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Question about Jeffries concertinas (and possibly concertinas in general)


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Hi all,

You may or may not remember I had a Jeffries 32 button with black bellows for sale here in early 2021. 
After I invested in the instrument I found I was not liking it as much as I could. It had a "drier" sound than I had imagined. I also considered that I hadn't played enough concertinas and had possibly been in a rush to get one so should have shopped around more. However at the time, there was only a couple of places to go due to lockdowns etc. I eventually took it down and decided to wait until I had played it with others a lot.

 

While I found it cut through the sound of the session very well compared to my old Crabb, I still am not totally enamoured with it as I feel I should be. I have now compared it with a couple of other Jeffries and the buttons on mine are not as instantly responsive and sensitive or yielding. It is still a spectacular concertina but it just isn't 100% what I am looking for.

 

However I would like to ask those with experience if this is something that comes with time. It had had some refurbishment and new bellows by the time it came to me. Will the springs loosen and the bellows unstiffen a bit with lots of play? Could it be a bad mistake to part with it?

 

My mind is in two places: begin a journey to sell, trade or upscale it in search of a superior Jeffries or to shop around and think of other concertinas.

Any input appreciated and sorry to be repeating myself to some extent.

Best,

Tim

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Old concertinas are individuals and even if you have two identical concertinas of the same make and model they are likely to differ.  Even if they left their factory with matching characters the effects of time, variable quality repairs and replacement parts over a century or so can all make changes.  That's why it's essential to try before you buy.  Ideally that would be in person at the sellers premises where you might be able to compare instruments, but at least if you buy mail order you should ensure that you have a right to return the instrument for a full refund after a reasonable period of time.  

 

On the specific point about your Jeffries – properly made springs don't soften with time, though well made new bellows do loosen up with play.  Badly made (or badly repaired) bellows may never play well.

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I maybe am not the one to give advice here; I. But to say, I have only had 2 concertinas ( Anglo) and neither cost thousands to buy.. but I would say keep playing your recent purchase, it sounds great, in description. Bellows can be stiff to begin with, and it is true they are all individual 'living' musical instruments.. having character; concertinas that is.. even my own beloved one needed working in at first, and needs attention now and again with use; but get to know it, and you never know, you could become best friends soon enough!

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When you say "the buttons on mine are not as instantly responsive and sensitive or yielding" do you mean that they need more force to push them in than you would like or that when you have pushed them in the reeds are slow to speak? Both of those issues could be dealt with by someone with appropriate skill and experience.

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I am NOT an expert at all. 
 

but 2 things.
 

It may be an easy and cheap fix to just grab a set of new springs and replace them all. You might get the action you are looking for. Solving the problem. You might be able to diy and save a bunch of money if you feel confident. Save and number the old springs as they come out in case you want to put the old ones back in.

 

as Theo mentioned, these are all hand made. So, consistency from one to another varies. The upside of hand made is top notch quality. The down side is that everything is done by hand means that it never has the consistency of a mass produced product.

 

and lastly, I am not an Anglo or Jeffries player. And have no actual experience. So I may be way off here. But, I have heard several tales. Where seeking the “white whale” was the life long quest. But, once actually reached. The legend and expectations were just too high. 
 

and ultimately, regardless of what the actual instrument is. It’s the player, not the instrument.

 

Edited by seanc
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Whilst I echo what Theo has said, I wonder if you have a 'set-up' issue. I would strongly advise sitting down, face to face (mask to mask??) with an experienced repairer, with a written list of concerns and your concertina. Gain his/her advice and see what is adjustable and what is just the nature of the instrument. Jeffries are not cheap and it is worth trying to optimise what have as a first instance.  Unfortunately perfection does not exist, and all concertinas hold some form of compromises. You have to train your ear, your reflexes and shape your expectations between instruments. 

 

In a session you are playing for a cumulative effect, you should not really be able to hear any one specific instrument above the others. It's the music that counts.  

 

 

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It is amazing how different the feel of an instrument can affect your approach to it ( or at least I have found).. I once tried an instrument out in a music shop, same system as my own, and yet it felt uncomfortable to play.. than my well used beloved concertina.

Maybe when instruments which are so closely held in the hands, and fingers, almost nursed as they are played, these sensitivities to nuance, tone differences is more pronounced, than with other instruments.

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