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Long Reed Plates Worth It?

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#1 paulbrennan

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Posted 19 February 2015 - 01:24 PM

Hi all, 

 

Given the choice between a traditional long reed plate instrument and a waxed accordion reed instrument, the conventional wisdom is to go for the long reed plates because they sound better or at least more traditional.  However there is a big price difference, plus maintenance issues. I'm beginning to wonder if the actual audible difference is all that large.  Here are sound samples of two similar Harry Geuns hybrid bandoneons with the two different reed systems. Unfortunately the recordings are totally different so comparison is difficult.  But in any case, I'm not really hearing that one sounds like an accordion and the other does not: 

 

http://bandoneon-mak...on-basic-model/

 

http://bandoneon-mak...stem-bandonion/

 

So what is the main expected benefit of long reed plates: More sympathetic resonance along the plate, like a harmonica, giving added volume and brightness? Dynamic range affected by the density of the plate and reeds? I'm wondering if this is the kind of difference that would be eliminated when using a mic and a PA.  It's difficult for me to compare these instruments so appreciate the feedback. 

 

Thanks, paul

 


#2 Jim Besser

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Posted 19 February 2015 - 04:59 PM

 

Hi all, 

 

Given the choice between a traditional long reed plate instrument and a waxed accordion reed instrument, the conventional wisdom is to go for the long reed plates because they sound better or at least more traditional.  However there is a big price difference, plus maintenance issues. I'm beginning to wonder if the actual audible difference is all that large.  Here are sound samples of two similar Harry Geuns hybrid bandoneons with the two different reed systems. Unfortunately the recordings are totally different so comparison is difficult.  But in any case, I'm not really hearing that one sounds like an accordion and the other does not:

 

 

Are you talking about a concertina, a bandonion, or something else?

 

I'm no expert,  but I have noticed one thing: differences in sound between a traditional reeded concertina an a hybrid that seem pretty dramatic when heard in person are less noticeable when recorded.  So listening to recordings may not be an accurate way to judge the differences in sound.



#3 Łukasz Martynowicz

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Posted 19 February 2015 - 05:37 PM

There is HUGE audible difference between aluminum, zinc and brass reeds in "pure testing conditions". For my DIY project I have ordered sample reed from harmonikas.cz with shoes made from three different metals (and also three different aluminium reed "grades") and reeds with same geometry but with different properties of the shoe metal produce completely different sound spectrum. This spectrum can be of course modified to great extent by an instrument maker, but the exact same box fitted with two different sets of reeds will sound different. 

If your goal in learning to play bandoneon is to play "proper" argentine tango, then you should definately go with zinc plates - this very distinctive sound cannot be imitated even with large accordions with many different reed ranks. But if you are just looking for a good sounding "general use" instrument and prefer bandonion layout/ergonomics over accordion, there is no real point in zinc plates other than personal preference in tone. (But there can of course be further difference in response time and dynamics between different grades of aluminium reeds)



#4 paulbrennan

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Posted 20 February 2015 - 02:15 PM

Thanks for this - very helpful.  I don't really play tango actually, but nevertheless the classic sound of the tango recordings is the one that we all love and aspire to!  But what about the maintenance issue - is it really practical to keep an instrument with long reed plates.  From what I understand, it may be necessary to ship the plates away for maintenance, even for tuning.  This seems like kind of a nightmare to me, although obviously a lot of people do it so it's possible.  



#5 ceemonster

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Posted 20 February 2015 - 03:28 PM

i have a zinc bando and an aluminum bando. and while they do sound different, i don't think it is at all the case that aluminum does not sound like authentic argentine tango.  additionally, aluminum is lighter, and that bando is very quick and responsive.  i am not sure what you mean by "long reed plates."  are you talking about traditional bandoneon reeds?  my accordion tech works on these and tunes them not infrequently.  so it really depends on who within your reach has expertise. some people have to ship even accordions long distance to have master-level tuning done.


Edited by ceemonster, 20 February 2015 - 03:30 PM.


#6 Graham S

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Posted 21 February 2015 - 01:49 AM

  i am not sure what you mean by "long reed plates."

I guess Paul is referring to a whole set of reeds on a single plate, harmonica-style, rather than pairs of reeds on individual plates. No idea of the answer to his query, though!

 

Graham



#7 David Hornett

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Posted 21 February 2015 - 05:22 AM

Lukasz,

 

I am interested in you experiments with different reed shoes materials. I got my reed shoes lazer cut for the Tassie Tiger. Unfortunately there was a confusion in the instructions and the shoes are slightly wider than a Lachenal/Wheatson/Jones shoe. Because of the increased width, the mass in a 2mm brass shoe is 30-40% heavier, depending on the reed, than a comparative Lachenal. I have profiled the reeds along the lines of a lachenal. Interestingly my concertinas are much more mellow than a comparative Lachenal, some may call it nazel, but it is a great instrument to sing to. I cut one reed right down to be the same weight as a Lachenal (D4) the sound became much more concertina like. My guess is the weight of the reed shoes, even when tightly fitted, influences the tone. From your investigations have you any thoughts on this?

 

David



#8 Chris Ghent

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Posted 21 February 2015 - 07:36 AM

David,

 

according to the model I work to, increased mass in the frame, particularly at the root, helps inhibit the reed from wagging the frame. When the reed is able to flex the frame energy is lost, especially at lower frequencies. Consequently a heavier frame will be reflected in a stronger fundamental, essentially a deeper sound. The benefits of a heavier frame could be lost if the fit in the pan is not tight and if the wood of the reedpan is insufficiently rigid. The effect of a heavier frame is diminished the further up the scale you go as it becomes relatively harder for the reed to wag the frame.

 

None of this explains a more mellow sound as that usually means higher partials are absent . This may be due to the higher partials not being generated because the clearance between the tongue and frame is not tight enough or they are being generated but the wood you have used is soft or perhaps there are restrictions created by the shapes and thickness of some parts. Or maybe the valves are over heavy.

 

None of this explains why a lightened frame might have a different sound and in fact sound more like a concertina, though you have not described the difference in technical terms. Did you try it in the concertina before lightening it? Could the valve be much lighter on that note?



#9 Dana Johnson

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Posted 21 February 2015 - 07:45 AM

At one time I made the reed shoes on the lower half, E4 and lower, from .093" brass with the upper ones at .063". Wishing go keep the thickness more proportional to length. Later, I reduced these to the same as the upper ones, cutting their weight by a third with no change in tone that I could detect. In concertina reeds, the draft, ( Geoff Crabbs excellent term ) of the reed window makes a lot of difference in response and the pressure/ volume curve, so the reed's draft angle may have already negated the influence of the deeper window.
On the other hand, adding more attached mass to the reed pan especially spread out evenly like the reed frames do, alters the damping resonances of the reed pan. The added inertia of not only the single reed frame, but of the whole system it is attached to reduces the amount of energy the relatively light reed tongue can impart to the frame and by it, the reed pan. For instruments with thinner reed pans like Lachenals, the added mass may alter ( probably lower ) the frequencies that can effectively drive it. For thick (stiff) reed pans like Jeffries style instruments, the effect may be less.
My first Hayden, a rebuilt McCann duet, I made aluminum reed pans for, which worked much better than anyone including myself expected. They did weigh about 50% more than the original sycamore ones. Though there may have been other factors at play, ( like the heavy delrin action board,) it had a quite nice smooth mellow sound. Many years later rebuilt it again using wood with a substantial increase in volume and more edge to the tone.
Concertina tone is affected by lots of things, interior and exterior to it, some more dramatic than others. How educated your own ears are will also influence your judgement. Last year I listened to a comparison between at least 8 Carrolls, and while they were clearly cut from the same cloth, being played by the same person, in the same position, in the same room, everyone could hear differences between them.
Recordings of the same concertina in different surroundings will sound different. Hard walls and floors will emphasize the high overtones which otherwise decay very rapidly. Large rooms with carpets tend to bring out the lows. Recordings done under different conditions are of no real use for comparison of the instrument, only of the recording overall.

#10 Dana Johnson

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Posted 21 February 2015 - 07:46 AM

Hi Chris!

#11 Dana Johnson

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Posted 21 February 2015 - 07:53 AM

Just a further note reflecting Chris's comments which are excellent, my reed frames at the time were relatively broad, ( not tapered ). And we're as a result already heavier than the tapered equivalent. David, how exactly did you lighten your reed shoes? Did you have to replace the old reed pan in the process, or shim the slots to make up the difference?

#12 David Hornett

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Posted 23 February 2015 - 04:30 AM

Dana / Chris, thank you for your responses, I am learning a lot. And Chris, yes I have not the beautiful tight fitting reeds of that superbly beautiful instrument of yours that I was allowed to play under the proud eyes of its owner at Nariel this year! Mine are 03-04 mm gap (parallel sides so I cannot slip the reeds down the taper to get a closer space).

 

What happened was when i got the shoes cut I asked for a 7 degree undercut taper. I drew up the shoe design and gave it to the Auto CAD man to draft and put into CNC language. The Auto Cad fellow thought I meant a 7 degree taper along the side. My shoes were a little heavier to begin with because I have had problems with shoes being crimped by Tasmanian humidity, (A sad problem with a Jones I own on wet days) Anyway the brass was 2mm, so when all this was put together I ended up with shoes being between 30 and 40% heavier.

 

Now the problem was I had designed the reed pans for the narrower design shoes, so when the shoes arrived, being the lazy bloke I am, I squeezed them in. One shoe, an E4 shoe (I mistakenly said D4 above)  would not fit, remember it is a 38 button G/D in a case slightly smaller than a Lachenal, so the reeds assembly is a squeeze on the pan. To fit, I filed the sides right down to approx Lachenal width, took off 30% of the weight. The tone got the distinct concertina buzz, rather than the more mellow accordian sound, you can hear it on the tuning bench, of the other reed assemblies. I replaced and reprofiled the tongue, still the buzz. Now I may point out some can hear it, some can not, but is is there. Hence my question, and I do think shoe weight has something to do with it.

 

Best regards

 

David.



#13 Chris Ghent

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Posted 26 February 2015 - 09:13 PM

David,

 

there is nothing wrong with a fit of .03mm but i would expect it to generate more higher partials than a run of the mill Lachenal reed which would be have a fit more in the order of .06 at best. If your sound is "mellow" then you must be eliminating a lot of higher partials somewhere. 

 

When your frames were delivered with no undercut did you put some in with a file? Without it you would not really have a concertina reed assembly, more like one of the CZH semi-hybrids.

 

When I first started I often did a test and felt like I had made progress because I could definitely say, "this does that". Later on when attempting to use that conclusion I would find it was not reliable. Revisiting the experiment I would realise I had not tested exactly what I thought I had, there were other factors at play. Many tests rely on subjective evaluation, adding to this issue.  There is a need to be exact in designing tests,  making designing a good test very time consuming. This is by way of prelude to talking of declaring the weight of reed frames a factor in tone. I don't doubt it is a factor (I am not sure anything is insignificant) but would be reluctant to declare it important in declaring whether a reed had a concertina-like sound or not.

 

Cheers

 

Chris



#14 Dana Johnson

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Posted 27 February 2015 - 06:58 PM

Chris and I have struggled with the descriptive language of the sounds our instruments make. I would never call an accordion mellow compared to a concertina, but then, i haven't heard all accordions or all concertinas. It is difficult to translate your experience into the words I use for what you hear, I am not at all sure what you mean by concertina buzz. One thing that can cause a very tiny buzz is a lack of alignment with the reed clamp with the edge of the reed window. The reed vibrates it's full unclamped length which can create a tiny slapping of the reed against the shoe or clamp surface if they are not directly over each other. Accordion reeds or riveted reeds ( usually with square tab ends can have this happen, though the sharp direction change of the tab on accordion style reeds helps to isolate the vibration to the narrow part. There can be lots of sources of buzzes, often at a distance from the reed that seems to generate the sound. Reed vibrations are transmitted to the rest of the instrument and can cause any parts that are loose or close together to buzz against each other.
Concertina reeds besides the draft angle of the window also have a very slight waist in the side of the shoe. They are not straight sides. This allows the reed shoe to be held tightly at the toe and heel of the shoe while leaving a tiny clearance on the sides to help avoid pinching the reed when humidity swells the wood of the dovetail slots. If Tasmainian humidity is stable, it doesn't really matter if it is high. It is variations in humidity that causes problems.
Dana

#15 David Hornett

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Posted 28 February 2015 - 05:22 AM

Thank you Chris and Dana. Yes there is a problem with words to describe sounds. But the 'buzz', for want of a better vocab, can be graphically seen in the editing pane when I play mine into Garage Band on the Apple. The Jeffries notes show as images with, now I am stuck for words, 'whiskers' running off the note images.  In comparison mine has much, much smother note images. That's the best way I can describe the 'buzz'. I am certain there is a more technical, precise term, possibly Chris' higher partials'.

 

Accordions mellow? certainly not in two or more reed tuning, but when played on one reed, my ear hears it a mellow, well not as strident as a concertina, which to my hearing has a cutting, ragged, edge not associated with an accordion. -- one reed on a concertina will cut through a session, one reed on an accordion is more easily lost.

 

 

 

David



#16 Dana Johnson

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Posted 28 February 2015 - 11:49 AM

Multiple strong partials can result in periodic ( happening at a regular interval ) high peaks when they line up at some common denominator. Depending on which partials of the series they are, you can end up with one or more spikes per cycle. The wave form you generally see in Garage band is an envelope containing a large number of cycles of the note in question. To see the actual single cycle wave form, you need to zoom in until you can see a single line starting at zero amplitude, going up to some limit than going below zero and then back to zero again. This may look a bit mountainous, depending on the partial mix, and rarely much like a sine wave in free reeds, but it will be regular from one cycle to the next. You are unlikely to see whiskers here though you might get some flat tops if you are exceeding the clipping threshold. ( that produces a harsh edge in recorded sound ). Periodic whiskers in the envelope are not reed generated, though they may come from other parts of the concertina being excited by the reeds. The rattle of a loose reed shoe is one example, or a buzz in a cracked action pan, or a slightly loose gap between a support post and the end plate, or numerous other places where similar things can happen. The exception might be where reed is misaligned and is grazing the window twice per cycle. I once made a set of reed pans from big leaf maple, which is an excellent tone wood for violin family instruments, but for some reason made a extremely harsh sounding concertina. I replaced them after about five minutes of play. Concertinas, especially old ones can vary quite a lot, and your Jeffries may have a buzzy tone. Whiskers are definitely consistent with the word buzz. This wasn't true for the ones I owned, though neither of them were dull in tone. They did not display any whiskers. I have looked at the wave forms and envelopes during editing, of nearly twenty hours of recordings of three extremely good Linotas. ( every bloody inch of them! ) and did not see whiskers or unusual peaks.
I used to own a single reeded Castagnari Lilly, which had a delightful sound, though while I would not call it harsh or smooth, had a different partial balance than my concertinas. Accordions that have normal reed blocks with the reeds toughly perpendicular to the pad board, are often in fact quiet if only one reed is sounding. Having two reeds per note effectively doubles the volume. Toss in the octave and you can really roar away. Flat mounted reeds like my Lilly had, do much better in the volume category, but you can't fit many reeds in, so their use is limited. Concertinas generally get more volume out of their reeds. I have heard one accordion reeded hybrid that had such an edge to it, it cut through a session like a knife even though it wasn't unusually loud.

#17 David Hornett

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Posted 01 March 2015 - 08:43 AM

Fascinating., maybe my 'whiskers' are lots of things other than reeds. But anyway, I have just completed tuning Tassie Tiger number 2, and it has a different sound, although still not the accepted concertina sound, and dare I say it, it's mellow. It is in CG.

 

I remembering talking to Peter Hyde once about tuning his accordions, (He has a real gift at it) his all time faviourite of mine throw away comment was, "Lots of things happen inside a box -- its stuffed full of reeds!" Anyway I'll keep tinkering, I have two more to go yet, an A/D and another C/G. Both 38 buttons.

 

Thank you Dana







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