Jump to content

Returning after 16 years


Recommended Posts

Hi everybody. I've been haunting the forums here for the past month and just now joined up -- or reactivated, since I was actually a member back in 2006. That time feels like a different life now. Back then I was trying to figure out a Stagi 30b anglo and had contacted Frank Edgeley about building me a much fancier box. I soon had to back out of that deal when my wife found out how much I was planning to spend. Needless to say, she is no longer my wife.

 

For the past 16 years I have been playing bass guitar in rock bands and tenor guitar/uke/lyre/tenor banjo at home here in Indiana. A few weeks ago I remembered my concertina obsession and immediately caught the bug again. I soon won an online auction for an old Frontalini 20b. Then I quickly bought a Rochelle -- but right away I wasn't thrilled by the stiffness of the bellows, and some of the buttons weren't eager to speak. The more I read the forums, the more I became entranced by the Hayden duet system, so I traded in the Rochelle for an Elise. But that too frustrated me rather quickly for the same reasons. Comparing them to the bellows movement and the action and responsiveness on my cheap $40 Italian instrument, there was no comparison. I reach for the Frontalini every time when I want to practice.

 

So I bit the bullet and got on the shop list for a CC Troubadour (after clearing it with my wife -- different wife, a much better one). The Troubadour should be in my hot little hands in about 6 weeks. In the meantime I'm playing the Frontalini. I play that because it's fun. I'm learning sea shanties and some jigs, folk tunes, old time, etc. But I want the Troubadour as a long-term way to keep exploring music theory and song accompaniment, as I do with my stringed instruments.

 

While I have your attention, I do have two questions:

 

1. Has anybody ever tried to build a concertina using harmonica reeds? It seems like cost and space issues are major impediments to affordable quality concertinas. Harmonica reeds must be tiny, yet they are obviously loud, cheap, and seemingly plentiful. There must be a good reason you don't see harmonica-reeded concertinas.

 

2. I love my Frontalini, but the thing is, it doesn't offer easy access to get inside and fix stuff. It has big single blocks instead of two-part ends (see photo). In other words, you can't just unscrew the ends and take off the frame and pull out the reed pan without contacting the bellows. I did it once. The only way to get in is to literally cut through the cardboard/glue that fastens the bellows directly to the wood. Then I accessed the pan, tried to clean up the insides of the box, put in new netting, cleared all the reeds, and got a few of the buttons that weren't working when I bought it to work again. Then I reglued the bellows onto the ends and added a thin bead of silicone sealant all around. The bellows are actually more airtight than when I bought it. But now I've noticed that some of the lower notes on the LH sound pretty woolly -- distorted, buzzy. I think they were always like this but now they bother me. I don't want to cut off the bellows again, so maybe I need to find a concertina that's more repairable. Or I could send it to Greg Jowaisas (in neighboring Kentucky) and get it fixed properly. (Does he still do that? Is it okay to just message him out of the blue?)

 

3. (Related to 2.) Is there a better system I could employ for fastening the ends to the bellows than directly with glue/silicone?

 

I am so happy this site is still open and lively and full of such interesting, inspiring, and helpful folks! I've learned an immense amount from you all. Thanks for welcoming me back.

 

Corbin

 

 

frontalini.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I forgot to mention the crucial middle bit: I ended up befuddled by the Stagi and admitting defeat, because I could just never figure out where the notes were or how to remember them. That was before I knew music theory. I ended up selling the Stagi and pretty much forgot about concertina for 16 years. In that time I've done a lot of studying of music theory and became fairly proficient on my stringed instruments.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One minor piece of info, I have a lot of mouthorgan reeds , no frames to put them in and they are rivetted into position some more info may be aquired by contacting Geoff Crabb ( he kindly gave these reeds to me).

Mike

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Corbin Collins said:

I soon had to back out of that deal when my wife found out how much I was planning to spend. Needless to say, she is no longer my wife.

 

1 hour ago, Corbin Collins said:

got on the shop list for a CC Troubadour (after clearing it with my wife -- different wife, a much better one).

 

These quotes might come in handy one day ...

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I love the look of that concertina; it is obviously well loved and used; it has 'Character' and personality!

I've never heard of that make before actually; and didn't realise that bellows and other bits were sometimes glued together, making access difficult.

my own concertina [sold under Hohner name in 1999] gets a lot of use, and thankfully is easily opened to service, which now and again is needed if say a reed buzzes, or a button slips.  But it has a separate nickel type face plate screwed in separately making this easier for me. 

Maybe you could get a separately specially made section created, so that it can be serviced in  similar manner, being then easy to open for any servicing required.

I do not see that with a bit of care in finding right material, metal sheeting, or even fine wood thin panelling [veneered even] that this should be too difficult? to make a useable face plate that could be screwed into place.

See if you can find a good craftsman somewhere [cabinet maker]  you never know !

Link to comment
Share on other sites

19 hours ago, Mike Acott said:

One minor piece of info, I have a lot of mouthorgan reeds , no frames to put them in and they are rivetted into position some more info may be aquired by contacting Geoff Crabb ( he kindly gave these reeds to me).

Mike

I have a couple cheap old harmonicas. I do wonder what's inside them and whether those reeds could be put to use in a hexagonal box.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)
16 hours ago, SIMON GABRIELOW said:

I love the look of that concertina; it is obviously well loved and used; it has 'Character' and personality!

I've never heard of that make before actually; and didn't realise that bellows and other bits were sometimes glued together, making access difficult.

my own concertina [sold under Hohner name in 1999] gets a lot of use, and thankfully is easily opened to service, which now and again is needed if say a reed buzzes, or a button slips.  But it has a separate nickel type face plate screwed in separately making this easier for me. 

Maybe you could get a separately specially made section created, so that it can be serviced in  similar manner, being then easy to open for any servicing required.

I do not see that with a bit of care in finding right material, metal sheeting, or even fine wood thin panelling [veneered even] that this should be too difficult? to make a useable face plate that could be screwed into place.

See if you can find a good craftsman somewhere [cabinet maker]  you never know !

That's a good idea, Simon. I do know a cabinetmaker. But I'm still working the mind puzzle of how best it could work. Clearly the ends have to fasten to something, and the bellows do too. Something in between them. I could make wooden (or other material) hexagons that fit the bellows and glue them together permanently. Then it's just a matter of attaching the wooden ends to those. But how to make it both airtight and easily removable?

Edited by Corbin Collins
typo
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Your cabinet  maker friend should be able to figure out the finer details of how to make ends [ if prefer wooden parts].. the buttons will need to fit through just right, I find the simple nickel metal ends on my own [hohner] brand concertina are convenient because when I need to open it to service mechanism, it is carefully unscrewed firstly, and then easier to repeatedly screw down again, as it doesn't wear down with use].. 

I have made a few fine decorative  veneered boxes myself, over the years, [one to put my own concertina inside]..however others on here [concertina net] may have even more technical advice than I can give.

I have attached photo of my own beloved concertina.  I don't say it's the perfect representation of an instrument; but like your own it's been cherished for 23 years now. It shows a thin metal face plate, and how it is attached to the wooden frame [with bellow just below].. all un-screwable as well [so it can be service easily].

Don't know if it helps guide you? There's certainly many other types available to consider; but could help you see how bits can fit together [partly at least]?

 

concertinacropped image duo.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

That's beautiful, but it's not really built like mine. The problem isn't the front side of the ends, where the metal plate and the buttons are. It's on the other side, where the bellows are. That's where the bellows should attach to something other than the entire end assembly -- which they do on yours. See where your ends are really in two halves? You've got the wooden part and then that leather covered part -- then the bellows. You unscrew the plate and the wooden ends and they come off, leaving the other half of the wood/leather end still attached to the bellows. You can see inside to the reeds and take them out, and you haven't touched the bellows. You then reattach wood to wood/leather. Look back at the picture of my concertina. You unscrew the ends and yes, that releases the reed pan inside -- but you still can't access the inside or take the ends off. You literally have to detach the bellows to get inside...

Edited by Corbin Collins
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes., I can see that it is all in one, in a way [ almost in one piece].. Stick with the idea as I am sure a cabinet maker will know how to refit everything; they will possibly enjoy the challenge.. Or [just a thought now] maybe you can find an existing concertina that is useable only for spares and have it refitted [use parts]? There could even be second hand instrument that is useable solely for its cabinet box as it were that could be salvaged to adapt and use? Even a boxy one [ not much cost say online sale]? that already has the shape in its structure to be useable, minus its reeds? Literally then you could have a ready made already complete box to refit with reeds!

Just an unconventional suggestion for you; others may have better ideas.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...
On 3/23/2022 at 11:41 PM, Corbin Collins said:

Has anybody ever tried to build a concertina using harmonica reeds?

 

The harmonica reeds are specially made and mounted on a whole metal plate as long as the harmonica, and they are very close to each other. It would be tricky to assemble these whole things on a concertina if the maker don't re-mount them into smaller reed-shoe each individually. But given the labor costs, the re-mounting work is not making anything cheaper than just using accordion reeds. By the way, this reminds me the old Russian accordions or bayans, they have all the reeds riveted on a very long plate, which makes the maintenance work a nightmare.

 

And here's also a conjecture, the harmonica reed is usually tiny and may require a very strengthful air flow, (i.e. by human lungs) to make the sound it supposed to make. I don't think a concertina bellow can make the air flow as strong as a human's lung. 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another problem with harmonica reeds is that they have a relatively short lifespan. That's probably partly due to the wet environment in which they work, but I imagine it is also from them being such small, thin pieces of brass.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's a shame that little positive news seems forthcoming in your delightful concertinas story thus far; but it looks like it may have taken its last breath! I hope I am wrong of course.. there seems to be an awful lot consider in repairing it, to me at least, maybe you best consider buying a newer one ?

With it all being joined together in one, it makes it awkward to open up to begin with..

Anyway I hope you prove everyone wrong and best of luck in getting it going again?!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 4/2/2022 at 10:04 AM, SIMON GABRIELOW said:

It's a shame that little positive news seems forthcoming in your delightful concertinas story thus far; but it looks like it may have taken its last breath! I hope I am wrong of course.. there seems to be an awful lot consider in repairing it, to me at least, maybe you best consider buying a newer one ?

With it all being joined together in one, it makes it awkward to open up to begin with..

Anyway I hope you prove everyone wrong and best of luck in getting it going again?!

 

Actually the Frontalini plays like butter, barring a few sour and fuzzy very low notes on the left. I would love to have it fixed, but my god I'm spending so much money on concertinas (see later rant).

 

The feel of it is nice. The silky worn, light wooden ends, and the fat worn bone-colored buttons. I plan to keep it. I may bring it this weekend to my buddy's cabin to help in hanging out with a bunch of musicians I grew up with. Class of 1984. I even wrote a song for it. I am 100% certain the song will be a smash hit -- among that particular crowd.

 

Still waiting on the Troubadour while "relearning" the anglo (as if I ever knew it). Even flirted with the thought of seeing if CC could give me a Minstral instead!

 

Also get this: I found a Stagi W-15 LN online for $100 (not telling where!). Plus shipping, but come on, I see 'em for $700 online. Anyway it arrived today. It feels kind of like a sci-fi, S&M version of the Frontalini. Black, leathery, silvershiny -- Darth Vader's concertina. And a weird row up above, so I have to remember that there's a row above the main row. The plan was to sell the Stagi to help pay for the Troubadour. But now I love the Stagi.

 

Help! I'm semi-serious

 

This whole thing is a sickness caused by the fact that such an ingenious instrument was invented in the first place. It's too beautiful, I cannot look! I do have to stop buying concertinas. That's it. I'm done. The chopping knife comes out now, I weigh my options... I have two teenage sons... why do I need to buy concertinas? Even I don't have a good answer. I now realize I haven't even mentioned the other concertina I bought, a Renelli 30b "from the 60s) that is positively the source design for the Stagi metal-ended art nouveau one you see sometimes. Maybe it was the same factory. All I know is I now want this instrument in decent versions as anglo and duet. Then I'm done. I swear...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would say if buying concertinas is a 'sickness'.. then it's a good obsession to have got; certainly you do not have to feel guilty about enjoying your 'fix' ..

After all, it's a positive good feeling to have, and they are very addictive ( concertinas) to want to play, and interesting musical machines to handle, with a unique sound too.

You will ( if you have 30 key one) soon find those extra flats or sharps very handy, and will extend your range).

I currently have my one and only instrument ( bought back in 1999).. which is kept in its own ( hilariously) padded box!  Concertinas ( all types).. get their own personality, likes and dislikes, and buzzes, clicks, etc..  but they become part of you in a way ( bit like favourite pet dog or cat)...

So do not feel guilty in having that obsession; enjoy it, and spread the word to others about the wonderful world of free reed instruments!

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...