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Why Use Accordian Reeds?


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#1 Marcus

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Posted 08 November 2006 - 07:12 PM

Hey Folks,

This may be a stupid question, but why are all the mid-range instruments made with accordian reeds? Is it just that there aren't many good concertina reed manufacturers out there or are they just much more expensive? It seems that the workmanship on mid range instruments is quite often as good as top line ones. Is it the reeds that make the top line ones so expensive and not just the time it takes to manufacture them?

#2 earl

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Posted 08 November 2006 - 08:30 PM

Hey Folks,

This may be a stupid question, but why are all the mid-range instruments made with accordian reeds? Is it just that there aren't many good concertina reed manufacturers out there or are they just much more expensive? It seems that the workmanship on mid range instruments is quite often as good as top line ones. Is it the reeds that make the top line ones so expensive and not just the time it takes to manufacture them?



I understand there are NO concertina reed manufacturers. All the builders have to make their own reeds and reed holders. I read it takes as much time to make the reeds as the rest of the concertina.

There is more to a concertina than the reeds, I'll tell you that. I have an accordion reeded concertina and it plays MUCH better than my Lachenal.

Earl

#3 Chris Allert

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Posted 08 November 2006 - 11:10 PM

Hey Folks,

This may be a stupid question, but why are all the mid-range instruments made with accordian reeds? Is it just that there aren't many good concertina reed manufacturers out there or are they just much more expensive? It seems that the workmanship on mid range instruments is quite often as good as top line ones. Is it the reeds that make the top line ones so expensive and not just the time it takes to manufacture them?



I understand there are NO concertina reed manufacturers. All the builders have to make their own reeds and reed holders. I read it takes as much time to make the reeds as the rest of the concertina.

There is more to a concertina than the reeds, I'll tell you that. I have an accordion reeded concertina and it plays MUCH better than my Lachenal.

Earl


i remeber reading here earlier that juergen suttner has outsourced his reed production. actually i think it's just the brass reed shoes he outsources, and he still makes the tongues himself. does anyone know the story on this?

#4 Rick

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Posted 09 November 2006 - 02:28 PM

Forgive my ignorance but what is the difference between an accordian reed and concertina reed?
I'm reluctant to open up my Stagi for fear that I might not be able to get it back together again.
Something is already rattling around in there.
My Stagi supposedly has accordian reeds, so that begs the question are their accordians in existence with concertina reeds? maybe they are known as acortinas or concercordians!

#5 John Sylte

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Posted 09 November 2006 - 02:33 PM

I've wondered about this a lot myself recently. As a matter of economics, it *seems* like there is a very spacious niche out there for someone who could make concertina reeds the way they used to be made. However, I'm sure if it were that easy, someone would already be doing it! But why isn't there? Is there? There must be something very special about the metal used? The technique? Is it a job for an alchemist? I just don't understand why the same quality reeds aren't being created today. It seems that our metalurgical and manufacturing technologies could only have improved since the 19th century... Is it perhaps that the quality of Italian steel reeds is comparable to 19th century English steel reeds and no one is willing to admit it? I'd really like to learn more about this!

#6 Greg Jowaisas

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Posted 09 November 2006 - 03:28 PM

There are concertina makers making concertina reeds that are comparable to the great makers of one hundred years ago. I've had the pleasure of listening to and playing some Suttners, Dippers and Carrolls that I would rate with sound of the the best of the vintage boxes.

Aside from the reputed legendary hard Jeffries steel I don't think there is any alchemy to it. I've watched Wally Carroll put in long and skillful hours to get things just right. Lots of thinking, set up and just plain hard work!

The Suttner site offers sets of anglo and english shoes and reeds here: http://www.suttnerco....com/parts.html

Rich Morse of The Button Box was working with an aerospace manufacturer on the possibilities of producing more affordable concertina reeds. Perhaps Rich will update us.

There were also indications that Wim Wakker at The Conncertina Connection was thinking of manufacturing concertina reeds. Has anyone heard more?

BTW The Concertina Connection has a great explanation of what makes concertina reeds special here:
http://www.concertin...rtina reeds.htm

Dana Johnson makes the Kensington Concertina and he has extensively researched and experimented and innovated to make his concertina reeds. Check his web site: http://www.kensingtonconcertinas.com/

If you love the sound of the traditional concertina reed this may be a great time to be playing. We are lucky to have some great craftsman turning out some marvelous instruments.

Greg

#7 Paul Read

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Posted 09 November 2006 - 03:41 PM

There were also indications that Wim Wakker at The Conncertina Connection was thinking of manufacturing concertina reeds. Has anyone heard more?


Greg


I was under the impression that Wim already makes his own concertina reeds for the new Wakker anglos.

#8 Laitch

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Posted 09 November 2006 - 05:29 PM

Here's a thread in which Richard Morse compares the properties of concertina and accordion reeds and their costs when manufacturing concertinas.
http://www.concertin...p...ic=3675&hl=

#9 Greg Jowaisas

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Posted 09 November 2006 - 06:56 PM



There were also indications that Wim Wakker at The Conncertina Connection was thinking of manufacturing concertina reeds. Has anyone heard more?


Greg


I was under the impression that Wim already makes his own concertina reeds for the new Wakker anglos.



Paul,

Perhaps I was putting my own spin to a post where Wim let us know he was getting newer, faster equipment to make reeds.

Here is the link to his post: http://www.concertin...p...65&hl=reeds

Hope springs eternal. Perhaps Wim will sell some of his increased reed output?

Greg

#10 Richard Morse

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Posted 09 November 2006 - 09:00 PM

are their accordians in existence with concertina reeds?

Yes, quite a few. They are called "flutinas". We've got a couple kicking around our shop which I can open up and take a few photos to post here showing the reeds.

-- Rich --

#11 Richard Morse

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Posted 09 November 2006 - 09:46 PM

As a matter of economics, it *seems* like there is a very spacious niche out there for someone who could make concertina reeds the way they used to be made. However, I'm sure if it were that easy, someone would already be doing it! But why isn't there? Is there?

Neither concertina nor accordion reeds are easy to make, with concertina reeds being (arguably) significantly more difficult (mainly the reed frame). Unfortunately there isn't much economic benefit to mass producing concertina reeds as there just isn't the demand out there for any reasonable payback.

In round numbers, consider that just the equipment (all set up) to *make* concertina reeds (alone - not including the design of the reeds, shop space, employee training, etc.) costs about $100,000. And with that one could make many tens of thousands of reeds/years. But how many concertina makers could that entrepreneur sell reeds to? Probably only to the hybrid makers that would like to make vintage style concertinas. The current few vintage type concertina makers would most likely still make their own as they've always had. Why? Because they've developed just the type of reeds they want (plus their reeds are probably less expensive than buying reeds as their machinery has been full amortized). Even if all the vintage makers DID decide to buy reeds, we're only talking about 3 or 4 dozen concertinas/year.

So s/he sells reeds to the hybrid and any other new makers. Being that they'll be creating new concertina models for the new reeds, they can adjust their designs to suit. Sounds good on the surface, but in reality there are many, many ways to fashion concertina reeds which give decidedly different response characteristics. The reed maker would have to design and make many different styles of concertina reeds to satisfy his customers. But to keep things simple s/he might settle on just two styles - a stiffer short scale for the Irish and anglo market and a long scale set for English and duets. Not as ideal as concertina makers would like - but hey, they'd be a lot better than accordion reeds!

Right now there are something like 7 hybrid makers and an equal number of hobbyist/enthusiasts whom all together produce something like 300/year. Even if all of them were to entirely switch over to using concertina reeds, that'd be only about 10,000 reeds/year - a really paltry amount when considering the payback scenario for the reed maker. Consider the hundreds of thousands (millions?) of reeds an accordion reedmaker produces per year to scores of accordion makers. And there are several accordion reed makers....

But who is to say that this reed making venture has to be economically profitable? I'm pleased that Wim has made the move though I doubt he'll be using his new equipment to produce reeds for other concertina makers. At some point the Button Box will get there too.

-- Rich --

#12 Richard Morse

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Posted 09 November 2006 - 09:53 PM

Rich Morse of The Button Box was working with an aerospace manufacturer on the possibilities of producing more affordable concertina reeds. Perhaps Rich will update us.

That company has produced some great reeds for us though the process of refining them takes so long and is so expensive (we're REAL small potatoes to him) that we feel we'd be better off doing things entirely by ourselves. So hence our shift of efforts toward acquiring the capital to have the machines we need made for us.

#13 m3838

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Posted 10 November 2006 - 01:10 AM

In his article Wim Wakker states that concertina reed (reed assembly I guess) produces less harmonics thatn accordion's.
I think the difference in design, reedpan vs. thick reedplate etc. are of less importance than the sound. So concertina is supposed to have rounder, cleaner, more whistle-like sound. And accordion is supposed to have
cutting, bright, vibrating, rough, unpolished... whathave you sound.
That's to me is the main difference between these classes of instruments. Where the buttons are located or home many reeds per plate etc. are minor elements.
But how concertina reed construction contributes to it having rounder sound? Why less harmonics?
Somewhere I read that producing less harmonics was not intended, but was a result of poor metallurgy/technology and lack of free reed research in early 19 century. That nowadays reeds (accordion reeds) are much superior to early ones.
Does it mean that sticking to reproducing early concertina sound is not escential? Besides, we have no way of knowing about that early sound, as vintage instruments aged, and reeds aged as well and their sound mellowed.
Taking the other turn: It seems to me that tuning rounder sounding concertina takes much more precision and experience than more forgiving accordion reed with lots of harmonics. And the last: Concertinas are less suited for equal temper tuning, than accordions. Is that true? Perhabs this is one of the reason why some intervals on concertina sound wrong, and why those "pipe-like" honks often sound like they are out of tune?

#14 ragtimer

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Posted 12 November 2006 - 10:22 PM

In his article Wim Wakker states that concertina reed (reed assembly I guess) produces less harmonics than accordion's.
I think the difference in design, reedpan vs. thick reedplate etc. are of less importance than the sound. So concertina is supposed to have rounder, cleaner, more whistle-like sound. And accordion is supposed to have
cutting, bright, vibrating, rough, unpolished... whathave you sound.

Going on my own ear and intuition, I'd say the difference is not so much the number of harmonics, but rather that concertina reed pans have resonances or "formants" that emphasize certain harmonics (relatively low-numbered, like 3rd thru 8th) and thus give character to the sound, just as each person's voice is different.

Accordions tend to give you the sound of the reed as it is, a good but less individual sound.
Ironic, since the perpendicular reed cells of accordions could be used to advantage to color the sound.

That's to me is the main difference between these classes of instruments. Where the buttons are located or home many reeds per plate etc. are minor elements.

Certainly true as far as the listener is concerned, tho not the player B)

Taking the other turn: It seems to me that tuning rounder sounding concertina takes much more precision and experience than more forgiving accordion reed with lots of harmonics. And the last: Concertinas are less suited for equal temper tuning, than accordions. Is that true? Perhabs this is one of the reason why some intervals on concertina sound wrong, and why those "pipe-like" honks often sound like they are out of tune?

This sounds backwards to me. Equal tempered tuning, where the major 3rds are way sharp, is much more tolerable on an instrument with a rounder, duller tone (like a piano) than with a brighter, more harmonic-rich tone (as a harpsichord or Baroque pipe organ).

However, a 20-button Anglo is usually played only in a few related keys, so is well suited for a Meantone temperament. This will make it sound much better and mellower. A piano or chromatic button accordion is expected to play in a wide range of keys, so must be tuned equal tempered, as much as we hate it.

FWIW, I play a Hayden Duet and the equal-tempered 3rds do get on my nerves at times.
--Mike K.

#15 Dana Johnson

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Posted 17 November 2006 - 06:28 AM

One thing nobody has mentioned so far is that making good reeds is a tedious repetitive job requiring long hours of continuous concentration and careful attention. As part of the whole process where you get to see hear and play the result, it is a great reward for the hours of hard work, but I have a hard time imagining much reward to making them day in and day out and then just sending them off to someone else. My reed grinder is idle for most of the time, and it wouldn't take me that much more to set myself up in the biz, but then I'd just be a factory worker for the people out there who got the reward of the completed instruments. They would have the mark up on the reeds without the work, I'd have no control about the quality of the instrument they went into. Not my idea of a good time.

As part of the whole process, I really enjoy reed making. When a concertina is finished, I have a sense of accomplishment knowing that the effort involved was not trivial, and that I have provided my reeds with the best home for them I can make.

#16 m3838

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Posted 17 November 2006 - 11:34 AM

In his article Wim Wakker states that concertina reed (reed assembly I guess) produces less harmonics than accordion's.
I think the difference in design, reedpan vs. thick reedplate etc. are of less importance than the sound. So concertina is supposed to have rounder, cleaner, more whistle-like sound. And accordion is supposed to have
cutting, bright, vibrating, rough, unpolished... whathave you sound.

Going on my own ear and intuition, I'd say the difference is not so much the number of harmonics, but rather that concertina reed pans have resonances or "formants" that emphasize certain harmonics (relatively low-numbered, like 3rd thru 8th) and thus give character to the sound, just as each person's voice is different.

Accordions tend to give you the sound of the reed as it is, a good but less individual sound.
Ironic, since the perpendicular reed cells of accordions could be used to advantage to color the sound.

That's to me is the main difference between these classes of instruments. Where the buttons are located or home many reeds per plate etc. are minor elements.

Certainly true as far as the listener is concerned, tho not the player B)

Taking the other turn: It seems to me that tuning rounder sounding concertina takes much more precision and experience than more forgiving accordion reed with lots of harmonics. And the last: Concertinas are less suited for equal temper tuning, than accordions. Is that true? Perhabs this is one of the reason why some intervals on concertina sound wrong, and why those "pipe-like" honks often sound like they are out of tune?

This sounds backwards to me. Equal tempered tuning, where the major 3rds are way sharp, is much more tolerable on an instrument with a rounder, duller tone (like a piano) than with a brighter, more harmonic-rich tone (as a harpsichord or Baroque pipe organ).

However, a 20-button Anglo is usually played only in a few related keys, so is well suited for a Meantone temperament. This will make it sound much better and mellower. A piano or chromatic button accordion is expected to play in a wide range of keys, so must be tuned equal tempered, as much as we hate it.

FWIW, I play a Hayden Duet and the equal-tempered 3rds do get on my nerves at times.
--Mike K.


Hmm.
I don't know about accordion reeds sounding as is. I have altered some with buffles, and top notch PAs with
hard wood polished reedbanks sound rounder than cheaper Hohners with rougher surfaces inside.
To my ears accordion reeds do make better harmonies. Those cheap german 20 button make more pleasant chords, they don't sound like a bunch of sea lions, and the latter is my impression of most true concertinas' chords. Esp. in lower register. Perhabs it has less to do with overtones, but more with poorer tuning or playing technique. Or to equal temp? I am currently working on Wim Wakker's tutor, and the Menuet has to be arranged differenty, the intervals are just not tasty on the Jack's lower notes. Single notes sound better.
On the other hand, pretty much any two consecutive buttons on my Hohner Pokerwork give out very agreeable interval, and it's not mean tuned.

#17 Chris Allert

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Posted 18 November 2006 - 11:21 AM

. . . Those cheap german 20 button make more pleasant chords, they don't sound like a bunch of sea lions, and the latter is my impression of most true concertinas' chords. Esp. in lower register. Perhabs it has less to do with overtones, but more with poorer tuning or playing technique. Or to equal temp? I am currently working on Wim Wakker's tutor, and the Menuet has to be arranged differenty, the intervals are just not tasty on the Jack's lower notes. Single notes sound better.
On the other hand, pretty much any two consecutive buttons on my Hohner Pokerwork give out very agreeable interval, and it's not mean tuned.


i'm guessing this has more to do with temperament. i attended one of noel hill's workshops where he was trying to teach us some piping chords to play along with a tune. they sounded brilliant on his old wheatstone, but when i tried them on my suttner i got the "angry sea lions" sound you mention, and he suggested just using fourths and fifths. the sound of these two instruments was very similar other than the temperament. unfortunately at the time i didn't know to ask him how his concertina was tuned.

i think a lot of the old 20 button german concertinas are "just tuned" like german harmonicas, which would explain why triads and thirds would sound better on them. since an equal tempered fifth is only about two cents narrower than a just fifth, the difference is not so noticable, and fifths tend to sound pretty good on a concertina. but equal tempered thirds are way off.

but as you mention about the pokerwork, it may be that the reedier accordion sound is more forgiving to the ear of intervals that are off. we're kind of used to hearing tremelo-tuned accordions anyway, so maybe we're not expecting to hear pure intervals in the first place on them.

#18 Chris Timson

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Posted 19 November 2006 - 03:59 AM

but as you mention about the pokerwork, it may be that the reedier accordion sound is more forgiving to the ear of intervals that are off. we're kind of used to hearing tremelo-tuned accordions anyway, so maybe we're not expecting to hear pure intervals in the first place on them.

I am certain that you're right. When my partner Anne started learning the fiddle she went through a longish phase when she could play the approximate note she was aiming for but not the exact note. During this period I soon learned to accompany her on anglodeon rather than anglo because the accordion reeds were much more forgiving of the slight dissonances than the concertina reeds.

On the other hand once she had learned to play in tune then I found that the sound of concertina and fiddle together is really lovely.

Chris




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