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Should I buy a brass reed vintage anglo ?

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Hello everyone,

 

An old discussion back again...

I like to buy a 26b anglo concertina and I actually think about going for a George Jones Anglo concertina with brass reed (from Chris Algar), because cheaper than steel (budget)

and I like the mellow/warm tone, but never tried it.

I read on many place that brass reed gets out of tune quickly and is slower to speak and can break.

 

Then I stumble upon harpomatic post in this thread : Here is a part of it :

"Now, when both of my concertinas are equally airtight, here's what I get:

1) no rust or corrosion on brass reeds - reeds look brand new with just a swipe of a brass cleaner

2) reed responsiveness is the same on both instruments

3) dynamic range is the same (will elaborate a bit further on that): the brass one can be played much more quietly at the extreme low volume limit (whisper level, you can play next to someone sleeping, without waking them up).

4) sound is indeed, very different.

5) volume is not as different as it seems, and as common opinion would have it, and here comes my "elaboration"...."

 

Here are my remarks/questions :

 

a) Brass reeds gets out of tune: Chris Algar told me that it does not get out of tune… (I guess he meant for "home use". Probably in session if you play as hard as possible, it can get out of tune...)

b) Brass reeds can break: Apparently this is true but in what condition ? Those vintage concertinas are eventually 200 hundreds year old and the brass reed are still there !  So I guess it does not break that easily :-)

c) Brass reeds slower to speak: Reading harpomatic post saying "the brass one can be played much more quietly at the extreme low volume limit", I understand the opposite, it is super-fast to speak !

    And if slower to speak, what does it mean ? Does it need more air ? Is it in all register or only low register ?

 

The final question is can Irish tune can be played on a brass reed concertina ? I mean probably not super fast tune but I guess it is possible to get it up to speed or this is the maximum speed here

 

All input and experience welcome !

Thank you,

Nicolas

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A few thoughts from an EC player...

 

I have two instruments which have non steel reeds - a Wheatstone Baritone with brass reeds from 1860s and apparently quite 'high end', and a Scates labelled (probably George Case made) amboyna treble with silver nickel reeds.

- there are different standards of brass etc reeds (just as with steel). The best wheatstone brass reeds are robust, have good dynamic range and volume, need relatively little air, speak quickly and do not seem to readily go out of tune. The cheapest (e.g. basic lachenal models) seem to have far less dynamic range, be slow to speak and need quite a lot of air. I understand such reeds are a little more prone to fracture

- I purchased the two concertinas above because I loved their mellow sound which combines with good reponse and dynamic range to provide a very satisfying playing experience . I use them for song. Both would struggle to be heard in a good session - perhaps a plus if you want to develop confidence, but less so if you want to really get 'stuck in'.

- Brass/non-steel reeds can play any sort of music, just as well as steel reeds. However, if you are used to listening to Irish tunes played on growling Jeffries anglos then the tone of the brass reeds will be different and might take a little mental adjustment (a little less 'bark and bite' to use a phrase a Jeffries owning friend describes some of his accompaniment style).

-With good reeds (and mechanism - which is part of the speed equation) high speed is possible if the fingers are willing and coordinate!

If you are considering buying from Chris Algar ('and other dealers are available', including those who regularly contribute to this forum) you may well be able to get the instrument on approval and if it doesn't meet your expectations return it - as long as it is in the same condition.

 

Good luck - we all started somewhere - my first instrument, which I still love, is in fact technically pretty poor - but it got me playing and gave an enormous amount of pleasure.

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Posted (edited)

I have an ec with nickel steel [edit -I mean nickel silver] reeds, also some of the original reeds have been replaced with brass. It is not a posh instrument. I am just a beginner with the concertina but I play it, button boxes and pa with someone who is very accomplished on his rosewood -ended metal-button Lachenal and metal ended Crabb steel reeded instruments. We play Irish music and have swapped concertinas a few times.

My brass reeded instrument would have no trouble, none at, all keeping up speed-wise with tunes such as the one in your clip. Subjectively the brass reeds can be played quite fast, much faster than your tune, but need more effort/air on the bellows than the steel. That is largely what makes the instrument slower to play than the steel -reeded ones. The Lachenal in particular feels almost touch-sensitive and is hardly any effort to play.

Regarding volume the Crabb goes from talking to yelling; the Lachenal goes from smooth talking to mellow shouting. The brass reeded one goes from mellow whisper to mellow loudish speech. I love the sound of it, especially as I usually play in a glass walled

room with hard floor. The Crabb cuts through on a pub session with  soft furnishings and people around. The Lachenal doesn't cut through very well in that setting.

The brass reeds seem to be holding tune nicely.

All subjective!

 

Edited by Tiposx
Factual correction

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I have a vintage brass reed anglo and I love the tone. It dates from around 1901 and has reeds similar to the type that Jones used.  The original tuning was 70 cents sharp of C/G so I had it professionally serviced and tuned to C#/G#. Brass reeds are sensitive to any drastic changes from the original tuning, so bringing it to C/G was not an option. I have had 2 reed tongues crack and need to be replaced.  The issues were related in my case. A cracked reed caused it to go out of tune by about 30 cents. Replacing it was easy and painless, thanks to Greg Jowaisas. The response on the brass reeds is great and for a band setting, the volume is perfect and it blends beautifully with other instruments.  It would be interesting to see a modern maker do a brass reed anglo. I have heard only good things about Chris Algar. While I have not bought an instrument from him, he has been helpful in answering some inquiries and always very knowledgeable. Good luck on your purchase.

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Thank you for your answer !! Lots of information here, this is very helpful and instructive (I'll get back very often to read all this again). 
It does reconfort my choice...why not brass reeds after all :-)  
But more for home use so eventually I don't care if not modern pitch...
I understand better the "slow" thing. And that brass reeds are more sensitive and airtight bellows is critical...
I'll probably do my experience so I can answer to the next person asking about brass reeds ha ha

 

I already bought a concertina from Chris and I am very happy with it ! Chris Algar just does not like (at all) to describe sound or kind of sound (mellow, harsh, warm,...) so it is not easy to buy online. 

 

Nicolas

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