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JackJ

Recorded comparisons: hybrid vs. concertina reeds

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I'm about 4 days into my ITM concertina journey, having acquired a 20b C/G Jones last week.  I think it was a good choice as a starter instrument, especially since I wasn't willing to spend what it takes to get a good quality 30b until I knew a bit more about what I was looking for, and felt whether I had any affinity for the instrument.

 

But having hit it off, I do expect to upgrade sometime in the next few months.  $2K USD represents around the top of my price range (and I'm a bit shocked to be contemplating that much), which opens me up to both used modern hybrids, and refurbished classic instruments.  I've read LOTS here about the difference between hybrid and concertina reeds, but I'm wondering if anyone has put together a video/sound recording directly comparing the two.  I know there a lot more variables than reed style that affect the tone, and there's no shortage of vids where I can listen to individual new and old instruments.  But it'd be interesting to hear, say, an old Lachenal played back to back with a modern Morse, by the same player on the same tunes with the same microphone.   Even better would be a variety of new and old instruments recorded in one setting.

 

What I really need to do is make a trip to the Button Box or somewhere else where I can hear these things in person.  I will probably do that before making a purchase.  But would still like to educate my ear on the subject if there are recordings that focus on the different sounds of various types of anglos.

Edited by JackJ

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Hi Jack,

 

Indiana is my sometime stomping ground...I'm trying to think who I know that has both types and am coming up dry. I do of course, and my next visit is likely around American thanksgiving. Send me a PM if you want to meet.

 

Ken

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Perhaps you could contact Greg Jowaisas . I think he is near Cincinnati 

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That's a good point, but I have trouble remembering ever seeing a modern hybrid among his extensive stock - they are all concertina-reeded.

 

Ken

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2 hours ago, mathhag said:

Perhaps you could contact Greg Jowaisas . I think he is near Cincinnati 

 

Greg was actually the source of my recently acquired Jones.  When it comes time to upgrade, I'll probably trade in my 20b toward one of his 30b offerings.  And I believe that Ken is right in that Greg only works on concertina-reeded instruments.  Since it's come up, let me say that he was great to work with, giving me very detailed answers to a good number of questions, and delivering an instrument that easily exceeded my expectations, especially given the price.

 

Still, when I see a slightly used hybrid available (an Edgley was posted here just today), I can't help but wonder how it compares to an older Lachenal, or something else in that vein.  I"m not fretting over a purchase at this point, but instead just trying to understand how currently available instruments compare to each other.  It's really just curiosity. 

 

 

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Hi Jack, I'd like to emphasize two aspects:

 

1.: a recording would tell you next to nothing IMO.

 

2.: for ITM you might very well be looking for a 26 or 28 button (vintage) instrument - they tend to come very considerably cheaper than the 30b (+) ones (which I much preferr, but only because I'm playing in the English/harmonic style and there love the buttons 1a and 2a on the LHS, which would be missing on the resp. instruments (no 1a with 28b, no 1a + 2a with 26 b).

 

Best wishes - 🐺

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5 hours ago, Wolf Molkentin said:

 

1.: a recording would tell you next to nothing IMO.

 

 

May I ask why?  Seems like for some folks there is a strong preference for the tone of traditional concertina reeds, and others say they prefer the hybrid tone.  And I've also heard that some folks either don't hear a difference, or think the difference is slight enough that it's outweighed by other factors, e.g., the design/construction techniques of particular maker.   Are you in this last camp?

 

 

 

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4 hours ago, JackJ said:

Are you in this last camp?


not at all 😁

 

I just find the extent to which tonal differences between different types and instruments are reduced when recorded (or amplified) quite disillusioning - even pro musicians keep mentioning their inability to tell one from the other when listening to own albums...

 

Of course you could choose conditions under which differences would occur but still no reliable representation of an instrument‘s sounds...

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Ok, good to know.  It's a mere 14 hour drive to the Button Box, so if I leave now, I can do some comparisons in-person when they open tomorrow.😋  

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I'm with Wolf on this. I've recorded different concertinas under exactly the same conditions - admittedly only on an iPhone - and whilst I can tell the difference, the timbres of the instruments and the differences between them bear little resemblance to the reality.

 

Even traditional-reeded concertinas have a huge variety of tones, so it really is advisable to hear them in the flesh if possible before making a decision. Also, the feel of an instrument is something you can never get from a photograph or a description.

 

LJ

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At your price point I think the bigger question for ITM isn't concertina reeds vs. accordion reeds, but rather playability.  For $2000ish you would have no trouble finding a good used Morse, Edgley etc. hybrid, which would be a joy to play and in no way hinder your learning and progression.  You might get lucky, but in my experience  that kind of coin will command a 30 button vintage instrument from the bottom of the barrel.  Concertina reeds yes, but also often worn action, uneven reed response, leaky bellows and all the other ills associated with decades of use.  You might like the sound of the reeds (at least the ones that are working properly) but will likely fight with the box as you learn.  I think there's a big step up price-wise to a concertina reeded vintage or modern instrument that is as easy to play as a good used hybrid.  The one exception I've found is the Kensington, which can be had new or used for not much more than a hybrid.

 

My main point is that for someone learning on a budget the chances of playing ITM convincingly are much better on a good hybrid than a cheap vintage instrument.  Here's a video of a Newfoundland friend playing on an accordion reeded Edgley.  Sounds good to me!

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjzkZQ5wN60

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Thanks Bill--I think that's a really good point.  While I'm curious about the sound differences of instruments built with different reeds and from different time periods, it's immeasurably more important to have an instrument that plays well.  To that end, I'd only buy a vintage instrument from a source that does restorations, and that will be there if at any time further work is required.  I was thinking the prices for cosmetically flawed but otherwise fully restored Lachenals, etc., are in the same $2 - $3K range as new/gently used hybrids, but I'm still learning. 

 

At this point, all I really need to do is acquire a new Morse and a new Edgley so I can compare them to an old Jeffries and an old Wheatstone, with a contemporary Kensington, Carroll. and Dipper thrown in for the sake of completeness.  So if anyone knows of a bank with very lax security, please let me know.  Alternatively, I'm hoping to attend Noel Hill's workshop in Cincinnati next summer, and perhaps there I'll get to see some these, without the nasty exploding dye canisters.

 

Again, I'm not stressed on how to spend my (limited) funds on a 30b.  There are several good options that I'm sure will suit me, and I'm enjoying learning about these fascinating little contraptions that make such wonderful sound.

Edited by JackJ

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8 minutes ago, JackJ said:

At this point, all I really need to do is acquire a new Morse and a new Edgley so I can compare them to an old Jeffries and an old Wheatstone, with a contemporary Kensington, Carroll. and Dipper thrown in for the sake of completeness.

 

a good Lachenal (particularly rosewood or metal-ended, with inserted endplates) 30b + Anglo shouldn't be ruled out as well... 😇

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On 10/28/2019 at 2:21 PM, JackJ said:

 

 

What I really need to do is make a trip to the Button Box or somewhere else where I can hear these things in person.  I will probably do that before making a purchase.  But would still like to educate my ear on the subject if there are recordings that focus on the different sounds of various types of anglos.

 

Wolf is correct - recordings won't tell you much.

 

Concertinas are funny beasts.  I hear enormous differences in sound between my Jeffries GD and my Morse hybrid GD when I"m playing, or when someone else is playing my instruments.. But when recorded it's hard to tell the difference.  Played thru a big PA system at a dance, it's almost impossible.

 

If practical, a trip to the Button Box would be the best way to answer your question, although lately they have not had many vintage instruments in stock.  

 

In general, my feeling is this: a good hybrid (Morse, Edgley, Wolverton, etc.) will almost certainly give you outstanding reliability and playability; restored vintage instruments have much more variability, especially at the lower end of the price range.  If those are critical factors for you, a modern hybrid is a great option.  If you're playing at ITM sessions, an additional factor is that these instruments all have sufficient volume to hold your own; many lower-end vintage instruments do, as well, but again, there's a lot of variability.

 

If the sound of traditional reeds is more important to you - and I get this; I prefer the sound myself - then a restored vintage instrument is probably your best choice, but you will have to be much more careful in selecting the right instrument.

 

I've said this before: while I hear a huge difference been traditional and accordion reeds, many of the people I play with are deaf to the distinction. When my Jeffries was in the shop, I brought the Morse to band rehearsals and nobody noticed the difference. We enthusiasts obsess about these things, but they probably aren't nearly as important to the folks we play with or those who are listening.

 

Edited by Jim Besser

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Well , there are some wonderful modern instruments out there , but at the end of the day there is still nothing to beat a well set up 

Jeffries. (Just my 5 eggs )

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I'll weigh in cautiously about choosing trad. concertina-reeded instruments vs. accordion-type reed instruments in my capacity as the owner of several anglo Jnes instruments (both C/G and G/D). I agree with the often-expressed opinion that hybrid instruments that play well are going to be somewhat more afforable than the vintage concertina-reeded instruments -- as a general rule. However, the distinction for you that might make the most sense is the responsiveneass -- the quickness to speak on the part of reeds -- that is rather important to ITM. That speed of response  allows for some very quick, brief grace note/ornamentation that is difficult to execute cleanly and precisely on an instrument with even slightly slower reed response. Here I can cite my own experience with my several JOnes instruments. Loving their tone, I use them back up for singing and as accompaniment to other instruments that can play lead. Fast response is not what I expect from my Jones reeds -- certainly nothing like the speed typical of a Lachenal or a Jeffries in the hands of a competent player of ITM. [BTW, I own both a gorgeous 44-button Jeffries and a 36-button Lachenal.]

 

So, my point is this:  play the instruments you might be tempted to buy before settling on a general type, e.g., accordion-reeded vs. concertina-reeded to see what suits your playing style and the genre you want to play. That's really the best and only way to decide. Button Box, IMHO, has the choice of enough instruments at any given time to allow you to compare several at one time side by side. I've been delighted with the work of Greg Jowaisas and with his willingness to let me try instruments he may have on hand whenever I've visited him, so there's another possibility.

 

 

 

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20 hours ago, CrP said:

I'll weigh in cautiously about choosing trad. concertina-reeded instruments vs. accordion-type reed instruments in my capacity as the owner of several anglo Jnes instruments (both C/G and G/D). I agree with the often-expressed opinion that hybrid instruments that play well are going to be somewhat more afforable than the vintage concertina-reeded instruments -- as a general rule. However, the distinction for you that might make the most sense is the responsiveneass -- the quickness to speak on the part of reeds -- that is rather important to ITM. That speed of response  allows for some very quick, brief grace note/ornamentation that is difficult to execute cleanly and precisely on an instrument with

 

 

 

An interesting and important point.

 

I would say this: the best modern hybrid Anglos are as responsive / fast as excellent vintage instruments - for CGs.   I've played boxes by Morse, Edgley, Tedrow, Wakker, and Wolverton, and these instruments are very responsive.

 

My experience has been that GD hybrids, especially the lower notes, are generally less responsive than well set up vintage instruments..  I've owned two hybrid GDs over the years, and on both, there is a noticeable lag when sounding low notes.

 

Interestingly, the BUtton Box seems to have solved this problem with their baritone Anglos; my Morse CG baritone is just about as responsive as my standard CG.

 

 

 

 

Edited by Jim Besser

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