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LeadFingersErnie

Why Are Concertinas Hexagonal?

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I was playing in a pub session the other night, and a member of the public came up and asked me why concertinas are hexagonal.

 

A very good question, and none of the other musicians could answer it either. Yes, I know that some are octagonal, but why not round or square? The only possible answer I could give is that if you are playing on a ship, it stopes the thing rolling away.

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Apart from economical reasons, you have answered your own question, as even 12-sided Edeos seem to roll off the table at times... :D

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I believe that square Concertinas already exist and I guess that round bellows would probably present insurmountable construction and operational problems if made out of traditional materials.

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But, I betcha I'm not the only one to visualize bellows made from some kind of high-end dryer vent flex pipe! Could make replacement bellows cost very few dollars, rather than few hundred. This struck me a while ago, while reading a "vegetarian concertina" thread here.

 

Regards,

 

David

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(I'm sure smarter folks than me will jump in to do the whole "concertinas weren't particularly nautical" bit).

 

 

Musing here, but my understanding is the first Wheatstone patents were hexagonal (or octagonal?) because the design of the English concertina lends itself to radiusing out. A smidge later in that period the Germans were making more Uhlig-influenced and accordion-esque little square proto-Anglo concertinas. There's not the same layout reasons to make Anglos hex/oct/circle-ish because the layout is different, but I'd imagine those shapes seemed more "upscale" since they resembled the fancier English models. Kinda like putting a spoiler on a family sedan makes it look sportier even though it's not a speedracing car.

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There is interesting and relevant stuff on this website about the Herrington Concertina.

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I was playing in a pub session the other night, and a member of the public came up and asked me why concertinas are hexagonal.

 

A very good question, and none of the other musicians could answer it either. Yes, I know that some are octagonal, but why not round or square? The only possible answer I could give is that if you are playing on a ship, it stopes the thing rolling away.

 

This has been discussed before, but I'm too hurried to search for it at the moment. However...

  • Square concertinas have been built, but only anglos, as far as I know, and with parallel rather than radial reed chambers.
  • Lachenal made a few round ones. A single batch of Englishes, if I recall correctly. No record of why they didn't do any more, but likely guesses include 1) danger of damage from rolling and 2) difficulty in construction.
  • With radial reed distribution, a round reed pan (and therefore a round end) supposedly gives the most uniform/balanced sound. A hexagon is a much better approximation than a square, yet still much easier to build than even an octagon. (8- and 12-sided ends, when they eventually came into use, were reserved for more expensive "deluxe" models.)

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I read an interesting article that came into my possession many years ago, which was inside a concertina box and was issued by Wheatstone.Sadly this paper was lent to a friend who never returned it.

It stated in a paragraph ,that the best results for sound came from a round tube shaped concertina and in manufacture the nearest economic shape they could get to this was hexagonal, but hence the many sided concertinas made as specials.

There must have been more copies of this leaflet given out it would be of interest if anyone has one.

Al

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The radial reed arrangement makes the best sense for an English concertina. These were designed for "real musicians" - i.e. people who played "polite" music and read the dots - people who were often middle class, comfortably off and able to pay the extra for quality workmanship.

 

With radial reeds you need something as circular as possible. A hexagon has 6 corners, and six sets of joints, gussets, etc. An Octagon is more nearly circular but has a third more joints and gussets etc. so is (about) a third more expensive to make.

 

The shape of an Anglo may be less crucial, but manufacturers wanted the "Anglo German" to be distinguished from the German, and to resemble the English so they could sell it as a comparable quality product.

 

My simplified explanation.

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[[[The radial reed arrangement makes the best sense for an English concertina. These were designed for "real musicians" - i.e. people who played "polite" music]]]

 

Fine, but what is the best arrangement for an EC that will be used for "the people's music"---dance-hall music, ceili music, "Anglo concertina" music???? Who can make me one of these??? The "parlor" ECs just don't cut it for us ragamuffins...when i see wim wakker playing classical on that incredible custom creation of his, i totally get it. but....it's time for some creative, out-of-the-box alternatives for EC tone engineering....for the peasantry to use to raise hell on saturday nights....

Edited by ceemonster

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i totally get it. but....it's time for some creative, out-of-the-box alternatives for EC tone engineering....for the peasantry to use to raise hell on saturday nights....

 

Nah, if you want a peasant instrument, you really gotta get a square box:

 

2ewfv34.jpg

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square fine. i like that "Old-Time Dandy" model of Bob Tedrow's. but i'm looking for an ec config. there is no way ECs can't be engineered or vented or whatever, to be anglo-ish-sounding, fat-and-brassy, fat-and-sassy-toned "people's concertinas" rather than refined-sounding parlor instruments. so who is gonna build me one???

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square fine. i like that "Old-Time Dandy" model of Bob Tedrow's. but i'm looking for an ec config. there is no way ECs can't be engineered or vented or whatever, to be anglo-ish-sounding, fat-and-brassy, fat-and-sassy-toned "people's concertinas" rather than refined-sounding parlor instruments. so who is gonna build me one???

 

If you want a job doing properly then the usual advice is to do it yourself. With that in mind I have a pair of Wheatstone 'Flat' reedpans that will give you plenty of Barking noise... in fact a whole concertina needing restoration. I have intended re-building this instrument and providing it with metal ends and "go-faster stripes" but finding the time and the inclination to complete the job, especially when I already have one Band EC that 'cuts-it' very nicely, is proving elusive.

 

If you could be interested then PM me.

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The radial reed arrangement makes the best sense for an English concertina. These were designed for "real musicians" - i.e. people who played "polite" music and read the dots - people who were often middle class, comfortably off and able to pay the extra for quality workmanship.

 

With radial reeds you need something as circular as possible. A hexagon has 6 corners, and six sets of joints, gussets, etc. An Octagon is more nearly circular but has a third more joints and gussets etc. so is (about) a third more expensive to make.

 

The shape of an Anglo may be less crucial, but manufacturers wanted the "Anglo German" to be distinguished from the German, and to resemble the English so they could sell it as a comparable quality product.

 

My simplified explanation.

 

I would hazard a guess that there are as many if not more Anglos with radial reed pans, than with lattice framed chambers. The English system is NOT and was NOT restricted to the 'well to do' who could all read music. The grades of English System concertina and Anglo system concertinas are the same, from the brass reed mahogany ended (people's models) up to steel reeded ebony ended or ebony frame and metal ended more expensive models.

 

 

Dave

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[[if you could be interested then PM me.]] i would have to take a shop class first....or, say, a year or shop class. unfortunately. it's very intriguing.

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