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Laurence

A Wheatstone Jeffries Lachenal Concertina-Guitar On Ebay

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With that header, it's an attempt to get concertina players' (search engines') attention.

 

It's also something that would interest Wim Wakker, though maybe not at that price.

 

If I remember correctly, the "melophone" was a German (correction: apparently invented in France) free-reed instrument made to look (and to some extent finger?) like a guitar or lute. In fact, during Regondi's first tour in Germany, it seems his English concertina was sometimes referred to in publicity as a melophone, presumably because that was the closest thing that the public might be familiar with.

 

Wim is currently working on building his own version, though I'm pretty sure it's a labor of love, rather than because he anticipates a huge market for it. He showed me some nice stuff when I visited him last year, and I wish I could remember clearly all the details of what he said and played.

 

(I've just had a frightful thought: the "anglo guitar". I.e., what if one could build a guitar that produced different notes depending on whether one plucked a string upward or downward? But please, let's not hijack this thread with a discussion of that. B))

Edited by JimLucas

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I saw one at the music museum in Brussels (maybe it was Bruges). I didn't know what it was and asked here. Rich Morse identified it as a Melophone.

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So rare, that wikipedia doesn't have a page on it, and sends you to mellophone instead, which is a brass instrument.

 

From what I can gather it has 7 strings, so presumably you can only press one button per row at once. What isn't quite clear to me is how the strings are made to sound, and how much contribution they make to the overall sound if there is also a free reed being sounded. It rather reminds me of that inimitable composer PDQ Bach, one of whose pieces was written for orchestra, bagpipes and lute - you couldn't hear the lute over the orchestra, and you couldn't hear anything over the bagpipes.

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.........

From what I can gather it has 7 strings, so presumably you can only press one button per row at once. What isn't quite clear to me is how the strings are made to sound, and how much contribution they make to the overall sound if there is also a free reed being sounded. ...........

As I examine the pictures on E-bay I get the impression that the strings do not sound.

They operate the pads over the holes to allow the reeds to sound.

Note:- no tuning pegs for strings.

 

With one hand operating the bellows, leaving only one hand to work the keys and with the pads operated by dingly, dangly, stretchy strings/wires and a large double thickness guitar shaped body, it's not hard to see why it was never popular.

 

By comparision the concertina was streets ahead - small, compact, light weight, two-handed bellows operation and each hand operating the buttons!!

 

Jake

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The very informative Ebay item description says,

 

 

The following text regarding the melophone is from the Belle Skinner Collection of Old Musical Instruments:

The melophone was invented in 1837 by a watchmaker of Paris named Leclerc
(Liitgendorfif, II, p. 287; Sachs, p. 258). This curious instrument, now hardly
known, created quite a stir during its short life.

 

 

 

Devised by a watchmaker, eh?

Just to rehabilitate the musical watchmaker as a tradesman of often very practical genius, I should mention the London watchmaker Preston. In the mid-18th century, he devised Preston's Machine, which is a tuning mechanism for fretted stringed instruments of the cittern family. The string is not wound round a peg or worm-and-pinion roller (as on a violin or guitar), but is hitched to a hook that rides on a threaded rod that can be turned with a watch-key to adjust the tension of the string. Preston built this machine into the then popular English Guittar. It was adopted by the Portuguese for their wire-strung guitarra (though with knurled knobs instead of the watch-key), and later for the German Waldzither, again operated by a watch-key.

Preston's Machine only works satisfactorily with wire strings - gut or nylon strungs stretch too much, and would require prohibitively long threaded rods. But for fine-tuning steel strings, it's unbeatable!

There's a pic of an English Guittar with Preston's Machines here, and the head of a modern Waldzither here.

 

Let us also not forget that the problem of determining one's logitude was solved, not by a navigator, not by an astronomer, but by the watchmaker Harrison, who devised a chronometer that kept time even when "rocked in the cradle of the deep!"

 

So the Melophone is not typical of the watchmaker's trade!

 

Cheers,

John

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