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Paul Groff

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  1. Goran, I'm sorry if I was not clear. My meaning (whether or not I am correct, or whether or not you will agree) in that sentence was precisely: 1) The player, because of the location of his or her ears relative to the projection of sound from the instrument, does NOT receive all the tonal information the instrument projects. 2) Of course, the audience does not receive all the information either, but may receive more volume than the player (I think you agree here). I also contend that for some instruments, at some distance further from the player, due to loss of higher harmonics, there is a better balance of timbre (harmonic content of notes) both among the notes of each side, and between the sides. 3) The player not ONLY misses some of the volume of the instrument but A) due to mere proximity receives a higher pecentage of the higher partials (harmonics) that can be distributed very unevenly among the notes of each side and due to the location of his ears which are not ideally located relative to the ends of the concertina to receive highly directional sounds, the unevenness noted in A) that would be picked up by a close microphone is even more exaggerated when received by the player's ears. That's my story & I'm sticking to it. It's based mainly on much listening of myself, others, and recordings, and NOT on measurements, but may still be true. BTW, instruments whose soundboards (traditional maker's term used here merely to describe a piece of the concertina, not to impute function) have been replaced with wood of another species DO sound different. To me. Again, I have no measurements & you are welcome to disagree. Best regards, Paul
  2. Chris, I have used the simile that each old instrument we find is like an archaeological site and may tell us things we didn't know before. Yours may have ebony veneer. Even when the veneer is ebonized, the black may penetrate throughout it. You sometimes discover after 5 or 10 years of playing for hours a day that the color is leaving the veneer where the heels of the player's hands have "steamed" it. I admit I like to see this wear pattern and think of all the music it represents. I take your point about the practical side of variation in woods used. It is interesting that the early makers (like today's) found combinations of woods that give each instrument a beautiful and individually distinct sound. I think I can hear the difference between early Jeffries concertinas with soundboards made of mahogany vs. sycamore (think that is what some are -- Acer pseudoplatanus, not our "sycamore," Platanus spp.). I am currently studying a superb early Bb/F with soundboards identified by Colin Dipper as solid birch -- very sober, full, deep tone, even for this pitch. Dave, I agree this whole topic is misplaced, but how to maintain continuity? Should Paul S. be asked to moved all the posts and leave a cross-reference? Paul
  3. Roger, You can email me at paul@groffsmusic.com. Thanks. Paul
  4. Jim- The Yamaha story is great. I have seen some really fine ones. For the benefit of younger readers, we should remind them that when good Yamahas were $65, a good old Martin was a tenth (even a hundredth) of the price some fetch today, and how much were Aeolas? Still over the long term, the best (and most expensive) instrument may have been the real bargain. Goran - I agree with your comments on the dimensions of fretwork openings, the depth of reedpan chambers, and the effects of different button materials and dimensions, based on my observations in studying many concertinas and experimenting with rebuilding and "upgrading" badly damaged ones. However I think SOME of these subtle tonal differences due to reflection and selective "filtering" (attenuation of certain frequencies, whether "lowpass," "highpass," or "bandpass") are lost (or much modified) when you get a few feet away from the instrument. Even excellent metal-ended anglos in proper working order often have a few notes that sound duller than others because the pad opens under the hand rail, the strap, or the heel of the hand. But this uneven effect is most noticeable to the player, expecially when practicing in a quiet room. Ironically, some of the really great concert instruments (wooden-ended or metal-ended) sound better to an audience than to the player. The player is not getting all the tonal information the instrument projects and may also hear some exaggerated unbalanced harmonics that diminish rapidly with distance. This may be one reason that amateurs (with no disrespect implied by this term) may prefer (maybe SHOULD prefer) different instruments than professionals. Dave- I appreciate your excellent point that even when the fretwork is solid wood, the casework sides are typically veneered (except in mahogany instruments). I use "ends" as in metal ends to refer to the fretwork (...usually....). Some of the old catalogs referred to "metal top," rosewood top," etc., possibly to avoid this confusion. So ends of the pinhole Aeolas were solid ebony? This is what I once thought but believe I remember being corrected by a knowledgeable source (maybe this memory is wrong). I have some wrecked fretwork from one in my shop & will try to remember to bring it home for microscopic investigation! Many of these have not held up well. Paul
  5. Chris, No, very interesting. In my experience it is the Praed St. metal ended Jeffries that typically have real ebony veneer (which does often crack and chip from impact) while the early models (when metal-ended) have ebonized (pearwood?) veneer or sometimes lovely rosewood veneer on the sides of the action case. There is a LOT of variability in the woods Jeffries used, however. A questing mind? Paul
  6. Jim and Chris Believe it or not I think there is great wisdom in everything you have said in response to Mr. Hermit, and could not have said it better. Mr. Hermit (Evans?), Mea culpa, for *I* will admit to having said some of those things to potential buyers. But let me defend myself. Of course a beginner can start with any instrument and if he or she is dedicated, a bad instrument should be no obstacle to progress. Eventually a serious player will want a good one, and a good concertina (even a great concertina) is nowhere near as expensive as the cheapest new car, so (for the forseeable future) should be affordable to most working people who care enough about the instrument to make a sacrifice to obtain one. Before you blast people with nice concertinas, keep in mind that unlike many of you, I don't own a house or car, even though with a new baby I may have to reorganize my priorities. But what should I tell people who come to me for advice? If they are going to stick with the concertina, buying the cheapest new ones or the poor condition old ones is a very bad investment decision, while many of those who paid top dollar for Jeffries, Dippers, etc. years ago could now double, triple or ? their investment if you could pry that instrument away from them. In the big picture, the advice to get the best instrument you can possibly afford has been very accurate and generous advice to give my customers. It would actually be better for me as a player and purchaser of concertinas, who intends to stay with the instrument, to advise them to buy the cheaper stuff that doesn't appreciate as much, or in fact depreciates. I don't see a lot of people trying to learn to drive in the kind of car you can get for free, for $50, or even for $500. Of course, some do learn in them and I have owned (only) cars like that. They don't work as well, they will impede your learning process, and in the long run they may well cost you much more than a car you buy for $2000 to $5000. Believe it or not, a lot of ingenuity and careful work goes into making a good concertina, that may make a wonderful sound comparable in volume to a piano yet is the size of a toaster - with no electricity! If you complain that the good new ones (whether accordion-reeded or traditional) are too expensive you are trying to take bread out of the mouths of the makers, all very generous and dedicated craftsmen. Due to supply and demand, the old ones used to be (& sometimes still can be) amazing bargains, but if your interest in the instrument is in finding something to play that's way cheaper second-hand than it would cost to make, used piano accordions are now the way to go. (Make sure it doesn't need an overhaul!) So - if you can't afford a good concertina, I want you to play whatever concertina you can afford. But I don't want you coming back to me in 2 years complaining that I advised you to make a bad investment of $200, 300, 500...still a lot of money to me or anyone. If you ever meet one of my students you will find that I bust my rear trying to get them the most reliable and playable instrument possible so that it doesn't let them down during thousands of hours of hard practicing. New bellows, riveted actions, good reeds and good tuning, - and a tone that you enjoy listening to -- seem to make a big difference and don't come cheaply, even when added to antique instruments that were bought wholesale. For this reason, I really commend the new makers of very playable accordion-reeded instruments. However, some players (even beginners) prefer a different tone. My comment that auction buying behavior is "interesting to think about" should not be misunderstood. I mean not necessarily that it is irrational (though it may be!). You have provided some very fair reasons you might want to bid high on an unrestored instrument. Some others: A buyer might want an instrument that is still in its original pitch, and put a premium on this; a buyer might want to restore the instrument to a HIGHER STANDARD than is typically done by some dealers (if you know you want new bellows, patches are a waste of money; if you want riveted action in a Lachenal, no need to buy one that has already been repadded, etc.); a buyer might want the instrument as an unrestored piece of history; a buyer may enjoy the restoration hobby and not be calculating every cent of the bottom line... This was my point -- same instrument, different values to different potential owners. Let me apologize publicly to anyone I have (unintentionally) discouraged from playing by warning them that good concertinas are more expensive than playable guitars, flutes, etc. I can only hope the many students and customers I have encouraged and supported will tip the balance. I expect a lot from them, and think some will have much more to offer the concertina world than I have done. Paul
  7. Bless your heart, Mr. Hermit; I have been trying to find the correct quote and its author for a few weeks now. Can I say that I don't mean to accuse anyone here of cynicism or even materialism; after all we have turned our backs on what society begs us to value and devoted ourselves to the concertina. Speaking of values, I value everyone who loves concertinas and the tradition they represent. Paul
  8. Yet concertinas, like trees, antique furniture, and houses, can exist for a long time and undergo surprising transformations in how (and for which of their properties) they are valued. True, a sales agreement establishes a monetary value for that moment, between the parties to the sale. But this is like one frame out of a long movie, and may or may not reflect what is most valuable about that item over a longer time scale. Think of the dead sea scrolls, which when discovered were (purportedly) initially used as a source of fuel for a cooking fire. This made perfect sense to the discoverer, who may have had no interest in archaeology, history, or comparative religion, but for whom fuel was rare and valuable. Think of all the classic antique furniture which was cleaned and altered into something desirable ca. 1900 (this was a good economic decision at that time), but whose monetary value is much less today than if it had been "conserved" or at least truly "restored," rather than reworked. Who said, "[Most] men know the price of everything and the value of nothing?" Everyone is entitled to view and value that concertina as he or she wishes. I would want an appraisal to reflect more than one possible use to which it might be put. On to subjects of general agreement! As Chris and others have noted, ebay auctions occur in something of an information blackout, so the bids are somewhat like lottery tickets and SHOULD be expected to reach the level of wholesale prices at best. I'm amazed at the amounts gambled on these as-is concertinas. As Wes implies in another thread, an unrestored instrument will frequently sell for much more than (a restored instrument) minus (the cost of restoration). If you think about it, it's very interesting. Paul
  9. Quite a few of the mid-nineteenth century english-made concertinas had solid rosewood ends. I have an early Scates treble in my shop with beautifully bookmatched solid rosewood ends, not cracked or warped a bit. This is Brazilian rosewood (=Amazon or Rio rosewood, Dalbergia nigra). In general the earliest english-system instruments show an incredible standard of woodworking and metalworking craftsmanship. John Crabb among others evidently had remarkable skills and very well seasoned timber! The early Louis Lachenal label "rosewood" anglos also had solid wood ends, and shrinkage and/or abuse of these has often led to checking, cracking, and even loss of sections of fretwork. I think the switch to a more robust laminate of veneers occurred after the change to the Lachenal & Co. label, but someone else may correct me on this. Jones made a lot of lovely anglos with solid rosewood ends, as did the Crabb and Jeffries workshops early on. I'm not sure when Wheatstone went from solid to laminated ends on the rosewood english concertinas. Can Neil Wayne or Wes help us? I used to think the severe cracking and fretwork loss often seen in "ebony ended" Lachenal New Model englishes and the ca. 1900 Wheatstone pinhole Aeolas was due to the use of solid ebony in the ends, but Colin Dipper mentioned (I think I recall) that this was due to the deterioration of another wood species by the logwood used to stain it black. The wonderful "ebony" Wheatstones I have seen from the period between the World Wars have all been "ebonized." Paul
  10. Wes, As I'm sure you know, another external clue can be missing button-caps, often visible even in bad photos. Many of the "German" (non-English made) 20-key anglos had wooden buttons with bone, later celluloid or plastic, caps. If the cap has come off and you see the wooden part of the button more or less level with the surface, that can be evidence. Or if the wooden part of the button has come unglued from a wooden action lever, the wooden lever may be visible through the hole and again this is external evidence of typical German construction. Typical English-made instruments have metal levers penetrating a hole in the button, so they don't present this appearance when a button is broken or loose. I have usually found the "3 or 4" vs. "6" screw/bolt heads per side rule to be the most useful when there is any doubt (i. e. when the German instrument is fancy), but I should have pointed out that some beautiful English-made miniatures have fewer than six endbolts/side. Does Andrew Norman visit this site? I have never met him in person but from a phone conversation I understood he collected old 20 key anglos and might add to your list of characteristics. In a month or two I might be able to send you some photos of the early 20 key I mentioned with button rows parallel to a corner (if that makes sense?). In fact, in my Cambridge shop I think I also have a small early German metal ended solo-tuned Eb/Bb, again with nickel-silver reeds, with the same "English-appearing" geometry. Best wishes, Paul Addition (edited): I forgot to mention that some of the early "German" type instruments had wooden buttons with cuplike metal caps (like the buttons of some melodeons); again these were typically mounted on wooden levers.
  11. Wes I think you are referring to externally visible characteristics that would enable (e. g.) an ebay buyer to know from a photo if the instrument is German (or Austrian or Czechoslovakian etc.). You often see nice looking 20 keyed German instruments with nice fretwork in wooden or (thin) metal ends that could be mistaken for English make. Usually they have only 3 or 4 wood screws in each side functioning as "endbolts" and this can be visible in photos. Some of these look to have been made for export to England or the U. S., possibly to mimic the English makes. I have a VERY nicely made one of these with nickel-silver reeds that does have the rows of buttons parallel to a corner, not an edge, of the hexagon. The end design including fretwork is identical to the INSIDE hexagon of the instrument shown on the cover of the DeVille tutor (later editions; is this photo in the 1905 edition of which I have only seen the cover?) Paul
  12. Grant, These can be made into playable instruments with lovely tone. However the job is sometimes like antique car restoration in that you can easily spend more on the restoration than the current market will pay for the restored item. This doesn't mean it shouldn't be done -- maybe the current market is undervaluing them and someday the whole job will turn out to have been a good investment, or (more likely) maybe you will enjoy the restoration as a hobby worthwhile in itself, especially if you can do some of the work yourself and pay in hours rather than money. Or maybe you would like to see and hear this particular instrument in playing condition, even if the money spent does not bump up the market value by an equal amount. Most of us involved with concertinas make our decisions about them by different criteria than we use for strictly financial investments. You will find references on this site to repairmen who can fix the woodwork, repair or replace bellows, revalve, repad, respring, and retune your concertina. You can contact them for estimates. If you are inclined, you can purchase a book on do-it-yourself repairs. Fred Quann published one years ago which was very interesting (this is not an endorsement of everything in it!) and Dave Elliott has one in print which I need to get for my library. I think there are links for these on this site (if not, someone else please help Grant out here). HOWEVER, the unrestored instruments from this period sometimes have a lot of "archaeological" value in their current state, especially if they stopped being played and repaired fairly early and have been unmolested since then. A lot of very interesting information can (and should be) gleaned from them before you begin the process of "fixing" them or indeed altering them in any way. If the instrument has a known history this should be recorded. Then you might carefully scan through it for any evidence of repairs or alterations and repairer's marks. You might read up on the early history of the English concertina (e.g. the book by Allan Atlas and the article by Neil Wayne; search this site for links) and try to determine whether yours is typical or atypical for its type and period. I personally am very interested in the reedwork, pitch, and temperament of these early instruments (especially those with brass and nickel-silver reeds). It is a specialist job to determine this but keep in mind it will be impossible once the reeds are tuned or altered in any way. See the topic "CSFRI- free download" on this site for an idea of why that might be interesting. I suspect that some of these instruments are and will be most valuable as museum pieces, unrestored. If it was an inheritance, a gift, or a bargain purchase, you might consider putting it on the shelf and buying one of the many antique English concertinas that have already been made playable. Good luck and best wishes, Paul
  13. Rhomylly, "Rosewood" is a timber industry name for the heartwood of any of several species of tropical trees in the legume (pea) family. Not the wood of roses (genus Rosa in the rose family). Rosewood is often a beautifully figured reddish brown and it (or other woods stained to resemble it) was popular for mid- to upper range concertinas. Some prefer its appearance to the ebony (or other ebonized wood) that was used for better concertinas. Paul
  14. Dear Chris Like you, I feel I said it all in my first post to this topic, and do not want to get into a negative back-and-forth. I value your knowledge and opinions highly and am sure we hold many more views in common than differing views. However, you twice asked for clarification of my disagreement here, so here goes: What does "fully restored" mean? For most musical instruments this means a very intensive effort to return the instrument to its state when new. Repitching from high pitch to A440, while routine among concertina dealers and repairmen, could hardly be considered a careful return to original state. Not everyone will agree, but some among us, including one other, contributor to this topic, think we prefer the sound of reeds with original "factory' reedwork to the work of (at least some) modern tuners. Also the temperament of many older anglos was different from that used by most modern tuners. As another contributor pointed out, so called "restored" or even "fully restored" concertinas can be much worse sounding and playing than when new. Does the term imply new bellows? Perhaps to some. New springs? New pads? New valves? New bushings? Or it just mean "up and running well enough to please the average amateur." In fact, it could mean any of these depending on the seller. And even the same seller might use these words to describe two instruments, one lovely and one much less so. I am delighted you got a nice rosewood 32 from Chris Algar for 1000 pounds or so. I will always be grateful to him for selling me my first concertina, also a rosewood 32, for about 120 pounds in 1985. I suspect if really good rosewood 32s were always available in the US for the price you paid there would be much less need for the Morse Ceili, the Herrington, the Edgely, the O'Shaughnessy, and the Homewood. I sold a lot of these Lachenals (some bought from Chris and retuned) for $1000, 1200 etc. a few years back. But today, I don't know anyone in New England with a really nice rosewood 32 Lachenal who would want to sell it for $1600. If so, please contact me! Regardless of what price you put on an old concertina, or what you would like done to it to get it working and sounding at its best (as you might define it), I think it is important to allow for the possibility that someone else may value it differently. For many years concertina dealers saw these old instruments as a "raw material" to be converted into a few saleable "types," e. g. the "fully restored dark wood 32" ( which I would say should be called the "working, repitched instrument, possibly with new pads, valves, or bellows"). I wonder if we can see now that the words "fully restored," as they have been used in the concertina trade, cover up more than they explain, and maybe even obscure what the instruments really sounded like when new. Yes, I do agree that it is hard to judge the condition of an ebay instrument. But if you care about the details, there is much doubt about the condition of a "fully restored" instrument. With shared affection for the instruments we love and all who make, play, and sustain them, Paul
  15. Jay - Excellent spot. This was a good model when originally made and one of the types I prefer for top quality upgrade/rebuilds. The issue will be its current condition, as others have noted. Chris- You may do both potential buyers and sellers a disservice with such casual appraisals. One might as well write from the U. S. that a Martin guitar in England should be about 400 pounds sterling. I know that English concertina dealers for years maintained fairly standard prices for "done up" examples of common models, but as the price of the instruments has risen (even in England, where in general they are the cheapest) it has become important to recognize how different one rosewood 32 key Lachenal anglo (for instance) can be from another. I think the reputable English dealers would now agree with me about this. One rosewood 32 may be in great cosmetic shape but may have started life with a badly made set of reeds, another may have been a great instrument originally but suffered from storage conditions (mildew, rust, worm -- or warping and cracking), another may have been played until it looks like a flat-worn penny -- and sound great --, another may have just had a bad retuning job to get it sold at "market price", spoiling the reeds ... With great respect for your knowledge of the instrument and your very fortunate geographic position, so near the Dippers and in the concertina's country of origin, I would like you to consider the possibility that the mindset that "this model is this price once it has gone through the sausage mill" has done a lot of damage. What I care about is preserving and bringing out what is valuable in an instrument, which may be different for different examples. Some can be knocked together as "learners" to be sold inexpensively, but some deserve better. Re: this instrument, I personally would turn your appraisal on its head and argue the instrument is most interesting if it is not in C/G and has never been retuned. In fact if the woodwork and reeds are in perfect condition, in original tuning (probably high pitch) with no modern restoration, I would pay more (in trade toward a rebuilt instrument) than for many "restored" instruments I have seen. That is because, with the help of craftsman friends and my own work, it could become something special rather than a workhorse "learner." Of course, someone else might have other plans for it, and value it accordingly. But this is my point -- that there is more than one way to envision the value (hence plan the restoration and use) of an instrument. Michael -- It is infuriating when ignorant sellers pretend knowledge to hype their stuff. Or when people who know exactly what they have pretend ignorance to avoid responsibility for defects in their stuff. On the other hand, this seller is probably also ignorant of the demand for good concertinas and thus how much they bring at auction. Evidently, he or she was willing to let this little sweetheart go for a song. Paul
  16. For anyone interested, It looks like there's another one of these on ebay at the moment, labeled "Araldo." Keeping in mind that these usually cost more to restore than they end up being "worth" in today's market, this might be a fun project for someone. Paul
  17. Hi George and all, I have had a dozen of these over the years, all double reeded in brass reeds, octave tuned, 10 reeds/zinc plate, wooden action, old style German type air valve. Most were stamped "made in USSR occupied Germany" which suggests they were made for export to an english-speaking country in the years after WW2. I may be stretching my memory here but I believe every last one was in high pitch F/C (old German concertina tuning with just-tuned chords, of course). An Irish friend recalls having seen one in Ireland in the hands of a family member, and they do have the mellow old "prewar melodeon" sound suitable for the old-style jigs, polkas, flings, and simple reels that were favored by traditional Irish players before English-made concertinas became more common there and concertina music more technically advanced. All in all, a last blast of the old decent quality brass-reeded prewar style -- but I don't know why they used metal sheathing. Perhaps for a military effect, perhaps because the metal was available and celluloid was temporarily not (or more expensive), perhaps for durability... I'll be interested in the results of your research. The last really nice two of these I had went as a pair (dueling set?) to an excellent Quebecois/Irish player in Vermont who appreciated them for the unique traditional sound noted above. I think I do have an unrestored one in my Cambridge shop if you need a parts donor or to fix up so that you'll have a pair that play in tune together. Re: postwar production in occupied countries, I have a large, lightweight wooden suitcase lined with purple silk and sheathed entirely in riveted aircraft aluminum. A veteran told me these were produced in post WW2 occupied Japan out of recycled Zeros! Swords into ploughshares... Paul
  18. Once again I have to correct my own posting... not only did I mistype "fifths"above but did not make clear that there really is no "circle of fifths" in meantone. The narrow meantone fifths make not a circle but a spiral after twelve tones, which is why D# is not Eb, G# is not Ab, etc. I should have referred to a series or chain of fifths. The "circle of fifths" is another one of those musical concepts many of us learned early but that are embedded within the concept of equal temperament (there is also a circle of fifths in well-temperament).
  19. Dear Allan and all readers, This is really interesting to me and I hope others with access to these early instruments and records will follow it up. BTW I have read all your excellent postings but I have continued to post my responses to all related postings in the subtopic where the issue of meantone/ layout first came up, despite its unrelated title. On reflection I think you had a better idea in trying to start a new heading for this. Pauol
  20. Dear Jim, I don't have the last word on this subject and am working to clear up my confusion also, but this may help. One of many excellent references on tuning and temperament (but with an emphasis on keyboard instruments such as pianos, harpsichords, clavichords, and organs) is "Tuning," by O. Jorgensen (1991, MSU Press, E. Lansing, Mich.). I don't treat this reference as infallible but it is a major work. The history of tunings through the last few hundred years is a complex subject; very notable sources have published seemingly authoritative statements on the subject that turned out to be wrong (Wim Wakker lists one example elsewhere in this forum), and the final story has yet to be (will never be?) written. Most of us who received introductory music lessons of some kind in the 20th century have been taught a vocabulary/set of concepts that actually makes it harder to understand the music of the nineteenth century and before. One example is the entry under "enharmonic" in the New Harvard Dictionary of Music; the author's point of view is so centered in the "equal temperament" paradigm that you could easily come to the false conclusion that "enharmonics" are/were ALWAYS the same pitch. Enharmonics (such as the two notes of the pair D#/Eb) were assigned different pitches in meantone temperaments. In fact, Quantz introduced "enharmonic" keys for the transverse flute so that D# and Eb could more easily be given different pitches (each note having its own key), much as I believe Wheatstone did in his english concertina fingering system. In the paradigm of equal temperament, enharmonics are "different names for the same pitch," and in the "well temperaments" there is only one pitch for the two notes D# and Eb, but it might not be centered between D and E. D# and G# in the sharp keys and Eb and Ab ih the flat keys are simply the first enharmonics you have to deal with when you center the circle of fiths in the natural notes ("white keys" of the piano - or early english): D# - G# - C# - F# - B - E - A - D - G - C - F - Bb - Eb - Ab (the 14 tones of the english tina) Meantone temperaments are so called because the fifth intervals are tempered, that is, they are not assigned the pitches that would make them acoustically pure or "just." These fifth intervals are slightly tempered in equal temperament ("narrow" by about 2 cents from just) but in equal temperament the fifths are pretty good. String players sometimes take care not to tune their open strings in pure fifths, but I suspect many traditional fiddlers use these slightly wider untempered fifths of just intonation, so that if their A was right on their E would be sharp relative to equal temperament, their D flat, and their G flatter. The discrepancy with equal temperament may not be noticeable to some. In the meantone temperament that is most commonly discussed, (1/4 comma meantone), the fifths are much narrower than in equal temperament (around 5.4 cents from just) and beat noticeably. However, the major thirds are pure (just) in 1/4 comma meantone, and differ greatly from the harshly beating wide thirds of equal temperament (about 13.7 cents wide from just). These sweet untempered thirds of 1/4 comma meantone provide a very beautiful harmony unfamiliar to many modern ears. Especially since harmonies in thirds are so natural to the english concertina, and since free reeds have harmonics that make the wide major thirds of equal temperament particularly unmusical in the mid to upper register, I would like to see every english concertinist experiment with 1/4 comma meantone temperament at some stage in their education (see post by Allan Atlas who uses both). Many will find that on their equal tempered instruments they have developed a habit of playing fifth intervals, which do sound harsher in meantone. Mr. Wakker suggests one of many compromises available between these two alternatives. Wim, I know Young's tuning is well-deocumented for keyboards but have you actually recorded this from a period english concertina? Your statement that it was "used in the nineteenth century" is ambiguous on this point. To close (for now), I and others who should know better often use the term "tuning" loosely for a system assigning pitches to named notes. But according to Mr. Jorgensen we should be careful to call every such system a "temperament" if one or more of its natural intervals has been altered from just or acoustically pure. So there is equal temperament (ours divides the octave into 12 equal parts, but one could also have a 10 tone equal temperament, etc.), 1/4 comma meantone temperament in which the fifths but not the major thirds are tempered, etc. Jorgensen only uses the noun "tuning" in this context to refer to just (untempered) scales, or to the results of a tuner's work. (See his glossary, and extended discussions under each of the scales). Jim, you are a pioneer in the concertina revival and we all owe you so much for scavenging and preserving the instruments and fostering new players. There are other great collectors out there as well who got a jump on the current market. All of you are in the best position to help us learn more about the original pitches and scales of the old machines, as most of today's players have only one and immediately retune it to modern standards. I await more dialog (and corrections, I'm sure!) --Paul
  21. Sorry, in my previous post the word "meantone" should have been omitted after the words "Society of Arts." I'm afraid I still am not used to composing online.
  22. I agree with Mr. Elliott about retunings during the playing life of Victorian english concertinas. Every "time capsule" early brass reeded english concertina I have seen (Wheatstone or Scates labels, dating from 1850's or earlier) --and by this I mean the ones that have seen little play and no repairs -- seems to have originally been in 1/4 comma meantone with Eb/D# and G#/Ab enharmonics that are appropriate to the 14-tone version of that temperament. Of course, this is always a sort of archaeological judgement as there are inevitably a few notes that have drifted due to corrosion or overuse, and the revalving will always affect the tuning. However, the duplicate press and draw notes and the multiple octaves of each note make such judgements possible, if not indisputable. However, I have also seen such early instruments that have been back to Wheatstones for steel reeds and that were retuned to equal temperament (either then or subsequently), at pitches from ca. A 440 to around A 446 (Society of Arts meantone?). I also have in my shop a medium quality Wheatstone 48, originally in brass reeds, with a few period steel replacement tongues; if memory serves it is in roughly A 446 or A447 meantone (including the steel tongues which were tuned to match the brass ones), possibly indicating that a well-played instrument could sometimes have been kept in meantone as it was repaired. Actually I also agree almost entirely with Mr Atlas' posts on this subject (today, but elsewhere in the forum). However I think it very reasonable to infer that an instrument like the early Wheatstone 48, clearly designed with 14 "keys" (buttons or studs) to the octave, in an era when keyboard tuners were lamenting the absence of 14 keys to the octave on their instruments, and of which the cleanest early examples are tuned with 14 TONES to the octave, was designed around 14-tone 1/4 comma meantone. If I correctly understand the analogy, I accept Mr. Atlas' point that it is a "chicken and egg" question whether Wheatstone's use of the meantone tuning system or his fingering system came "first." I contend they came together, that is, his use of the 14 button/octave fingering coincided with his use of meantone. I don't think this contradicts the claim that meantone tuning was a design constraint of the button layout. To claim otherwise, in my opinion, would require some kind of proof that Wheatstone introduced two extra studs per octave but that they produced redundant pitches. I want to make clear that I am willing to be proved wrong if someone can provide this evidence. As in archaeology, we have to keep an open mind as new evidence and new interpretations come up. But others before me (including Montagu as I have mentioned) have made the inference and I think it is reasonable. I have called Mr. Atlas by his last name out of respect to a colleague I have not met personally (unlike Jim Lucas, who I hope I can count as a friend even if we disagree here). However, if he has no objections I'd be happy to be on a first name basis from here on. _Paul
  23. On the point of the Wheatstone english concertina fingering system being designed around the mean-tone temperament system that was standard for English organs in the mid-1800s, I have to agree with Mr. Plamondon, Jim. I will have more to say about this when I publish my research on nineteenth century concertina pitches, tunings, and temperaments. In the meantime, I think you will find discussion of this in Neil Wayne's great GSJ article and in Montagu, J. 1981 The World of Romantic & Modern Musical Instruments (Overelook, Woodstock NY). To what extent the old music needs to be re-arranged is another point. I suspect that Mr. Plamondon's modesty reflects the natural humility of a scholarly mind, and he should not be faulted for his speculations and original (wild?) ideas, which he clearly identifies as such.
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