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Concertina Sounds Travel Further Than String Instruments... Why?


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Well, there's my theory done for then! If I could remember who told me it was a fairly pure note then I'd track them down mercilessly and point them at this thread !!

 

 

Terry, It would be interesting to see the equivalent fourier plots for a violin and or a classic two reed melodeon, if you had them?

Edited by Clive Thorne
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Heh heh, if you google Violin Spectr images you'll find a bewildering array! Here's one I chose just because it also uses Audacity, and will therefore be easier to compare:

 

violin-b-4096.jpg

 

Not all that dissimilar to our concertina image, is it. I'll pull that back in here to allow easy comparison:

 

post-11004-0-72126300-1394067533.gif

 

It's not quite a fair comparison as the violin is playing B3, while the conca was playing D5. Note though the fiddle's strongest partial is the fundamental, while the conca's is the third harmonic. And, in the conca's case, by a margin of 18dB over the fundamental, which is pretty significant. But again, caution, we should be comparing same notes on same microphones in same acoustic environment if we really want to know. And we'd need to hear both notes to make sure we felt they were well played and well recorded.

 

It may seem suspicious that fiddle and conca share a broadly similar spectral layout, but if you compare (in your mind's ear) either of them with a flute or a guitar, you'd agree they are closer together that to the other things. They both have a buzzy tone, not a round one. I'd expect though if we went into it seriously we would find significant differences. Stridulation tends to produce a sawtooth-style wave (catch, slide, catch, slide...) while I'd expect a naked free reed would produce an asymmetric pulse-shaped wave. Both will then be modified (filtered or resonated) by their containers. In the fiddle, we'd expect box (air) and panel resonances; in the conca, perhaps we might detect effects by the cavities in which the reeds operate?

 

A search for melodeon spectr images got me exactly nowhere. Seems like that's an opening for a career in acoustics for some young boxplayer. Be prepared to have to explain over and over what a melodeon is, and why it's worthy of study, etc!

 

I'm reminded of a book on musical instruments I read when I was young but obviously not too impressionable. After chapters on violin, flute, piano etc, it had a final chapter called "Other Instruments", in which were lumped the guitar, banjo, etc. This started with "While it could be argued that there is no such thing as a bad instrument, it does seem a shame to spend too much time on ...."

 

Grrrrr.

 

Terry

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Thanks for that Terry.

 

The thing that stands out to me with these is that although the main harmonics are fairly similar, apart from what you've pointed out, the general 'background' level on the violin is way higher. I.e. if you look at the harmonic peaks on the concertina they start to rise out of the 'noise' at around -72db, where at the violin peaks start rise out of the noise at around -48db, - a big difference. As you point out, without knowing the exact circumstance of the recording it is hard to compare, but the impression , to me, is that the peaks with the violin are less significant than with the concertina, or perhaps I should say that the contribution of the "non harmonic" content is far higher with the fiddle rather than with the concertina.

 

No idea if this has any bearing on the original question about carrying distance though.

 

Does anyone have plots of a concertina and violin waveform, as opposed to the Fourier analysis?

 

Clive.

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To answer my own question - found these via google:

 

Concertina waveform:

sig2.gif

 

And the Fourier for it: Unfortunately the scale not in db.

 

power.gif

 

 

 

 

And a wave form for a violin: (467 Hz fundamental):

vwave.jpg

And the violin foiurier:

vspect.jpg

 

Seems to my eye that although the lower harmonics in both instruments are fairly comparable, the harmonics above the 7th are much stronger in the violin. Also, the concertina wave form is visually relatively simple. If you took out the inversions at the main peak you would have something approaching a sine wave, you'd have to do quite a bit more to the violin note to achieve the same. How much this visual impression relates to timbre I don't know.

 

And again, with knowing the exact circumstances of each recording and the analysis tools used comparisons might be useless.

 

 

What's it all mean? I refer you to the very last line in the film "The Commitments"!

Edited by Clive Thorne
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Inspired by this thread I asked a fiddler to go a floor downstairs and then stay in the staircase to try and hear which instrument he heard most clearly while we practised: 3 fiddles, 1 viola, 1 guitar, 1 double bass and my concertina. The concertina and the double bass came out clearest, the fiddles, viola and the guitar seemed to be blured together, but in the same room the fiddles and the viola is dominating the sound picture.

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Thanks for that Terry.

 

The thing that stands out to me with these is that although the main harmonics are fairly similar, apart from what you've pointed out, the general 'background' level on the violin is way higher. I.e. if you look at the harmonic peaks on the concertina they start to rise out of the 'noise' at around -72db, where at the violin peaks start rise out of the noise at around -48db, - a big difference. As you point out, without knowing the exact circumstance of the recording it is hard to compare, but the impression , to me, is that the peaks with the violin are less significant than with the concertina, or perhaps I should say that the contribution of the "non harmonic" content is far higher with the fiddle rather than with the concertina.

 

No idea if this has any bearing on the original question about carrying distance though.

 

Does anyone have plots of a concertina and violin waveform, as opposed to the Fourier analysis?

 

Clive.

Yes, I wondered at that too, Clive. It's quite possible that that is just microphone self-noise, room noise or something similar. We don't know if a cheap microphone might have been used (some electrets have a good frequency response but appalling self-noise), and also how far away from the fiddle the microphone was. If we wanted to get serious, we'd really have to commission some notes from someone who plays or has access to a fiddler and a concertina player, with a reasonable microphone and a quiet place to record. Applications should be set out in writing and accompanied with a $100 note...

 

But it's possible that the scraping action of the bow is responsible for that broadband noise too. We've all heard fiddle players that get a clear note, and those that don't. This might be one who didn't!

 

Terry

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Hi Clive and Terry,

 

In support of Clive's report of the concertina being a purer tone than the violin, just look at Terry's amplitude/time charts above. Only the concertina is quite like a sine wave. Another way of saying this is that the concertina wave is strongly symmetrical whereas the violin wave is not. Isn't that at least a large part of what we mean when we describe a tone as "pure"?

 

I have always thought of the concertina single reed steady tone as sounding mechanical, pure, perfect, predictable and sterile. To me, the violin sounds more human, warm, alive, unpredictable, and complex with all the messy bits apparent. In my solo playing, I try to use dynamics and combine pitches to make my playing sound messy (in a controlled and deliberate way) to counteract the mechanical sound of its tone. At least, that's how I perceive it.

 

I love to play duets with the fiddle. To my ear, the two sounds combine in the air to make the most of both of these tones. The concertina adds power and harmonic context to the fiddle. The fiddle warms up the concertina and makes it sound more human and less mechanical.

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Hi Clive and Terry,

 

In support of Clive's report of the concertina being a purer tone than the violin, just look at Terry's amplitude/time charts above. Only the concertina is quite like a sine wave. Another way of saying this is that the concertina wave is strongly symmetrical whereas the violin wave is not. Isn't that at least a large part of what we mean when we describe a tone as "pure"?

 

I have always thought of the concertina single reed steady tone as sounding mechanical, pure, perfect, predictable and sterile. To me, the violin sounds more human, warm, alive, unpredictable, and complex with all the messy bits apparent. In my solo playing, I try to use dynamics and combine pitches to make my playing sound messy (in a controlled and deliberate way) to counteract the mechanical sound of its tone. At least, that's how I perceive it.

 

I love to play duets with the fiddle. To my ear, the two sounds combine in the air to make the most of both of these tones. The concertina adds power and harmonic context to the fiddle. The fiddle warms up the concertina and makes it sound more human and less mechanical.

 

Certainly, a pure tone has to be symmetrical, but not all symmetrical tones are pure. A square wave for example is perfectly symmetrical, but contains (in theory) an infinite number of odd-numbered harmonics (i.e. 1, 3, 5, 7 ....n).

 

The little squiggles you see superimposed on the concertina waveform are the harmonics. If you removed all them, you'd get back to a sine wave and a pure sound.

 

You can see that the fiddle waveform also has squiggles superimposed, and you can see the expected sawtooth wave lurking below it. Even if you filtered out the superimposed squiggles, the sawtooth still contains harmonics. A sawtooth wave contains all the harmonics, both even and odd-numbered (i.e. 1,2,3,4,5...n).

 

I agree with the attraction of two fairly similar sounds. In early music, you find duets between wooden flute and recorder. Similar enough to blend when needed, different enough to tell them apart. Nice.

 

Terry

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