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Wood or metal end? Test results...


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And, since you ask, I have never come across a really screaming wood end job, (although it would have to be a Jeffries wouldn't it?)

 

Just to reply to Dirge here.........Paul Read and myself each had a Dipper made as sisters a couple of years ago that are quite the loudest anglos I've heard (and I have heard many Jeffries)...........both wooden ended.

To this point; I've started wearing a soft ear-plug in my right ear after about a year ago I found had a constant pain in my right ear after playing this thing.......I realized that part of the problem was that I was sitting about three feet away from a window on my RHS when practising and I think the very loud sound was being reflected straight back at me....this never happened with a Jeffries (same keys)

I've now moved to a different place but still use an ear plug for this particular Dipper.

I should also note that that at our Toronto English session in a downtown pub, the acoustics are aweful but I can always hear Paul's instrument.

 

Robin

Robin,

 

for this same reason I can't play in cars. Interestingly I find the reflection from windows is very high frequency. I do sometimes wonder what it is like to sit next to me at a session.

 

Do you recognise a difference between loud and piercing? Would you describe your Dippers as screamers?

 

Cheers

 

Chris

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Only anecdotal musings I'm afraid, but my own metal ended G/D Dipper is ferociously loud even when compared to a Dipper re-built C. Jeffries metal ended 30 key C/G and a recent weekend with Keith Kendrick reinforced the "Dippers can be very loud" suggestion, as his wooden ended A/D Dipper can reach mighty volumes! I also have a wooden ended C/G Wheatstone from the 1920's which certainly doesn't play in a shy and retiring way - I guess there's got to be more in play (sic ;) ) here than just the material from which the end plates are made?

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In light of the experiment and the Dipper comments I found myself thinking that perhaps the wood vs metal thing was something Wheatstone and Lachenal engineered in deliberately. That would then fit my experience to a large degree yet not dispute the observations we're discussing.

 

Then I felt I had to offer a reason why they would do it to justify this. I thought perhaps it would increase the choices they were offering by making the 2 materials APPEAR to offer greater sound characteristic variations. I also wondered if there was a price difference but CBA to look it up. Anyone got an old catalogue handy?

 

(I was thinking of the way injection cars were more expensive than carburettor cars when they first came out, "Racey!" "Sporty!" but in fact the injection system was a lot cheaper to make than a carb...were W&L able to charge more for a metal ender that cost much the same to make?)

 

(edited to make something make sense. Well, more sense than it did...)

Edited by Dirge
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Do you recognise a difference between loud and piercing? Would you describe your Dippers as screamers?

Hmmm. not sure about the former question. Have just come back from our Toronto session. The acoustics are such that i have to struggle to hear my 4-voiced ADG melodeon I lead the session with but could clearly hear Paul sitting across from me (very nice too) So maybe piercing but just a great sound.

They are certainly not screamers but I couldn't come up with a suitable adjective....the response of the reeds is, as you would expect, a lovely timbre from pp to ff. And the beauty of playing such an instrument is that it's really seldom you need to play it loud......there are so few occasions when you need to be in the red zone (Morris excepted probably)

 

BUT there ain't nothin' growls like a Jeffries at the bottom end!

Robin

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Dirge, I have a Lachenal leaflet handy, latest date for awards on it is 1889. It was in the box of my 46 key Maccann, no 789, with brass reeds, shown as costing £3. 10s. 0d,and was the next to cheapest duet, cheapest being the 39 key. This one I sold. The most expensive was shown as 46 key, Newly Improved steel reeds, six fold morocco bellows priced £10.0.0. All shown with rosewood ends. 4 octave duets 4 guineas extra (£4 4s. 0d) only on the latter box. Nickel plated ends shown as being £1 extra on any of them. No mention of metal ends on the English pricelist, but New Model ones were shown in rosewood or ebony. No New Model shown on the duet list. My New Model metal ended duet is a little younger by about 2 months or so, no 805, so this may have been about the time of their addition, unless anyone knows otherwise!

Would be interesting to find the relative cost of materials for the ends, but I suspect that the metal ends may have taken longer to make and therefore a bit more expensive. Also have to rout out a rebate to fit them.

Lots of other leaflets (inc. mine) on concertina library, courtesy of Chris Algar.

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A very interesting topic that begs several questions to be asked...

 

Chris, I'd be very interested to know if the microphone was pointing directly at the end of the concertina? In my experience, there are many times when I'll be sitting at the tuning bench and dad will be standing next to me (stealing my screwdriver to put an instrument together), and when he plays it, my ear is at the same level as the end, and receives a VERY piercing sound. However, as soon as I am off axis, the sound mellows incredibly.

 

It would be interesting to consider repeating the test with the microphone pointing at the instrument but without the diaphragm of the microphone being aligned with the end plate (wooden or metal) of the concertina.

 

Further to this, no-one who plays a concertina would ever be able to listen to both ends at once in this way (a nasty case of severe 'Wimbledon Umpire's Neck' would occur)! Interesting to read Robin's observations about playing close to a window. For sure the window needs to be removed - it's only -35 C - Man Up!!! ;-) Seriously though, many fiddlers and violinists I know will have a specially fitted earplug with a constant 10dB reduction across the hearing range for their left ear (closest to the fiddle) and I quite often practice with earbuds in.

 

While recording with Rob Harbron we ended up using a single microphone in front of the instrument, as this gave the most natural sound. (Before this Rob had always put a mic on each side of the instrument, and the sound from his wooden ended Wheatstone was quite full of harmonics that we all associate with metal ends).

 

I've recently been experimenting with Mid/Side recording, which on my fiddle gives a great sound. For the concertina I have rotated the mic array through 90 degrees so that the mic placement is more like Mid/TopBottom so that the English does not produce the Haas effect. (The microphones being in front of the instrument between 12" - 18" away).

 

My experience of live sound tells me that the average sound engineer doesn't know NOT to pan the sides of an English concertina hard left and hard right, and also for simplicity, one microphone actually works superbly and gives a far more natural sound.

 

I''m encouraged that people posting on here understand that the point of well fitted reeds and careful acoustic design mean that an instrument can be incredibly loud, but they don't have to be payed at the volume. A Stradivarius is designed to fill a concert hall and let the people in the back row hear the soloist over the orchestra, but that does not mean its played to the max all the time. There sadly seems to be a small contingent of players out there that have chosen to adopt the baboon method of playing assuming that bent and forced out of tune notes is the aim, and that volume is the be all and end all. We are constantly striving to create instruments that allow the maximum possible transfer of the players intentions and emotions, and its sad when you hear an instrument that is only ever played at 11. Music seems very much to me to be linked to speech and song - if you've ever tried to converse with someone who only shouts its very boring ;-). It's also quite like buying a Ferrari or Aston Martin and complaining that when you drive it at 200mph into the car park it's really hard to park it in the space!

 

Sorry, I've probably strayed way off topic, but what I am trying to say is, the listening or mic'ing position/axis is an important factor. So is the volume/intensity of the note (how much pressure the player applies) for sure this will change the harmonic complexity of the note.

 

Right, best get back to the Reedpans I was making...

 

Hail the land of wonderful adventures, fiddling, tweaking and head-scratching as the waiting list increases... !

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Great post, John D. Thanks. This made me laugh out loud: Interesting to read Robin's observations about playing close to a window. For sure the window needs to be removed.

 

I agree with everything you said. The point about "a loud concertina" is that it can be played more quietly, with less effort, than a concertina that isn't as loud. A loud concertina -- or flute or fiddle -- doesn't get in the way of the music. There are fewer technical obstacles in the way of playiing the music. From this perspective, volume is not what a loud concertina is all about. And when we say "a loud concertina," there is really no such thing apart from a player cranking it up. "Loud" refers to the instrument being capable of blasting one's eardrums, not to it doing so when taken out of the box and put in a lap. "Too loud" is the fault of the player and not of the instrument.

 

And just as an afterthought, the loudest concertina that I have is a wooden-ended Dipper.

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A very interesting topic that begs several questions to be asked...

 

Chris, I'd be very interested to know if the microphone was pointing directly at the end of the concertina? In my experience, there are many times when I'll be sitting at the tuning bench and dad will be standing next to me (stealing my screwdriver to put an instrument together), and when he plays it, my ear is at the same level as the end, and receives a VERY piercing sound. However, as soon as I am off axis, the sound mellows incredibly.

 

It would be interesting to consider repeating the test with the microphone pointing at the instrument but without the diaphragm of the microphone being aligned with the end plate (wooden or metal) of the concertina.

 

Further to this, no-one who plays a concertina would ever be able to listen to both ends at once in this way (a nasty case of severe 'Wimbledon Umpire's Neck' would occur)! Interesting to read Robin's observations about playing close to a window. For sure the window needs to be removed - it's only -35 C - Man Up!!! ;-) Seriously though, many fiddlers and violinists I know will have a specially fitted earplug with a constant 10dB reduction across the hearing range for their left ear (closest to the fiddle) and I quite often practice with earbuds in.

 

While recording with Rob Harbron we ended up using a single microphone in front of the instrument, as this gave the most natural sound. (Before this Rob had always put a mic on each side of the instrument, and the sound from his wooden ended Wheatstone was quite full of harmonics that we all associate with metal ends).

 

I've recently been experimenting with Mid/Side recording, which on my fiddle gives a great sound. For the concertina I have rotated the mic array through 90 degrees so that the mic placement is more like Mid/TopBottom so that the English does not produce the Haas effect. (The microphones being in front of the instrument between 12" - 18" away).

 

My experience of live sound tells me that the average sound engineer doesn't know NOT to pan the sides of an English concertina hard left and hard right, and also for simplicity, one microphone actually works superbly and gives a far more natural sound.

 

I''m encouraged that people posting on here understand that the point of well fitted reeds and careful acoustic design mean that an instrument can be incredibly loud, but they don't have to be payed at the volume. A Stradivarius is designed to fill a concert hall and let the people in the back row hear the soloist over the orchestra, but that does not mean its played to the max all the time. There sadly seems to be a small contingent of players out there that have chosen to adopt the baboon method of playing assuming that bent and forced out of tune notes is the aim, and that volume is the be all and end all. We are constantly striving to create instruments that allow the maximum possible transfer of the players intentions and emotions, and its sad when you hear an instrument that is only ever played at 11. Music seems very much to me to be linked to speech and song - if you've ever tried to converse with someone who only shouts its very boring ;-). It's also quite like buying a Ferrari or Aston Martin and complaining that when you drive it at 200mph into the car park it's really hard to park it in the space!

 

Sorry, I've probably strayed way off topic, but what I am trying to say is, the listening or mic'ing position/axis is an important factor. So is the volume/intensity of the note (how much pressure the player applies) for sure this will change the harmonic complexity of the note.

 

Right, best get back to the Reedpans I was making...

 

Hail the land of wonderful adventures, fiddling, tweaking and head-scratching as the waiting list increases... !

 

Thanks for your thoughts. Lovely you are working with your parents, it makes me feel something is right with the world.

 

I recognise the sound effect you mention, increased piercing volume from proximity and from being straight in front of the end.  Perhaps this does describe a situation which might create the difference between loud and piercing and means these effects occur on the same instrument in different listening positions rather than describing two different instruments. Thanks for clarifying this and I'll think about how to illustrate it if I get a moment away from the bellows I am making for the second time. Don't ask.

 

The concertina was not pointing directly at the mic. The mic was a stereo pair built in to an Edirol R09, about 15" to 18" from and at about 45degrees to the instrument end.

 

In addition, the position of the concertina in relation to the mic was the same with both metal and wood ends. It may be that "characteristic" sounds from each might be more better differentiated in an extreme position, such as very off mic or very on mic.

 

Interesting about the ear plugs. I play a very loud instrument and when I play it in a very reflective environment such as at the kitchen table I sometimes worry the louder passages might be damaging my hearing. I wonder about people I sit next to in sessions, but I have never had a complaint. I think will now try ear plugs but I find the higher frequencies, the ones which are the most cut by earplugs, a more precise thing to listen to for timing than low sounds. I was recently asked to make an instrument which was mellow, ie. fewer high partials, and I found it difficult to adapt to. I can't rule out old ears damaged by years of loud music, motorbikes and machine tools as a factor in my need for strong high frequencies as a playing aid.

 

Back to the bellows...

 

Chris

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I've come across the comment that it's actually the transients, the overtones produced before the steady state note, that give instruments their particular 'colour' -- I wonder if that matters here. The sample notes were played for around half a second each -- would the same experiment, but playing, say, a fast jig give a different result?

 

Chris

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  • 1 year later...

I'm a late entrant to this topic. I had a quick listen to the sounds and agree there's not much in it. I also had a squiz at the spectra, using Audacity, and still agree there's not much in it. I've also skimmed the discussion, but only skimmed it.

 

It's useful, when dealing with musical instrument spectra to look separately at the lower partials, which are often of similar or even increasing amplitude (loudness), and the higher partials, which are usually of decreasing loudness. The intersection of these two trends are referred to as the "cut-off frequency". (Possibly an uncomfortable term for those with an electronics background - we tend to think off "cut-off" as a very sharp decline, and use "roll-off" for less steep declines. But we'll go with "cut-off" here.) The cut-off frequency often tells us where natural filters (such as what we might expect of thick endplates vs thin endplates, or sparsely perforated endplates vs very open endplates) kick in, dragging down the upper partials.

 

Here's the spectrum of one of Chris' notes, where I've superimposed red lines to illustrate the two separate regions of interest: (click to enlarge)

 

post-11004-0-72126300-1394067533_thumb.gif

 

So, why didn't I bother including the spectrum of the other note? Because it's not dramatically different. But you knew that already.

 

It would be interesting to apply this approach to other comparisons, eg Wheatstone vs Jeffries, accordion vs concertina reeds, push vs pull notes, to see if we can associate spectral responses with audible differences. Always best to start with bold differences (Jeffries vs Chinese Lantern?) to see what to look for, then work towards the subtle differences.

 

Terry

Edited by Terry McGee
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Also late to the party - when listening to the recording (low notes) I started thinking "wood then metal" (but not much in it), but at the end (high notes) thought "metal then wood", mainly influenced by which of the notes seemed most muffled. It would have been interesting to have heard some lower notes, as maybe they would have demonstrated the transition more clearly. In the past I've had the impression that metal ended instruments tend to have a rather loud bass end (and the treble/bass balance is never good with concertinas) - my opinion of concertinas is dominated more by the bass/mid than the mid/high balance.

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While recording with Rob Harbron we ended up using a single microphone in front of the instrument, as this gave the most natural sound. (Before this Rob had always put a mic on each side of the instrument, and the sound from his wooden ended Wheatstone was quite full of harmonics that we all associate with metal ends).

 

I've recently been experimenting with Mid/Side recording, which on my fiddle gives a great sound. For the concertina I have rotated the mic array through 90 degrees so that the mic placement is more like Mid/TopBottom so that the English does not produce the Haas effect. (The microphones being in front of the instrument between 12" - 18" away).

 

 

 

A while ago I thought about how to record concertina with a reasonably wide sound, but none of the left/right "bounce" which drives me nuts (especially when listening with headphones). I posted previously about this: http://www.concertina.net/forums/index.php?showtopic=13357 and I think it could work quite well (taking more care to avoid reflections etc).

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