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Jim Besser

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About Jim Besser

  • Rank
    Heavyweight Boxer

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  • Gender
    Male
  • Interests
    Contra and English ceilidh dance music, Morris music, traditional French dance music, playing for any and all dancers.
  • Location
    Washington DC metro area

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  1. In my experience: there's significantly more variability in vintage instruments, in terms of reliability. For top quality vintage boxes sold by reliable dealers/restorers, problems are more likely to be minor than catastrophic - loose shims, misalignments, etc., but you will almost certainly have to do more DIY tweaking that you would with a new modern hybrid. Still, a well restored Jeffries can be pretty much bullet proof. Lower end vintage instruments, and those maintained/ restored by amateurs, can be problematic. Top quality hybrids - Morse and Edgley are the ones I've owned - are pretty much trouble free, once you get past new-instrument glitches and warranty fixes. I have Morse GD and CG concertinas that I use for Morris playing, which means they get a fair amount of abuse (played at maximum volume and in bad weather, getting bounced around in pubs, etc). In 15 years or so, the CG was opened only once - a DIY repair to a pad that came loose - and the GD has had only one problem, a back-to-the-shop repair last year for a reed that went wonky. The Morse has the disadvantage of waxed-in reeds, which limits your (or at least my) ability to do some repairs, but in 15 years, that hasn't been a problem for me. My Dipper-restored Lachenal requires frequent minor adjustments/fixes, had a broken rivet and a collapsed bellows; my Jeffries has been terrifyingly reliable, but it gets checked over and fine tuned by Greg J ever few years. So: the odds is that you will spend more time and money on repairs/tweaks with a good vintage instrument than with a new or fully refurbished modern hybrid; with a lower end vintage box or one not well maintained/restored, the risk goes way up.
  2. An interesting and important point. I would say this: the best modern hybrid Anglos are as responsive / fast as excellent vintage instruments - for CGs. I've played boxes by Morse, Edgley, Tedrow, Wakker, and Wolverton, and these instruments are very responsive. My experience has been that GD hybrids, especially the lower notes, are generally less responsive than well set up vintage instruments.. I've owned two hybrid GDs over the years, and on both, there is a noticeable lag when sounding low notes. Interestingly, the BUtton Box seems to have solved this problem with their baritone Anglos; my Morse CG baritone is just about as responsive as my standard CG.
  3. Wolf is correct - recordings won't tell you much. Concertinas are funny beasts. I hear enormous differences in sound between my Jeffries GD and my Morse hybrid GD when I"m playing, or when someone else is playing my instruments.. But when recorded it's hard to tell the difference. Played thru a big PA system at a dance, it's almost impossible. If practical, a trip to the Button Box would be the best way to answer your question, although lately they have not had many vintage instruments in stock. In general, my feeling is this: a good hybrid (Morse, Edgley, Wolverton, etc.) will almost certainly give you outstanding reliability and playability; restored vintage instruments have much more variability, especially at the lower end of the price range. If those are critical factors for you, a modern hybrid is a great option. If you're playing at ITM sessions, an additional factor is that these instruments all have sufficient volume to hold your own; many lower-end vintage instruments do, as well, but again, there's a lot of variability. If the sound of traditional reeds is more important to you - and I get this; I prefer the sound myself - then a restored vintage instrument is probably your best choice, but you will have to be much more careful in selecting the right instrument. I've said this before: while I hear a huge difference been traditional and accordion reeds, many of the people I play with are deaf to the distinction. When my Jeffries was in the shop, I brought the Morse to band rehearsals and nobody noticed the difference. We enthusiasts obsess about these things, but they probably aren't nearly as important to the folks we play with or those who are listening.
  4. I know what you mean. I'm not fond of playing in Gm on my CG - limited chording options for harmonic playing - but to my ear, Gm tunes often sound particularly pleasing. I"m not sure why this might be - how different is Gm from Am? - but there you have it.
  5. How do I get on in F? Unhappily, mostly. I have 30 button CGs. Playing melody in F generally is fine; doing good chords and bass runs in F is a skill I have yet to master.
  6. The Dipper Shantyman low F/C is back at the Button Box - it's second or third go-round there, I believe. I've played a lot of fine concertinas over the years, but nothing to compare to this beauty. The tone is low, very organ-like, deeply resonant; the action is buttery smooth. If I had more use for an F/C - and an extra $8000 lying around - I would buy it in an instant.
  7. Be patient - Frank is busy with a number of hobbies and projects. But he's a good guy to do business with.
  8. I played a prototype, years ago, and liked it. Last month, Frank brought a more recent one to the Northeast Squeeze In, and I had a short go on it. I am not an Irish player, but I can say this: the one I played is an excellent instrument - fast, great action and very light. The sound was clearly that of a traditional reeded instrument (there were Edgley hybrids among attendees, and the difference was very clear). Frank played a set for the evening concert, and I thought the sound was great. I don't know if it's the right instrument for you, but from my vantage point, it is an excellent concertina well suited to fast Irish playing.
  9. Thanks, that's all useful information. And you're absolutely right about quality mics. Over they years I've tried all kinds of arrangements - the Microvox, 1 or 2 SM57s, etc. - but the best sound I ever had was with a single KSM 137 in the hands of a real pro. My hope with my new 137 is that I can improve sound, reduce feedback - and make setup as simple as possible. I want to play music, not fiddle endlessly with equipment and get tangled up in cables and beltpacks! And at my next gig, I'm going to use the hybrids. What I've realized is that while the sound of a Jeffries is bliss to me, dancers in a crowded, noisy hall, hearing the music thru a big PA, can't tell the difference.
  10. Interesting, and it makes sense. That leads me to another question: I frequently hear that systems like the Microvox are particularly susceptible to feedback. Why would stick-on mic be more problematic than mics on stands?
  11. Good theory, Alan! I'm also wondering about the character of the sound: the pure tone of concertina reeds vs. the overtone-laden tone of accordion reeds. As I noted, the difference in feedback was striking. Your experience with condenser mics is interesting. For me, I have two data points. In the big dance hall where we frequently play, the very good sound guy generally sets me up with a single AKG535 condenser mic on a stand, and the sound is pretty good, without a lot of trouble with feedback. He is able to do this with skillful EQ even though he is mostly using old and not top-rank equipment. In two gigs at Washington's Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, where the Microvox clip ons couldn't produce enough output for their system, a single Shure KSM137 produced the best sound I've had: a clear, strong sound without the harshness of the Microvoxs and without feedback.. Of course, a lot of the latter good experience is because they were using top professional gear throughout the system, on an acoustically excellent stage, and because they are sound professionals who have the experience and expertise to deal with hard-to-mic instruments. Which leads to another conclusion: here on c.net, we have discussed the best systems for amplifying a concertina for many years, with no strong consensus about the best approach, and part of the reason is that we are just not sound professionals, and we're generally using less than optimal PA systems. So we're always seeking the magic microphone that can offset our deficiencies. A skillful professional can get good sound out of a variety of mic systems. I'm going to give the Shure a try at an upcoming dance in a very noisy, acoustically hot hall; that should be a good test.
  12. I've used the 2 mics/stands setup many times, and it works, but sound guys tell me there's too much variation in volume as the bellows move in and out. A top sound guy I've worked with - he does both studio and live sound - insists that a single really good mic on a stand over the middle of the bellows is the best solution, although not perfect. My new setup is a single Shure KSM137; the sound tech at a very large venue last year used one when my Microvox failed, and the results were excellent. But my question remains: are accordion reeds inherently less susceptible to feedback than traditional reeds? My recent experience says yes, but I'd be interested in knowing if there's any science to back this up.
  13. Yep, I do that, too. The Tonebone EQ helps. I'm hoping my new setup will be an improvement - a single, high quality condenser mic that several sound techs have used when working with me. What's so frustrating about the Microvox setup is the variability; the same configuration works fine in some halls, terribly in others. I really want to simplify things while working to reduce the feedback problem. Another factor is that I hate getting tangled up with all the cables when using an attached system.
  14. I'm wondering if there is something about the tone produced by accordion reeds that makes them less susceptible to feedback than traditional reeds. Situation: playing at a ceilidh the other night, in a big, acoustically challenging hall with a fairly rudimentary sound system. I was using my usual setup - Microvox clip ons to a Radial Tonebone DI with EQ to the system, with big wedge monitor and several hotspots. It's a very loud band - brass, drums, electric guitar - and my problem is always getting enough volume from the concertina in the monitors , so I can hear myself, without producing feedback. In this instance, I assume the dynamics of the hall made the problem more acute. As an experiment, I switched from the Jeffries anglo - traditional reeds - to a similarly pitched Morse, with accordion reeds. The problem didn't disappear, but I was able to crank up monitor volume on the concertina a few notches without feedback. I was much more able to hear myself. Is there some characteristic of the sound of accordion reeds that might make them less susceptible to feedback than traditional reeds? Is it the more complex, overtoney sound? I'm beginning to think that hybrid concertinas play better with diverse sound systems than traditional reeds. I'm fed up with the variability of the Microvoxes - they work OK in some situations/venues, very poorly in others, and not at all in at least one - for some reason, on some PA systems, the Microvox just doesn't produce enough output. I am switching to a high quality condenser mic that the sound pros at a gig last year used on the concertina with much better results. But I'm also wondering if there are sonic advantages when amplifying the hybrid that outweigh my personal preference for traditional reeds.
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