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Why are accordions relatively so cheap?


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3 hours ago, Łukasz Martynowicz said:

One aspect, that hasn’t been mentioned here, is the difference in reed construction itself. Accordion reeds are suitable for modern manufacturing techniques. Because all shoe edges, including tongue slots are perpendicular to the shoe face, they can be made with electroabrasion, laser cutting or simple CNC. Traditional concertina reeds, with nearly all edges tapeted. require a lot more work per note. And there’s the rivet vs screws mount on top of that. Harmonikas.cz offer their DIX reeds in three shapes and the difference in price between a rectangular, double, accordion style reed vs a dovetailed with screws is two fold. 

 

I hadn't mentioned it yet because the OP has been talking about an inexpensive hybrid instrument with accordion reeds, but the construction of the reed-pans for a traditional-style instrument, to precisely fit tapered, dovetailed, reeds is also a major undertaking for a maker.

 

To add a little perspective, it takes a skilled craftsman three weeks to make one concertina of traditional English construction, using expensive materials, tooling and machinery. 

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Maybe not really on topic but it sounds to me that Martin's problem with his Rochelle-2 is that the reed tongue heights need resetting (if they were ever properly set in the first place). 

 

On my Rochelle-2, I can only get the notes on the right hand to play at the same time as the notes on the left hand at full volume, whereas, on an accordion, you can play all the notes of a seventh chord in the bass quite quietly, all the reeds speak with the same sort of air pressure. So, why on my concertina do I need so much more air pressure in the right hand than the left?

 

Each reed in a Rochelle-2 looks like it is held onto the sound board by two screws so removing a reed to set the height of its tongue is not a difficult job for an owner to do - especially someone like Martin who is a craftsman.

 

image.png.35f5d4736749167863574586dc6f27e9.png

 

 

Edited by Don Taylor
Added quote from Martin's original post
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On 7/24/2022 at 10:45 PM, Martin Essery said:

 

My main point was that you seem to get a lot more instrument, certainly a lot more reeds, for the money with an accordion. And as a comparrison of quality of reeds, even on a cheap Chinese accordion, say the 15 bass Hohner, if played at medium volume, all the notes of a major chord would sound, whereas that is not so if such a chord were played on the same priced Rochell-2. Or to put it the other way around, seeing what can be achieved with an accordion, why is the Rochelle-2 not better at that price bracket? I am upgrading as soon as I can afford it. I can play single note melodies, but the harmonic style is virtually impossible asI run out of what littlebellowsthere are too quickly.

 

The harmonic style is not virtually impossible on a Rochelle.  I had one as my first instrument.  I was never any good on it because I moved up to the Marcus within a few months.  However, my then teacher, Keith Kendrick was able to play that Rochelle back then as well as I can play my beautiful Dipper many years later.

 

The Rochelle is basically a good quality entry level instrument.  Of course it does not compare well with a top quality concertina, but it is a solid instrument capable of producing all the notes and chords that you need.

 

The single most difficult button on an Anglo is the air button.  It takes a lot of time to be able to manage the air supply with light taps of the air button but once you can do it, it is 100 times easier than taking a big breath in our out when it is nearly too late.

 

Beginners tend to play slowly, and tend to hold the buttons down longer than necessary on each note.  A more experienced player will play a tad faster overall, and will tap out each note lightly, leaving gaps between.  The combined effect is to use less air.

 

Beginners tend to play block chords, and take a while to form them.  More experienced players often use chords more sparingly, tapping them out almost like tuned percussion, and will often play more arpeggios and bass runs, open fifths, and so on.  Again, experience leads to technique that requires less air.

 

On any concertina, there may be discrepancies in how much  bellows pressure individual notes need.  To some extent, this can be adjusted by resetting the height of a slow-sounding reed.  However, if all the reeds are the same thickness, those that are very short (high notes) will be proportionately stiffer and be harder to sound, and those that are very long (low notes) will have more inertia and take longer to start.

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Almost every difference in price between concertinas and accordions is related to volume of manufacture. 
 

On 7/26/2022 at 5:57 AM, Stephen Chambers said:

 

To add a little perspective, it takes a skilled craftsman three weeks to make one concertina of traditional English construction, using expensive materials, tooling and machinery. 

Must have his skates on!

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On 7/25/2022 at 8:57 PM, Stephen Chambers said:

To add a little perspective, it takes a skilled craftsman three weeks to make one concertina of traditional English construction, using expensive materials, tooling and machinery. 

 

13 hours ago, Chris Ghent said:

Must have his skates on!

 

3 weeks is, say 120 hours of work.  A lot could be achieved in that amount of time by someone with everything set up to work.

 

The lead time for most manufacturers is measured in months.  I assume they work in batches: several sets of ends, several sets of bellows, etc.  It may take a year from order to delivery, but each individual concertina may represent an average of (wild guess) 120 hours.

 

Of course, it depends on what you are measuring.  If the craftsman already has a big stock of reeds and shoes, buttons and levers, they will take less time to "make" a concertina than if they literally start with raw materials and manufacturer each shoe, reed, button and lever individually for each concertina as they go.

 

Also, from an accounting perspective, the time taken to "make a concertina" ought to include an amount of time for admin., ordering materials, managing stock, invoicing, dealing with queries etc.  It would be a happy craftsman indeed who could sit uninterrupted for 3 weeks and do nothing except making one concertina.

 

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One thing that's not been mentioned is the bellows....I've never tried making any but I would have thought it was much easier and quicker to make simple 4 sided bellows rather than 6,8, or 12 sides.....I would reckon you can make quite a number compared to an Aeola or even worse Edeophone.

   I've only owned one accordion, but going from memory the fretwork and keyboard were just mouldings rather than hand cut and drilled wood.

Edited by sadbrewer
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Above JimBesser said:

 

Quote

I'm no expert, but for the good accordion players I know, there's very little interest in vintage instruments

 

and that’s been bugging me for a while.  I realise this is most likely about piano accordions but I immediately think of people like Charlie Harris, Conor Conolly, Anders Trabjerg and dozens of accordionists playing old Paolo Sopranis.  Maybe I am familiar with a different strand of good accordionists?

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2 hours ago, Peter Laban said:

Above JimBesser said:

 

 

and that’s been bugging me for a while.  I realise this is most likely about piano accordions but I immediately think of people like Charlie Harris, Conor Conolly, Anders Trabjerg and dozens of accordionists playing old Paolo Sopranis.  Maybe I am familiar with a different strand of good accordionists?

The cost involved  in  bringing a  second hand  Piano  Accordion  back into  fine  condition  is   very considerable  whereas  those  old  Paolo Soprani  button  boxes  have  far  fewer  reeds  and mechanisms  to keep in good order.

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On 7/25/2022 at 5:08 PM, Łukasz Martynowicz said:

One aspect, that hasn’t been mentioned here, is the difference in reed construction itself. Accordion reeds are suitable for modern manufacturing techniques. Because all shoe edges, including tongue slots are perpendicular to the shoe face, they can be made with electroabrasion, laser cutting or simple CNC. Traditional concertina reeds, with nearly all edges tapeted. require a lot more work per note. And there’s the rivet vs screws mount on top of that. Harmonikas.cz offer their DIX reeds in three shapes and the difference in price between a rectangular, double, accordion style reed vs a dovetailed with screws is two fold. 
 

Now, for other aspects of construction differences, irregular lever lengths and lever routing challenges, labour intensive button and bellows design and acoustic difficulties of flat mounted reeds vs reed blocks result in concertinas being much harder to not only build (per reed) but also to design. 

And while it is true, that if you compare the same quality level instruments they might end up close in price, when it comes to duets vs accordions, you get a LOT more „bang for a buck” with accordions - more range, registers, free bass converter, etc. You can get a fully competent CBA for the price of a very limited Wakker H-1, and pretty professional CBA for the price of H-2, the largest Hayden available. Now, a „hybrid” 64 button Hayden could cost about half of H-2, but it would still be overpriced for it’s musical capabilities when compared to equally priced accordion. 
 

What you gain with concertinas is portability and little else really.

Thank you for recognising the difference, where others seem to want to jump to the defence of the concertina and accuse me of being a bad player 😄 You have outlined the technical differences, which is what I wanted to hear,  although my instrument is a hybrid and so the excuse of more expensive reeds does not apply,  and does not explain why some of the reeds do not want to speak,  while every accordion I have known, the reeds seem to speak freely and equally.

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On 7/22/2022 at 9:21 PM, Richard Mellish said:

More than one issue here. If the notes on one end of a concertina need (significantly) more pressure to sound than the notes on the other end that says something about either their inherent quality or how they have been set up.

There are no doubt several factors influencing the respective cost per reed of accordions and concertinas, but I would expect one of them to be that an accordion has many identical parts suitable for mass production, and another the complex shape of a concertina's reed pan if assembled in the traditional way from lots of separate bits of wood. Although some makers nowadays use manufacturing methods that didn't exist a hundred years ago, that doesn't seem to reduce the prices much.

I think it is the inherent quality of my instrument, there are signs that quality control went on holiday when they made my instrument and the colourful ruminant reseller in this country, UK, did not seem to notice either.

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On 7/25/2022 at 1:27 AM, Stephen Chambers said:

 

I'd recommend the Excelsior 72-bass, but none of the others - only it's actually £495 more expensive than the basic Suttner, which is of comparable quality.

 

But previously you were talking about 120-bass, and an Excelsior one of those is £1,250 more expensive than Suttner's top model.

 

 

The second-hand piano accordion market is a whole other ballgame, very much affected by declining interest in the instruments and an over-abundance of outmoded models that cost more to service than they are worth.

 

 

I used to sell a lot of the original Rochelle model because I considered them to be the best starter model on the market, but I have yet to see a Rochelle 2 - however, I've seen nothing but praise in consumer reviews of them.

 

Possibly there is something wrong with the instrument, or perhaps with your technique - bellows control/use of the wind key is hugely important on a diatonic instrument.

Maybe I am just a bad player 😄 The quality control on this particular instrument in general is very poor. The button profiles vary from entirely flat to very rounded, so, good that they are hand made, but bad that someone was not looking at what they were doing.

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On 7/25/2022 at 1:35 AM, Jim Besser said:

I think we're all a little misled by the vast number of old accordions available for much much less money than good concertinas.  As Stephen Chambers notes, high quality new accordions are pretty expensive, often selling for significantly more than even a prime Jeffries Anglo.  A quick look at the Liberty Bellows Web site reveals a number of instruments in the $6000-12000 range, and that's not even a shop that specializes in professional grade instruments.

 

Remember that for many years, until the 70s or so,  accordions were mass produced in sizable factories (and often sold door to door, or though ads in popular magazines, or through the accordion studios in just about every town).  

 

A few years back I visited Castelfidardo in Italy and learned that in its heyday as accordion capital of the world, there were many thousands employed in the factories there, and that was just one town.  There were hundreds of manufacturers in Europe and the US, churning out mountains of instruments

 

lot  of those instruments survived and turn up on Ebay, Craigslist, and in stores.  Many are playable - but nowhere near the quality - in sound or playability - of high quality modern instruments. 

 

I'm no expert, but for the good accordion players I know, there's very little interest in vintage instruments for that reason.  Many of the best concertinists I know seek out fine Jeffries, Wheatstones or Crabbs; I don't know any top accordionists who play vintage instruments.  

 

And there are many manufacturers still mass producing low and mid range accordions.  Most of them cost more than a modern entry level concertina, many for more than a good hybrid like the Morse or Edgley.

 

 

 

 

Thank you for a useful perspective.

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On 7/25/2022 at 9:35 PM, Don Taylor said:

Maybe not really on topic but it sounds to me that Martin's problem with his Rochelle-2 is that the reed tongue heights need resetting (if they were ever properly set in the first place). 

 

On my Rochelle-2, I can only get the notes on the right hand to play at the same time as the notes on the left hand at full volume, whereas, on an accordion, you can play all the notes of a seventh chord in the bass quite quietly, all the reeds speak with the same sort of air pressure. So, why on my concertina do I need so much more air pressure in the right hand than the left?

 

Each reed in a Rochelle-2 looks like it is held onto the sound board by two screws so removing a reed to set the height of its tongue is not a difficult job for an owner to do - especially someone like Martin who is a craftsman.

 

image.png.35f5d4736749167863574586dc6f27e9.png

 

 

Thank you. I was sent the instructions on how to adjust the reeds from Concertina Connections, instructions that were already prepared because it seems to be a common occurrence. So, my question would be, how many accordion players are required to rip a new instrument apart and fiddle with the reeds?

So, I have moderated the reeds that were inconsistently reluctant to speak, but I am still left with the right side requiring so much more air than the left that the harmonic style is difficult and in some cases impossible, as I will share in a later response.

 

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Just now, Martin Essery said:

Thank you. I was sent the instructions on how to adjust the reeds from Concertina Connections, instructions that were already prepared because it seems to be a common occurrence. So, my question would be, how many accordion players are required to rip a new instrument apart and fiddle with the reeds?

So, I have moderated the reeds that were inconsistently reluctant to speak, but I am still left with the right side requiring so much more air than the left that the harmonic style is difficult and in some cases impossible, as I will share in a later response.

 

Very much on topic by the way 🙂

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On 8/1/2022 at 2:44 PM, Mikefule said:

The harmonic style is not virtually impossible on a Rochelle.  I had one as my first instrument.  I was never any good on it because I moved up to the Marcus within a few months.  However, my then teacher, Keith Kendrick was able to play that Rochelle back then as well as I can play my beautiful Dipper many years later.

 

The Rochelle is basically a good quality entry level instrument.  Of course it does not compare well with a top quality concertina, but it is a solid instrument capable of producing all the notes and chords that you need.

 

The single most difficult button on an Anglo is the air button.  It takes a lot of time to be able to manage the air supply with light taps of the air button but once you can do it, it is 100 times easier than taking a big breath in our out when it is nearly too late.

 

Beginners tend to play slowly, and tend to hold the buttons down longer than necessary on each note.  A more experienced player will play a tad faster overall, and will tap out each note lightly, leaving gaps between.  The combined effect is to use less air.

 

Beginners tend to play block chords, and take a while to form them.  More experienced players often use chords more sparingly, tapping them out almost like tuned percussion, and will often play more arpeggios and bass runs, open fifths, and so on.  Again, experience leads to technique that requires less air.

 

On any concertina, there may be discrepancies in how much  bellows pressure individual notes need.  To some extent, this can be adjusted by resetting the height of a slow-sounding reed.  However, if all the reeds are the same thickness, those that are very short (high notes) will be proportionately stiffer and be harder to sound, and those that are very long (low notes) will have more inertia and take longer to start.

Thank you for your input, but I have been a musician for over half a century, at times professional and not stupid. It sounds like you are talking of the Rochelle, not the Rochelle-2, which is a much smaller instrument, presumably smaller bellows and maybe shorter reeds.

 

I am glad of your validation for the Marcus, as that is where I am headed next. I have tried a Marcus and was instantly twice the player! I tried a brand new unused Marcus too and there was twice the air in the bellows on an unused instrument compared to the Rochelle-2, which arrived very stiff and is still stiff after months of playing, with so much spring there there is no need to push, I just stop pulling as much.

 

Where I have run out of air and am not up to speed, I recognise that fact, but that is not what I am talking about, and not every tune can be played fast just so you have enough air. Although my skill with the air button could be improved, I do know how to use it, but that only helps if you have some opposite bellows notes to use it on, which is not always the case. Yes, playing staccato umpa notes makes things easier, but that is not always musically suitable, and other players on youtube do not have to resort to those techniques in the sorts of tunes that give me concern. My reference to harmonic style is to Gary Coover's Anglo Concertina in the Harmonic Style.

 

For instance, page 33, Auld Lang Syne, bars 6 and 7 are unbroken pull. My concertina, played at the right speed, the same speed that everyone else plays it at, barely makes 1 bar of melody and accompaniment on a full bellows and 2 bars is literally quite impossible. Stopping mid tune to empty the bellows would be silly. Other concertina players on youtube do not seem bothered, but my particular instrument cannot do it, and there are several other tunes in the book that produce similar problems.

 

There are other signs that my particular instrument suffers from lack of quality control. The button profiles vary from entirely flat to very rounded, so they have been hand made, but not by anyone actually paying attention. The bellows are still way stiffer after months of playing than seems reasonable. The pressure needed to make the reeds speak is very inconsistent, and with instructions from Concertina Connection, I had to retune them. Why should I need to do that on a new instrument?

As soon as I can afford it, I shall be getting a Marcus. I had thought of upgrading to a Clover, but if attention to detail is so absent on the cheaper instrument, I do not feel inclined to trust their more expensive ones. In a life as a craftsman, if I was required to make something cheaply, I did not make it shoddy, I made it as well as I could within the price constraint. While Concertina Connections makes much better instruments, the fact that they allowed this one through shows a lack of caring that I would rather not be associated with.

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