dana Johnson

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 06:56 PM

You can try that bellows, but I had trouble with a similar one getting reeds to speak using it. Rich Morse used to bring something about that area, but only 2 or three folds between two boards that worked fine with concertina reeds. You'd only lift one end of the board to sound the reed. ( I think the huge volume of the accordion bellows creates a kind of acoustic black hole for the reeds. Not really sure except that one thing worked well and the other didn't work at all.). You could find a crappy east European concertina and use the bellows from that. Geoff Crabb had a good pic of the simple set up the Crabb's used with a old concertina bellows. You don't need anything fancy. It is in some thread here, can't remember where. Looked like you clamped the board it was fastened on to to a table, with the bellows out board. Don't know how they had it rigged, but I'd use a weight to pull the bellows down and a foot pedal with a pulley and cord to pull it closed. That way the force in operation is pretty constant and can be adjusted with weights. The Crabb's had one slot in the board adjustable for different reed sizes, and a second fit the corresponding master reed so both could sound together.
I use a small tuning box over the suction end of an adjustable speed blower. It has three chambers underneath the reed port to cover a range of reed sizes. Small reeds don't work well with a large chamber and vis versa. You can use a tuner, but you need to measure the reed in the instrument first and adjust it on the tuning bench by the amount it is off, not to a absolute pitch. Most of the time reeds have a different pitch in the box than out of it. Mostly we make a tuning chart and use that as a reference when deciding how many cents to move the pitch. For large reeds I may use a file if the pitch is far off. Large reeds don't change without a bit of metal removal, or placement if you are weighting them to lower the pitch. For mid range or high pitch reeds, I either use a fine 600 grit diamond file, or one of 320, 400, or 600 grit edm stones ( about 3/16 inches square inch in cross section and 3-4 inches long) to rub off a little metal. High reeds can change by a lot with just the lightest touch, so I avoid files there in favor of the fine stones. Even then it is really easy to overshoot the pitch you are after. I use a few different sizes of shim steel supports I can slip under the reed to support it while working on it or to change the reed "set". I start witha short strip of .015" shim stock and grind one end tapering in thickness to a nearly sharp edge to slip under a reed that might only have a tip gap of one or two thousandths of an inch.
Dana

#4 wayman

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Posted 19 June 2017 - 03:36 AM

You can try that bellows, but I had trouble with a similar one getting reeds to speak using it. Rich Morse used to bring something about that area, but only 2 or three folds between two boards that worked fine with concertina reeds. You'd only lift one end of the board to sound the reed. ( I think the huge volume of the accordion bellows creates a kind of acoustic black hole for the reeds. Not really sure except that one thing worked well and the other didn't work at all.). You could find a crappy east European concertina and use the bellows from that. Geoff Crabb had a good pic of the simple set up the Crabb's used with a old concertina bellows. You don't need anything fancy. It is in some thread here, can't remember where. Looked like you clamped the board it was fastened on to to a table, with the bellows out board. Don't know how they had it rigged, but I'd use a weight to pull the bellows down and a foot pedal with a pulley and cord to pull it closed. That way the force in operation is pretty constant and can be adjusted with weights. The Crabb's had one slot in the board adjustable for different reed sizes, and a second fit the corresponding master reed so both could sound together.

 

Dana, you've just about exactly described the Button Box set-up as well, and the sort of thing I plan to build for myself when I have the time. An old concertina bellows under a board hanging over the edge of (and clamped to) the workbench; a solid bottom end and weights inside the bellows so it drops nicely. A small hole in the board, over which we put an adjustable jig for hybrid reeds or a different jig that holds several sizes of concertina reeds. We didn't have a separate slot for a master reed. That's clever! Instead we used a tuner on a little stand that let it sit at a good spot just near / over the reed but out of the way of tuning scrapers / hands.

 

Most of us just pushed the bellows back up by hand or knee, but Judy eventually built the very sort of foot pedal system you envision. Great minds ...  :)


Edited by wayman, 19 June 2017 - 03:36 AM.


#5 Dana Johnson

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Posted 19 June 2017 - 03:39 PM

Here's a link to Alex Holden's thread on the subject with a nice pic of the result. http://www.concertin...862#entry178231
It is very much like the Crabb set up.

Button box is lucky to have Judy! Well everybody there as well. Some of my favorite people.
Dana

#6 alex_holden

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Posted 21 June 2017 - 12:08 AM

Unfortunately allowing the weight to lower the bellows by itself doesn't give me a constant pitch, particularly on low reeds, because the resistance of the bellows varies. I try to lower the bellows at a constant speed, but it isn't an exact science. I've been considering going to an electric blower, though lack of workshop space is an issue for me.

#7 Theo

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Posted 21 June 2017 - 03:00 AM

I use a foot operated bellows and with practice I am able to achieve a steady airflow.   There is also an big advantage of being able to vary the pressure on demand as it allows you to easily identify reeds where the pitch is less stable than it should be.



#8 wayman

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Posted 21 June 2017 - 03:01 AM

Low reeds were problematic in that way (my recollection is that with the BBox set-up and hybrid reeds, "low" started around the F below middle C? but this is a hazy recollection). The reed would be a little slow to speak and flat, and then the pitch would move up gradually over the course of the five-ish seconds that the bellows dropped.

 

Two ways to mitigate that somewhat. One, for the low reeds, instead of letting the weights drop the bellows (somewhat inconsistently/unevenly) pull down evenly and firmly on the bellows just as if you were playing the note, which gives a much steadier reading on the tuner. Two, after a while, you can get a pretty good knack for where/when to take the tuner reading for your particular tuning set-up, which gets you pretty close; then you're just fine-tuning it towards perfection once it's in the instrument (same as all the other reeds). But tuning low reeds on their own, on the tuning bellows, was never an exact science.

 

Lack of workshop space may have been a factor in the BBox not using a blower. I don't know -- we never talked about it in the six years I was there. It may also be that Bob (a piano tuner by training) is just really good at tuning and never felt a blower would make things better.



#9 Dana Johnson

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Posted 22 June 2017 - 03:49 PM

One problem tuning is that reeds change pitch depending on the openness of the bellows. It is not because of the change in airflow, but the volume they interact with. An adjustable speed blower helps to get around this while tuning, but the reed is still affected when you put it back in the instrument. A good flexible bellows should be pretty even over its range, but the reed will still only be accurate at a given extension no matter what method you use. It is just part of the nature of the instrument, and judging the best point to asses the pitch of the reed in situ, is part of the art. Near the beginning and towards the end of extension, say the first and last quarters, you see the fastest change, while the middle section is closer to uniform. Lower notes seem most affected, possibly because they eat more air, so the bellows extends faster?
The issue is trying to get the reeds to behave close to the same so they stay in tune at least with each other. The master reed method shines here, because it changes along with the reed to be tuned regardless of pressure (more or less) and bellows extension.
Rich Morse looked into a blower at one point early on, but was thinking along the lines of an organ blower. Probably more of an expense than it was worth and Bob prevailed.
Dana

#10 d.elliott

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Posted 25 June 2017 - 04:25 PM

My tuning bellows are suspended from my bench, I have lead weights in the lower end of my tuning bellows and can easily control the air flow speed by hand. all very straight forward, no fancy machinery.

 

Whilst I respect the opinions of Dana on sound effects from reflections within the bellows etc. I think it constructive to consider the tuning tolerance to nominal. I don't want to re-run the lengthy debate of a few years ago, but I would caution about trying to tune to impossible degrees of accuracy, you will drive yourself insane and rub the reeds down to kitchen foil thicknesses.

 

Just because you can measure to a 10th of a cent does not mean you should try to tune to a 10th of a cent.

 

to reprise:

 

1. most people can discriminate a difference of 10 cents of error between two note generators (audiometry published data)

2. trained musicians will can probably halve that

3. if you split a 5 cent tolerance band about a nominal value, you end up with +/- 2.5 cents.

4. if you are playing as a duo and one instrument has a reed at + 2.5 cents, and the other at -2.5 cents then the 'clash' in tuning may be discernible, especially on sustained phrases, ideally tune to tighter than +/- 2.5 cents around nominal 

5. I choose to tune to +/- 1.5 cents to nominal, which many repairers seemed to be in agreement with, although some declined to commit.

6. Remember the original makers worked without electronic tuners, they tuned by ear against sets of comparative reed standards and eventually back to tuning forks all by ear. could they guarantee they same precision as we can today? probably not.

 

I suggest that some of the effects like sound wave damping from reflection from the undersides of pads etc, don't matter as long as they are a constant in the tuning and playing processes.

 

Dave



#11 Chris Ghent

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Posted 25 June 2017 - 07:31 PM

When I first fitted a blower (actually, it is a sucker, works at 1.6" water column) I worried I might be missing some subtlety in the tuning process compared with using a bellows. This turned out not to be the case as all of the mental work is done in the initial measuring. If you know the reed needs to shift 8 cents then that is all that matters.

The static tuning vacuum "pressure" is replicated in under bench bellows by the lead weights on the bellows. These create a replicatable bellows drop, handy when a reed is pitch unstable as occurs in most vintage instruments below middle C.

Making new reeds is easier as new concertinas don't commonly have the degree of pitch instability of many of the older ones, and I doubt the market would stand for it if they did.

The only drawback I can see to the constant vacuum source method ( mine comes from a common and garden radial duct fan, this idea courtesy of Dana) is it draws the air in around my feet which can be chilly in the winter. Yes, I could fix this.

I wouldn't shift a reed reading less than 1.5 cents from true unless it and its octave were out in different directions. There is a hearing test somewhere out there on the internet which plays you notes with diminishing separation between them. The makers claimed everyone could tell an 8 cents difference, though people who who had music training did better at it. After doing the test a number of times, I could get down to less than 2 cents consistently, but I don't think that degree of discretion translates to real world conditions.

Interestingly, many people in Asia do better on pitch tests and fewer are labelled "tone deaf" than in other countries. This is because their languages have tonal changes which change the meaning of words and they learn to sing the words into meaning at a young age. Anyone who is truly tone deaf is rendered to some degree unintelligible and also cannot understand the words of others. A terrible fate duplicated in the West amongst some of our leaders.

#12 d.elliott

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Posted 26 June 2017 - 04:36 AM

I am due my annual hearing check next week, I shall quiz the audiometrist to see if there is more recently published data. But the caution still stands, don't chase impossible errors and spoil reeds. Just because it can be measured.....

Dave

#13 Dana Johnson

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Posted 26 June 2017 - 10:36 AM

Part of the point of acknowledging the foibles of concertina pitch, is realizing that "accuracy" is very relative. On the other hand, while training enhances the auditory skill of musicians, our hearing is quite interval aware. For most people they are unconsciously aware of various levels of dissonance even if they are not musicians. While concertinas still sound pretty good with notes that are up to 7 cents out, and tolerable beyond that, they sound lovely when well tuned, kind of like a fresh coat of paint. One saving grace even for Dave's example of two reeds out in opposite directions is that concertinas like violins and pianos are harmonically rich. Faults in tuning tend to dissapear in the harmonic mix of group playing.
In the end, tuning accuracy is limited by the instrument, not the tuner. Your tuner can help you understand the limitations of the particular instrument, the pressure / pitch sensitivity of the reeds, and the pitch affecting characteristics of your tuning rig. And don't forget to keep your ears open.
Dana

#14 d.elliott

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Posted 01 July 2017 - 11:50 AM

It is true that playing in ensamble tends to yield the sum of the music, different instruments and harmonics blend, sometimes cancelling out and sometings adding to each other. When my daughter was younger and played fiddle against my concertina we found that the concertina/fiddle combination was quite pleasing irtrespective of my poor playing.

 

If you are tuning for yourself, for your own instruments you can accept whatever latitude you feel appropriate to your playing circumstance and environment. If you are tuning for other people, where you don't know their playing style or if they only play solo, or in say small groups then you have to assume the worst and make sure that your tuning is not the the one that may offend the ear.

 

Dave



#15 anglobox

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Posted 09 August 2017 - 12:22 PM

Wow, you gentalmen, Ladies, got some seriously good information. I'm going to reread this post a couple times! I decided to give my niece that toy accordion because she was just having so much fun with it. I taught her to play old susana for her! x)
 
Again, What you guys have told me, HELPS alot. I am still working /designing my bench. I have low knowledge on doing these types of repairs..... I think i can pull it off.  Besides, Everyones gotta start somewhere.

For my expensive instrument, i still ship off to button box.
 
I do have nearly every book made for anglo concertina.
 
I have about 3 cheap concertinas, (also one chemitizer) that im going to work on first.... then my intermediate one, if and only if, those turn out ok.
 
This is going to be a completely free guide with pictures and notes. with full credit to everyone on this post. 

SOOO the only two biggest two questions I have are:
 
1.) where can I buy the correct tools for tuning these reeds. (MOST IMPORTANT!)
 
2.)Where can i buy a single reeds like (c#) drone. Or any one for that matter. ALso do they force you to  buy sets.... like 5 different reeds?....  I cant seem to decifer  what these euro sites are trying to say.
          
  ive done research on them.... but alot of them are in europe and i really cant understand what they are trying to say.
 
3.) also do any companies sell prefabricated reed holders ? (to hold them on the wood, while your tuning them?), or do i need to make one myself. Or if anyone can, id just buy a couple from you, to help me make my tuning table.
 
I am only working with hybrid concertinas with accordion reeds.
 
4.) comes back to number two. since im just starting, im bound to destroy a few reeds.  And im going to have to buy one that is in the same tune.... or find ones that can be tuned propperly for concertina with accordion reeds?

Well thankyou everyone who takes the time to increase my wisdom. Its much appreciated.
 
 
5.) completely off topic, but do we have any concertina players around central florida area? it would be fun


#16 alex_holden

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Posted 09 August 2017 - 01:53 PM

There's no need to destroy a reed if you take it slowly, remove a tiny bit at a time and keep checking the pitch until you get a feel for how it works.

You can find 600 grit diamond needle file sets and feeler gauges (for making the support shim tool) on eBay.

#17 David Hornett

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Posted 09 August 2017 - 07:56 PM

Anglobox,

 

If you supply me with your email I will forward pictures of my tuning table using an old school desk and knee operated weighted accordion bellows, with an adjustable slide device for different size shoes. (I have run out f space on this site.)

 

All the best 

 

David






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