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Sounds Like A Concertina ?

What effect Reeds have.

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#1 Geoff Wooff

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Posted 24 February 2014 - 07:07 AM

On a recent trip to England several people commented on the difference in the sound (tone) between my Wheatstone EC and my recently aquired Wakker Hayden. Ordinarily this  would not attract much attention from me. I have had many concertinas over the years, albeit mostly Wheatstones, and each one had its own tone qualities, however, the comments I recieved were more along the lines that the Wakker sounded more like an Accordion.

 

This I found slightly puzzling because,although it was also the impression that my wife and I had when the  Wakker first arrived, an examination of the internal features of the instrument show it to be  very traditionally constructed... with Concertina Reeds etc.

 

So, my point is   "why should this instrument have a tone scape that suggests accordion ?" :ph34r:

 

A theory formulating in my head is that the taper of the reeds affects the tone. I'm talking of the taper in the width of the tongues.

 

With this in mind I have measured reeds from  the various concertinas that reside here.  On the one hand there are two instruments that have parallel width reeds and two that have  slightly  tapered widths (these are the Wheatstones).The  Wakker has reeds that taper by approximately twice the rate of the tapered Wheatstones..... then there is the one Hybrid with its Accordion reeds which taper at approximately twice the rate of the Wakker reeds.

 

In trying to describe the tone of these instruments I'd say the Parallel reeded ones sound rudely Concertina, the Slightly Tapered reeds sound a little more refined ( but then they are in 1920's Aeolas)  and the very tapered reeds of the Hybrid sound distinctly Accordion... leaving the  medium tapered reeds of the Wakker  leaning towards an accordion-ish sound.

 

What do you all make of this ?

 

Geoff.

 

PS:  perhaps it is that the two parallel reeded Wheatstones come from a particular period when straight reeds were the norm. 

 

PPS; This is not a criticism of  the Wakker Duet... I like the tone .

 

PPPS; I realise there are many factors that must be considered when accounting for tonal différences... but just to isolate one, like this, could be interesting.


Edited by Geoff Wooff, 24 February 2014 - 07:15 AM.


#2 Łukasz Martynowicz

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Posted 24 February 2014 - 08:31 AM

Very interesting. That could lead to a conclusion, that the main (if not only) factor defining a tone of a free reed instrument is the physics of a vibrating tongue - different for parallel tongues in tapered frames vs tapered tongues in parallel frames. 

One other thing, that may be responsible for difference in the tone of Wakker concertina reeds is that they are produced in a modern CNC way, not with traditional methods. Hand manufacturing of anything gives a less-perfect, "warmer" touch to anything, be it furniture, casted or milled metal works, woodworking, sculpting etc. because of minute deviations from ideal shapes, lower tolerances, slight mistakes and so on. Might as well affect the tone of a reed.



#3 David Barnert

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Posted 24 February 2014 - 09:02 AM

I have had many concertinas over the years, albeit mostly Wheatstones, and each one had its own tone qualities, however, the comments I recieved were more along the lines that the Wakker sounded more like an Accordion.

 

Geoff, any chance you could post an audio file illustrating the difference in sound between the two instruments?



#4 Frank Edgley

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Posted 24 February 2014 - 09:33 AM

     There are other factors, such as reedpan design.....depth of chambers.....size of vent aperture.....thickness and density of reedpan material.....chamber shape i.e. parallel-radial and variations of these two basic shapes. I have also noticed that with some vintage concertinas, the makers have paid a lot of attention to pad hole size, vaying them according to the note. I have even noticed with some Jeffries that some of the holes were carved, apparently by a knife, so that one side was crudely tapered. I have noticed that some of the more recent vintage-style concertinas (those with concertina reeds) have a very loud, some may describe strident or piercing tone. All these seem to have parallel reed chambers. I have tried to eliminate parallel sides as much as possible with my hybrid "Professiona Models" concertinas with my angled reedpan chambers. I think that has been successful in producing a warmer tone than my "Performer's Model" instrument. I have used that idea with my concertina-reeded Heritage model. I have eliminated parallel sides by having a radial design reedpan, where the chamber walls radiate out from the centre, like the Wheatstone instruments.

     Reeds are important, and radical changes in design can make some differences in tone. However, I have conducted a little experiment: I removed one of the reeds from  a concertina I purchased about 20 years ago from a very notable maker of vintage-style concertinas. I replaced it with one of the reeds that I am using to make my Heritage model. You cannot tell where I have placed my reed. I have had several musicians try, by listening, unsuccessfully, even when I have indicated which two or three buttons contain the one replaced reed. The reeds I am using are very similar in taper and size to the reeds in the concertina I used for the experiment. They are not radically different as accordion reeds would be, so I am not saying that reed design is not a factor. Years ago, Fred Quan inferred a similar thought to me. He said, in effect, that he could replace a broken reed in a concertina he was repairing by using a salvaged reed by another maker and it would not be noticable. That suggests that reedpan design is very important.

     I await the deluge of criticism..........



#5 Wolf Molkentin

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Posted 24 February 2014 - 10:01 AM

Years ago, Fred Quan inferred a similar thought to me. He said, in effect, that he could replace a broken reed in a concertina he was repairing by using a salvaged reed by another maker and it would not be noticable. That suggests that reedpan design is very important.

     I await the deluge of criticism..........

 

Firstly you get a little bit of affirmation - from my very limited experience with repairing resp. replacing reeds, even not regarding concertinas in this case.

 

The first melodeon I bought had not just been out of tune here and there, which I could fix myself, but had a dull, weak overall tone which made the instrument rather useless. Another very small melodeon (of the German "Horch" brand) was quite another thing, with a sweet and carrying tone (thus I would play this one even today as my main squeeze had I not discovered the EC).

 

However, there had been one reed broken which (resp. the reed plate with both push and pull reeds) I didn't hesitate to replace with one from the waste instrument. In its new surrounding it sounded pretty much like its new fellow reeds and not at all like those where it stemmed from.


Edited by blue eyed sailor, 24 February 2014 - 10:12 AM.


#6 Geoff Wooff

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Posted 24 February 2014 - 11:08 AM

David,

I will try record the two instruments and post something. 

I will say that the other concertina I had with me on my travels, with the Wakker Hayden, was my Parallel reeded EC ( session/Band instrument) which has a quintessential Concertina sound.



#7 Graham Collicutt

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Posted 24 February 2014 - 11:29 AM

On a visit to Colin Dipper, where I was trying to see if I could improve my then current anglo, I made a suggestion of, could you increase the size of the vent hole. Reply was no, '' you would just make it sound like an accordion.''



#8 Łukasz Martynowicz

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Posted 24 February 2014 - 12:37 PM

@Frank: what I meant was not to neglect those other factors, I know that many different things affect the final outcome to some degree. Maybe I'll rephrase my thought: what the resulting sound would be, if you have replaced the reed in this experiment you have described with a cut-to-fit accordion reed? The same concertina, same wood thickness and density, same chamber sizes, just a different shape of the tongue, accordion vs concertina style? Would it be a drastic change of tone? 



#9 Łukasz Martynowicz

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Posted 24 February 2014 - 01:31 PM

One other way to put it: is it possible to build even a simple, experimental, proof-of-concept, single note instrument, that will sound like a genuine concertina, but will have an accordion reed?



#10 Johann

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Posted 24 February 2014 - 03:15 PM

All know, i don't have experience with concertinas, but as far as i can tell from my last comperes of two nearly equally made diatonic accordions are again very interesting and do prove that even the woodwork of the case contributes to the sound quality. I can interchange the reed blocks from one box to the other and very little changes in sound are noticeable. 

From older test with the type of how the chambers are made i also can tall that the chamber geometry is one of the most important factor. 

A different shape of the tongue, Would it be a drastic change of tone? It makes a difference, but not only the shape also the profile and most of all more pricier fittings produce much more brighter overtones. If balance of stiffness and mass of tongue is changed with the same pitch also effects the loudness and the overtone consistence. Reed frame thickness and tapering of the sides also effects the final sound and loudness especially with high air pressure. Pitch change at different air pressure is also a question to take in account, not only the sound quality as loudness and timbre. There is always some interconnection of all this effects influenced by the different variation one can make to a reed. A reed never can be seen as isolated from the chamber or even from the box it will be fitted.  

orientation of the reed on the chamber and the way the vent opening is formed and positioned also effects the the sound quality. All in all i also would say changing just one reed is in most cases not noticeable but i also had it the other way round as well. Especially on very low pitched reeds it is in the most cases a lot of difference if a reed is replaced with one that is very different in geometry to the one originally fitted.

 

It is difficult to pin all down that influences the sound and even more to tell what contributes more to the sound quality. I doubt that we can make copy's of old boxes that will sound the same as the one that had been copped. I made the experience that the copped boxes come close to the original if i did not make to much afford to make a very nice job. Always when i wanted the result to be very nice looking then the sound was not as close as i thought it would be. It seams that the little variations that came from not the best looking piece off wood or not so exact hand cuts lead in the end to something special and appealing, Not saying that it does not need a very well done job. There are many things to care about, to have in the end a well sounding box.

Best regards, Johann  



#11 scoopet

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Posted 25 February 2014 - 05:20 AM

Geoff,

  could you not put one of the wakker reeds and frame into your metal ended wheatstone and see the sound difference, or not  as frank did in his experiment?



#12 Geoff Wooff

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Posted 25 February 2014 - 05:37 AM

Yes Simon, 

I suppose I could and perhaps I will today, however, you heard them both in your kitchen only a week or so back... what do you think ?


Edited by Geoff Wooff, 25 February 2014 - 05:37 AM.


#13 scoopet

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Posted 25 February 2014 - 06:31 AM

the wakker definitely sounded more 'accordiony'......however your wheatstone treble is as growly as an English concertina is ever going to sound!!

 

 I'm sure there is something in how tapered the reeds are....but also the environment the reed is in, i.e the pan layout and depth, type and hardness of wood, type of steel  used for reeds etc must all play a role.

 

I'm interested for you to see how a few of your wakker reeds sound in the green mean machine!!!

 

however,  shouldn't you be shortening that pipe waiting list now you're back in france ,................not faffing around with concertina reeds!!!..... :)


Edited by scoopet, 25 February 2014 - 06:55 AM.


#14 JimLucas

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Posted 25 February 2014 - 07:39 AM

however,  shouldn't you be shortening that pipe waiting list now you're back in france ,................not faffing around with concertina reeds!!!..... :)

 

I would think he'd be trimming some pipe reeds to see whether they sound more like pipes or concertina when he clamps them into concertina reed frames and puts them into his Wheatstone or Wakker.  B)



#15 Geoff Wooff

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Posted 25 February 2014 - 07:59 AM

Yes too true I should be getting on with my work but I did try a couple of test  exchanges of reeds.... somewhat inconclusive due to difficulties of getting reeds to fit correctly..... but each reed sounded best in its own instrument:

 

The Wheatstone reeds sounded as good as the Wakker Reeds in the Wakker.... but not the other way around...  Still, too much variation in FIT to draw any great conclusions from this other than to say that everything else also matters ( case, wood, ends, shapes ,slots, pad heights etc etc etc).

 

However, some good ideas have been put forward here... food for thought! Thanks to all.

 

PS; I did have an issue when I got my Baritone/Treble EC... it had one Foreign Reed, a Bb  ... this was annoying in that the sound did not quite balance and I needed to remember when going for that Bb note, in which direction I should have the air flowing. I asked David Leese to find a correct size reed for me. He came up with an A reed of the right length that he tuned up and it fitted well and the tonal balance was restored.

 

Perhaps I am just more fussy than some ?


Edited by Geoff Wooff, 25 February 2014 - 08:08 AM.


#16 Chris Ghent

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Posted 25 February 2014 - 08:25 AM

Regarding shifting reeds to different concertina, I have done this a number of times in an experimental fashion. they always pick up what I call the steady state sound of the instrument. This makes it hard to detect which reed is the interloper. If you can detect the reed, it is often because of differences in efficiency, the inserted reed is either louder or quieter than the others. If the clearances between the reed and frame are tighter than the other reeds in the concertina you will hear more higher partials.

#17 Johann

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Posted 25 February 2014 - 08:28 AM

"Perhaps I am just more fussy than some?"

May be, but i am the same in this respect. On the other hand i notice that nearly all (even the don't know a lot about music) people notice this little differences if the have the chance to hear two or more different boxes (in my case diatonic or chromatic accordions) side by side in a natural environment and not only the recorded sound. 



#18 Hasse

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Posted 25 February 2014 - 03:25 PM

This is very interesting, looking forward to a recorded sound test! :)

 

For a while I’ve mainly been playing a very nice AP James Anglo with accordion reeds, and also on occasion been able to borrow a rosewood ended steel reed Lachenal, but recently got a Connor with concertina reeds.

 

The interesting thing is that:

When I brought the Connor to a session one of the fiddlers/melodeon players commented on the pleasant loud sound from the accordion reeds in my new concertina, he preferred that sound to the harsh concertina reeds in the AP James concertina…? I explained that the Connor was concertina reeded like the Lachenal I sometimes had been playing. He was surprised, because he had always assumed that the old mellow concertina had accordion reeds and the AP James more loud hard sound was concertina reeds…!

 

Well, in my opinion the AP James is fare more mellow sounding that the Connor, the Lahcenal could maybe be slightly closer in sound to the AP James. But of course this fiddler doesn't ever listen to lots of live concertina playing, mainly my concertinas and recordings I guess, so his ears probably have been calibrated to accordion reed sound.


Edited by Hasse, 25 February 2014 - 03:36 PM.





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