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How material construction affects sound.


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Looking at that colourful concertina from China, in recent topic here on net, ( the big blue one).. set me wondering how sound is altered according to the construction methods used; is metal face plate going to add something different to instrumental sound, and how does it differ therefore in relation to wood being used? My own concertina has a standard light nickel face plate.

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Past the reed materials and chamber orientation, the final sound of a concertina is all about sound reflections. This mostly depend on geometry and less on materials used, but they do factor in. I would say that materials are the spice in a meal composed from the reed, the reedpan and the box. 

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I have some antique (no worm holes) Chestnut I've been thinking of using for a new 6" duet ( metal ends).  It's very stable, strong and lightweight as well as handsome.  How would you expect the smaller volume of the box paired with the lighter wood to affect the sound relative to a 61/4" made with something heavier/denser?

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I don't think that the choice of wood would have a big enough impact to decide on the difference between those instruments when you also change dimensions and thus chamber geometry and fretwork geometry.

 

Couple of months ago I have printed a light, travel duet. It was a "fast and dirty" design, engineered in two weeks to last me two weeks of vacation only. A thing to know about 3d printed concertinas is that they are as light as it gets, because they are mostly made of air - prints are hollow inside, only 15% of total volume is material, and the material itself is very rigid, so good at reflecting the sound. Without the endplates mounted, there was virtually no difference between the reed when on a tuning bench and when mounted in the box. The whole sound shaping was done through the geometry of the fretwork and varied between very dry and sharp/bright with completely open fretwork to deeper but muted tone with full cassotto endplates. I also experimented extensively with baffle geometry on my big Hayden as the initial sound with my very open fretwork was ear piercingly sharp. No matter what I did in both those boxes I couldn't change it enough to overcome the fundamental difference of the reed frames material - the big one has brass plates, the travel one has aluminum plates, and this difference is audible on the tuning bench and stays nearly the same up until fretwork design stage. What is even more important is that even 1mm of chamber depth can have way more influence on the final tone than the material of the box does.
 

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I had the chance recently to compare two instruments of the same maker, same design and same materials except the ends were wooden on one and metal on the other. Honestly you would be hard pressed to tell the difference in sound. This sort of flies in the face of what I took to be true but that is what I noticed, it is very very rare to have two instruments identical in every aspect apart from the material of the ends in the same place but I can guarantee these instruments were both identical apart from that. At a guess I would have said that the amount of gap in the fretwork is more important than the material of the fretwork but that is a guess and has not been scientifically studied in any way.

 

I have made a recording I will upload it at some point and you can make up your own mind.

Edited by Jake Middleton-Metcalfe
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2 hours ago, Jake Middleton-Metcalfe said:

I had the chance recently to compare two instruments of the same maker, same design and same materials except the ends were wooden on one and metal on the other. Honestly you would be hard pressed to tell the difference in sound. This sort of flies in the face of what I took to be true but that is what I noticed, it is very very rare to have two instruments identical in every aspect apart from the material of the ends in the same place but I can guarantee these instruments were both identical apart from that. At a guess I would have said that the amount of gap in the fretwork is more important than the material of the fretwork but that is a guess and has not been scientifically studied in any way.

 

I have made a recording I will upload it at some point and you can make up your own mind.

 

When I was experimenting with baffles on my big Hayden, it didn't matter at all if the baffle was from hard plastic or way softer wooden filament, despite those two materials having vastly different sound properties. The only variable that mattered was the geometry of the baffle. 

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28 minutes ago, SIMON GABRIELOW said:

I am interested to hear 3D printing is used in concertina making; but I hope that the skills of hand and eye, and of making by natural instinct, and the joy of creating from scratch will not be forgotten too!

 

Don't worry, as useful as 3d printing is, you can't print the classic aesthetics of concertinas and it comes with it's own can of worms. But it is the technology for "Ford model T" of concertina world for sure.

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15 hours ago, Łukasz Martynowicz said:

 

When I was experimenting with baffles on my big Hayden, it didn't matter at all if the baffle was from hard plastic or way softer wooden filament, despite those two materials having vastly different sound properties. The only variable that mattered was the geometry of the baffle. 

 

It sounds like we came to the same conclusion. 

 

I have been listening to the recording I made and at points in the tune there do appear to be subtle differences but it is very very subtle. What do you make of this recording?

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I'm surprised at how little difference there is there.  

 

I think the higher notes sound brighter with the metal ; but some of that could just be that I'm expecting that.  Might have to arrange a "blind" listen to be certain

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I once owned Concertina Connection Peacock and was contemplating putting some sort of finishing lacquer on it as it had an oiled finish that, I felt, would stain overtime.  When I asked Wim Wakker about doing this, this is what he told me:

 

Your instrument is finished, you don't need/should not apply any finish to
the instrument. Being a musical instrument, it is important that the wood
can vibrate freely.  Finishing your instrument with any type of modern
lacquer will prevent the wood from vibrating. The only finishes that do not
interfere are certain oil finishes (as used on your instrument, french
polish and a type of varnish used on string instruments. Just clean it once
in a while and apply a little wax.

 

I did not apply any further finishes.

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19 hours ago, Jake Middleton-Metcalfe said:

... it is very very rare to have two instruments identical in every aspect apart from the material of the ends in the same place ...

 

Indeed it is, but that's what I have in Holden numbers 4 and 10. There is a difference in tone, but small enough that most people either can't hear it or can't describe it.

 

1 hour ago, Jake Middleton-Metcalfe said:

I have been listening to the recording I made and at points in the tune there do appear to be subtle differences but it is very very subtle. What do you make of this recording?

 

To me the difference is clear all through, just listening on my laptop: the metal one is brighter and more open sounding. To some extent that's what conventional wisdom would tell us, but with my two Holdens the opposite is true (at least to my ears): the metal one is the more gentle sounding.

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20 hours ago, Jake Middleton-Metcalfe said:

I had the chance recently to compare two instruments of the same maker, same design and same materials except the ends were wooden on one and metal on the other. Honestly you would be hard pressed to tell the difference in sound. This sort of flies in the face of what I took to be true but that is what I noticed, it is very very rare to have two instruments identical in every aspect apart from the material of the ends in the same place...

Another example where this occurred is Alex's Muller conversion#2:

 

A Second Müller Conversion – Holden Concertinas

 

If I recall correctly, Alex posted a sound comparison between the original wooden and the modified metal end plates on Instagram and also came to the conclusion that the difference is hardly audible. That caused me to abandon  the idea to ask him for a second set of end plates on #4 (I had originally toyed with the idea of having both a metal and a wooden set on the instrument).

 

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While not concertinas, for ease of access (all on one page) it may be instructive to listen to the sound files of the various Marcel Dreux accordinas (windblown free reed instruments), each with sides made of different materials and/or configurations. With the exception of the final two instruments at the bottom of the page, each model has the same reeds and mechanics inside.

https://en.accordinas.com/ecouter

 

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2 hours ago, Jim2010 said:

While not concertinas, for ease of access (all on one page) it may be instructive to listen to the sound files of the various Marcel Dreux accordinas (windblown free reed instruments), each with sides made of different materials and/or configurations. With the exception of the final two instruments at the bottom of the page, each model has the same reeds and mechanics inside.

https://en.accordinas.com/ecouter

 

 

Those IMHO differ mostly due to the total area covered by the fretwork/casotto effect.

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4 hours ago, Don Taylor said:

I once owned Concertina Connection Peacock and was contemplating putting some sort of finishing lacquer on it as it had an oiled finish that, I felt, would stain overtime.  When I asked Wim Wakker about doing this, this is what he told me:

 

Your instrument is finished, you don't need/should not apply any finish to
the instrument. Being a musical instrument, it is important that the wood
can vibrate freely.  Finishing your instrument with any type of modern
lacquer will prevent the wood from vibrating. The only finishes that do not
interfere are certain oil finishes (as used on your instrument, french
polish and a type of varnish used on string instruments. Just clean it once
in a while and apply a little wax.

 

I did not apply any further finishes.

 

There are very lengthy discussion at guitar forums on which finishes do interfere with the sound and which don't. The most common finishes are oil&wax, shellac, nitrocellulose and polyurethane, all used widely and successfully. Out of those I think the shellac is the easiest one, despite it's fame of being the hardest ported from furniture making, where it is indeed hard to cover areas so huge evenly with just a small pad. 

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6 hours ago, Jake Middleton-Metcalfe said:

 

It sounds like we came to the same conclusion. 

 

I have been listening to the recording I made and at points in the tune there do appear to be subtle differences but it is very very subtle. What do you make of this recording?

 

First time through I thought that the metal one was slightly brighter, but then I switched between the middle fragments of each recording and the effect was significantly less prominent without the initial few notes of the wood version, where I think the mic position or other situational factor might had have a decisive influence on the resulting tone. I think, that this was a blinded trial, the result would be close to 50-50 split.

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In some instruments vibrational modes on the body are essential to radiate the sound.  Examples would be a guitar, drum, violin, banjo.  In these instruments materials will have a much greater impact on the sound since material density directly affects resonant frequency.

 

I think the concertina is not in this class of instruments since the sound mainly comes from the reed itself.  It will, however, be affected by the absorptive qualities of the material inside the concertina.  Also, after watching this I was surprised at how similar a metal and wooden clarinet sound.

Edited by dabbler
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