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Rich C R

Are the top modern models as good as or better than the old top model concertinas

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Personally I have no idea.   But I would imagine modern makers have the advantage of examining the older models and are in a position to make improvements.   What is the view of those who have used both?

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1 hour ago, Wolf Molkentin said:

@alex_holden might be willing to make one (and he is a craftsman extraordinaire), don't know how long his waiting list would be...

 

Thanks Wolf! Indeed, I'd be willing to quote to build an English. One problem (or so I am told) is that there is no shortage of good vintage 48 button treble Englishes at prices lower than I would have to charge to build a new one. I did get an inquiry about a bass English, but I don't think that one is going to happen.

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46 minutes ago, alex_holden said:

One problem (or so I am told) is that there is no shortage of good vintage 48 button treble Englishes at prices lower than I would have to charge to build a new one.

 

Possibly so, but this might lead us back to the topic - better/longer-lasting reliability of a newly-made instrument? sound quality? specific issues of „top-modern“ makes, depending on availability of materials? I’m aware of concerns and musing of some fellow concertinists... So what would you say, Alex? 

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12 minutes ago, Wolf Molkentin said:

 

Possibly so, but this might lead us back to the topic - better/longer-lasting reliability of a newly-made instrument? sound quality? specific issues of „top-modern“ makes, depending on availability of materials? I’m aware of concerns and musing of some fellow concertinists... So what would you say, Alex? 

 

I believe there are a handful of modern makers building instruments as good as or better than the best vintage instruments. I presume by materials availability you mean things like ivory and rosewood; there are other readily available materials that look different but function just as well.

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I have to keep it a bit cryptic here. A qualified person once told me that choosing modern makes over vintage instruments could be delusive in a way since one would simply have to face new issues instead of the well-known ones then...

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"as good as or better" is a bit hard to define as peoples tastes are quite different, beyond a certain level of quality its sort of like art appreciation and it really depends what you play and what sort of feel and sound you want. 

 

In my opinion - without being too specific there are currently some makers producing instruments above and beyond what the first wave of makers made and I am very fond of these instruments. But someone else might very well say "oh well that is over the top how good does it need to be?". 

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13 hours ago, Wolf Molkentin said:

I have to keep it a bit cryptic here. A qualified person once told me that choosing modern makes over vintage instruments could be delusive in a way since one would simply have to face new issues instead of the well-known ones then...

 

It's more or less direct quote, we didn't go into the details... As to the materials, this had been my own assumption, as I had been musing about the quality of steels, leathers etc. (possibly wood as well, which might be subject to more changes when new).

 

Edited by Wolf Molkentin

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there have been so many changes.  I think most or all of the early ones were produced in bulk in concertina factories.  They were made by skilled craftsmen but not in the same way as most of the modern ones which are often made by a single individual.  Labour is more expensive these days.  Customers have higher expectations all round.  Concertinas are no longer a popular item, but a niche market for enthusiasts with very specific and refined tastes.

 

From what I have seen, the best modern concertinas are cosmetically exquisite.  The old ones were things of beauty, but in a more "standard issue" sort of way.

 

Modern makers have a wider range of materials.  This could go either way: choosing the very best of the new materials; or choosing cheaper options that are almost but not quite as good.  Some of the traditional materials are harder to find.

 

It would be very surprising if over 150 years of development, coupled with a market dominated by enthusiasts on both sides (production and purchase) had not resulted in the best modern instruments being better than the best Victorian specimens.

 

However, it is very subjective.  I have chosen my current fleet of 4 instruments on the basis of nebulous ideas of feel and soul.  I was given the option of ones that were better "on paper" but I knew which ones I wanted.

 

It takes a while to play a good instrument in.  I'm sure that all instruments must peak when they reach a certain age, then gradually, er... gain character... at the expense of perfection.  Perhaps most of the best modern ones are still in, or approaching, their peak, and most of the traditional ones are in that gradual decline.

 

 

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Of the instruments that I have played, I would say that the top modern concertinas and the best vintage concertinas are both very, very good in responsiveness and tone.  I hesitate to make an general statement that top modern is either better or worse than top vintage.  I know that at least one top modern maker feels that he has improved on some aspects of traditional designs - I don't feel qualified to say whether I think he's right.

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16 hours ago, Mikefule said:

 

 

However, it is very subjective.  I have chosen my current fleet of 4 instruments on the basis of nebulous ideas of feel and soul.  I was given the option of ones that were better "on paper" but I knew which ones I wanted.

 

It takes a while to play a good instrument in.  I'm sure that all instruments must peak when they reach a certain age, then gradually, er... gain character... at the expense of perfection.  Perhaps most of the best modern ones are still in, or approaching, their peak, and most of the traditional ones are in that gradual decline.

 

 

Thanks for your comments Mikefule.   I am interested to know the details of your 4 instruments?

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Perhaps related, I would argue that the lowest quality vintage concertinas are superior in sound and construction when comparing them to the lowest quality modern concertinas. Also, this opinion is less likely to ruffle any feathers.

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5 hours ago, Rich C R said:

Thanks for your comments Mikefule.   I am interested to know the details of your 4 instruments?

My pride and joy (apart from my wife, of course) is my Dipper GD 30 button Anglo.  It has beautifully curved and delicately fretted amboyna wood ends.  It lacks a drone so it is has just 30 buttons plus the air button.  When I bought it, I had the option of various GD Jeffries instruments with 38 buttons and metal ends, and even a metal ended Dipper.  The 30b was the least versatile of the lot, and not the loudest, but I fell in love with it.

 

I have a standard 20b Lachenal in CG.  It has 5 fold bellows.  When I bought it, I had the choice of about 6 including one with 6 (or 7?) fold bellows.  The all sounded different to me and felt different in my hands  I bought the one that I kept picking up rather than any of the ones I kept putting down.  It is the second nicest 20b treble I have played, and I have played many, and not just Lachenal.  Ken Bramman from Foresters MM has one which is the cheaper model (simpler fretwork) but is just lovely to play.

 

I have a 30b Lachenal baritone.  It is not perfect, and needs some tweaking of the tuning, and maybe some work to reduce its breathiness.  The bass response is excellent and I fell in love with its beautiful and well rounded bottom end.  (Much like how I chose my wife.)    On paper, it is nothing special.  I have seen and played various others, but I didn't want to let this one go.

 

I also have a sweet little Lachenal 20b piccolo in CG, which makes the local dogs bark and the bats complain.  It has "L&Co" hidden in the fretwork at one end.  It needs a bit of tweaking, and I have to play it with a very delicate left hand to avoid drowning out the melody, but it is just enormously fun in a silly sort of way.

 

I previously owned a Jeffries 38b in Bb/F with metal ends.  It was an absolute beauty, but the combination of "non-Morris" keys and a slightly "too clinical" feel to it meant that  never warmed to it like I did to the Dipper.  I did a trade for the baritone and piccolo combined.  I was probably unwise, but I let my heart rule my head.

 

Before the Dipper, I had a GD Marcus, metal ended, "deluxe model" 30 buttons plus drone.  A fine instrument, but I seldom played it after I got the GD Dipper.

 

Before the Marcus, I had a Rochelle CG 30b.  It was good enough to show me that I needed a better one.  I mean that seriously, because a bad instrument may have put me off.

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I think its all about time. The average vintage concertina has survived a century at this point. Any vintage concertinas that left the factory with major defects probably wound up in the trash bin 70 years ago, so the surviving population is probably better than average.

 

A new concertina is an unknown commodity and will remain so for years to come. You can buy one and  you'll probably be dead before the wood starts cracking and the reeds start breaking. In 100 years people might be talking about the 2nd Golden Age of Concertina Making or they'll be talking about how the concertinas of the 21st Century all fell apart after only 50 years. Who knows? More importantly, who cares? You'll get a lifetime out of it.

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