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Tuning: How Far Can One Go?

tuning chemnitzer concert pitch

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#1 Stephen Selby

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Posted 22 June 2015 - 07:00 AM

I am trying to patch up an old Chemnitzer. Using a good tuner, I find that it is on average between 340 - 380 cents below current concert pitch.

 

Is it possible to tune to the reeds up to such an extent?



#2 Geoff Wooff

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Posted 22 June 2015 - 08:27 AM

340-380 cents !! You do mean that the notes are 3.4 to 3.8 Semitones flat ?

If that is the case I would very much doubt you would have a good playing instrument after sharpening the notes that much...

#3 JimLucas

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Posted 22 June 2015 - 08:38 AM

I am trying to patch up an old Chemnitzer. Using a good tuner, I find that it is on average between 340 - 380 cents below current concert pitch.
 
Is it possible to tune to the reeds up to such an extent?

 
I'm no expert on Chemnitzers, but my guess is that raising the tuning by that much -- between a minor and major third -- would destroy the reeds' playability.  Sounds like the original "core" key was A or Ab.  Why not adjust it to the nearest of those relative to A440 and then learn to play it "in C" with non-standard fingering?
 
Wait a minute!  A fragment of memory just prompted me to look up a Chemnitzer layout.  If you look at that, you'll see that the central row is not tuned to a C scale, but to an A scale, even though Chemnitzer players would describe it as "in C".  So I'll guess that you're comparing yours to a C/G anglo rather than to the layout in the above-linked diagram, and that yours really only needs minor adjustment to be brought to Chemnitzer standard.  Yes?


Edited by JimLucas, 22 June 2015 - 08:42 AM.


#4 Stephen Chambers

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Posted 22 June 2015 - 08:42 AM

I am trying to patch up an old Chemnitzer. Using a good tuner, I find that it is on average between 340 - 380 cents below current concert pitch.

 

Chemnitzers, like Anglos, come in different keys and it sounds to me like the instrument is in a different key to whatever keyboard diagram you're looking at.

 

 

Is it possible to tune to the reeds up to such an extent?

 

No.

 

Cross-posted with Jim's reply.


Edited by Stephen Chambers, 22 June 2015 - 08:43 AM.


#5 Stephen Selby

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Posted 24 June 2015 - 04:57 AM

Woops, sorry! that should be 34 - 38 cents. 



#6 Geoff Wooff

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Posted 24 June 2015 - 06:47 AM

Woops, sorry! that should be 34 - 38 cents.


Ok! That is still quite a lot of tuning up... it all depends on the state of the reeds. A friend with an accordeon in 435hz ( average 20 cents flat) was told by a professional tuner that the reeds would be too thin after bringing up to 440hz.... so we continue to play with this disparity between instruments... some people Dance, some Mince, some Wince! We just laugh and use ear plugs...

Edited by Geoff Wooff, 24 June 2015 - 06:48 AM.


#7 Stephen Chambers

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Posted 24 June 2015 - 09:44 AM

 

Woops, sorry! that should be 34 - 38 cents.


Ok! That is still quite a lot of tuning up... it all depends on the state of the reeds. A friend with an accordeon in 435hz ( average 20 cents flat) was told by a professional tuner that the reeds would be too thin after bringing up to 440hz.... so we continue to play with this disparity between instruments... some people Dance, some Mince, some Wince! We just laugh and use ear plugs...

 

 

In that case, unless the reeds have already previously been tuned up a lot (so that the tips are already thin), I shouldn't expect there to be any problem pitching either instrument up by that amount. In fact I've just very successfully repitched a 38-key William Jeffries up, from high pitch D to concert pitch Eb, for a professional Irish player - you'll probably be hearing it soon enough! :rolleyes:



#8 malcolm clapp

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Posted 24 June 2015 - 09:45 AM

So just over 1/3rd of a semitone in the old money. Usually reeds will go up a good semi-tone without complaint.

 

My main concern would be whether the reeds are pairs on individual plates or gang mounted; if the former, then should there be a problem the reed can be easily replaced; if gang mounted, then replacement of any reeds that are damaged in the process can be more difficult.

 

Otherwise, as long as the reeds have not had a great deal of previous tuning, it should be a straightforward job for a competent tuner. I have taken many melodeons up from A:435-ish to A;440 with no ill-effects.

 

I own a single voice Pearl King Chemnitzer on which I have undertaken a similar repitch. Gang mounted reeds, and I must admit that I proceeded with extremely great care, especially on the highest reeds, but thankfully with a successful outcome.

 

Good luck with whatever you decide to do....



#9 Stephen Selby

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Posted 24 June 2015 - 10:56 PM

Thanks for all that advice. Yes, normal Chemnitzer gang-mounted reeds. (It's an ELA). I'm going to ask a professional concertina repair man to do it.



#10 Dana Johnson

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Posted 25 June 2015 - 09:01 AM

It is rare for reeds to be individually sized. Usually one shoe will have one or two window lengths and span a number of notes. 2-4 per window, depending on the pitch range. Most of the difference in the reeds of any group is in the forward third of the profile.the higher in pitch you go, assuming a normal concertina reed set, the less material needs to be removed to change the pitch. In G6 for instance, you are talking microns, barely visible amounts of dust. A low reed C3, if it is unweighted, may not have enough thickness to be changed as far up as D. Below those, the reed lengths grow too fast to get more than one note per window length without major weighting. Reeds that are at the top of their group of 2-4 pitches per window, are likely to already be as thin as they should be, for even bending, and greater reduction may shift most of the flexing toward the tip, which is likely to alter the timbre of the reed as well as the pitch. Eventually the quickly increasing flexibility of the reed near the tip reduces the pitch faster than the mass reduction raises it. That effectively limits the possible amount of pitch raise available. The reed will have weakened too much to be useful before then.
Different reed sets have more latitude than others. Light, responsive but not loud reeds are probably already on the thin side. More powerful reeds have more initial stiffness to play with and may stand more pitch change. It isn't a good idea to generalize about what you can do for pitch changes. I had a Jeffries in to tune, whose reeds were already too thin, they played flat with any increase in pressure. I don't know if it had been raised in pitch previously, but someone had over done it.

#11 Stephen Chambers

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Posted 25 June 2015 - 11:10 AM

I had a Jeffries in to tune, whose reeds were already too thin, they played flat with any increase in pressure. I don't know if it had been raised in pitch previously, but someone had over done it.

 

Because they were always very popular with Anglo players, Jeffries concertinas (in particular) have tended to be tuned up and down a lot over the years, which is why I'd be especially anxious to check the reeds on one before buying it, or before agreeing to tune, let alone repitching, it for someone... :(


Edited by Stephen Chambers, 25 June 2015 - 11:38 AM.


#12 JimLucas

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Posted 25 June 2015 - 11:23 AM

...assuming a normal concertina reed set...

 

What are you assuming to be "normal"?  He's asking about a Chemnitzer with ganged reeds, not a Wheatstone descendant.  Do the same conditions apply?  I don't know, and I certainly wouldn't want to assume so.  I would consult someone expert in this type of instrument.  (Where's Ted Kloba at the moment?)



#13 Dana Johnson

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Posted 25 June 2015 - 05:49 PM

To Stephen, I'd warned the owner that the reeds seemed questionable. He understood the instrument had it's limitations which unfortunately didn't fit his style of playing. It is nicely in tune as long as you don't push it.

To Jim,
Normal implies what is normal for the general family of reeds in question, not just concertina reeds. All free reed instruments play by the same rules ( not including the variants that rely on tuned resonators to control their pitch like the Chinese Sheng. ) Be it concertina, chemnitzer, accordion or bayan, whether a reed is tapered or parallel sided, mounted on a shoe, plate or single plate holding all the reeds, the reeds themselves have their pitch determined by their length, overall stiffness, and mass distribution. The amount of power relative to other reeds mounted in the same conditions, is dependent on the air pressure required to reach the point where increasing pressure makes no difference to the reed. Changing any reed's profile alters these conditions, one hopes away from the design ideal of the maker. At some point you spoil the reed.

#14 Stephen Selby

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Posted 29 June 2015 - 05:30 AM

To Dana: Thanks, but I think this must be a different instrument. Bought off a dealer in Germany. It's far out of tune (even with itself in places) and 2 or 3  of the reeds/sympathetics don't play. I'll take it on a project myself if my accordion repairer friend won't take it on. It was not an expensive purchase and it's very pretty externally. 



#15 Stephen Chambers

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Posted 29 June 2015 - 02:36 PM

... I think this must be a different instrument. Bought off a dealer in Germany.

 

It could be a Carlsfelder, or a Bandoneon, or some other variety of LSGC (large square German concertina).



#16 Dana Johnson

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Posted 01 July 2015 - 06:57 AM

Sorry, forgot that there were more than one Stephen in this thread, was responding to Stephen C. Reeds that are dramatically out of tune ( by say more than 50 cents or half a semi tone ) probably have something wrong with them like a crack in the reed or loosening mounting. ( dried cracking wax, or chamber walls coming unglued etc, anything that keeps the reed plate /shoe from having a firm foundation ). Old instruments often have structural defects. While reeds do go out of tune with playing, rust, tar deposits and the like, it generally isn't that far, maybe 20 cents from original tuning, worst case unless badly corroded. Perhaps others have seen more from reeds in good condition. I haven't seen more than 15 cents, and that was on an instrument whose corner blocks were letting go. It is possible someone botched a tuning job, but in any case it sounds like an instrument worth getting in good shape.
Dana





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