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Roy M.

Metal Ends Vs. Wood Ends... Do They Make A Difference?

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I realize this is probably a newbie question, and one that is not of immediate importance to my own situation. (I now await my Rochelle, whom I intend to become well antiquated with...)

 

I was looking at various concertinas. I noticed that many of the surviving models of Wheatstones and Jefferies tend to have metal ends. I browse The Button Box's website, and notice very handsome mid-range instruments from Concertina Connection and R. Morse & Co. whose ends are of wood. I have also discovered the website of Mr. Frank Edgely, whose concertinas are also features ends of wood and of metal.

 

Now, let us suppose that we have two concertinas. Both are of the same system, using for the most part the same components, and are made in the same production chains by the same groups of artisans to the same level of quality. The woods are the same as well. However, one has ends of metal while the other has ends made of wood.

 

If one was to compare the two instruments, would there be any significant in weight, tone, feel, cost, etc.? Are the differences significant enough to merit consideration, or would the difference be mostly aesthetic?

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Roy,

Based on all the innards (a good Texas word!) being equal, the metal-ended instrument would most likely be brighter and louder.

 

Gary

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Roy,

Based on all the innards (a good Texas word!) being equal, the metal-ended instrument would most likely be brighter and louder.

 

Gary

 

Didn't realize innards was a word unique to the dialect. :)

 

So there wouldn't be any other noticable weight savings or difference in feel (aside from if the instruments were foolishly left in the cold or sun)?

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I just had a Metal ended version of one of my concertinas for comparison with my wooden one. The weight of the metal ender was significantly more at about 225 grams ( half a pound approx.) and yes the tone was brighter, crisper and an amount louder or having more carrying power, cutting tone.....

 

Overall condition and comparing exactly the same instruments from a similar build period there will be differences between individual examples. How they are set up and what their lives have been like, if they are played regularly or left on the shelf as a spare instrument... all factors have an affect on tone and playability.

 

Whilst metal ended models are generally louder many of the current makers prefer to use wood for the ends and their instruments are plenty powerfull with perhaps a nicer tone.

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I was looking at various concertinas. I noticed that many of the surviving models of Wheatstones and Jefferies tend to have metal ends. I browse The Button Box's website, and notice very handsome mid-range instruments from Concertina Connection and R. Morse & Co. whose ends are of wood. I have also discovered the website of Mr. Frank Edgely, whose concertinas are also features ends of wood and of metal.

 

Now, let us suppose that we have two concertinas. Both are of the same system, using for the most part the same components, and are made in the same production chains by the same groups of artisans to the same level of quality. The woods are the same as well. However, one has ends of metal while the other has ends made of wood.

 

If one was to compare the two instruments, would there be any significant in weight, tone, feel, cost, etc.? Are the differences significant enough to merit consideration, or would the difference be mostly aesthetic?

 

This has been discussed more than once in the past. You could use both the Search facility on this site and Google to look for those threads.

 

In general, it seems that -- all else being equal -- metal-ended instruments are heavier.

 

As for loudness and sound quality, metal-ended ones are generally considered to be both louder and "brighter", but there have been reports here of experiments that call both into question. E.g., a "brighter" instrument may be perceived as "louder" even though acoustically it doesn't register as such. (Reminds me of an experiment I read about years ago which showed that the operatic voice could be heard over an orchestra not because it was loud, but because its frequency spectrum differed from an ordinary singing voice.) I seem to recall that Robert Piche (member conzertino here) was one who did an experiment by exchanging ends on two concertinas.

 

 

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Metal has qualities of strength and stability that may play a significant role in protecting an instrument from any rough handling etc. to which it might be subjected.

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Hi, Roy,

 

FWIW, straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak, here's what Jürgen Suttner, one of the leading modern concertina makers, says about the topic on his homepage:

 

 

Wood or Metal Ends?

One of the most difficult things for me is to describe the tone of a concertina and the difference in tone between the models and materials used. It is a fact that metal ends sound harsher, they have more overtones and are louder. Wooden ends are softer, more mellow. With solid wood there is the risk that it might crack, but up to now I haven't heard of someone having problems with that. The harder the wood the higher the potential risk of cracking. On the other hand the harder the wood the better is the sound. The hardest wood I use is ebony. Wooden ends are a bit lighter than metal ends. I think it is mainly a matter of personal taste though if a player prefers metal or wooden ends.

 

Ye pays yer money and ye takes yer chance!

 

But note the phrase in Jügen's last sentence: "... mainly a matter of personal taste ..."

 

Cheers,

John

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...note the phrase in Jügen's last sentence: "... mainly a matter of personal taste ..."

Of course, what Jürgen means is that which sound you prefer is a matter of personal taste, but I'll note once more that your personal taste may depend in part on what you hear, and that the same physical sound isn't necessarily "heard" the same by every one. My most obvious examples are one friend who plays a baritone English because he literally can't hear the high notes on a treble, while another mostly ignores the bass on her melodeon because she can't hear the low notes (though with the instrument against her body, she can feel them to some extent). There are other, more subtle differences among individuals, as well. Maybe that's why some folks describe metal-ended concertinas as "bright", while others call them "sharp" and yet others say "harsh".

 

In the end, a person should really listen to many different instruments in order to form their own impressions of the differences and how that relates to their own "taste".

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I have quite a number of different instruments to compare ( as do places like the Button-Box or Chris Algar ).

 

post-7162-0-20597000-1442522948_thumb.jpg

 

They vary from pin-hole Aeola ( left ) to Boyd-Wheatstone ( right ) - one extreme to the other;-)

 

The loudness also depends a lot on the fretwork ( as you can see ).

 

My personal taste has changed over the years. By now my favorite is the second one from left: an ebony-ended Aeola with fairly closed fretwork.

 

I compared the "loudness" with a special meter ( DBA ). Surprisingly the actual measured "loudness" is not very different, even though the metal-ended ones appear considerably louder and shriller... A matter of overtones!

 

And of course the metal ended ones are heavier...

Edited by conzertino

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I have a beautifully restored Jeffries with metal ends and a lovely Dipper with wooden ends. When playing purely for the pleasure of playing alone, I always prefer the wooden one, even though it is less versatile (fewer buttons and no drone). I can't say why, and it is nothing to do with loudness or brightness, but something tactile and warm about the wooden one. I previously owned a metal ended Marcus 30 and I now own a much more primitive wooden ended Lachenal 20, and I get more pleasure from playing the wooden one. No logic to it, but music is about beauty and the more senses that an instrument pleases, the more I enjoy playing it.

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The immediate environment in which an instrument is played has significant effect upon its tone and overall effect. My metal ended Anglo is a different instrument depending upon which room of the house I am playing it in. The acoustics of each room impart their own particular character, and even volume, to the music. ( Forgive me for stating the obvious ! )

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I agree. Once a week in the winter, I get the chance to practise for half an hour or so in an empty village hall and the instruments sound amazing. If I practise in the parked car, they sound awful unless I open both front doors.

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The frequency spectrum (as Jim called it above) of a particular instrument is critical, since this determines how well it "cuts through the mix" in a group setting. I've experienced this very vividly while playing the mandolin in Irish sessions. More than once I've struggled (as it seemed to me) to make myself heard in a room full of fiddles, accordions and so on, only to be told later, "When I walked in the door of the pub, I couldn't hear anyone playing but you!"

 

With a concertina that effect can be even more pronounced, since the player hears so little of the sound s/he is broadcasting to the right and left. My Wheatstone, with wooden ends, seems far louder to me than my metal-ended Lachenal, and I suspect a meter would confirm that impression. But the overtones of the Lachenal tend to make it stand out in an ensemble (though not to my ears while I'm playing it). And just how well it stands out depends on the particular assortment of instruments in the circle, the acoustical properties of the room, and exactly where the listener is sitting. It's complicated.

 

Bob Michel

Near Philly

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I think a metal ended instrument is better for solo work or when you need to be heard. Wooden ends are more mellow and possibly better in band settings or when played with voice.

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I've got two Jeffries anglos, one with metal ends and one with wooden ends. I tend to take both to sessions and use the metal ended one on the fast, upbeat tunes and the wooden ended on the waltzes and gentle tunes. Also I have a wooden ended Dipper baritone that I use for song accompaniment. Thus my choices and experience is in line with Simon Thoumire's

 

I should add, though, that you can sweeten the tone of a metal-ended box quite easily by the addition of leather baffles. These are easy to fit (though not something you could put on or take off on stage) and have more effect on the tone, IMHO, than whether the ends are metal or wooden. Somebody (I can't remember who but it might be Danny Chapman?) devised wooden panels that could clip to the outside of his metal-ended Aeola so that he could change the tone on the fly.

 

Chris

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Somebody (I can't remember who but it might be Danny Chapman?) devised wooden panels that could clip to the outside of his metal-ended Aeola so that he could change the tone on the fly.

 

That's Danny.* My memory is that he added spots of velcro for easy (and quick, if desired) mounting and dismounting of the panels. And I believe that there's even a thread somewhere here on concertina.net where he describes how he did it, in case someone else wants to do the same.

 

* Danny is member ratface here on concertina.net and Profrat on YouTube.

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