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Aluminum Reed Frames Vs Brass Reed Frame


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#1 Paul Read

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Posted 30 May 2006 - 09:23 AM

Having had a couple of concertinas with aluminum reed frames in my hands recently, I found them to be somewhat harsher than the more traditional brass reed frames and they also seem to be more susceptible to humidity changes.

Anybody with thoughts on why the brass reed frames would give a better sound (obviously, this ignores all the other items that can affect sound differences between instruments)

#2 JimHarvey

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Posted 30 May 2006 - 09:58 AM

Having had a couple of concertinas with aluminum reed frames in my hands recently, I found them to be somewhat harsher than the more traditional brass reed frames and they also seem to be more susceptible to humidity changes.

Anybody with thoughts on why the brass reed frames would give a better sound (obviously, this ignores all the other items that can affect sound differences between instruments)



There have been previous threads on brass versus aluminum frames. Before concluding that aluminum frames give a harsher sound, would it not be a good idea to transfer the same reeds from aluminum to brass frames and see if there are differences in sound chararcteristics between the two types of frames with the same reeds? Anecdotal observations really don't prove anything.

#3 Paul Read

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Posted 30 May 2006 - 07:08 PM

There have been previous threads on brass versus aluminum frames. Before concluding that aluminum frames give a harsher sound, would it not be a good idea to transfer the same reeds from aluminum to brass frames and see if there are differences in sound chararcteristics between the two types of frames with the same reeds? Anecdotal observations really don't prove anything.


Hi Jim.

I didn't intend to conclude anything. Anecdotal observations make one interested in finding out what the general knowledge is on the subject. I agree, it's quite possible these instruments were not typical so I wanted to see what others thought and/or have experienced. The e-mail was actually inspired by a spirited discussion at the recent Marlboro ale regarding whether the heavier material (brass vs aluminum (aluminium)) would have any significant influence on the sound.

After reading your message, I did a search; you're quite right, there has been a lot of previous discussion.

Edited by Paul Read, 30 May 2006 - 08:01 PM.


#4 JimLucas

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Posted 30 May 2006 - 09:16 PM

Having had a couple of concertinas with aluminum reed frames in my hands recently, I found them to be somewhat harsher than the more traditional brass reed frames and they also seem to be more susceptible to humidity changes.

Harshness: The aluminum-framed concertinas I've had have not struck me as at all harsh. They have all had wooden ends.

Humidity: Unlikely that humidity affects duralumin ("aluminum") directly, but I think it's somewhat softer than the brass used in reed frames, so maybe more susceptible to compression by a humidity-swollen reed pan?

#5 Daniel Hersh

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Posted 30 May 2006 - 10:48 PM

Similar discussions can be found regarding accordions ("Unless they are custom handmade instruments, all modern PA's have aluminum or duralumin reed plates, as opposed to the brass ones used in older boxes which gave them that great old-time sound") and bandoneons ("There is still a great discussion concerning the material of the reed plates. The fact is that aluminum plates are lighter in weight and are seldom attacked by corrosion. My personal opinion is the higher the steady mass (the plates) the clearer the sound. But this is valid only for excelent reeds. An unprecise tuning will overcompensate the adventages of zinc plates and a difference is not audible.") That second statement, from Christian Mensing, does offer a theory as to why this might be true, if it is true. I don't have enough personal experience to have an opinion of my own.

Daniel

There have been previous threads on brass versus aluminum frames. Before concluding that aluminum frames give a harsher sound, would it not be a good idea to transfer the same reeds from aluminum to brass frames and see if there are differences in sound chararcteristics between the two types of frames with the same reeds? Anecdotal observations really don't prove anything.

Hi Jim.

I didn't intend to conclude anything. Anecdotal observations make one interested in finding out what the general knowledge is on the subject. I agree, it's quite possible these instruments were not typical so I wanted to see what others thought and/or have experienced. The e-mail was actually inspired by a spirited discussion at the recent Marlboro ale regarding whether the heavier material (brass vs aluminum (aluminium)) would have any significant influence on the sound.

After reading your message, I did a search; you're quite right, there has been a lot of previous discussion.



#6 Dirge

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Posted 31 May 2006 - 04:46 AM

I'm considering buying a 73 button duet Aeola with aluminium reedpans; the general view seems to be that it was made for a professional. Mr Wheatstone was prepared to use dural in an aeola, and one which was to be played prominently in public, and the performer was happy to buy such an animal. I think it sounds like expert evidence that there's not much in it!

#7 Paul Read

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Posted 31 May 2006 - 05:56 AM

Humidity: Unlikely that humidity affects duralumin ("aluminum") directly, but I think it's somewhat softer than the brass used in reed frames, so maybe more susceptible to compression by a humidity-swollen reed pan?


Thanks Jim, that's what I meant but you've put it better.

#8 Theo

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Posted 31 May 2006 - 06:41 AM

I'm considering buying a 73 button duet Aeola with aluminium reedpans; the general view seems to be that it was made for a professional. Mr Wheatstone was prepared to use dural in an aeola, and one which was to be played prominently in public, and the performer was happy to buy such an animal. I think it sounds like expert evidence that there's not much in it!

In that case you should ask the seller to let you look at the reedpans. Aluminium reed shoes can be subject to very severe corrosion. This will be immediately obvious if you see the pans. I have seen pictures of an otherwise good Edeophone with aluminium reed shoes where the expansion of the metal into white powder was so bad that the reed shoes had been forced upwards and burst out of their dovetailed slots. If the aluminium looks silvery, or even has an occasional patch of white powdery corrosion then there should be no cause for concern.

#9 PeterT

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Posted 31 May 2006 - 06:59 AM

In that case you should ask the seller to let you look at the reedpans. Aluminium reed shoes can be subject to very severe corrosion. This will be immediately obvious if you see the pans. I have seen pictures of an otherwise good Edeophone with aluminium reed shoes where the expansion of the metal into white powder was so bad that the reed shoes had been forced upwards and burst out of their dovetailed slots. If the aluminium looks silvery, or even has an occasional patch of white powdery corrosion then there should be no cause for concern.

Very interesting point, Theo, which caused me to carry out a Google search. This link may be of interest, and seems typical on the subject of corrosion:

http://www.snelsons...._corrosion.html

Regards,
Peter.

#10 Dirge

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Posted 31 May 2006 - 10:13 AM

Thanks Theo, I don't think I'll ever buy a concertina without looking inside again (unless it's very cheap of course!). Not that I was caught out, I just know better these days!

#11 d.elliott

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Posted 02 June 2006 - 09:45 AM

In support of Leo,

I have had ali-framed reeds to look at, where the corrosion was so bad that the nose of some reed frames had literally seemed to have disolved and that the dovetailed part of the reed frame sides had turned into pumice like radii. The stiction of the corrosion was all that held the lot together.

I have to say that I have also worked on many very good ali-framed units where the only problems were:

1. side pressure causing the reed tongue to catch

2. the ease of damage of the frame when slipping a support shim into place when tuning

Dave

Edited by d.elliott, 02 June 2006 - 09:47 AM.


#12 Paul Read

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Posted 02 June 2006 - 09:41 PM

In support of Leo,

I have had ali-framed reeds to look at, where the corrosion was so bad that the nose of some reed frames had literally seemed to have disolved and that the dovetailed part of the reed frame sides had turned into pumice like radii. The stiction of the corrosion was all that held the lot together.

I have to say that I have also worked on many very good ali-framed units where the only problems were:

1. side pressure causing the reed tongue to catch

2. the ease of damage of the frame when slipping a support shim into place when tuning

Dave


Dave,

Did you get any feel for whether the type of frame influences the sound?

#13 Frank Edgley

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Posted 03 June 2006 - 09:34 AM

Matt Heumann has a Dipper baritone which some of you may have played or heard played at various Squeeze-ins. It has aluminum frames and sounds wonderful. I have no way of knowing, but I suspect that, in an attempt to save money, or because aluminum may be easier on tools etc. some earlier makers may have tried aluminum frames on some of their cheaper instruments. These reeds may have been inferior due to being less carefully made rather than the aluminum itself.

#14 d.elliott

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Posted 03 June 2006 - 09:46 AM

In support of Leo,

I have had ali-framed reeds to look at, where the corrosion was so bad that the nose of some reed frames had literally seemed to have disolved and that the dovetailed part of the reed frame sides had turned into pumice like radii. The stiction of the corrosion was all that held the lot together.

I have to say that I have also worked on many very good ali-framed units where the only problems were:

1. side pressure causing the reed tongue to catch

2. the ease of damage of the frame when slipping a support shim into place when tuning

Dave


Dave,

Did you get any feel for whether the type of frame influences the sound?


Not on this instrument, it was dead! However the other instruments I have worked on that were ali-reeded have always sounded fine, and they are so light to hold and play. This weight difference is a particular advantage on larger english system instruments, where the amount of brass is weighty, and its all held on the thumbs!

Dave

#15 Chris Ghent

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Posted 03 June 2006 - 11:36 AM

Somewhere sometime someone with influence must have sounded off about aluminium reeded instruments not sounding as good and someone else at the same time and place thought they meant the aluminium reeds were the specific factor that made them sound less than good.

I don't believe this.

If it was a factor of weight, then larger and therefore heavier reeds would sound different to smaller brass shoes. If it was a matter of the substance of the material, then you have to believe a piece of metal rigidly trapped in a piece of wood can somehow resonate more or less sympathetically depending on its makeup. Think about it. Relatively, aluminium and brass are together somewhere way up the hardness scale from Sycamore. And on top of that, what do you do if you want to cancel resonance in a piece of metal. You fix it to something soft like a piece of wood.

I can understand the emotional reaction against aluminium, I have it myself. Brass gives a feel of Victorian quality; aluminium, well, is sort of cheap. But they need to be judged for the other qualities they bring rather than their tonal qualities. And when I think about it I can't think of a single technical reason to use brass over aluminium. Al is easier to work, about half the weight, easier to get, cheaper. But I also would guess the major reasons why almost all new concertinas have brass shoes are habit, and consumer resistance based on misinformation and emotion.

Empirical testing of aspects of concertina construction is not easy as there are many factors, making tests complicated and expensive. You could test two identical reed tongues, in two different shoes made of brass and Al, with identical clearances, identical set, tested in the same concertina alternately, in a locked off physical environment, including identical force used by the same hands with the person in the same position and wearing the same clothes etc, and then listen to recordings, playing each closely in turn and looking at the sound analytically. But I suspect anyone with the technical wherewithall to set up such a test would not do so because after thinking about it you would realise it was not necessary.

Sorry, dropped into rave mode [rave mode/]

Chris

#16 Henrik Müller

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Posted 03 June 2006 - 06:25 PM

Hear, hear!
/Henrik [in non-rave mode :D ]

#17 C age ing

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Posted 04 June 2006 - 12:20 PM

Aluminium reed shoes can be subject to very severe corrosion. This will be immediately obvious if you see the pans. I have seen pictures of an otherwise good Edeophone with aluminium reed shoes where the expansion of the metal into white powder was so bad that the reed shoes had been forced upwards and burst out of their dovetailed slots. If the aluminium looks silvery, or even has an occasional patch of white powdery corrosion then there should be no cause for concern.

Has anyone thought about Anodising dur/aluminium reed shoes to delay or even prevent unintended oxidisation?
Bill.

#18 JimLucas

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Posted 05 June 2006 - 03:31 PM

What unspoken assumptions are you making today?

Having had a couple of concertinas with aluminum reed frames in my hands recently, I found them to be somewhat harsher than the more traditional brass reed frames....
Anybody with thoughts on why the brass reed frames would give a better sound...

Mr Wheatstone was prepared to use dural in an aeola, and one which was to be played prominently in public, and the performer was happy to buy such an animal. I think it sounds like expert evidence that there's not much in it!

If it's "evidence" of anything, I suspect that it's evidence that different people have different tastes and different perceptions. E.g., one person's "harsh" could well be another person's "bright" and considered by them to be "better", and this "harsh" sound could have been deliberately built into certain instruments. Whether or not duralumin somehow aided in the process -- and if so, how -- would be a separate issue (and I believe is the true gist of Paul R.'s question). But aside from personal taste, it's also true that people differ in their sensitivity to various frequencies. So it's conceivable (I'm not claiming that it's either true or false) that the difference in metals does have a substantial effect, but in a frequency range to which not everyone is equally sensitive.

Well, that Ĉola is also evidence that duralumin frames don't necessarily produce an "inferior" sound, at least not in the opinion of some professional musicians... and presumably their audiences.

Somewhere sometime someone with influence must have sounded off about aluminium reeded instruments not sounding as good and someone else at the same time and place thought they meant the aluminium reeds were the specific factor that made them sound less than good.

You assume that if someone at some time disagreed with your current opinion, it must have been due to a misunderstanding? Well, Boris Matusewitch once told me that he required that instruments built (by Crabb or Wheatstone) to carry the Matusewitch name be made with brass reed frames, not aluminum. He claimed that the brass reed frames gave a richer sound. Right or wrong, it was clearly his personal judgement, not his mistunderstanding of what someone else had said. And I'm fairly certain that he has not been the only person of "influence" who has held -- and expressed -- that opinion.

Anecdotal observations really don't prove anything.

Unfortunately, that's all we seem to have to go on, so far... even in the quotes (linked to elsewhere in this thread) from authorities Wendy Morrison ("...in many people's opinions") and Christian Mensing ("My personal opinion...").

Edited to make a small grammatical correction.

Edited by JimLucas, 05 June 2006 - 03:58 PM.





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