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Paul Groff

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Chatty concertinist

Chatty concertinist (4/6)

  1. Yes, that's another lovely way to play in "F pitch," using a Bb/F instrument with G/D fingering (so that the inside row takes the place of a nominal "home key of D"). Here's Noel using G/D fingering similarly to obtain "F# pitch," using a B/F# instrument I think:
  2. Yes, and it's not only F flutes ("third flutes") and F whistles; the late Finbarr Dwyer, playing with BC fingering on a DD# accordion, has inspired quite a few other box players to adopt a similar approach to play tunes in "F" pitch. Again, a DD# accordion is a minor third higher than a BC, just as an EbBb concertina can be a minor third higher than a CG.
  3. Here's some lovely playing from Noel Hill on what looks to be an Eb/Bb Lachenal: A Stór mo Chroí in C minor and The Wheels of the World in F. https://www.facebook.com/gradamceoil/videos/353477939575017
  4. Hi Cohen, This is not always true when 2 different pads open on to one chamber in these 4 row Jeffries, but I have seen it before. Chris Ghent asked about this exact issue in his comments on the earlier thread that I cited above. It shouldn't be suprising, because the location of the pad hole in relation to the tip vs base of the reed tongue is one of many variables in the function of concertina reeds. The amount of lift of the pad might also be different between those two buttons that operate on the same reeds/chamber, and of course the acoustic filtering/reflections will be slightly different for any two pad locations in the action case. Regarding airways that open to direct airflow nearest the base vs the tip of a free reed tongue, one familiar example is that accordion reeds often function and sound very differently if flipped top to bottom in their location on the reedblock. You can often see the highest few reeds on a reedblock inverted compared to most of the lower reeds. And another example: bass reeds in a german open-pallet melodeon with growlbox function and sound very differently depending on the location of the airway in relation to the two ends of the reedtongue. I once bought a professionally-restored Wyper model International whose basses didn't sound full or "right" and discovered that the bass reeds had been installed differently than in my original, unrestored example. The basses gave the right notes but were muffled and quiet until I flipped them 180 degrees, then they came to life.
  5. Ah but for fingering, it can be a wonderful option to bring in the left thumb! As a piano and organ player, I always feel it's a waste of that left thumb when there's no button for it on an anglo.
  6. David, please see my comments and photos on this thread:
  7. Hi David, This is very common in the 4 row Jeffries anglos and has been discussed here before. If you can't find the threads and photos, please message me and I'll hunt them down as I contributed explanation and photos to those earlier discussions. In my opinion, this is the reason for what you see: These anglos, especially the early (1890s) examples of the 4 row type that are very compact, were made to a fairly standard pattern of reedpan and often had a bird whistle sounded by one of the buttons in the left hand inside row. That bird whistle only requires a very small chamber in the reedpan, too small to accommodate a reed of useful size. But (as a general matter, even today) we often see that some players object to committing one of our concertina buttons to a novelty effect and prefer an actual note for every button. Sometimes a concertina with novelty effects (bird whistles, baby cries) can have those converted to a note by fitting in two reeds to the chamber originally dedicated to the novelty effect, but in the case of some of these 4 row Jeffries that's not practical without major surgery. I think when we see a button in the inside row of a 4 row Jeffries whose pallet operates (as an extra pallet!) on the same chamber as contains the reeds for the left-hand thumb button, we're seeing the best option to use that inside-row button (normally committed to bird cry) for a note. This may sometimes have been done as an after-sale modification but I think I've seen examples where that "change" was done in the original construction, to avoid having to use a radically different chambering plan. Easier to see in comparing photos of the two types of reedpans and action boards.
  8. Great thread Doug Barr! I'll echo Doug's thanks to Rich, Doug Creighton, Bob Snope, and all their community for exceptional service over the decades! PG
  9. Hi Robin, Well laminated woods offer a lot of protection against shrinkage/warping/checking/cracks. That's why they have often been used in guitar tops especially for budget instruments shipped internationally (or indeed for some very high quality instruments such as some Gibson acoustic-electrics). But it's not the case that *all* Dipper concertinas sent to N. America have had laminated action boards, because the Dippers were generous enough to make some solid ones for me. To my ear, these were exceptional even among Dipper concertinas for their tone quality. Of course concertinas made with all solid wood plates are more demanding of careful treatment in some North American climates - just as is the case with guitars or violins made of solid woods. Humidity has to be monitored and maintained. Not every player, even pros, can properly maintain solid-wood instruments.* So it can sometimes make sense to prioritize dimensional stability when building an instrument that will travel far from the permissive English climate. Details of sound quality in particular instruments are always subjective and I respect your opinion if it may differ from mine. I think we can agree that the Dippers' instruments are designed with great care and thought, and built with superb craftsmanship for superlative performance. PG *
  10. Wes, My 2 cents: don't jump to conclusions based on what you read that may or may not be applicable to your own instrument! It's easy to pick up negative vibes about instruments when reading but to make a judgment about timbre of a particular concertina, and what might improve it, often takes the in-person experience of a skilled player and/or craftsman trying that instrument and tinkering with it. And I think *any* instrument can be played in ways that get the most music out of it. That's the world I lived in in my early years playing on cheap guitars, giving lessons to students who all owned better ones. It can be an important lesson to learn and important attitude / skill to cultivate: Love the one you're with. But, I think there are lots of reasons any particular concertina might sound "harsh," including the tuning, the valves, the condition of the reeds, the playing technique of the player etc etc. My comments (and I'm going to assume Wally's) about laminated internal plates were assuming "all other things being equal:" I think I can often identify unpleasant qualities in the timbre of instruments with laminated soundboards *compared to other, nearly identical instruments with solid soundboards.* And furthermore, I suspect that the solid woods (possibly also the laminated woods) can change their resonant/sound absorbtive qualities as they age for many decades or a century - either just from slow drying out (for example of some components of the cell walls of the wood) and/or from vibrations running through them during playing. There's something about really old wood. That's why I made the implication that it's possible that some kinds of A/B comparisons of different materials in newly-built instruments might be like comparing newly-bottled wines. Better now might not translate into better over time, if the "tortoise" (new solid wood) might eventually win with a sound that the "hare" (synthetic) fails to achieve. This is plausible if we think of "harshness" as overtones that we don't want in the sound. Synthetics might damp those unwanted overtones to produce a less irritating timbre compared to new wood - but with aging, the wood might contribute a beautiful timbre of a different type, compared to the synthetics. Rosalie Dipper once shared her thoughts with me that the Jeffries concertinas might have been unduly brash when new. All these ideas are speculations of course and some are hard if not impossible to test. Regarding a failure to hear improvement over time - maybe this just takes a lot more time and use! I once once got in a concertina to sell on consignment that may have been a good counter-example to my own generalization. It is a 40 key aluminum-ended post WW2 Crabb anglo with laminated soundboards. I don't think I've ever seen a concertina so recent and showing such extreme wear, just from normal playing use -- think Rory Gallagher's, or Willie Nelson's, or Steve Cooney's guitars. Aluminum buttons really worn down, etc etc. This one exception had just the kind of very clear tone quality that I would have guessed could only come from solid wood soundboards. Crabbs have a great sound, but this one had a particularly gorgeous sound. When I mentioned this to the consignor, he said that the former owner "played all the shrillness out of it" - maybe 10s of thousands of hours. Food for thought. PG
  11. Remarkable Geoff, many thanks! So many rosewood ones, and all of those (from that time interval) BF#. Is there any indication of pitch standards in the records, or old tuning forks or reference sets of reeds that can be definitively dated to this period?
  12. Another excellent hypothesis Malcolm. Here in the US, the Hohner (and occasional Koch) F#BE boxes I've seen usually date from the 1920s - early 1930s, and usually found in A 435. Some steirische-type boxes were also made or retuned to those keys. And like you, I've seen Italian organettos here in the US in keys of F#, B, and F#/B (those range from throughout the early to mid 20th century and usually in A 400 - 450). Recently I've learned that F#B ( low pitch) is not a rare key for two-row Hercule diatonic accordeons (made in Switzerland) from the very early 20th century. Geoff might know if the Crabb B/F# anglo concertinas were sent abroad. They did travel! I do know of a circa 1876 Crabb anglo that was exported or carried to California in the late 19th century, but it was found in C/G A 446 (Society of Arts tuning, non-equal temperament), seemingly a time capsule from the 19th century, and it's not listed by number in Geoff's records, so it doesn't help with the specific question of the B/F# ones. But your mention of Italian boxes reminds me that I think some organettos in the US tuned to very odd keys / pitches may have been tuned to match other folk instruments such as bagpipes. Possibly there was another kind of instrument in some musical contexts in England ca 1890s that could have filled a similar role - B, or C# bagpipes? pianos that had sunk in pitch? barrel organs? fifes or low pitch tin whistles? ca 1700 - 1800 flutes in very low pitch? Just brainstorming a bit with this last idea in case it suggests another solution to Stephen. I'm still thinking that Stephen's idea that high-pitch B/F# was " approximating low pitch C cheap continental free reeds," and/or the idea of a "factory average tuning to be customized in the locality of eventual sale" seem most likely explanations to me. PG
  13. Transposition I'd say; if they are using a Bb cornet, a note written as "C" sounds as "Bb." Thus what the SA was calling the "Bb key" was concert pitch Ab (but of course at the high English pitch of the day, most commonly A 452.5 in my experience.
  14. Hi Stephen, Thanks! Almost totally consistent with what I have seen (hands-on and via photos and print). As I wrote above, the early SA anglos I've seen were mostly Lachenals and Jones (but you're correct that I should have reversed the order of those two). I saw that Barleycorn had a Crabb anglo with SA markings for sale at one point and there are mentions of Crabb/Ball Beavon anglos bought for a Salvationist band ca 1920. But that is after our time period of the "B/F# records mystery." I have seen anglos with SA markings in the keys of Bb/F, but the vast majority of SA anglos I've seen have been Ab/Eb as I wrote above, and it is certainly possible that the Bb/F ones I saw had been retuned from Ab/Eb subsequent to their original use in the bands. PG
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