Jump to content

How material construction affects sound.


Recommended Posts

20 hours ago, Łukasz Martynowicz said:

 

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.

What I should do is record some different tunes on each instrument, and post them on here and ask people to guess. 

 

 

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've made two metal ended instruments and over three hundred wood ended instruments and haven't noticed much difference between the two.  What I do notice a difference in is the amount and size of openings in the fretwork.  Getting this balance correct is very important.  I'm not convinced that the finish makes any difference on a concertina as the vibrating fretwork is a much smaller component of the sound than the vibrating internal woods.  In addition, I don't believe the endplate wood or side veneers makes any noticeable difference as well.  However, I recommend not using solid wood for the endplates due to expansion and contraction issues which can result in cracks in the fretwork and/or the endplates separating from the frames.  

 

Interestingly, the best sounding instruments (2 to date) that I've made have used a poured resin in place of wood.  My own observation in this regard was confirmed by a sound test as judged by a very prominent player who was asked to choose which of three of my small size instruments sounded best.  This person did not know there was a resin instrument in the bunch and after going back and forth playing the three, chose the resin instrument as the best sounding.  

 

The point in all of this is to say that the internal materials are more important than the external ones.  

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Wally Carroll said:

I've made two metal ended instruments and over three hundred wood ended instruments and haven't noticed much difference between the two.  What I do notice a difference in is the amount and size of openings in the fretwork.  Getting this balance correct is very important.  I'm not convinced that the finish makes any difference on a concertina as the vibrating fretwork is a much smaller component of the sound than the vibrating internal woods.  In addition, I don't believe the endplate wood or side veneers makes any noticeable difference as well.  However, I recommend not using solid wood for the endplates due to expansion and contraction issues which can result in cracks in the fretwork and/or the endplates separating from the frames.  

 

Interestingly, the best sounding instruments (2 to date) that I've made have used a poured resin in place of wood.  My own observation in this regard was confirmed by a sound test as judged by a very prominent player who was asked to choose which of three of my small size instruments sounded best.  This person did not know there was a resin instrument in the bunch and after going back and forth playing the three, chose the resin instrument as the best sounding.  

 

The point in all of this is to say that the internal materials are more important than the external ones.  

 

 

 

It had resin for the endplates or resin for the reedpan?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wally, I have heard whisperings of these cast resin instruments. Better is always (usually) subjective, but do you have any descriptors of what the difference in tone would be? Do you think that the resin is being more resonant or having a damping quality? 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 2/2/2022 at 11:22 AM, Wally Carroll said:

I've made two metal ended instruments and over three hundred wood ended instruments and haven't noticed much difference between the two.  What I do notice a difference in is the amount and size of openings in the fretwork.  Getting this balance correct is very important.  I'm not convinced that the finish makes any difference on a concertina as the vibrating fretwork is a much smaller component of the sound than the vibrating internal woods.  In addition, I don't believe the endplate wood or side veneers makes any noticeable difference as well.  However, I recommend not using solid wood for the endplates due to expansion and contraction issues which can result in cracks in the fretwork and/or the endplates separating from the frames.  

 

Interestingly, the best sounding instruments (2 to date) that I've made have used a poured resin in place of wood.  My own observation in this regard was confirmed by a sound test as judged by a very prominent player who was asked to choose which of three of my small size instruments sounded best.  This person did not know there was a resin instrument in the bunch and after going back and forth playing the three, chose the resin instrument as the best sounding.  

 

The point in all of this is to say that the internal materials are more important than the external ones.  

 

This is really great research and could suggest a boon to musicians, especially those in places with low or variable humidity, who may struggle to maintain conditions ideal for solid-wood instruments.  As with the delrin flutes etc.

 

But an analogy might be worth entertaining, because concertinas can potentially be used for decades or even hundreds of years: in many cases, we don't judge quality in wine by how much people enjoy drinking it when it's first bottled.

 

I do think that modern wooden concertinas with laminated soundboards, even by the same maker, can often sound harsher in timbre than those with solid wooden soundboards.  I've commissioned modern makers to use the solid woods with great results, and I believe I can hear the same difference in timbre in the Wheatstones and Crabbs around the time that they shifted generally from solid to laminated soundboards. ( I agree 100% that solid wood for fretted ends is asking for trouble). 

 

But more to the point I suspect that the slow aging of solid wood affects some of the acoustical properties --  the solid wood in concertinas from a century or more ago is so light and resonant I really believe that it's contributing to some of the satisfying complexity and responsiveness of the best vintage instruments. One interesting a/b comparison could be to try switching out the original reedpans of a great Jeffries for an exact replica in resin that fits the original reeds. It would be more work maybe to make up a resin action case that fits the original metal ends but that could be done too.

 

PG

Edited by Paul Groff
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 2/2/2022 at 4:22 PM, Wally Carroll said:

I've made two metal ended instruments and over three hundred wood ended instruments and haven't noticed much difference between the two.  What I do notice a difference in is the amount and size of openings in the fretwork.  

 

 

Thank you for your observation, this was what I suspected from the two instruments I was recently comparing - instruments I made. Its good to hear it from someone else too.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 2/3/2022 at 12:30 PM, Pgidley said:

Wally, I have heard whisperings of these cast resin instruments. Better is always (usually) subjective, but do you have any descriptors of what the difference in tone would be? Do you think that the resin is being more resonant or having a damping quality? 

 

 

I would describe the sound as more resonant and in a weird way, more woody sounding.  It's not a huge difference but it is noticeable and I do prefer it.  The instrument that I regularly play is one of the two resin instruments that I've made.

 

I agree with Paul about avoiding using laminated wood for the reed pans and actionboards.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

So if one has a high end modern instrument with the 'harsh timbre' due most likely to laminated sound and action boards that Paul referred to in the previous post, is there any way to improve the sound? If one has played it for 12 years with only minor improvement in sound should a person just sell at a loss or keep hoping someday it will get better? It also wouldnt feel good to sell online to another player and have them experience the same lack of inspiration. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 2/18/2022 at 9:32 PM, wes said:

So if one has a high end modern instrument with the 'harsh timbre' due most likely to laminated sound and action boards that Paul referred to in the previous post, is there any way to improve the sound? If one has played it for 12 years with only minor improvement in sound should a person just sell at a loss or keep hoping someday it will get better? It also wouldnt feel good to sell online to another player and have them experience the same lack of inspiration. 

Wes,

 

My 2 cents: don't jump to conclusions based on what you read that may or may not be applicable to your own instrument! It's easy to pick up negative vibes about instruments when reading but to make a judgment about timbre of a particular concertina, and what might improve it, often takes the in-person experience of a skilled player and/or craftsman trying that instrument and tinkering with it.

 

And I think *any* instrument can be played in ways that get the most music out of it. That's the world I lived in in my early years playing on cheap guitars, giving lessons to students who all owned better ones.  It can be an important lesson to learn and important attitude / skill to cultivate: Love the one you're with.

 

But, I think there are lots of reasons any particular concertina might sound "harsh," including the tuning, the valves, the condition of the reeds, the playing technique of the player etc etc. My comments (and I'm going to assume Wally's) about laminated internal plates were assuming "all other things being equal:" I think I can often identify unpleasant qualities in the timbre of instruments with laminated soundboards *compared to other, nearly identical instruments with solid soundboards.* And furthermore, I suspect that the solid woods (possibly also the laminated woods) can change their resonant/sound absorbtive qualities as they age for many decades or a century - either just from slow drying out (for example of some components of the cell walls of the wood) and/or from vibrations running through them during playing. There's something about really old wood. That's why I made the implication that it's possible that some kinds of A/B comparisons of different materials in newly-built instruments might be like comparing newly-bottled wines. Better now might not translate into better over time, if the "tortoise" (new solid wood) might eventually win with a sound that the "hare" (synthetic) fails to achieve. This is plausible if we think of "harshness" as overtones that we don't want in the sound. Synthetics might damp those unwanted overtones to produce a less irritating timbre compared to new wood - but with aging, the wood might contribute a beautiful timbre of a different type, compared to the synthetics. Rosalie Dipper once shared her thoughts with me that the Jeffries concertinas might have been unduly brash when new. All these ideas are speculations of course and some are hard if not impossible to test.

 

Regarding a failure to hear improvement over time - maybe this just takes a lot more time and use!  I once once got in a concertina to sell on consignment that may have been a good counter-example to my own generalization. It is a 40 key aluminum-ended post WW2 Crabb anglo with laminated soundboards. I don't think I've ever seen a concertina so recent and showing such extreme wear, just from normal playing use -- think Rory Gallagher's, or Willie Nelson's, or Steve Cooney's guitars. Aluminum buttons really worn down, etc etc. This one exception had just the kind of very clear tone quality that I would have guessed could only come from solid wood soundboards. Crabbs have a great sound, but this one had a particularly gorgeous sound. When I mentioned this to the consignor, he said that the former owner "played all the shrillness out of it" - maybe 10s of thousands of hours. Food for thought.

 

PG

Edited by Paul Groff
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Quote

the 'harsh timbre' due most likely to laminated sound and action boards 

                 I didn't know this is supposed to be the case..............the Dippers make laminated action boards if their anglos are going to N.America.

               Harsh they are not.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Robin Harrison said:

                 I didn't know this is supposed to be the case..............the Dippers make laminated action boards if their anglos are going to N.America.

               Harsh they are not.

Hi Robin,

 

Well laminated woods offer a lot of protection against shrinkage/warping/checking/cracks. That's why they have often been used in guitar tops especially for budget instruments shipped internationally (or indeed for some very high quality instruments such as some Gibson acoustic-electrics). But it's not the case that *all* Dipper concertinas sent to N. America have had laminated action boards, because the Dippers were generous enough to make some solid ones for me. To my ear, these were exceptional even among Dipper concertinas for their tone quality.

 

Of course concertinas made with all solid wood plates are more demanding of careful treatment in some North American climates - just as is the case with guitars or violins made of solid woods. Humidity has to be monitored and maintained. Not every player, even pros, can properly maintain solid-wood instruments.*  So it can sometimes make sense to prioritize dimensional stability when building an instrument that will travel far from the permissive English climate.

 

Details of sound quality in particular instruments are always subjective and I respect your opinion if it may differ from mine.

 

I think we can agree that the Dippers' instruments are designed with great care and thought, and built with superb craftsmanship for superlative performance.

 

PG

 

*

 

 

Edited by Paul Groff
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...