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Reeds not speaking in cold humid weather


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My band Trebuchet were playing our Christmas set last weekend, outdoors (under a gazebo) in cold and quite humid weather.

 

Several reeds on my Wheatstone 48 key steel reeded English stopped speaking altogether, which made some tunes interesting! The reeds which went silent were predominantly on the push, although I have no idea whether that's significant or just coincidence.

 

24 hours later after standing back in the house, all reeds are working fine and there doesn't seem to have been any lasting harm.

 

Why would the reeds have stopped sounding? It was cold but above freezing, and quite humid (it started raining later). And is there anything I could have done, either in the moment or in the preparation, to guard against it happening? 

 

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Sounds  like  your  reedpans  were  soaking up  moisture  which  would  cause them  to  swell  and  squeeze  the reed frames  a tiny  bit.  This  could  jamb  the reed tongues  when the  slots  become  slightly  narrower.  Humidity  and  condensation  the  likely  cause.

 

Edited by Geoff Wooff
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It's happened to me and my Anglo, especially in cold weather. I think that part of the problem is that different metals expand and contract at different rates. It seems to be occuring after several minutes of playing  outside , once the cold air has had time to circulate within the bellows and thus chill the reeds.  Now, when playing outside in Winter I wear a voluminous coat and tuck the concertina inside between tunes, a bit of body heat seems to help and more recently the only issue has been a few reeds "tinkling" as the clearance between the side of the reed, and the shoe decreases and the odd reed sounding a bit flat.

Mike.

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It does sound weather related to me and as mike says possibly temperature related too. Concertinas generally don't like overly humid environments and the resulting expansion of wood that will happen. I have had similar experiences - though you normally have to push it a bit far to cause a problem.

 

Once I played a set for a canal festival, it rained. I was playing my concertina in the rain next to a canal on a very muddy towpath and a reed started buzzing a bit and a button even started sticking... well I was sort of asking for it really in that situation.😆

 

As in your case I went home, put the instrument away and it was fine the next day, never again did I have the problem. The above situation is a pretty extreme environment to try to play any concertina in. 

 

I would just put it down to weather and not worry about it too much. I cant think of anything you could have done other than not to play it in that environment. 

Edited by Jake Middleton-Metcalfe
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Most likely damp swelling the wood, causing the reed pan slots to pinch on the reed frames. less likely to be thermal differential expansion a 15 deg C cooling in temperature would mean that brass contract 0.000135mm more per mm of steel, and brass is round the outside of the steel. so arguably you could consider that as 0.00027mm reduction in overall clearance around the steel tongue. Not enough to take up the reed tongue flank clearances.  Short of taking the instrument ends off in the playing environment, easing out the duff reeds and re-seating them, there is nothing you could do.

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I checked out the “metals contracting and expanding at different rates” theory a decade ago. I consulted Machinery’s Handbook for the different coefficients of expansion. Between brass and steel there was not sufficient difference in contraction or expansion at any practical temperature to take up even a close clearance. I throw my vote in with humidity swelling the wood. 

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2 hours ago, Chris Ghent said:

I checked out the “metals contracting and expanding at different rates” theory a decade ago. I consulted Machinery’s Handbook for the different coefficients of expansion. Between brass and steel there was not sufficient difference in contraction or expansion at any practical temperature to take up even a close clearance. I throw my vote in with humidity swelling the wood. 

That is good to know, thanks for sharing your findings.

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Thanks everybody, there’s certainly been no lasting ill effects on the tina which was my main concern. I wondered if I’d have been better using my brass-reeded box (we were amplified so that wouldn’t have been a problem) but it sounds like that one might have had the same problem.

 

Ah well - roll on outdoor gigs in balmy Summer days! 

Edited by Steve Mansfield
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Hi all,

 

… as a former (heavy) concertina player and now a thoroughgoing melodeon player, I would observe that I’ve experienced this problem in the cold, on both instruments.

 

the point is … melodeon reeds are not held in slots, but embedded in wax (mostly). On a cold day, there are several notes on my Erica that seize on one reed, but free up with playing.

 

I've always put the matter down to the temperature having a differential effect on the metals of the tongue and the reedplate… it’s worse on a Jeffries than a lachenal possibly because of the finer tolerance of the former…? Also, you can often “play out the problem” getting the reed to function a bit, then better, then completely free…. (Maybe Vibration/activity generating just enough temperature to clear the tolerance?)

 

I’m not dismissing the wood/slot expansion suggestion, merely suggesting that (as with so many complex problems) it’s maybe not a matter of “either/ or” but could be either/both in different instruments/reeds/situations.

 

The fact is that reed tongue tolerances are sometimes incredibly minute/fine …(and reed tongues are not always precisely centred!) … so for any given reed, either the ‘wood-pinch’ or differential metal expansion could be responsible!

 

cheers

 

Mike Rowbotham

 

Edited by MelBoy
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On 12/17/2021 at 6:56 AM, MelBoy said:

…(and reed tongues are not always precisely centred!) … 

 

Mike, such a good point, you do see reeds with irregular fits, sometimes with a couple of points with a fit of perhaps .3 of a thou (this is a guess, these clearances are hard to measure); this is what a fitter would call a “false fit”. These could be closer to collision in some temperatures. It is also possible some metals might heat or cool quicker than their companion metal, and collide until the temperature is equalised. All in all I discount this; look at the figures Dave mentioned. They are tiny. 


Your point about accordion reeds is also well made. I wonder if aluminium (the most common accordion frame metal) expands/contracts more with temperature change than brass? Either way, metal expansion from heat or wood expansion from humidity, the wax joint would have to hang on during the process so this would not rule out reed pinching. I’d be interested to hear if it happens with accordion reeds that are screwed down. Dana might have a relevant experience here as his concertina reeds are screwed down. 

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