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Harmonium Reeds


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A little while ago I acquired a large 40 key English concertina, which apperared to have been originally pitched somewhere between bass and baritone. A previous owner had started some dastardly modifications to the reedpan which rendered it unlikely to ever be reinstated in its original form. In the fullness of time I intend to make new ends and reedpan in anglo format.

 

In all there were 80 reeds, some in the reedpan, others separately bagged.  In the upper register, they are all conventional concertina style reeds to fit into dovetailed slots. The rest of them are surface mount. Some of these appear to be standard larger surface mount concertina reeds, steel tongues and conventionally stamped as you would expect to find in a traditionally made bass/baritone instrument.

 

Others are brass reeded with stamping that suggests they are probably taken from an old harmonium - some have continental stampings on to indicate the notes. They are quite a size but I will probably have enough space to accomodate them - they sound quite good on a tuning rig. Picture attached showing both brass and steel reeded versions, the two on the left I would suggest are made by an English concertina maker.

 

1. Does anyone out there have any experience of using harmonium reeds in a conventional concertina? What are the drawbacks?

 

2. I'm short of a good few bass reeds in the lowest register, two octaves below middle C - anyone out there have any available?

 

 

Bass reeds.jpg

Edited by Bill Crossland
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Hi Bill, the Harmonium reeds that I have seen were French, as were some Wheatstone reeds at one point, the reeds had a very swan neck like profile. Yours looks like possible clarinet instrument to be played with brass or other band s. The last time I had anything like this I converted it to modern pitched baritone, extended down words to where ever it ended up. I did end up moving the finger slides and thumb straps to suit the key boards 'home' keys.

 

Dave

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Thanks Dave - they might be interesting in a bass anglo.

 

I had the opportunity to look inside one of Neil Waynes Wheatstone badged Harmoniums  - a photo of the reed array below. It proved to be continental in origin - he has others badged by George Jones and Rock Chidley, which are also continental. 

Reeds.jpg

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This is inside the right hand of my single action baritone, probably Wheatstone. It has the harmonium style reeds throughout. It has a very mellow sound and has retained its tuning in the 50 years I’ve had it. I acquired it in a second hand shop in the east end of London. 
 

Mitch

 

 

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31 minutes ago, SteveS said:

I've been thinking for the last few years about making a bass 'tina from harmonium reeds.

 

"It's all about the bass, 'bout the bass, no treble!".  Harry Guens Makes a Bass au Pieds which was apparently popular in the vintage concertina era, but I haven't been able to find an older example.  I wonder if harmonium reeds would allow space for a bass thumb cluster (perhaps split between both hands) on a regular instrument.

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On 11/8/2019 at 8:44 PM, d.elliott said:

Hi Wolf,

 

how did you identify your Baritone lower end reeds as 'harmonium' reeds.? 

 

Many thanks

 

Dave


You‘ve got me there I‘m afraid, Dave.

 

I reckon I‘ve been talking of „harmonium reeds“ in a wider sense only, as they‘re still made of steel, and possibly still smaller then genuine harmonium reeds too.

 

However, maybe we could speak of harmonium-style reeds, as they are rather large/long-scale, and in rectangular frames/shoes, which have to be screwed just on top of the soundboard, in parallel arrangement.
 

Best wishes - ?

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Hi Wolf,

 

The harmonium reeds  that I have dealt with have a different tongue shape and voicing, it is true that even Wheatstone bought reeds from France , possible from harmonium reed manufacturers, however the reed set up is just like any other concertina reed. The size and the length of the reeds are about pitch and volume. Many baritones have the lower octave or so set out in parallel as opposed to radial chambers, this enabled the lower reeds to have more oomph, and the instrument to support more treble instruments. The downside is that the upper registers with the radial part of the reed pan can sound a bit reedy compared with the bass end of the keyboard. The reeds are just appropriately big concertina reeds, surface mounted or otherwise. I know these stretched, part parallel part radial instruments  as band baritones, because of their ability to support lighter instruments.

 

I concertina band work I have noted that one baritone can support four of five comparable trebles , and one bass can support say three baritones, yet a full band only needs one piccolo concertina, the human ear is just odd in the way it works.

 

 

In short, I dont think there is such a thing as a harmonium style reed, in a concertina sense. However, someone may well wish to contest this.

 

 

Dave

 

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  • 1 year later...

Having made my first baritone anglo, I managed to find all the lower reeds I needed from a Wheatstone MacCann Duet (which was well past restoration) except for the low C. I have a good collection of French made harmonium reeds and used one to complete the anglo. The lowest octave of both reed types are all surface mount.

 

I'm now moving on to the bass anglo which will use a lot more brass harmonium reeds, and wondered why surface mount was used, rather than sinking them into the reed pan as with the conventional dovetail reeds? It's a lot easier to make the reedpans for surface mount, that's for sure!

 

The Alexandre reed frames I have are up to 5mm thick in the lower octave, and I have some bass Esteve reeds in 7mm frames. Surface mounting takes up a considerable volume of the air available in the chambers, sinking them into the reed pan would give more air in the same size chamber...... Would it improve the sound transmission as well?

 

American made harmonium reeds tend to be very much thinner frames, comparable to standard treble concertina reeds, around 2mm deep. Howard's picture in this thread shows what appear to be European made reeds in a nice thin frame too.....

 

Did frame size and weight add to the performance of the note?

 

I assume, and am open to correction, that French made harmonium reeds were easily available and for the relatively low volumes of such reeds required, the London based concertina makers would find it easier to buy them in to use, rather than tool up to make them? 

 

I'd welcome any thoughts before finalising a design!

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On the English Bass, to save weight and improve responsiveness, the majority were single action. The reeds were big enough, and there was space to screw the reeds to the underside of an enclosed chamber section, there being no reed pan as such. The padboard formed one side of the chamber section, and the reeds being screwed onto the other. On some of the really big bass instruments a manifold block was fixed where a reed might be expected, this lead to a bigger chamber pipe which was mounted above the top of the other surface mounted reeds.  These instruments are responsive, the constraint being the large and sometimes weighted reed tongue excitement. The screwing down of the reed is secure, adjustable to twist and eliminates the effect of wood movement on the long reed frame flanks. Think how thick the reedpan base would have to be to sink in a big reed, one per side.

 

Dave

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Thanks Dave. I wasn't thinking of fully sinking them in, maybe 2 - 3 mm, and the offset of the two reeds in each chamber would probably allow that in all but the really big reeds at the bottom end.

 

The double action bass (baritone?) body that I have (the concertina, not me) had standard thickness reed pans (6.8mm). I just wondered whether there was any sonic advantage in sinking them in... Trial and error looks like the way forward!

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These pics or of a Boosey and Hawkes baritone that I have been working on. It has no serial number but the hook action looks just like Lachenal. The reeds are all brass, and I was wondering where the long reeds came from - thanks to this thread -perhaps a harmonium.

The instrument is heavy but pretty quiet even by brass reed standards. It does sound very sweet though.

Edit  -it weighs 1956 grams and measures 7 1/2 inches across the flats.

baritone1 baritone2

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20210108_145636.jpg

Edited by Tiposx
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3 hours ago, d.elliott said:

On some of the really big bass instruments a manifold block was fixed where a reed might be expected, this lead to a bigger chamber pipe which was mounted above the top of the other surface mounted reeds.

 

Not just really big instruments. My 43-button Wheatstone bass is built this way which makes it quite compact (and really responsive). It's a slightly stretched hexagon measuring 7 1/2 inches across face in the smaller dimension and just under 8 1/2 inches across the others.

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