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I think Stephen is onto it. "Philharmonic pitch" at the time was about A 452 Hz, but things were moving by the late 19th century to modern pitch of 440. There was a large market in making concertinas for the Salvation Army, where they played with brass bands keyed in Bb -- in Philharmonic high pitch. So, the "B/F#" concertinas in effect were Bb/F concertinas in the old high pitch. Here is a part of an article on Musical Pitch from The Times in 1884 complaining about how the military brass bands were still in too high a pitch when the symphonic crowd were moving to a lower, modern A 440. 

1913319685_Times10211884.thumb.png.3a0f75dba9e670c867bc13c5f0674d50.png

Edited by Dan Worrall
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On 1/28/2022 at 11:35 AM, Dan Worrall said:

I think Stephen is onto it. "Philharmonic pitch" at the time was about A 452 Hz, but things were moving by the late 19th century to modern pitch of 440. There was a large market in making concertinas for the Salvation Army, where they played with brass bands keyed in Bb -- in Philharmonic high pitch. So, the "B/F#" concertinas in effect were Bb/F concertinas in the old high pitch. Here is a part of an article on Musical Pitch from The Times in 1884 complaining about how the military brass bands were still in too high a pitch when the symphonic crowd were moving to a lower, modern A 440. 

1913319685_Times10211884.thumb.png.3a0f75dba9e670c867bc13c5f0674d50.png

Hi Dan,

 

I think I see where you are going with this idea. I believe when you write " "B/F#" concertinas in effect were Bb/F concertinas in the old high pitch" you mean that *low pitch B/F# concertinas* could possibly be equivalent to *high pitch Bb/F concertinas.* In a way this is fairly close to true  (see below **) although I'm not sure it is exactly what Stephen meant. Later in the concertina era (I believe, in the 20th century, after the John Crabb period) I do see German-made concertinas with a B row in low pitch, around A = 435 to A = 437, made for export to England (we can tell that because they turn up in England,  are labeled in english, and some of them are copies of 3-row Lachenals -- though with German action design and reeds mounted on longish plates -- and with English rather than German non-equal tuning). The B row of those German-made concertinas in low pitch (A 435-437) is not too far from English-made anglos in Bb/F high pitch (A 452.5) though the latter are audibly flatter to my ear. (see below for the reason  **)

 

However in my interpretation Stephen is talking about the John Crabb period in the late 1800s when English pitch was quite high, usually A 439 to A 460 and with Society of Arts pitch (A 446 to A 448 ) and Philharmonic pitch (A = 452.5) especially common.  At this time if the Crabb workshop made a concertina in B/F# it wouldn't be likely to be close to a Bb/F german concertina, rather it would be  more likely close to a C/G low-pitch german concertina.

 

** Close to true. Here are some rule-of-thumb rough conversions for key and pitch. They are based on 12-tone equal temperament for simplicity, although I have evidence that the german concertinas and probably most of the english made anglo concertinas during the John Crabb period were not tuned to equal temperament.  If you explore this table, you'll see that "Bb when A = 452.5" is quite flat of "B when A = 435" or even "B when A = 430." But, possibly close enough!

 

When A = 430 Hz in 12 tone ET, then     G#=   405.87     Bb =   455.57   B=   482.66  C=511.36

When A = 435 Hz in 12 tone ET, then     G#=    410.60     Bb =  460.87    B=  488.27   C= 517.31

When A = 439 Hz in 12 tone ET, then     G#=    414.36     Bb=  465.10      B=  492.76   C= 522.06

When A = 440 Hz in 12 tone ET, then     G#=    415.3       Bb =  466.16     B=  493.88   C= 523.25

When A = 447 Hz in 12 tone ET, then     G#=    421.91     Bb =  473.58     B=  501.74    C= 531.58

When A = 452 Hz in 12 tone ET, then     G#=   426.63     Bb =  478.88     B=  507.36    C= 537.52

When A = 452.5 Hz in 12 tone ET, then  G#=   427.10       Bb =  479.41     B=  507.92    C= 538.12

When A = 453 Hz in 12 tone ET, then     G#=  427.58       Bb = 479.94      B= 508.48    C= 538.71

When A = 454 Hz in 12 tone ET, then     G#=   428.52     Bb = 481.00       B= 509.60    C= 539.90

When A = 454.7 Hz in 12 tone ET, then   G#=  429.18      Bb = 481.74       B=  510.38   C= 540.73

When A = 458 Hz in 12 tone ET, then     G#=  432.29       Bb = 485.23      B= 514.09     C= 544.66

When A = 460 Hz in 12 tone ET, then     G#=   434.18      Bb = 487.35       B=  516.33     C= 547.03

 

Note: I had to edit this several times because the information here is so complex to explain. I hope I have it right this time but my apologies if errors remain - I assume we'll sort those out in the ensuing discussion.

Edited by Paul Groff
spelling and clarity, edited again to add a couple more pitches to the table
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16 hours ago, Paul Groff said:

Hi Dan,

 

I think I see where you are going with this idea. I believe when you write " "B/F#" concertinas in effect were Bb/F concertinas in the old high pitch" you mean that *low pitch B/F# concertinas* could possibly be equivalent to *high pitch Bb/F concertinas.* In a way this is fairly close to true  (see below **) although I'm not sure it is exactly what Stephen meant. Later in the concertina era (I believe, in the 20th century, after the John Crabb period) I do see German-made concertinas with a B row in low pitch, around A = 435 to A = 437, made for export to England (we can tell that because they turn up in England,  are labeled in english, and some of them are copies of 3-row Lachenals -- though with German action design and reeds mounted on longish plates -- and with English rather than German non-equal tuning). The B row of those German-made concertinas in low pitch (A 435-437) is not too far from English-made anglos in Bb/F high pitch (A 452.5) though the latter are audibly flatter to my ear. (see below for the reason  **)

 

However in my interpretation Stephen is talking about the John Crabb period in the late 1800s when English pitch was quite high, usually A 439 to A 460 and with Society of Arts pitch (A 446 to A 448 ) and Philharmonic pitch (A = 452.5) especially common.  At this time if the Crabb workshop made a concertina in B/F# it wouldn't be likely to be close to a Bb/F german concertina, rather it would be  more likely close to a C/G low-pitch german concertina.

 

** Close to true. Here are some rule-of-thumb rough conversions for key and pitch. They are based on 12-tone equal temperament for simplicity, although I have evidence that the german concertinas and probably most of the english made anglo concertinas during the John Crabb period were not tuned to equal temperament.  If you explore this table, you'll see that "Bb when A = 452.5" is quite flat of "B when A = 435" or even "B when A = 430." But, possibly close enough!

 

When A = 430 Hz in 12 tone ET, then     G#=   405.87     Bb =   455.57   B=   482.66  C=511.36

When A = 435 Hz in 12 tone ET, then     G#=    410.60     Bb =  460.87    B=  488.27   C= 517.31

When A = 439 Hz in 12 tone ET, then     G#=    414.36     Bb=  465.10      B=  492.76   C= 522.06

When A = 440 Hz in 12 tone ET, then     G#=    415.3       Bb =  466.16     B=  493.88   C= 523.25

When A = 447 Hz in 12 tone ET, then     G#=    421.91     Bb =  473.58     B=  501.74    C= 531.58

When A = 452 Hz in 12 tone ET, then     G#=   426.63     Bb =  478.88     B=  507.36    C= 537.52

When A = 452.5 Hz in 12 tone ET, then  G#=   427.10       Bb =  479.41     B=  507.92    C= 538.12

When A = 458 Hz in 12 tone ET, then     G#=   432.29     Bb =  485.23     B=  514.09    C= 544.66

When A = 460 Hz in 12 tone ET, then     G#=   434.18      Bb = 487.35      B=  516.33     C= 547.03

 

Note: I had to edit this several times because the information here is so complex to explain. I hope I have it right this time but my apologies if errors remain - I assume we'll sort those out in the ensuing discussion.

Thats fantastic Paul! Thank you! 

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Paul,

 

Good reasoning. Let me try it a bit simpler. 

The market in English-made Anglo-German concertinas in England in the late 19th century was driven to some degree, and maybe in large part, by the needs of Salvation Army bands. The pitch of German-made concertinas was not particularly relevant; if you look at photos of SA concertina bands, there are few apparent German concertinas. I doubt anyone in the SA cared too much how low a pitch German concertinas had.

These SA folks needed quality Anglos that were playable with their SA brass bands, which were using high pitch (as I mentioned, old Philharmonic pitch of about A 452), and who were typically playing Bb instruments.

If concertina makers of the day put out a new pitch (A440) instrument in Bb/F, it wouldn't work for these SA concertina players. So the makers sold some pitched considerably higher. If the Crabb records say B/F#, then that is how they (Crabb et al) may have thought of it. Are they new pitch (A440) B/F#, or just old Philharmonic pitch Bb/F? I don't know. One thing seems certain. No one was playing sheet music specializing in the keys of B and F#. Those SA folks wanted a BbF concertina that would play with their high-pitched military brass band buddies. Or so I would guess!🤔

Cheers,

Dan

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2 hours ago, Dan Worrall said:

Paul,

 

Good reasoning. Let me try it a bit simpler. 

The market in English-made Anglo-German concertinas in England in the late 19th century was driven to some degree, and maybe in large part, by the needs of Salvation Army bands. The pitch of German-made concertinas was not particularly relevant; if you look at photos of SA concertina bands, there are few apparent German concertinas. I doubt anyone in the SA cared too much how low a pitch German concertinas had.

These SA folks needed quality Anglos that were playable with their SA brass bands, which were using high pitch (as I mentioned, old Philharmonic pitch of about A 452), and who were typically playing Bb instruments.

If concertina makers of the day put out a new pitch (A440) instrument in Bb/F, it wouldn't work for these SA concertina players. So the makers sold some pitched considerably higher. If the Crabb records say B/F#, then that is how they (Crabb et al) may have thought of it. Are they new pitch (A440) B/F#, or just old Philharmonic pitch Bb/F? I don't know. One thing seems certain. No one was playing sheet music specializing in the keys of B and F#. Those SA folks wanted a BbF concertina that would play with their high-pitched military brass band buddies. Or so I would guess!🤔

Cheers,

Dan

Hi Dan,

 

Thanks. I thought you were saying that you agreed with Stephen, but it seems that you disagree when he wrote:
"My own theory on that subject revolves around the most common pitch in England at the time being a high pitch that was half-a-semitone sharp of our A-440, whilst many German concertinas were in a flat pitch that was half-a-semitone lower - so an English-made Anglo in B/F# could play with a German C/G... "

 

I happen to agree with him, but pointed out that the equivalence is not exact for the most common late 19th century pitches both in German concertinas and London concertinas.

 

However, I see that you are arguing that the Crabb family records for B/F# instruments are referring to high pitch Bb/F instruments. I personally doubt that this is true. I've seen B/F#  Crabb concertinas in high pitch, and also interesting cases such as I mentioned where an instrument whose reedwork seemed undisturbed for a century had all notes tuned to high pitch BbF except the left hand thumb button which was B/B also in high pitch.

 

I don't think the Crabbs would have made many concertinas in the keys of Bb/F in the usual English high pitch (or even higher) and noted them in the records as B/F#, (understood as pitch of A 435 or lower) in the late 1800s at the time that Geoff finds B/F# noted so often in his records.  But if so, there might be evidence of that in the form of the records (indications such as "B/F# LP" maybe, if those should occur?) surviving tuning forks dateable to the John Crabb period (with labeling for B and at a very low pitch), or notations in particular instruments.

 

The Salvation Army anglos I've seen in original tunings that could be from the late 1800s - early 1900s (though mostly Lachenals and Jones) are pretty clearly in high pitches such as  A 452.5 and usually in Ab/Eb, sometimes in Bb/F. 

 

Geoff, next time you check in, it would be wonderful if you can add any further evidence!

 

PG

 

 

Edited by Paul Groff
clarity! correcting my mix-up
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Good thoughts.

I cannot get my mind around English makers of the late 19th Century building instruments in the weird  B/F#  key just so they could play with cheap German concertinas in C with low pitch. The English makers just about despised the cheaply made German imports. I haven't run across any old photos of concertina groups where there were mixed players of German and Anglo-German instruments. 

So....we must figure out why so many B/F# concertinas were being built. Clearly, no one was writing ANY music or tutors in the keys of B and F#, nor would any typical concert pitch instrument particularly want to play in the keys of B (5 sharps) or F# (6 sharps) just to accommodate an Anglo player in those keys. These would be lonely concertina players, indeed.

I still come back to the idea that these instruments were tuned such that an Anglo concertina in something like A440 pitch, keyed in B/F#, reading sheet music in the key of Bb, would be able to play along with a Salvation Army band that was playing in a high pitch. The notes that came out of that concertina would sound to the band players like he was playing in Bb in their old-fashioned, military high pitch -- and as I mentioned earlier, we know these bands were high pitched at a time when many others in British music were changing to a more modern, lower A440 pitch.

The problem is that the old Philharmonic (military band) pitch wasn't a full semitone off of A440 concert pitch. That part I cannot explain. Maybe if there were enough Anglo concertinas in the band, the brass band instruments just tuned themselves very slightly to accommodate them, which was easy enough to do. Can anyone think of any other reasons one might want lots of  B/F# concertinas?

 

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Somewhere in these discussions over the last 20 years, perhaps erroneously,  I have picked up the idea the SA went for Bf/F over C/G because Bf was a more common natural place to pitch the human voice than C was.

 

Could it be B/F# was the result of manufacturers finding a market amongst those looking for a singing accompaniment somewhere between the two. This would mean the instrument was not intended for playing in large ensembles of mixed musical instrument heritage, more for an individual singer or a group of singers with one instrument. 

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4 hours ago, Dan Worrall said:

Good thoughts.

I cannot get my mind around English makers of the late 19th Century building instruments in the weird  B/F#  key just so they could play with cheap German concertinas in C with low pitch. The English makers just about despised the cheaply made German imports. I haven't run across any old photos of concertina groups where there were mixed players of German and Anglo-German instruments. 

So....we must figure out why so many B/F# concertinas were being built. Clearly, no one was writing ANY music or tutors in the keys of B and F#, nor would any typical concert pitch instrument particularly want to play in the keys of B (5 sharps) or F# (6 sharps) just to accommodate an Anglo player in those keys. These would be lonely concertina players, indeed.

I still come back to the idea that these instruments were tuned such that an Anglo concertina in something like A440 pitch, keyed in B/F#, reading sheet music in the key of Bb, would be able to play along with a Salvation Army band that was playing in a high pitch. The notes that came out of that concertina would sound to the band players like he was playing in Bb in their old-fashioned, military high pitch -- and as I mentioned earlier, we know these bands were high pitched at a time when many others in British music were changing to a more modern, lower A440 pitch.

The problem is that the old Philharmonic (military band) pitch wasn't a full semitone off of A440 concert pitch. That part I cannot explain. Maybe if there were enough Anglo concertinas in the band, the brass band instruments just tuned themselves very slightly to accommodate them, which was easy enough to do. Can anyone think of any other reasons one might want lots of  B/F# concertinas?

 

Dan,

 

My response is that the B/F# instruments may not have had anything to do with the Salvation Army.  Did Crabb do much business with them before Lachenal shut down, decades after the time period in question?  Again, Geoff could tell us. But I don't share your implication that the SA influence was pervasive in all musical contexts where concertinas were played.

 

One reason that Stephen's hypothesis seems plausible to me is that German instruments were abundant and cheap -- the entry level concertina for the majority of players -- but I think that some of the best players after learning on the German concertina might have moved up to a Crabb or Jeffries. It seems reasonable to me that such players would still be in a musical context along with other German concertinas - maybe their own first instrument would be passed down to a child or younger sibling or friend who would want to play along. Maybe some good players with a Crabb would be giving lessons to beginners who had a German instrument.

 

Then again, consider the other idea I proposed earlier - that B/F# could be a "factory tuning" as a point of departure, a reasonable decision for instruments sent out of London to retailers elsewhere, there to be tweaked locally by local tuners to the local keys/pitches which might be Bb/F or C/G, slightly  lower  or higher than high pitch B/F#. An analogy could be that many tools as sold in those days were not necessarily in final form - they were intended to be custom fitted with wooden handles and adjusted to the needs of the user.

 

PG

Edited by Paul Groff
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4 hours ago, Chris Ghent said:

Somewhere in these discussions over the last 20 years, perhaps erroneously,  I have picked up the idea the SA went for Bf/F over C/G because Bf was a more common natural place to pitch the human voice than C was.

 

Could it be B/F# was the result of manufacturers finding a market amongst those looking for a singing accompaniment somewhere between the two. This would mean the instrument was not intended for playing in large ensembles of mixed musical instrument heritage, more for an individual singer or a group of singers with one instrument. 

another very plausible possibility Chris!

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I'll throw a couple of spanners into the works and mention that it was George Jones who had the Salvation Army contract, followed by Lachenal's, and that they made high pitch Ab/Eb Anglos especially for the Salvation Army to play in Bb. I've never heard of them using Bb/F Anglos though.

 

There  was no A-440 pitch in Britain in the 19th century, and the Salvation Army played in High pitch from the outset (in 1878) right up until 1964.

 

Some S.A. officers did "break ranks" however and bought concertinas from Crabb's, Jeffries', or Wheatstone's, notably General Booth's daughter Eva:

 

EvagelineCBooth.jpg

 

 

 

Edited by Stephen Chambers
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3 hours ago, Stephen Chambers said:

I'll throw a couple of spanners into the works and mention that it was George Jones who had the Salvation Army contract, followed by Lachenal's, and that they made high pitch Ab/Eb Anglos especially for the Salvation Army to play in Bb. I've never heard of them using Bb/F Anglos though.

 

The Salvation Army played in High pitch from the outset right up until 1964.

 

Some S.A. officers did "break ranks" however and bought concertinas from Crabb's, Jeffries', or Wheatstone's, notably General Booth's daughter Eva:

 

 

Hi Stephen,

 

Thanks!  Almost totally consistent with what I have seen (hands-on and via photos and print). As I wrote above, the early SA anglos I've seen were mostly Lachenals and Jones (but you're correct that I should have reversed the order of those two). I saw that Barleycorn had a Crabb anglo with SA markings for sale at one point and there are mentions of Crabb/Ball Beavon anglos bought for a Salvationist band ca 1920. But that is after our time period of the "B/F# records mystery." 

 

I have seen anglos with SA markings in the keys of Bb/F, but  the vast majority of SA anglos I've seen have been Ab/Eb as I wrote above, and it is certainly possible that the Bb/F ones I saw had been retuned from Ab/Eb subsequent to their original use in the bands.

 

PG

Edited by Paul Groff
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3 hours ago, Paul Groff said:

I saw that Barleycorn had a Crabb anglo with SA markings for sale at one point ...

 

The Crabb with S.A. markings wouldn't surprise me at all, seeing that Tommy Williams said '[Lachenal's last owner] Ballinger, "turned over all the Salvation Army orders to Harry Crabb, whose father was dead then, rather than let Wheatstone's have it.' " Though, after taking over Lachenal's in 1933, Wheatstone's evidently tried to continue the former's S.A. business, advertising their Crane/Triumph duets in S.A. literature, and even promoting Aeola 48-key tenor English concertinas for S.A. use, But there was never again a Salvation Army contract, as such, for concertinas.

 

Quote

... and there are mentions of Crabb/Ball Beavon anglos bought for a Salvationist band ca 1920. 

 

I think matters weren't as "regimented" (when it came to concertinas) as they were with the brass instruments, which the Salvation Army made themselves.

 

(See the 2020 Galpin Society Journal paper by Arnold Myers (who I've known for many years) "Instrument Making of the Salvation Army")

 

Quote

I have seen anglos with SA markings in the keys of Bb/F, but  the vast majority of SA anglos I've seen have been Ab/Eb as I wrote above, and it is certainly possible that the Bb/F ones I saw had been retuned from Ab/Eb subsequent to their original use in the bands.

 

Ab/Eb Anglos were certainly what they generally used, though maybe there was the odd Bb/F player.

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Stephen,

 

You’re right of course. Herbert Booth wrote in his tutor that

“The main key of the Salvation Army Concertina is Ab Concert Pitch, that being the key in which most of our tunes are sung. But as this key is the same as Bb on the Cornet, and seeing that our Concertinas are mostly played with brass bands, we call it the Bb key, although it is really Ab Concert Pitch.”

 

Which makes my head hurt. How is Ab concert pitch playable with Bb cornets? Is this some sort of transposition? When you push the third button left hand side middle row of an Ab Anglo you get an Ab, right? Can anyone edify me on what Booth was saying?

 

The SA was clearly a major market for Anglos, and somehow I doubt that Jones and Lachenal had a lock on it, although Jones famously wore an SA uniform whenever Herbert Booth came to buy. After the SA peak, by 1922 there still were 761 SA bands in England, another 102 in Scotland, and another 70 in Wales (Arnold Myers, Instrument Making of the Salvation Army). These were of course mainly brass bands, but there were a lot of purely concertina-staffed bands out there (e.g., Malcolm Clapp, concertina.net post of 12 26 2003; he mentions that some of these were BbF Ball Beavons (Crabbs?)).  Chris Algar posted a photo of the Norwich Citadel band of 1907 where there are a number of Anglos of apparent “Jeffries/Crabb type” (PICA v2, 2005).

 

So Crabb is in the running for selling those BF#’s to SA bands….or not….but if they weren’t high pitch BbFs, what were they for? That is a lot of BF#’s just to sell to folks who wish to play along with low pitch German concertinas. I like Paul’s idea that they were stock ready for retuning to desired pitches….in which case high pitch BbF was only a few strokes of the file away.

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44 minutes ago, Dan Worrall said:

Herbert Booth wrote in his tutor that

“The main key of the Salvation Army Concertina is Ab Concert Pitch, that being the key in which most of our tunes are sung. But as this key is the same as Bb on the Cornet, and seeing that our Concertinas are mostly played with brass bands, we call it the Bb key, although it is really Ab Concert Pitch.”

 

Which makes my head hurt. How is Ab concert pitch playable with Bb cornets? Is this some sort of transposition? When you push the third button left hand side middle row of an Ab Anglo you get an Ab, right? Can anyone edify me on what Booth was saying?

 

Hi Dan, long time no see! 🙂

 

It is confusing, the way he expresses it.

 

Is he talking the same as an Irish player, thinking of a C/G as a D box, a Bb/F as a C box, or an Ab/Eb as a Bb box (it's the third key of the instrument, the first of the "across the rows" keys)?

 

Or is it some transposition thing?

 

 

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21 minutes ago, Stephen Chambers said:

 

Hi Dan, long time no see! 🙂

 

It is confusing, the way he expresses it.

 

Is he talking the same as an Irish player, thinking of a C/G as a D box, a Bb/F as a C box, or an Ab/Eb as a Bb box (it's the third key of the instrument, the first of the "across the rows" keys)?

 

Or is it some transposition thing?

 

 

Transposition I'd say; if they are using a Bb cornet, a note written as "C" sounds as "Bb."  Thus what the SA was calling the "Bb key" was concert pitch Ab (but of course at the high English pitch of the day, most commonly A 452.5 in my experience.

Edited by Paul Groff
bad shift key
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1 hour ago, Paul Groff said:

Transposition I'd say; if they are using a Bb cornet, a note written as "C" sounds as "Bb."  Thus what the SA was calling the "Bb key" was concert pitch Ab (but of course at the high English pitch of the day, most commonly A 452.5 in my experience.

 

That's what I was wondering Paul, in fact it's a matter of transposition whichever way you look at it...

 

 

 

Edited by Stephen Chambers
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It may not be relevant, but Hohner offered 3 row button accordions in the unlikely keys of F#/B/E in the early days. (I have one, stamped accordingly, and have seen others, though I wouldn't call them commonplace). Also, I remember briefly working on a more modern (1960s?) Italian 2 row in F#/B not so long ago. Of course, both of these accordions were built long after the statistics quoted by Geoff Crabb, and probably for a market far distant from England's green and pleasant....So is it possible that the B/F# Crabbs were built for export?


Just another thought. I have seen quite a few single row melodeons in Australia, factory tuned to the key of F# (Mezons particularly; a favorite amongst the old bush players.) Several oldtimers have been recorded as saying that the key of F# was not unusual as many players of stringed instruments (including pianos) used to tune a semitone flat to lighten the strain of the strings on wooden parts which were susceptible to severe climatic conditions. So a fiddle player, say, fingering a melody in the likely key of G would find himself sounding in F#, so the old Mezons made in F# would be in tune with them.

 

 

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10 hours ago, malcolm clapp said:

It may not be relevant, but Hohner offered 3 row button accordions in the unlikely keys of F#/B/E in the early days. (I have one, stamped accordingly, and have seen others, though I wouldn't call them commonplace). Also, I remember briefly working on a more modern (1960s?) Italian 2 row in F#/B not so long ago. Of course, both of these accordions were built long after the statistics quoted by Geoff Crabb, and probably for a market far distant from England's green and pleasant....So is it possible that the B/F# Crabbs were built for export?


Just another thought. I have seen quite a few single row melodeons in Australia, factory tuned to the key of F# (Mezons particularly; a favorite amongst the old bush players.) Several oldtimers have been recorded as saying that the key of F# was not unusual as many players of stringed instruments (including pianos) used to tune a semitone flat to lighten the strain of the strings on wooden parts which were susceptible to severe climatic conditions. So a fiddle player, say, fingering a melody in the likely key of G would find himself sounding in F#, so the old Mezons made in F# would be in tune with them.

 

 

Another excellent hypothesis Malcolm. Here in the US, the Hohner (and occasional Koch) F#BE boxes  I've seen usually date from the 1920s - early 1930s, and usually found in A 435. Some steirische-type boxes were also made or retuned to those keys. And like you, I've seen Italian organettos here in the US in keys of F#, B, and F#/B (those range from throughout the early to mid 20th century and usually in A 400 - 450).  Recently I've learned that  F#B ( low pitch) is not a rare key for two-row Hercule diatonic accordeons (made in Switzerland) from the very early 20th century. Geoff might know if the Crabb B/F# anglo concertinas were sent abroad.

 

They did travel!  I do know of a circa 1876 Crabb anglo that was exported or carried to California in the late 19th century, but it was found in C/G A 446 (Society of Arts tuning, non-equal temperament), seemingly a time capsule from the 19th century, and it's not listed by number in Geoff's records, so it doesn't help with the specific question of the B/F# ones.

 

But your mention of Italian boxes reminds me that I think some organettos in the US tuned to very odd keys / pitches may have been tuned to match other folk instruments such as bagpipes.  Possibly there was another kind of instrument in some musical contexts in England ca 1890s that could have filled a similar role - B, or C# bagpipes? pianos that had sunk in pitch? barrel organs? fifes or low pitch tin whistles?  ca 1700 - 1800 flutes in very low pitch? Just brainstorming a bit with this last idea  in case it suggests another solution to Stephen.

 

I'm still thinking that Stephen's idea that high-pitch B/F# was " approximating low pitch C cheap continental free reeds," and/or the idea of a "factory average tuning to be customized in the locality of eventual sale" seem most likely explanations to me.

 

PG

 

Edited by Paul Groff
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