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What To Do With Aged Jeffries

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Clive and all.

I'll probably regret that religious reference to "being in a cathedral". But I was looking for a spiritual metaphor.


I'm not up to entering a "holy war" of polarized opinions. I'm just a little, young concertina player making his way in a world of wonder and discovery. Just wanted to share some observations that I thought were interesting and wonderful. You guys can crusade and fight; I should be practicing.


As far as old time banjo, I've put in my 35 years. It took me ten years to realize that in changing keys (which in old time banjo involves retuning) that certain notes, while true to the electronic tuner no longer sounded so sweet to me. Their relationship with the tonic had changed. Now I can anticipate what notes will probably have to be sweetened.


Yes, a fretted banjo has equally tempered notes (compromises in the fret placement). Sometimes I find myself attacking notes at a different finger angle or actively "bending a string" to satisfy that sweet sound.


Paul's, and Dave's comments and others contributions in previous threads on tunings and temperments struck a chord with me. It helped explain some of the inconsistant sounds I'd heard on the banjo and guitar for years.


Hey, it's all in the eye, or ear of the beholder.


I'm headed for the roof. This forum is getting over my head, anyway. I've got three different hammers to nail shingles. Each is different. Each has a different feel. All three are capable of getting the job done. Is one inherently "better" than another? Probably not. I have my favorite, for different reasons. Sometimes my needs change. Here's to roofs with no leaks and concertinas with no squeaks.


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Not so much polarised opinions as a range of opinions. Most people in these forums appreciate that their own opinion is only one of many, and appreciate listening other peoples views. After all, if everyone agreed on everything (or irretreivably disagreed) and every apsect of concertinas was understood by everyone, then there would be little point in having a discussion forum at all! You may be a relative beginner on concertina but your opinion is still valid and valuable (especially in veiw of your 35 years as a musician) so don't be put off expressing it.



My original response to this tread was not meant to imply that Ben must get his instrument retuned to standard pitch, but to point out that there were disadvantages to non standard tuning as well as advantages.


Fortunatley there are enough concertinas around for everyone to follow their own ideas on tunings, which is good. At the moment an equally tempered instrument is the right solution for me, and naturally tempered instrument is right for Paul. 'Vive la difference'.




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Clive, Frank, and all,


I hope I am not belaboring an issue, but for the record I want to clarify a couple of points on which I have been misread here. First let me say I appreciate the civil tone of this discussion, despite our differing views. Like Frank I anticipated there might be some who would try to shout me down (in my case, because my opinion expressed early in this topic runs counter to practices that have long been accepted by many in the concertina trade). I would hope we could all meet over a pint and have this kind of argument, where all can be heard and even if no minds are changed at least we can be even more sure we share a common passion for the concertina -- making us rare kindred spirits in this world.


Frank, were you responding to me when you argued that (despite your acquired preference for A 440) no pitch should inherently be "better?" For the record, my only claim about a PITCH sounding better was in relation to antique old system flutes; those made to play in A 446-452 really do sound better in that range of pitches, since for constructional reasons it is very difficult to repitch them without losing response, tone, internal intonation. I entered these flutes into evidence to rebut Clive's argument that an old pitch concertina must be played solo. In fact many wonderful instruments are already in odd pitches waiting for mating odd pitch concertinas to play with them! Seamus Ennis played for much (most?) of his life on a wonderful sounding set of Irish pipes pitched in splendid unequal temperament around halfway between our modern C and C#. Of course he played these mostly solo (though a fiddle could easily tune to him), but it just so happens that a Jeffries or Lachenal Bb/F in A 452 would be right exactly there. When it comes to these fine old flutes, pipes, etc., it is the modern pitch concertinas that could not play along.


As Dave pointed out, it is the issue of temperament (and the general principal of retaining originality so that we can understand and learn from the past) much more than the issue of pitch per se that interests me. As I have pointed out in the "Linota" topic, pitch can be *one* indicator of original reedwork. However, as Frank agrees, hasty, budget-oriented, or unskilled repitching can also harm the tone and response of reeds leaving them much less useful and sonorous than the original old-pitch reedwork was. With the finest professional-grade concertinas, I have never observed that an instrument repitched in modern times has a better tone than in the old pitch, and the reverse is often true. I know Alistair Anderson is reported to have played on an old-pitch english concertina for many years, fearing that repitching would hurt its superlative tone. I don't know if he still holds this view, but I am sure he has a keener sense of great tone and great responsiveness than most of us.


Clive, I have never actually claimed that I prefer old-pitch or even unequal temperament concertinas per se. I have a background in piano and guitar and am well aware of the many situations in which equal temperament is best. Before moving from Boston, I hosted many sessions where all sorts of instruments played together, and modern standard pitch (or something very close to it) is very helpful in this environment. On the other hand, as Greg and Ken emphasize, a solo instrument, a duet, or a small ensemble can produce wonderful music also, and here the unequal temperament of some original anglos can really shine. My argument is in favor of an appreciation of originality (which allows us to benefit from the lost knowledge of the past), of a diversity of temperaments for different purposes, and an open mind that allows us to entertain unfamiliar ideas. I know what equal temperament sounds like, and what it can do. But how many of you know what Jeffries wanted his concertinas to sound like when he made them? I hope that many of you will be interested to know (and hear) this, even if you don't choose to tune your instruments this way. But I need the help of all who come across an original instrument. I need your patience not to immediately forge it into the kind of instrument you already understand. I need you to listen attentively to what may be there that you don't already know. There will be time enough to modernize its tuning if you decide it is more valuable to you in that form.



Edited by Paul Groff
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PAUL:"Frank, were you responding to me when you argued that (despite your acquired preference for A 440) no pitch should inherently be "better?" For the record, my only claim about a PITCH sounding better was in relation to antique old system flutes; those made to play in A 446-452 really do sound better in that range of pitches, since for constructional reasons it is very difficult to repitch them without losing response, tone, internal intonation."


FRANK: I totally agree with you in the case of pipes and flutes. With pipes, the instrument was made to play in a certain limited range of pitch. It is very complex, the way the internal bore of the instrument has been tapered (in some cases with multiple degrees of taper within one chanter), and the reed constructed to match it. It becomes more difficult for a chanter made to sound balanced (in pitch from top to bottom) to be flattened or sharpened significantly without altering the balance from top to bottom. This is largely because of the tapering of the bore. All of the notes on pipes (and flutes) are interrelated because they all are made by the same reed and are subject to the design of the one bore through which all the notes are made. Therefore, what you do with the pitch (i.e. raise or lower) affects each note to a greater or lesser (varying) degree. In this case, there is a very narrow range of pitches (only a few cents) which can be used for the instrument to be in a balanced state. :)

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My apologies if I mis-interpretted your your views, and consequently mis-represented them.


If I ever end up with a natural temperament instrument you'll be welcome to any information I can give you.



Edited by Clive Thorne
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