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Ann Sanders

Accordion Reed v Concertina Reed

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Hi, apart from the specific sound, which I am not underestimating or dismissing, what are the differences between the two reeds? Is the concertina reed more responsive or is this solely down to construction? Louder or again is that timber/construction influenced? I definitely get the more attractive sound from the concertina reed but am curious as to what else I would get in general by upgrading. I appreciate of course the variables between the general qualities, such as between a cheap or poor accordian reeded and a Dipper for example but am wondering about the differences that the two reeds specifically bring to the experience. TIA

Edited by Ann Sanders
To add on a bit!

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In my experience, given a well-made instrument, the only consistent improvement in having concertina reeds rather than accordion reeds is, as you put it, the "more attractive sound".

Edited by Daniel Hersh

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Accordion reeds that live in a box that really works with them can easily be better than a poorly made set of concertina reeds with way too much clearance. (Many, but not nearly all Lachenals).   Construction details can make a huge difference in the final sound.  I have heard hybrid instruments with wonderful low end sound as well as other hybrids that were mediocre at best.  More or less “traditional” concertinas have a long history compared to hybrids.  Their construction details were stabilized around what worked best with their reeds.  The much more recent hybrid makers are having to find out what works with accordion reeds over the range in a concertina format.  The end result won’t be the same, but can still be well worth the money. 

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My own experience as someone who plays both hybrids and "proper" concertinas:  The biggest difference is sound, and that is subjective. I play with some people who prefer the sound of the hybrids, with others who prefer traditional reeds. Personally, I strongly prefer the sound of traditional reeds, especially for lower-register boxes - a CG hybrid, in my experience, sounds much more concertina-like than a GD.  Still, a good GD hybrid can sound superb in its own right. Just not like a GD Jeffries: different.

 

Responsiveness: as Dana said, it depends on the quality.  I own Morse hybrids, and the reeds are every bit as responsive as my vintage concertinas,  with one caveat: it seems to me that the traditional reeds have a significantly greater dynamic range. It's much easier to play quietly with my Jeffries GD than with the Morse GD; you need more air to drive the hybrid reeds.  I am not an expert in design and construction; this is just my own observation as a player, and experts like Dana or Greg may take issue with that.

 

Loudness: this can be deceptive.  Traditional concertina reeds produce a purer tone that can cut through background noise better than the more overtoney tone produced by accordion reeds. I remember doing a sound comparison at a Morris event years ago. At a noisy pub, I played a Morse GD hybrid and a friend played a Jeffries GD.  Mine sounded louder to both of us - but the dancers could hear the Jeffries much more clearly in the extremely noisy environment.

 

As far as upgrading goes, it depends on what you want and what you're looking at.  An excellent hybrid like the Morse will be as responsive as the best vintage instruments, except at very low volume.  An excellent hybrid with riveted action is mechanically better than lower-end vintage instruments.  Overall, I find my hybrid instruments a little easier to play, but prefer the sound of the vintage boxes.

 

So I guess my answer to all your questions is "it depends."

 

 

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I  should add that a lot of the differences in sound between traditional an accordion reads disappear when playing through a big sound system. 

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Like Jim, I tend to prefer the timbre of traditional reeds. But a well-made hybrid can sound gorgeous. I’m particularly fond of concertina duets, and to my ear (for whatever it’s worth) there’s something downright magical about the two types working together. I often get to play along with a Morse, a Tedrow, an Edgley and/or a Herrington. No two of them sound at all alike, but each of them complements my Jeffries wonderfully. Hybrids may have originated as a practical compromise, but at this point I think the concertina soundscape is much the richer for them.

 

Bob Michel

Near Philly

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Amen to what Bob said.  Concertinas with different sounds played together can produce something extraordinary.

 

As an aside, last night I played at a contra dance in a mass band setting, and I chose to play my CG and GD hybrids.  The more complex tones seem to blend with the big band better; the light weight of my Morse concertinas and the very easy action makes for less sore arms and wrists the next day; the big PA system doesn't really convey the sound qualities that I love when playing solo on a traditional concertina.

 

So: hybrids are not inferior. They are different.  We are extraordinarily lucky to have access to both wonderful traditional instruments, old and new, and more affordable, fine-sounding and easy playing hybrids.

Edited by Jim Besser

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