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"accordion" Reeds Vs. "concertina" Reeds


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#1 tomlaw90

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Posted 08 December 2004 - 10:00 PM

The subject of "concertina" reeds vs. "accordion" reeds comes up on a regular basis. It's there again on another thread just now, which prompted this post. As some may recall, I have an Edgley A/E that I love, and I just got a new Edgley C/G. I also recently got a 4 year old Dipper County Clare second-hand (which, in an informal comparison, was deemed by it's previous owner to be one of the better Dippers around, for whatever that's worth -- maybe he was just sellin' ;) ).

Now I'm an unabashed Edgley fan, so I'm probably biased. Therefore I decided to discount my own opinions and went to other people to ask their opinions. Primarily, other concertina players, other non-concertina playing musicians, and non-musicians in the audience. This is by no means an objective study (if I can even use that word), since the sample size is rather small and there is no control over variables, double-blind, yada yada. But I've noticed a striking dichotomy of opinion, one which I actually find rather unnerving.

Basically, the concertina players prefer the Dipper with it's "real concertina" reeds, and everyone else seems to prefer the Edgley.

I give an instrument over to a concertina player and the response I usually get is "It's pretty nice, but too bad he doesn't use real reeds in it... It'd be really great then."

The response I get from fellow (non-concertina-playing) sessioners, pointing to the Edgley, is usually along the lines of "that one's less harsh", or "I like that better", or "that fits in better". The Dipper is sometimes considered too loud; I find it hard to play quietly because I have a punchy way of playing. Other Dipper owners in the area (more than one) have also gotten grumbling for the piercing tone.

The response from non-musicians is almost universally in favor of the Edgley. They just think it sounds mellower and nicer. They can't really qualify it. And it's not that they don't like the Dipper, they just prefer the Edgley. For example, during an A/B test, one lady said, "play the other one [Dipper] again, ohh... that sounds nice, and now the [Edgley], oh I like that one better".

I find this a bit disturbing because it seems like the people who matter (concertina players) are seeking out instruments which may not be their audiences best choice. I suppose one has to please oneself, but still... I don't know what to make of it.

* Maybe the result is different for different Italian-reeded instruments, or different vintage instruments (e.g. Jeffries seem to be more mellow sounding than Dippers)...

Tom Lawrence

#2 Richard Morse

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Posted 08 December 2004 - 10:56 PM

The reason why players prefer the Dipper may be due primarily to the better response of the concertina reeds. There are Dippers which are "less harsh" and "fit in better" too.

#3 bill_mchale

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Posted 08 December 2004 - 11:34 PM

It might also have a little to do with for want of a better word fashion. Concertina enthusiasts, whether they are players or listeners relish the sound they have always associated with concertinas.. and more importantly people whose thoughts matter to them (their concertina mentor and concertina friends) perfer them so they will tend to prefer them too. Its kind of like the almost mythical reputation that Grey Paolo Sopranis have among Irish Box players... are they the best boxes around? even the best boxes for Irish music? No, but many of the players who matter love them so us lesser players desire them too.

So Tom, I think it is important for you to realize that your audience is always right and realize what a mistake you made buying the Dipper. If you want I will make the supreme sacrifice and take it off of you hands :).

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#4 Chris Timson

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Posted 09 December 2004 - 04:48 AM

The response from non-musicians is almost universally in favor of the Edgley. They just think it sounds mellower and nicer. They can't really qualify it. And it's not that they don't like the Dipper, they just prefer the Edgley.

Not wishing to go further into the Dipper v. Edgeley debate than I already have, it's worth pointing out here that Colin and Rosalie make every part of the concertina to the buyer's specification, and that includes the reeds. If the buyer wants penetrating, that's what they'll get. But if they want mellow, as I did when I ordered my C/G baritone lo! these many years ago, then they'll get that. As those who've heard it will testify, it sounds more like a harmonium than anything! Wonderfully smooth, I frequently play it at home just for the pleasure of hearing the sound.

I remember when I was ordering my G/D (5 years ago and counting...) I played one in their workshop that I felt was a bit raucous, and Colin's comment was, "Oh, don't worry, we can make something a bit more sophisticated than that!". So there you are. Blame the players, not the makers.

Chris

Edited to remove evidence of braindeath.

Edited by Chris Timson, 09 December 2004 - 04:50 AM.


#5 Henk van Aalten

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Posted 09 December 2004 - 05:18 AM

Edited to remove evidence of braindeath.

Hi Chris!

I hope there is no relation with the bottles from Arran :wacko: :wacko:

#6 shipcmo

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Posted 09 December 2004 - 06:26 AM

If I were a rich man.......
I'd have one of each!

Chris is absolutely right; Dippers can be, and are unique. I doubt that there is another like my C/F Shantyman. Colin made it for ME. So I guess it will have to go to Fiddler's Green with me. The Jeffries can be passed on.

As to sound(s); for me the music and my mood determine which sound seems "right". At times the old funky 20 button double reed Sholer is appropriate.

And there are times when I play my original 30b Bastari, just for the memories.

Season's Greetings

George

#7 Howard Mitchell-Borts

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Posted 09 December 2004 - 08:25 AM

Interesting isn't it. I was raised (figuratively speaking) in the 1970s revival period, before accordion reeded instruments. I picked up instruments of varying qualities in "antique" shops and also played some "better" instruments care of Neil Wayne and at Mr Crabb's shop in Islington and I listened to the likes of Alistair Anderson, Kenneth Loveless Tommy Williams and other players of the day. So I thought I had in my mind the range of sounds which mean "concertina " to me. From brass or steel reeds reeds, metal or wooden ends, treble or baritone or bass (or piccolo or contra-bass). Skip forward a decade or two and I bought a late Crabb anglo with metal ends and steel reeds in aluminium frames. Another different sound to add to the range. Skip forward again and looking for a G/D anglo, I tried some concertina reeded-instruments and some melodeon-reeded instruments. Again this expanded my "this is a concertina" range but more relevant to this discussion, I played some of the instruments to (or at) non-cogniscenti for their opinion and ,as Tom reports, invariably they liked the melodeon-reeded sound and I ended up with a wooden ended Norman.

Just to put an opposite twist on this, only last week I went to a session in Greenwich (London, UK). I'd not been before, I'm working in London for a few months and need something to alleviate Hotel boredom. Two other concertina player asked what I was playing, liked the "rich sound" and were both amazed that it was a melodeon-reeded instrument. Similarly I've played at a folk club run by Keith Kendrick (UK people may recognise this wizard of both english and anglo for song accompaniment). He, I suggest like many others, has the sound of the less-favoured makes of melodeon-reeded instruments in mind but had not come across the upper-end of this type and was well impressed.

Enough rambling, lunch time over.

Howard Mitchell

#8 bill_mchale

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Posted 09 December 2004 - 10:28 AM

And there are times when I play my original 30b Bastari, just for the memories.

George, I don't know where, but you need to get help and fast :)

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#9 Peter Brook

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Posted 09 December 2004 - 10:56 AM

I've held off entering this discussion as I think that "tone" can be quite subjective, and influenced, as others have said, by what you grew up listening to.

I have a Norman anglo with accordion reeds. To me it sounds like a concertina, and sounds nothing like my friends melodeon (for example). A number of (vintage) concertina owning people have commented that:

1) it sounds wonderful,
2) it sounds like a concertina,
3) that Andy seems to build concertinas that have a very close tone to vintage concertinas.

That being said when I go to Whitney or another large gathering of concertina players, I can hear the slight difference between my concertina and a vintage one.

To me a vintage concertina has a "rounder", "softer", "warmer" tone, and sounds more like a brass instument (I also play Cornet). However I think the casual listener would be hard pressed to tell the difference.

For what it is worth if I had the money I would ask Mr Norman (or Mr Dipper if I had even more money!) if he would consider making me a 40-key anglo, rather than spending 3000 - 4000 on a 38 to 40 key vintage anglo concertina.

all the best,

Peter

#10 Chris Timson

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Posted 09 December 2004 - 11:21 AM

For what it is worth if I had the money I would ask Mr Norman (or Mr Dipper if I had even more money!) if he would consider making me a 40-key anglo, rather than spending 3000 - 4000 on a 38 to 40 key vintage anglo concertina.

Why has the concertina reed lasted so long when the accordion reed is so much cheaper? This is one of the reasons, perhaps the main one. Accordion reeds are much larger than concertina reeds. Mr Norman would be very hard pushed to make a 40-button anglo using accordion reeds and keep it to a normal size. Making an English or a duet would be just out of the question - that's why the Morse Albion has a reduced buttton count.

Chris

#11 stuart estell

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Posted 09 December 2004 - 01:06 PM

Mr Norman would be very hard pushed to make a 40-button anglo using accordion reeds and keep it to a normal size.

Yes, indeed - my Norman G/D is a 36 key, and that's about as far as a standard sized accordion reeded instrument can be pushed, I think, with the reeds he's using. Even at that number of buttons there are several left-hand reeds mounted on an elevated block that grows out of the underside of the reed pan, which means that a few notes have a curious (but not unpleasant) slightly distant quality to them.

Like Peter, I find tone such a variable thing between concertinas that I don't find the slightly more nasal quality of my Norman instruments to be a problem. True, they don't sound anything like my Wheatstone duet, but then neither does my old banger 20-key Lachenal.

Edited to add an afterthought - I'm sure that you could manage an accordion-reeded 40-key if it was a piccolo (octave up!). That might be quite fun actually...
:D

Edited by stuart estell, 09 December 2004 - 01:08 PM.


#12 bill_mchale

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Posted 09 December 2004 - 01:19 PM

Why has the concertina reed lasted so long when the accordion reed is so much cheaper? This is one of the reasons, perhaps the main one. Accordion reeds are much larger than concertina reeds. Mr Norman would be very hard pushed to make a 40-button anglo using accordion reeds and keep it to a normal size. Making an English or a duet would be just out of the question - that's why the Morse Albion has a reduced buttton count.

Chris, define normal size? :). Having never looked into a Norman I really have no idea regarding the layout of reeds in the instrument; I suspect its parallel but other than that I don't know.

I don't know the actual physical dimensions of any of the accordion reeded concertinas, but the Marcus I am currently playing seems a fair bit smaller than the Stagi I use to play... seems adding a half and inch or so to the instruments diameter should add enough space to add several more reeds on each side. Of course the big problem with a change like that is that the maker needs all new jigs, all new bellows, etc. For them to do it, they need to be sure there is a market for the instrument. I wonder how many 39 button instruments Suttner gets orders for?

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#13 Richard Morse

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Posted 09 December 2004 - 04:37 PM

define normal size?

The "normal" (standard, typical) size for treble Englishes is 6 1/4" across the flats. Most anglos are that size too though Jeffries were often a bit smaller. We're talking vintage concertinas here. Our Morse concertinas are the "normal" size. Some of the other hybrid makers' concertinas are slightly larger and Stagis are 'way larger.

#14 Pete Dickey

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Posted 09 December 2004 - 07:49 PM

.....I ended up with a wooden ended Norman........

Keith Kendrick (UK people may recognise this wizard of both english and anglo for song accompaniment). He, I suggest like many others, has the sound of the less-favoured makes of melodeon-reeded instruments in mind but had not come across the upper-end of this type and was well impressed.

Hi Howard

Was this the concertina you were playing at the Sheffield Festival stragglers session on the Sunday night? If so it certainly had plenty of punch!

I had a couple of minutes tinker with Keith's D/A Dipper a few weeks ago at the "Jug and Glass" in Lea near Matlock. Lovely, very bright sounding instrument and very responsive. To hear him playing my DG Jeffries was shear delight very ably accompanied by Ralph Jordan on his Duet. Perhaps one day I'll be able to play that way but I suspect I'll be very old by then.

Pete

#15 Frank Edgley

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Posted 09 December 2004 - 11:53 PM

"The "normal" (standard, typical) size for treble Englishes is 6 1/4" across the flats. Most anglos are that size too though Jeffries were often a bit smaller."(Rich)

That seems about right. However, my anglos are 6 1/8th. Not much of a difference in size, though. They could be brought down to 6" easily enough, if there was a reason. Harold Herrington says he could make one at 5 7/8". 6 1/8" is a good size, so that's what I will stick with.

#16 Howard Mitchell-Borts

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Posted 10 December 2004 - 06:14 AM

.....I ended up with a wooden ended Norman........

Hi Howard

Was this the concertina you were playing at the Sheffield Festival stragglers session on the Sunday night? If so it certainly had plenty of punch!

Pete

Pete,

Yes, that was the one. It was a bit of a cheat my being at the festival stragglers session. I hadn't been to the festival at all, just returning my daughter to university on the sunday and took the opportunity to call in at the session.

Howard

#17 bill_mchale

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Posted 10 December 2004 - 09:44 AM

"The "normal" (standard, typical) size for treble Englishes is 6 1/4" across the flats. Most anglos are that size too though Jeffries were often a bit smaller."(Rich)

That seems about right. However, my anglos are 6 1/8th. Not much of a difference in size, though. They could be brought down to 6" easily enough, if there was a reason. Harold Herrington says he could make one at 5 7/8". 6 1/8" is a good size, so that's what I will stick with.

You know Frank every time I see you here I think about how much faster you could get to my concertina if you didn't post here :). Actually I am glad that you, Bob Tedrow and Richard Morse take the time to post here, I have learned a ton from you guys not just about concertina construction but about music and free reed instruments in general. Now if we could get some of the makers who actually make their own reeds to post here as well.

That being said, I wonder if there is a certain pride makers take in keeping their concertinas fairly small? Granted the instrument would loose much of its charm if it was too big, but surely it would not be a disaster if the instrument were say to reach 7" across.

In any case, there is a guy who lives near me who is making me a concertina with concertina reeds and I should get it within a few months of getting my Edgley (I know, I know, that will be 3.. 4 if you count the Stagi, but hey can a guy ever have too many concertinas? :)). When I get all of them I will definitely take some time and do a detailed comparison of all the instruments.

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#18 stuart estell

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Posted 10 December 2004 - 10:37 AM

I know, I know, that will be 3.. 4 if you count the Stagi, but hey can a guy ever have too many concertinas? :)

I think you already know the answer to that question Bill...




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