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The Single Reed Plate


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#1 Geoffrey Crabb

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Posted 09 April 2007 - 03:09 PM

Recent and ongoing discussion about one piece reed plates in other threads has prompted me to comment about my own venture into their use.
Some thirty years ago, with a view to producing a cheaper instrument using techniques that were less time consuming in the making, one thought was about the use of a single plate to which the reed tongues were attached instead of the usual separate reed assemblies.
Against advice from my father who, in his usual words, exclaimed “it’s all been tried before and if it was a success it would be in use”.
However, I was given time to carry out some practical experiments and thought I would share the results. I do not claim any originality for the design etc. but if any one does make a fortune from this information, please remember me.
I have dragged out a model that I constructed at the time and have included the following pictures.
[attachment=2550:attachment] The single reed plate
[attachment=2551:attachment] The reed plate in situ in the bellows frame
[attachment=2552:attachment] The action/chamber unit upper side
[attachment=2553:attachment] The action/chamber unit under side
[attachment=2554:attachment] The action/chamber unit in situ
[attachment=2555:attachment] The end box in place

It will be seen that this consists of the right end of a 40 key English Treble, something that I thought would be suitable as a trial and that would produce a result. The model also included some change in construction of the action pivots (which I have described although not strictly topic) and radical change from the usual traditional construction. It will also be seen that the usual fretwork has been replaced by a machined simple design.
Basically each end of an instrument made to this design would consist of four units, the bellows frame, the reed plate, an action/chamber unit and an end box.
The Bellows Frame is formed with a ledge on its inner sides to support the reed plate. This ledge is faced on its upper surface with chamois to provide an airtight seal.
The Reed Plate is shaped to closely fit into the bellows frame and rest on the formed ledge. With possible eventual machining techniques in mind, the reed slots are arranged radially. On this model, the slots were hand pierced and finish filed. It will also be seen that the tongues are fixed using standard screwed blocks (clamps).
The Action/Chamber Unit. This again is shaped to sit closely and partially within the bellows frame and in contact with the reed plate. The unit has a 6mm base board to the upper face of which is installed the action and to the under face, the divisions or chambers. The outer ends of the chambers are closed with a peripheral rail. All surfaces that contact the reed plate are chamois covered to provide a seal. Note. The action incorporates a pivot post (upright) that passes through a hole in a flattened portion of each round lever. This flattened area is orientated at 90 degrees to that normally seen with riveted actions. A pivot post is round in section, spread at it’s upper end to retain and provide a pivot for the lever and threaded at its lower end to allow it to be screwed into a pilot hole in the action unit baseboard. This unit does not require a separate desk (disk) due to the thickness of this baseboard. Normal springs are fitted which also keep the lever up against the spread portion of the upright. Because the upright is round, it is imperative that the levers are kept absolutely straight in all aspects to avoid any tilting. The use of the threaded upright allows the key height to be adjusted by screwing the upright further in or out of the baseboard avoiding any requirement to bend the levers. It may be noticed that no pills (beads) are used on the ends of the levers, the pads being glued to the flattened ends.
The End Box. Consisting of an end plate and six attached sides, it is drilled to support the upper ends of the keys (buttons) ensuring the alignment of the action levers. Blocks located around the inner side edges are made to ensure that the action/chamber unit and the reed plate are firmly held against the bellows frame ledge providing air tightness between the relevant parts. The end box is secured to the bellows frame by six round head wood screws. The model was fitted with a thumb strap only and the whole assembly fitted to a test rig comprising a bellows for test purposes.(See below)

The model did produce a working result and whilst the single reed plate does reduce the need for the repetitive work of producing separate reed frames and the fixing of these onto a reed pan, the biggest problem encountered was in the fine tuning both in the physical execution and in the time taken to achieve acceptable accuracy. The reed tongues fixed to the plate prevent the application of a file correctly due to obstruction by any adjacent tongue fixings resulting in the reed tongues having to be ‘scratch’ tuned, personally not preferred.
Whilst I can see that production of the raw reed plate could be easily done now using, what I am assured, modern controlled cutting techniques and the carcass construction fairly simple, I believe that tongue production, fitting and tuning are major obstacles to be overcome.
Conclusion. The tuning issues encountered and the pressure of fulfilling orders for conventional instruments at that time prevented me from pursuing this venture further, in other words it was easier to make a conventional instrument.

An issue that was raised elsewhere was how the reeds were sounded for tuning purposes. By fixing the bellows frame temporarily to the upper surface of a perforated board, attached to overhang the bench, and a bellows which can be operated by hand beneath , the reed plate, action unit and end box can be installed and held in place by one hand whilst a button is operated, the other hand operating the bellows to sound the appropriate reed.

One final word I would make to any considering this method of construction is the use of chamois as a sealing material. Upon opening the model after thirty years I found that the leather had reacted with the duralium reed plate causing some corrosion of the surface that may be evident in the pictures.

Geoff

#2 Stephen Chambers

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Posted 09 April 2007 - 10:31 PM

Against advice from my father who, in his usual words, exclaimed “it’s all been tried before and if it was a success it would be in use”

Geoff,

An interesting experiment but, though it doesn't (yet) appear in the written history of our instrument, I'm afraid your dad was right about it having been tried before (though he may not have known it! ;) ). In fact it was done almost a century and a half ago by an English firm that his grandfather (and your great-grandfather) John Crabb was a partner in! (Though perhaps after that partnership had ended.)

I bought a 26-key semi-miniature (5 1/4" ends) Nickolds Anglo, off eBay seller "magginisupplies", last December precisely because the photographs revealed that it was built in a similar manner to this. The date 20/10/[18]85 is pencilled inside it, but the early style of the rails suggests that it's older, possibly 1860s, and the nickel reeds are rivetted to a brass plate (and hence no problem with a reaction to the leather).

I'll have to take some photos of it myself, as computer problems seem to have prevented me from saving the seller's ones, and I'll show it to you when you come to Kilrush.

Sorry! :(

#3 m3838

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Posted 10 April 2007 - 12:06 PM

But why repeat multy-sided shape, that brings inconvinience to the maintenance and making of the reedplate?
Early free reeds were made with large plates, harmonica style, and the tuning didn't seem to be a problem. Large 6-sided plate doesn't seem to be reasonable. Just look how haphazardly the reeds are placed. I can understand the radial placement as a reflection of yesteryear's beliefs in best projection. And square instrument, with more space inside for rectangular reeds, with two or three large plates would be easier to produce, assemble and maintain.
Your father, Geoff, was not right. It indeed has been tried, with big success, and is made today. To the point, that Russian bayan makers look down on what they call "Akkordeon" system. To their mind there is a fundamental distinction between a true bayan and a foreign accordion. Of course, inertia of mind plays it's role, just the same as it plays among concertina makers.

#4 Geoffrey Crabb

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Posted 10 April 2007 - 02:43 PM

Hi Stephen,
no need to be sorry. When I became actively involved with the firm, a lot of what my father said I took with a pinch of salt. Over the years and with the ever increasing appearance of evidence that existed but not available or indeed sought in the past, I have come to realise that there was some substance in all that he said.
It is sometimes amusing, sometimes frustrating to read or hear about some of the ideas that are proferred and I would love to offer advice but lack of time and the perhaps fear of offending people prevents me from doing so.

I look forward to seeing you in Kilrush when we can have a good chat.

Geoff

#5 Samantha

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Posted 10 April 2007 - 03:11 PM

... that Russian bayan makers look down on what they call "Akkordeon" system. To their mind there is a fundamental distinction between a true bayan and a foreign accordion. Of course, inertia of mind plays it's role, just the same as it plays among concertina makers.


Which is exactly where my Bayan maker friend was coming from - single reed plates are innately superior and therefore why footle about with little reed feet (?foots?). He is a superlative reed maker within the practice that he knows.
Samantha

#6 inventor

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Posted 11 April 2007 - 06:58 AM

A square or rectangular plate would have been much easier to design than a hexagonal one; however my bitter experience of trying to sell square concertinas to the "concertina world" had taught me that they simply don't sell. I notice on this website somewhere the derision that one player (Chris Timpson I think) met when he went to an Irish Festival with a Herrison Square Anglo!
The design was based on the sizes of Accordion reedplates from a Paolo Soprani chromatic button accordion. The action was on two levels to get all the tone-chambers into the compact space. If I had gone a little larger (7.5 ") nodoubt I could have laid the action out flat. However this would have made the reedplate larger, which I wished to avoid.
Regards the timbre of the instrument, like the Russians I think that this is much better than individual Italian accordion plates, and indeed the very top notes had a power much superior to any accordion or concertina that I have come across. However overall I prefer the sound of a concertina made using traditional reeds.
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#7 wim wakker

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Posted 11 April 2007 - 03:37 PM

Just a few facts:

An instrument with a single plate will sound (almost) the same as with standard accordion reeds, because the way the reeds are activated is identical.

I don’t want to go into details, but it has to do with the place the reed is activated, length of the air channel (lack of), vent angle, air flow strength, which determines the reed resistance, and therefore the reed curve, which determines the inner reed swing cycle. The final result is a reed with a large amplitude at low air flow, producing lots of harmonics.. which people recognize as the ‘accordion sound’.
All the hybrid concertina makers use standard accordion reeds, except for Harry Geuns who uses reeds with a special ‘mensure’. A plate would not ‘improve’ the sound of a hybrid concertina, and would certainly not reduce the cost. On top of that, Geoff was right about the fact that reed plates are a pain to work on.

They are actually quite common in free reed instruments, besides bayans, you’ll find them in bandoneons and harmonicas.. Harry Geuns, considered by insiders the number one bandoneon maker in the world, still makes instruments with plates...

Regards,
Wim Wakker
Concertina Connection v.o.f.

#8 Frank Edgley

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Posted 11 April 2007 - 06:46 PM

"All the hybrid concertina makers use standard accordion reeds."

Not all. It depends what you call, "standard accordion reeds."

#9 ragtimer

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Posted 11 April 2007 - 09:36 PM

A square or rectangular plate would have been much easier to design than a hexagonal one; however my bitter experience of trying to sell square concertinas to the "concertina world" had taught me that they simply don't sell. I notice on this website somewhere the derision that one player (Chris Timpson I think) met when he went to an Irish Festival with a Herrison Square Anglo!

It does seem that appearance and shape have a lot to do with acceptance. Luckily such prejudices are confined to concertinas and nothing else ;)

The design was based on the sizes of Accordion reedplates from a Paolo Soprani chromatic button accordion. The action was on two levels to get all the tone-chambers into the compact space. If I had gone a little larger (7.5 ") nodoubt I could have laid the action out flat. However this would have made the reedplate larger, which I wished to avoid.

Interestingly, the Stagi Hayden Duet uses two-level action on the RH (25 buttons), and has reed cells right under the button field also. Some sets of levers are "reflex", going the opposite direction of the majority.
Perhaps multi-leevel, multi-direcitonal (if not radial) action will be the norm for compact Duet concertinas.

Regards the timbre of the instrument, like the Russians I think that this is much better than individual Italian accordion plates, and indeed the very top notes had a power much superior to any accordion or concertina that I have come across.
Inventor

I don't think I'm alone in saying that I'd welcome some decent singing power in the top treble notes. which are way too wimpy and hard to squeeze on my box. If multi-reed plates give superior treble tones, that alone would be a good reason to use them. Maybe just a reed plate for the top 5 notes?
--Mike K.

#10 wim wakker

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Posted 12 April 2007 - 03:42 AM

"All the hybrid concertina makers use standard accordion reeds."

Not all. It depends what you call, "standard accordion reeds."


With standard I mean the different qualities (e.g. export, typo a mano, a mano) made by the different European producers. They all have the same characteristics and design.
The only exception are Bayan reeds (which are not European), which compared to the European accordion reeds have a different spectrum. The lower notes sound wonderful, but the higher ones (especially the 8' outside the cassoto) sounds very thin and weak.

During the last 50 years or so, the accordion market favoured a certain type of sound/quality (high harmonics) which forced the producers to comply in order to stay in business. The result is that the harmonic spectrum of all the different makers and qualities are identical, with some closer to the ideal spectrum (a mano) than other qualities..
There are (accordion) reed designs - pre standardization- that have a different spectrum and swing cycle characteristics...

concertina reeds have an almost opposite spectrum. Which is probably the result of production and construction methods in the 19th century. In those days they did not have the knowledge and techniques to control the reed spectrum. In general, the better the accordion/bayan reed quality, the further it is removed from the concertina reed spectrum....

Wim

#11 Dana Johnson

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Posted 12 April 2007 - 08:57 AM

concertina reeds have an almost opposite spectrum. Which is probably the result of production and construction methods in the 19th century. In those days they did not have the knowledge and techniques to control the reed spectrum. In general, the better the accordion/bayan reed quality, the further it is removed from the concertina reed spectrum....

Wim

I won't quibble with the advance in knowledge in reed making, especially by companies that make so many of them. Good accordeon reeds are very well made indeed. I'll also leave it to others to discuss the variations in tone they can produce, not being involved in any way in accordeon making or playing anymore. I do suggest however, that well made concertina reeds did exactly what was required. They were responsive, covered a fairly wide dynamic range with plenty of volume capability and could, in the right box, produce a lovely sound that is still in demand today. I suspect that the best of the reed makers knew what they were doing and naturally gravitated towards the reed characteristics that did what they wanted them to do.

With regard to the overall thread, From my limited experience, I give a lot weight to the mounting, construction and materials of reed plates or shoes and their reed pans in the production of the over all tone. I observe substantial changes in tone with different mounting methods, and from my limited knowledge of acoustics, things like the mass of the reed plates, reed pan or other mounting construct, stiffness of same, thicknesses of pans, chamber walls, and action plates ( the things with the pads and levers on them ) make important differences in the way a given "reed" will sound. A whole reed pan full of brass shoed reeds with the extra mass will behave differently than one with lighter aluminum shoes, and the choice of wood might want to be different in each case ( as well as dimensions ) A single reed plate of zinc may produce different results than one of Aluminum or Brass. (I'd think brass would be out for the extra weight of a whole plate ) Perhaps the mounting and materials of the Bayan and Bandoneon plates help to give their characteristic sounds. Once I took a mediocre accordeon reed, cut off it's partner in the plate, and shaped the remainder into a shoe that fit a Wheatstone concertina reed pan. It no longer sounded at all accordeon like, and did sound hardly distinguishable from the Wheatstone reeds. It was not as easy to play, and started at a higher pressure, but the accordeon in it was gone.

What development there has been in accordeon reeds is in the context of the boxes they go in and their design. While getting an efficient, responsive reed with the right clearances, playing "feel" and pressure / volume curve is an important goal to persue, I think way too much emphasis has been put on the reeds in concertinas, and too little on the way the materials and construction affect the sound. For my own purposes, I've noticed to get the sound I want, I need a certain chamber depth, and pan thickness. I notice large differences in sound qualities when I use different wood species ( even closely related ones ). There are plenty of other factors like chamber shape (wedge vs paralell sided for instance) bellows weight / materials, wall thicknesses and such that bear looking at. Why do the hybrids all sound quite different from eachother? Their reeds aren't that different. Why do Wheatstones have a different characteristic sound than a Jeffries? Why don't Lachenals sound more like Wheatstones? and why is there so much variation in the quality of the sound of different instruments ( even made by the same manufacturer at the same general time)?

Violin Makers and other instrument makers have put a lot of time into the refinement of their construction, and careful choice of materials. Having the right strings is important, but the strings don't make the fiddle, and reeds alone don't make the concertina ( or likely accordeon either ) I also think those 19th and early 20th century machinists and artisans were capable of doing pretty amazing things with the tools and materials of the time. Far from being uneducated and working in the dark, they were a remarkable group that had the benefit of generations of experience much of which has been lost today. They knew what worked, if not always why.
Dana

#12 Johann

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Posted 16 April 2007 - 01:35 PM

Hi, Dana!

I like Your comment a lot!
In most things i totally agree with you.

On one thing i would not put so much weight on as you my do.
I could not prove the fact the more mass on the reed plate makes a lot of difference, as long as the reed is mounted well.
Bayan reeds sound manly different because the use harder steel for the tongues, and because the filing curve and mensure is different.
All other things influence the sound as well as you did explain correctly.
Problems with high reeds can be solved via mounting and chamber design usual the chamber is to big for cavity resonance being in a nearly optimal state.
The volume of high reeds can be increased if the frame thickness is reduced, this is in opposite to the behavior to low reeds low reed result in more volume with increasing frame thickness.
Usual the length of the tongue for very high reeds is far to long.
The volume of very high reeds can be doubled if the length of the chamber is enlarged dramatically and designed to the a second resonance spot (wave length resonance).

#13 David Levine

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Posted 25 May 2009 - 02:58 AM

This is a good thread. Would it be possible -- and financially viable -- for Italian reed-makers to mass produce reeds shaped as Dana spoke of - shaped like traditional reeds that would sound more like the traditional concertina reeds? I thought what Dana said was fascinating with possibilities: Once I took a mediocre accordeon reed, cut off it's partner in the plate, and shaped the remainder into a shoe that fit a Wheatstone concertina reed pan. It no longer sounded at all accordeon like, and did sound hardly distinguishable from the Wheatstone reeds. It was not as easy to play, and started at a higher pressure, but the accordeon in it was gone.

I have heard it said the weight of the concertina is a factor in the sound- the heavier the better. But it would seem that the critical factor is not the weight -- heavier bellows wouldn't enhance the sound, I shouldn't think -- but where the weight is positioned. And it might not be the weight per se, but the material. Would a reed frame made of brass necessarily sound better than a shoe made of aluminum? If so, is it because of the weight of the shoe, or because brass has certain qualities that an aluminum shoe lacks?

#14 david_boveri

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Posted 25 May 2009 - 01:36 PM

This is a good thread. Would it be possible -- and financially viable -- for Italian reed-makers to mass produce reeds shaped as Dana spoke of - shaped like traditional reeds that would sound more like the traditional concertina reeds? I thought what Dana said was fascinating with possibilities: Once I took a mediocre accordeon reed, cut off it's partner in the plate, and shaped the remainder into a shoe that fit a Wheatstone concertina reed pan. It no longer sounded at all accordeon like, and did sound hardly distinguishable from the Wheatstone reeds. It was not as easy to play, and started at a higher pressure, but the accordeon in it was gone.

I have heard it said the weight of the concertina is a factor in the sound- the heavier the better. But it would seem that the critical factor is not the weight -- heavier bellows wouldn't enhance the sound, I shouldn't think -- but where the weight is positioned. And it might not be the weight per se, but the material. Would a reed frame made of brass necessarily sound better than a shoe made of aluminum? If so, is it because of the weight of the shoe, or because brass has certain qualities that an aluminum shoe lacks?


i dont know. i have played light concertinas that play very well. and if there were some sort of correlation, it would surely be density, not weight. but i think the idea of a single, vague factor that heuristically correlates with better concertinas seems pretty inaccurate to me. you can have a heavy concertina because there are more buttons, thicker end plates, metal end plates*, etc etc etc.


*i am actually unsure whether metal or wooden endplates weigh more

#15 m3838

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Posted 25 May 2009 - 07:25 PM

I have heard it said the weight of the concertina is a factor in the sound- the heavier the better.

The heavier the wood, the more dense it is. The more polished it can be. The more whistle-like the sound is.
One thing about accordions is they used to be made with lighter, softer woods. Now they are made with heavy woods and plastics. The result is more dry, cuttinhg sound vs. "old time", wetter, more "painted", with more "character". But a professional can do much more with modern accordion, easier responding to variations of not only pressure, but the way a button/key is depressed.

#16 TomB-R

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Posted 26 May 2009 - 06:57 AM

The heavier the wood, the more dense it is.


That would be something to do with the mass and volume then? :D

#17 Frank Edgley

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Posted 26 May 2009 - 09:29 AM

concertina reeds have an almost opposite spectrum. Which is probably the result of production and construction methods in the 19th century. In those days they did not have the knowledge and techniques to control the reed spectrum. In general, the better the accordion/bayan reed quality, the further it is removed from the concertina reed spectrum....

Wim

I won't quibble with the advance in knowledge in reed making, especially by companies that make so many of them. Good accordeon reeds are very well made indeed. I'll also leave it to others to discuss the variations in tone they can produce, not being involved in any way in accordeon making or playing anymore. I do suggest however, that well made concertina reeds did exactly what was required. They were responsive, covered a fairly wide dynamic range with plenty of volume capability and could, in the right box, produce a lovely sound that is still in demand today. I suspect that the best of the reed makers knew what they were doing and naturally gravitated towards the reed characteristics that did what they wanted them to do.

With regard to the overall thread, From my limited experience, I give a lot weight to the mounting, construction and materials of reed plates or shoes and their reed pans in the production of the over all tone. I observe substantial changes in tone with different mounting methods, and from my limited knowledge of acoustics, things like the mass of the reed plates, reed pan or other mounting construct, stiffness of same, thicknesses of pans, chamber walls, and action plates ( the things with the pads and levers on them ) make important differences in the way a given "reed" will sound. A whole reed pan full of brass shoed reeds with the extra mass will behave differently than one with lighter aluminum shoes, and the choice of wood might want to be different in each case ( as well as dimensions ) A single reed plate of zinc may produce different results than one of Aluminum or Brass. (I'd think brass would be out for the extra weight of a whole plate ) Perhaps the mounting and materials of the Bayan and Bandoneon plates help to give their characteristic sounds. Once I took a mediocre accordeon reed, cut off it's partner in the plate, and shaped the remainder into a shoe that fit a Wheatstone concertina reed pan. It no longer sounded at all accordeon like, and did sound hardly distinguishable from the Wheatstone reeds. It was not as easy to play, and started at a higher pressure, but the accordeon in it was gone.

What development there has been in accordeon reeds is in the context of the boxes they go in and their design. While getting an efficient, responsive reed with the right clearances, playing "feel" and pressure / volume curve is an important goal to persue, I think way too much emphasis has been put on the reeds in concertinas, and too little on the way the materials and construction affect the sound. For my own purposes, I've noticed to get the sound I want, I need a certain chamber depth, and pan thickness. I notice large differences in sound qualities when I use different wood species ( even closely related ones ). There are plenty of other factors like chamber shape (wedge vs paralell sided for instance) bellows weight / materials, wall thicknesses and such that bear looking at. Why do the hybrids all sound quite different from eachother? Their reeds aren't that different. Why do Wheatstones have a different characteristic sound than a Jeffries? Why don't Lachenals sound more like Wheatstones? and why is there so much variation in the quality of the sound of different instruments ( even made by the same manufacturer at the same general time)?

Violin Makers and other instrument makers have put a lot of time into the refinement of their construction, and careful choice of materials. Having the right strings is important, but the strings don't make the fiddle, and reeds alone don't make the concertina ( or likely accordeon either ) I also think those 19th and early 20th century machinists and artisans were capable of doing pretty amazing things with the tools and materials of the time. Far from being uneducated and working in the dark, they were a remarkable group that had the benefit of generations of experience much of which has been lost today. They knew what worked, if not always why.
Dana


I really liked these comments--very well thought out. There is much that we don't know about the sound of concertinas, whether vintage, or vintage-style, or the so-called hybrids. There is as much difference in sound (tone) between vintage instruments of different makers, and even, to a lesser degree, two instruments by the same maker. There is also quite a difference among "hybrid" instruments made by different makers. Some of this is undoubtedly due to different reeds being used (different makers, standard reeds, typo a mano, and a mano, among other modifications). However, Dana is correct , I believe, in saying that there are other factors that are very important in the production of the sound of an instrument. The overall sound is the cumulation of all the factors and their effects. I believe that I have been able to get away from the accordion sound by the manipulation of reeds, chambers, vent holes etc. In fact, I am so satified with the tone that I use one of my own instruments (vintage 2008) whenever I play out at ceilis or concerts instead of my vintage-style instrument made by a popular maker. If you get a chance, Dana, try that experiment again, using a good hand-made (a mano) reed.

#18 m3838

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Posted 26 May 2009 - 02:29 PM

The heavier the wood, the more dense it is.


That would be something to do with the mass and volume then? :D


the denser the material, the less it absorbs and diffuses the sound.
Old Hohner, with rough insides made of pine, has that soft sound, compared to "cutting" knife-like sound of french or italian accordons.
That soft sound may not be very precise and may not suit classical players, but it's more forgiving to amateurs. That's what I've been told by accordion dealer, repairer and reed maker, who services amateurs and pros in Bay Area.
Considering that concertina makers still don't know what exactly influences the sound, and that accordion reeds are generally more responsive and provided so far for much higher level of professionalism among players, I have no basis for doubting that guy's empirical observation.




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