Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
wim wakker

Wakker Parnassus on Youtube

Recommended Posts

I took a break from practicing. I turned on my computer and checked email and Cnet. Saw the posting and listened to your playing and the beautiful sound of your instrument.

I have put my instrument away for the night.

rss

Edited by Randy Stein

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There are many Asian free reed instruments, and all have defining characteristics, some with very varied tones. The Sheng (China), Sho (Japan), and Khaen (Thailand and Laos) are similar in that they contain one free reed per tube resonator, with each single instrument having many resonators. Thus, each reed plays only one note, but the entire instrument can play more than one simultaneously. Other instruments, such as the Chinese Bawu, have one reed mounted in a tube resonator that has finger holes, just like those in a flute, and a single reed plays many notes (eight in the case of the Bawu), but only one at a time.

 

Tom,

This is perhaps more a linguistic than an acoustic question, but can the Bawu justifiably be termed a "free"-reed instrument?

 

In my view, a free reed - whatever its nationality - has its set pitch, defined by the maker of the instrument, which is "free" from the influence of the player (apart from slight nuances, e.g. "bending"). The reed of the Bawu is no more free than that of the European clarinet, oboe or bagpipe, or the various Oriental shawms, and we call these simply "reed instruments".

 

Even using the term "free reed" for metal tongues doesn't work in a European context. A Russian friend of mine has a sort of hornpipe with a metal tongue mounted in a metal mouthpiece, fitted to a wooden tube with six holes. The fingering is like that of the tin whistle, and the single reed yields the whole compass of the pipe. That would be a European equivalent of your Bawu, but I wouldn't call it a free-reed instrument.

 

Cheers,

John

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, I think it’s true that Western free reeds do not operate “in unison with a resonator,” as acknowledged in the scientific literature. Perhaps a key term here is “in unison.” The Asian free reeds do operate thusly, containing an acoustically coupled system, with the result that the air column and the reed tongue vibrate at the same frequency, which is generally a little higher than the first mode (and sometimes second mode) frequency of the tube resonator, and which can be very much above that of the reed itself. It’s interesting that the Western beating reed wind instruments – also coupled systems – operate at frequencies far below the natural frequencies of the reeds.

 

I remember a report about some conertinas with "tuned" reed chambers. So that would make up another coupled system, wouldn't it?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There are many Asian free reed instruments, and all have defining characteristics, some with very varied tones. The Sheng (China), Sho (Japan), and Khaen (Thailand and Laos) are similar in that they contain one free reed per tube resonator, with each single instrument having many resonators. Thus, each reed plays only one note, but the entire instrument can play more than one simultaneously. Other instruments, such as the Chinese Bawu, have one reed mounted in a tube resonator that has finger holes, just like those in a flute, and a single reed plays many notes (eight in the case of the Bawu), but only one at a time.

 

Tom,

This is perhaps more a linguistic than an acoustic question, but can the Bawu justifiably be termed a "free"-reed instrument?

 

In my view, a free reed - whatever its nationality - has its set pitch, defined by the maker of the instrument, which is "free" from the influence of the player (apart from slight nuances, e.g. "bending"). The reed of the Bawu is no more free than that of the European clarinet, oboe or bagpipe, or the various Oriental shawms, and we call these simply "reed instruments".

 

Even using the term "free reed" for metal tongues doesn't work in a European context. A Russian friend of mine has a sort of hornpipe with a metal tongue mounted in a metal mouthpiece, fitted to a wooden tube with six holes. The fingering is like that of the tin whistle, and the single reed yields the whole compass of the pipe. That would be a European equivalent of your Bawu, but I wouldn't call it a free-reed instrument.

 

Cheers,

John

 

This doesn't match my definition of free reed. For me, a free reed describes the reed of the instrument, not the instrument itself. Traditional western reeds are either a single reed or a double reed. A single reed makes sound by beating against the mouth piece and a double reed makes sound by beating against a second reed. In a free reed, the reed isn't actually hitting anything, it's vibrating in a frame. In this manner, the reed of a Bawu is free.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
This is perhaps more a linguistic than an acoustic question, but can the Bawu justifiably be termed a "free"-reed instrument?

Definitely yes.

In my view, a free reed - whatever its nationality - has its set pitch, defined by the maker of the instrument, which is "free" from the influence of the player (apart from slight nuances, e.g. "bending"). The reed of the Bawu is no more free than that of the European clarinet, oboe or bagpipe, or the various Oriental shawms, and we call these simply "reed instruments".

It is indeed a linguistic question, since your view is not the generally accepted definition of "free reed". As the others have indicated, in the standard (academic) classification of musical instruments "free reeds" are distinguished from "beating reeds" (which include both "single reeds", which beat against a fixed mouthpiece, and "double reeds", in which two reeds beat against each other) by the fact that they vibrate "free" of obstructions.

 

The use of "free", then, is unrelated to acoustic coupling, whether or not that coupling can be varied by the player. Aside from the sheng and bawu, another classic example of a free reed which uses acoustic coupling is the jews harp, where varying the shape of the player's mouth cavity (rather than the length of a tube) selectively enhances the various overtone frequencies to produce a melodic effect.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi John,

 

I sympathize with your dilemma on calling a reed “free,” even though it’s coerced to vibrate at a frequency other than its natural frequency; however, the basis upon which the definition is made is not upon the frequency of its tone, but rather, upon whether or not the vibrating element contacts another solid surface. I thus must agree with both Jim and Emzilla in this regard.

 

Although both Western and Asian varieties of these tone generators have the same label, their operations have fundamental differences. The Western reed functions as a “closing” reed, and the Asian version as an “opening” reed. These terms refer to the initial air resistance developed when the reed is subjected to a positive air pressure. The Western reed initially closes over the slot, causing increased resistance, whereas the Asian reed always opens more, causing less resistance, as pressure is increased. There is an important exception here. When (Western) harmonica players “overblow,” causing notes that are very different from the tuned notes “normally” played, the reed is blown at such a high pressure that it vibrates on the far side of the slot, acting as an opening reed, and in coupled unison to the other free reed (which functions as a closing reed) in the same air slot. Such playing technique is a relatively newcomer, being pioneered mostly by Howard Levy, and now widely practiced by any accomplished “ten-hole” player. With this technique, along with the older, normal way for bending notes, in the players’ arsenal, the entire twelve-tone chromatic scale is now possible with the instrument, normally only diatonic. Here again, we run into problems of definition. The term “overblow” was attached to this technique, as an extension of the technique achieved with wind instruments, such as the clarinet, when higher overtones become available, greatly enhancing the instruments range. But with the harmonica, the physical mechanism is entirely different, as was discovered by researchers after popularization of the technique, and so, not really an overblow, as in the previous usage. Definitions linger.

 

But once you understand the meaning behind the concepts of “closing reed” and “opening reed,” it’s easier to get an intuitive feel for how the Western and Asian reeds differ in their operational mechanisms. The Western reed is stand alone, able to provide relatively large pressure oscillations, because of the “slamming door” effect. The Asian reed is simply a “reed blowing in the wind,” and it cannot be heard very well unless it can be exploited to provide some sort of a valving function for an air resonator that has much more capacity for higher sound powers.

 

The subject of valving, in turn, adds to our understanding, and illustrates how functions can go much further than simple definitions. The beating reeds, with their coupled air column, behave like “pressure valves,” closing the door at precisely the right time when a positive pressure pulse arrives from the resonator, effectively acting as a closed end to the tube resonator. This is why the clarinet, for instance, behaves similarly (but not entirely) as a quarter wave tube, tending to enhance odd harmonics. The tone generators in flutes, on the other hand, consist of an air stream interacting with an edge, critically determining when a pulse of air from the musicians lips either enters the instrument, or misses it. The edge tone generator is thus not a pressure valve, but a flow valve, more or less like a transistor, and causes the mouthpiece end of the tube resonator to act as an open end, imparting the behavior of a half wave tube, with its tendency to emphasize all harmonics.

 

I think it’s safe to say that the Western free reed is neither a pressure valve nor a flow valve, and thus, it is not amenable to strong coupling with a resonator, in the way the Asian variety is. In fact, as I explain in my PICA paper (http://www.concertina.org/ica/index.php/pica/subject-index/38-articles/87-reed-cavity-design-and-resonance), an attempt to strongly couple a Western free reed with a resonator will destroy its operation (choke the reed). My pitch bending innovation for keyed free reed instruments depends upon this fact.

 

I think Jim’s example of the Jew’s harp is interesting. From its construction, it resembles the Asian free reed more than the Western version. I don’t think, though, the coupling between the reed and the mouth cavity is very strong, as in the case of the Asian free reeds. Yes, air vibration of the mouth cavity, acting probably as a Helmholtz resonator, is excited, but I don’t think this air vibration significantly affects the reed vibration. I do agree that perhaps the Jew’s harp and the Sheng, for instance, can be considered to be in the similar categories. Notice, however that, for effective performance with the Jew’s harp, the player must blow in and out through the vibrating reed. The principles of operation of the Jew’s harp, I think, are very complicated, and I don’t understand them. I’d guess they probably involve excitation of the resonator by coupled eddies of air currents, caused by turbulence from the player's breath, which are inherently nonlinear effects.

 

To blue eyed sailor, I’d say that claims about “tuned” reed chambers are much easier to make than they are to fulfill whatever they are intended to imply. Direct, strong coupling will cause problems, as my PIC paper explains. A passive kind of tuning is possible in theory, but not really tuning with the cavity itself. Wheatstone has a patent for such passive sound enhancement through the use of quarter wave tubes, with their open end mounted close to the reed. But this idea is not practical for currently conceived Western instruments, requiring very large structures for the lower notes.

 

Best regards,

Tom

www.bluesbox.biz

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Anglo-Irishman:

Why is the reed pan or action-board of Western instruments made of softwood if it hasn't got a function as a resonator?

 

The principal wood in concertinas is European mapler/English sycamore, and to some extend mahogany, not softwood. The face plates of vintage concertinas are usually out of ebony, pear (ebonized), mahogany, rosewood and maple/sycamore with amboyna veneers. In traditionally constructed concertinas the type of wood plays a minor role in the overall sound. You won’t hear any difference between an instrument with ebony or ebonized pear ends, or amboynas and rosewood ends.

 

The most important function of the wood is to provide stability. The type of glue you use is much more important. You cannot make a quality musical instrument with modern wood glues because they insolate rather than unify the different wooden parts.

The quality of the wood is very important and a major worry for most instrument makers. You can’t just go to your local lumberyard and buy high end wood. We hire a professional wood expert to travel through Germany to find high grade European maple for us. We also import English sycamore directly (logs) from GB. The quality issues are not limited to the wood. We also need to import the brass for our actions and reed frames from Europe and of course the vocal steel for the reeds because they don’t make that on this side of the pond.

 

There are only a few makers who use other types of woods: Colin Dipper, who uses mahogany in some of his instruments as the principal wood (as did Lachenal), and myself. In addition to the woods mentioned earlier, I also use spruce (European fichten from the Alps) in combination with traditional luthier building techniques. There is an intricate structure of ribs and sound posts inside stringed instruments. I used the same techniques in the Parnassus. The only other concertina that uses spruce in its construction is our A2 anglo model.

 

Western free reed instruments do not use resonators, not like their Asian counterparts. We do use the German word “resonanz“ in the construction of western free reed instruments, but more in relation to cassotto chambers and other sound reflection techniques. The only possible exception could be the melophone, which uses a proper soundboard, just like a string instrument.

I can imagine that words like resonanz are translated to resonance in English, which would explain the misunderstanding.

 

FYI, German has been the dominant language in the free reed world since the early 1800s. Most publications are in German. The majority of all the free reed related inventions and improvements originated in that part of the world, starting with Eschenbach and Schlimmbach in 1812, and all the way up to the most famous designers of the 20th century: Gola and Morino, 2 italians working for Hohner.

 

Although Wheatstone invented the design of the concertina, many aspects of his invention were copied from/ based on the free reed instruments they (the Wheatstone music business) imported from Germany. There were all kinds of free reed instruments produced in Germany and surrounding countries before the invention of the concertina, (e.g. Aeoline, terpodion, physarmonika, aura, handaeoline, aeolharmonica, etc.). Patents, especially in those days, were mostly national, not international. A good example of a ‘double’ patent in our concertina world is Caspar Wicki’s keyboard patent of 1896, which is identical to Brian Hayden’s keyboard….

 

Tuned chambers (called “Kanzelen”) already appeared in Schlimmbach’s Aeolodikon (1825) and other free reed instruments from that time. This idea was very common during the early 1800s, you’ll find it in several harmonium type instruments of that time. Many early free reed makers were trained as organ builders and used their knowledge in this ‘new’ instruments design.

 

As explained already, concertinas do not have ‘tuned’ chambers in the sense that Wheatstone meant. It basically was a popular sales pitch… However, in Edeophone, Aeola and modern english and duet models the chambers for the lower reeds often do correspond with one of the harmonics (octave or fifth).

The position of the reed in the chamber affects the harmonic spectrum of the reed more than the chamber size. The most important aspect of the chamber is its air volume in relation to the reed’s performance, not its harmonic spectrum.

 

The Jews harp played an important role in the development of the western free reeds. According to history, Eschenbach noticed in 1812 that he could change the volume of the ‘Maultrommel’ (Jews harp) with the breath of the player. The ‘reed’ itself is activated by plucking. In Eschenbach’s design, the reed was activated by an airflow.

 

Wim

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Wim,

 

Thanks for the informative description of concertina construction. I’m curious from which country you import the vocal steel for your reeds. Can you mention to us the exact material specification (UNS number, or its equivalent) for both your steel and brass reed tongues, unless of course you consider such information proprietary?

 

In your discussion of the Jew’s harp, you reminded me that I recently read Wheatstone’s 1844 patent, which touches upon our recent discussion and wherein he claims a “means of setting a tongue or spring into immediate vibration by means of a mechanical impulse at the same instant the wind is admitted to act upon it.” He goes on to describe a kind of catch that plucks the end of the tongue at the moment the air stream is caused to flow through the reed. Although such a contraption, it seems, never proved practical, it would certainly alter the slow start transient inherent to the existing instrument, as per our previous conversation, and to me, improve upon the individual identity of each note.

 

Best regards,

Tom

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Brass MS58: CuZn39Pb3.

 

Vocal steel: 1.950 50 N/mm2

 

We buy our stock from suppliers in Germany, but they are industry standards and available form suppliers in different (European) countries. The reason these materials are not available here in the US is because we don't have a free reed industry: no demand, no supply.

 

 

 

it would certainly alter the slow start transient inherent to the existing instrument, as per our previous conversation

 

 

As I mentioned before, there are so many design options available that change the 'reed attack' (your start transient) in the accordion, concertina and melophone traditions, that there was no need for a mechanical solution for this problem.

After Lachenal increased their reed scaling for the lower register in the Edeophone models which improved reed responds conserably, Wheatstone followed shortly after with the same 'improvement' in their Aeola model.

With the rise of the accordion industry in the 1950s, many factory and independently owned research labs developed new ways to increase reed performance and improve air economics. Examples: instruments developed by Gola, helicon reeds, and of course the Russian bayans.

 

wim

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi John,

 

I'd guess the concept of a "free reed" would translate into German as "durchschlagende Zunge".

 

Regards - Wolf

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi John,

 

I'd guess the concept of a "free reed" would translate into German as "durchschlagende Zunge".

 

Regards - Wolf

 

Hi, Wolf,

 

Yes, the German term does convey the sense of what Wim and others have posted more precisely than the English!

 

I should have thought of that. As a technical translator, I frequently encounter terms that are precise in one language and ambiguous or unclear in the other.

 

Thanks,

John

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...