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Hmmm, didn't we determine elsewhere that cats don't like concertinas?

Well they do and don't, trouble is you have to open the box to find out.

 

Really enjoying this thread (welcome to Cnet by the way Terry, I have greatly appreciated your similarly erudite contributions to Woodenflute for many years) without being able to offer much in the way of substantial contribution.

 

I'm 100% in agreement with the observation that its the mix engineer who can do far more good and / or ill than the mics, having had both wonderful and atrocious sound from my Microvox setup over the years.

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Hi Steve, and thanks for the welcome. Seems like the old tale about flute players often also being concertina players might have a basis.

 

Seems to be a recurring theme that the same mic system can give good or bad results depending upon the engineer. I wonder if that's because of a failing by the engineer to do something needed (e.g., a bit of treble roll-off to tame a too-bright sound), or a misadvised intervention carried out by the engineer (e.g., introducing a notch to control a troubling feedback problem that then decimates the concertina tone). Any insights, Microvox users?

 

I don't know if it's still the habit of sound engineers to "tune the room" before the audience gets there. The system is set up with a "reference mic" (usually a very cheap omnidirectional mic), and the gain advanced until feedback occurs. The frequency of the feedback is determined and a notch inserted on the 1/3octave graphic equaliser. Gain is advanced again till it feeds back again, and the new frequency notched out. Or worse, the equaliser channels that haven't been notched are now advanced to the brink of feedback. After doing this for a while, the graphic equaliser looks like a cross section through the Swiss Alps. Then the audience is admitted and the reference mic replaced with the real mics and lines. So both the room acoustic and the characteristics of the input devices change totally, and we now present the room with a totally mangled sound that may not in fact help reduce feedback. Whenever I do a gig in a venue with a "house curve" set up on the equaliser, I bypass it, and inevitably enjoy the sudden dramatic improvement in sound quality.

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I have sat in concerts at folk festivals where one act sounded great but another act, on the same stage with the same soundman, sounded bloody awful. This leads me to suppose that the signal coming to the soundman is at least as important as the soundman himself. Or maybe the soundman was no good - he could get a good sound with one band without having to try but didn't have a clue what to do about the other band.

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Yeah, no real way of telling, I guess, maccanic. I've certainly seen situations where the sound person has carefully set up during a sound check for the main act, and then been unwilling to alter any of the settings for the warm-up acts! Good to have it confirmed where you are in the food chain! Krill, essentially.

 

Jesse's former band was once warm-up for visiting group Jethro Tull. They were told to wear bright clothes. Only when the gig started did they find out why. They were placed on stage between the positions prepared for the Jethro Tull band members, and were thus between the spotlights. Thanks so much guys!

 

I think it does make sense, if you have your own on-board mics, to make sure what you are sending the sound person is what you want to hear. And to let them know that you think it should be about right. But probably not a good idea to insist it goes out exactly like that in case there are things you don't know about, eg a truly frightening House EQ curve which is going to take out all your bass and boost the treble (or some similar spectral distortion).

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It struck me that microphones actually inside or close alongside the end of the concertina would be bombarded by pretty high sound levels. It then struck me that these same high sound levels are possibly not that good for our ears. So I did a few measurements.

 

With sound level meter pressed up against the metal grill, I saw peak levels of around 126dBC when cranking out a four note chord at high pressure. That's good news for ears at least to the extent that instantaneous damage is unlikely, even if said ear were pressed to the metal. I could see that level clipping some microphones though, which is interesting.

 

Pulled back about 100mm (4"), I saw peaks of around 106dBA and average levels of around 100dBA. Most mics would handle that without trouble.

 

Measuring at the ear, while balancing the conca on the knee, gave average levels of around 80dBA with peaks around 91dBA. Holding the conca up under the chin raised the average to about 85dBA, which is the level above which one has to start considering accumulative noise dose. So we can probably conclude the conca isn't a danger to hearing. If your day job is already very noisy though (e.g. boilermaker), be aware that your playing might be adding to your cummulative dose.

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My stage set-up is for playing in a fairly noisy dance band. In this situation sound quality is just one consideration, others being ease of use, robustness, and resistance to feedback. I usually play either standing or sat on a high stool, and I often switch between instruments, sometimes during a set. It would be difficult to set up mic stands which covered all the options whilst allowing me some freedom of movement, and which were close enough to minimise the amount of sound picked up from other instruments on stage.

 

For these reasons I prefer on-board mics. I used to use a pair of tie-clip mics mounted inside the instrument. I then tried Microvox, but found them rather prone to feedback. I currently use a pair of AKG 416s. These are no longer in production, probably because the mounting bracket was notoriously fragile and easily broken. I've dispensed with the brackets, and attach a mic to each handstrap of the anglo using two velcro cable ties. Whilst this isn't elegant, it works and is fairly quick to switch between my two concertinas (it being a natural law that whichever instrument I need for a chosen set will be the one without the mics currently attached). The 416 has been replaced with the 516, which has a much more robust mount and is great on the melodeon but is rather bulky for concertina.

 

My personal opinion is that when playing as part of a band there is only so much you can do regarding sound quality. I doubt whether it's worth the cost of better-quality mics and other equipment, and the time to set up and adjust these, when the finer nuances will be lost in the overall 'wall of sound'. For the same reason I am happy to compromise the optimum mic positioning for one which provides me with greater convenience and ease of use.

 

On the few occasions I play solo I am more likely to use a pair of mics mounted on stands, as in this situation the sound quality is of greater importance and I am less likely to switch instruments so I can sacrifice some ease of use.

 

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It struck me that microphones actually inside or close alongside the end of the concertina would be bombarded by pretty high sound levels. It then struck me that these same high sound levels are possibly not that good for our ears. So I did a few measurements.

 

With sound level meter pressed up against the metal grill, I saw peak levels of around 126dBC when cranking out a four note chord at high pressure. That's good news for ears at least to the extent that instantaneous damage is unlikely, even if said ear were pressed to the metal. I could see that level clipping some microphones though, which is interesting.

 

Pulled back about 100mm (4"), I saw peaks of around 106dBA and average levels of around 100dBA. Most mics would handle that without trouble.

 

Measuring at the ear, while balancing the conca on the knee, gave average levels of around 80dBA with peaks around 91dBA. Holding the conca up under the chin raised the average to about 85dBA, which is the level above which one has to start considering accumulative noise dose. So we can probably conclude the conca isn't a danger to hearing. If your day job is already very noisy though (e.g. boilermaker), be aware that your playing might be adding to your cummulative dose.

What sort of concertina is this Terry? I have measured much higher levels at the ear though I am unsure of the accuracy as I was using a Dick Smith meter.

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What sort of concertina is this Terry? I have measured much higher levels at the ear though I am unsure of the accuracy as I was using a Dick Smith meter.

 

 

Hi Chris. Concertina is a metal-ended 36-key Anglo by Australian maker, Ian Simpson, of Corryong in Victoria. Our common friend, Jo Creswell has played it and pronounced it to be a fine thing.

 

(I must say, as a professional flute maker, I hold you concertina wranglers in considerable awe. There's an awful lot of stuff crammed in those little boxes, and it all has to work just right. I imagine if you drew one up in full technical detail in AutoCAD, and presented it to Prototyping in some large manufacturing company, the drawings would come back stamped "Not Feasible".)

 

The meter meets IEC Type II requirements, so should be good within +/- 1.5dB. It's quite likely the Dick Smith meter would give a higher reading (if it's the one I'm thinking of). It has a peak reading meter and is unweighted? I was interested in measuring average levels (to estimate "dose"), so I had my meter set to "Slow" and weighted to dBA (to simulate the human ear's response). I used it set to "Fast", "Max" (peak-holding) and dBC for the "up-against-the-grill" measurement, as that was intended to test for ear or microphone overload. That would give results closer to the DSE meter.

 

They were pretty rough-and-ready measurements too. If anyone has needs for more accurate measurements of a typical concertina, I'm happy to repeat them more rigorously. I also have my Crabbe-refurbished 30-key wooden-ended Lachenal available.

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Hi Terry,

 

Simpsons are good instruments. I imagine few have heard of them. For the record, Australian Ian Simpson made around 5 instruments with traditional reeds in the 80s. All anglos, at least one is a G/D. Ian trained as a fitter and turner, I have seen inside his instruments, they are nicely made. These days he is a farmer. He plays in the Nariel Creek Band, a band with a long history his late father and grandfather played in the band before him. Dan Worrall would know Ian I suspect. His instruments would not be as loud as a modern anglo from the Dippers, Wally Carroll or Jurgen Suttner, or mine for that matter.

 

A few years ago I went to Paris with an introduction to a violin maker in the Rue de Rome. The maker plays Irish fiddle and we have a mutual friend in Dublin. I had an enjoyable few hours with him trying his stock. I took apart one of my concertinas to show him and he said "my god, I only have to make the outside box..."

 

When I was measuring sound levels of my concertina I realised the meter was inadequate. The concertina was slightly quiet in the fundamental and had quite an edge in the uppers. I felt it would only be meaningful if I could read volume at multiple frequencies.

 

I would get the meter out and look at it but I have just shifted to the Blue Mountains and the main workshop is so full of dismantled equipment I can hardly shut the door. Working on a a new storage shed, when that is finished I will be able to get organised again. If you are ever passing Wentworth Falls do drop in...

 

Chris

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