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Question about handmade reeds.

NickC

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I've read a lot of great discussion on handmade reeds. The skill and precision that goes into making reeds is a fascinating topic. I have played about a dozen instruments with HM reeds and I appreciate the tone and response. One thing that I haven't seen discussed is tonal preferences. I wanted to get some opinions on reed preference by genre. What type of music do you play and which type of reed (handmade, handfinished, SD) do you prefer tonally?
 

Pierre

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Hi Nick,
I own a Scandalli super IV from the 70’s with Hm reeds and am quite happy with the sound even if it is too powerfull for me. I hope that afther restoration it will sound softer and I’ll be able to play more pianissimo.
I play mostly Brazilian choros, Balkan folk and some jazz so I like the dry tuning of it and think it is a versatile instrument.
The same models from the 50´s or 60’s had better reeds and a softer sound and are very expensive.
Richard Galliano plays on an old (50’s) Victoria and says it is the best he ever had.
I heard Binci reeds are very good and responsive.
I suppose reeds are important but also the other materials used and how the thing was built.
Kind regards
Pierre
 

Gonk

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A good question leads to more questions. Regarding handmade or handfinished, I always think "Ok, but whose hands?"

And a follow-up question might be "What machines?" (Machines are achieving increasingly precise tolerances, e.g. with spark erosion.)

Regarding SD or "Super Dural," as far as I can see, this is just a reference to duraluminum, from which almost all reedplates are made these days. I am confused by the use of this term to denote a grade. I suspect it's a gimmick, as the more descriptive "machine riveted" has negative connotations.

"A mano" vs. "tipo a mano" is also confusing, since no reed is currently "handmade" from start to finish - both grades refer to hand assembly, including riveting in all cases I'm aware of. My understanding is that the origin of the grades involves the difference between reeds cut from a strip of metal (ribbon stock) vs. a sheet (necessitating examination of the edges of the base of the reed for bluing, to make a determination). That said, even for that era, I am not sure whether I could tell the Sonola AA10 (TAM) from the SS10 (AM) in a blind test. And these days, I believe the makers offering TAM and AM reeds are cutting both from ribbon stock.

That said, in years of playing many boxes and buying a few that I loved, I have found that among my favorites, the ones featuring reeds made by a currently active company all have Bincis. Bell-like, great dynamic range and response, beautiful workmanship. All of my other favorites feature handmade reeds (of either discontinued or unclear provenance) as well. (I play music for dance - traditional dance from various countries and modern music inspired by folk traditions.)

It's hard to isolate the quality of the reed. I would be very excited about a real comparison between, for example, all of the grades of reed offered by Harmonikas, Artigiana Voci, and Voci Armoniche. My ideal comparison situation would be a single accordion fitted with reedblocks featuring a many instances of a single note, with a spectrum of grades, and different octaves on each register.
 
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NickC

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Good insights so far. It seems that there are a lot of factors that go into accordion tone, and I know it's hard to isolate one element that is contributing to the tone. And to make matters worse, it also appears that even the HM reed designation has variables. So, it's a tough question to answer.

To be more specific--I'm considering a small, non-cassotto, musette tuned LMM CBA accordion that will be used to play Italian folk music and I am trying to figure out if I should consider looking into HM reeds. Would the smaller box and wider tuning make the HM reeds too powerful/loud/etc, or would it bring out the nuances of the tuning and sound sweeter? The instruments that I've played, with HM reeds, have been louder. And the instruments that I've played, with a wider musette, have been louder. So, I am wondering if the combination would be too much power.
 

debra

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While there are tonal differences between different types of reeds, the influence of the reed blocks, possibly also cassotto, etc.... these are far greater than the differences between the reeds. Even with the same type of reeds, different notes adjacent to each other on the same reed block may sound difference (and not just in frequency) because of the interaction of the reed with the resonance chamber in the reed block, which can be a better or worse fit for the frequency of the note. What you also notice is that when you play a note in M register, and then the same note an octave higher but in L register the two should sound the same, but they don't, because they are a different fit on the reed block. The M reed generally has more room to spare and the L reed is a tighter fit for its resonance chamber.
The main difference between hand made and hand finished reeds is the direction of the reed versus the "grain" of the band or plate they come out of. Supposedly (but I have not noticed) the grain is a better match for the vibration direction on a hand made reed, and that might give a tonal difference but might also give a difference in strength, meaning the hand finished reed might break a bit more easily than the hand made one. For outdoor busking in all different temperatures a machine reed is a better choice because the reed has just a bit more room to vibrate in and out of the hole in the reed plate, and as a result when it gets cold a machine reed will continue to play when a hand made reed will no longer play (will no longer fit through the hole). For concerts under normal circumstances hand made and hand finished reeds are a better choice. They should also be voiced more carefully, giving an even response (and volume) between notes. But whether that really is the case depends on who does the voicing and how much effort goes into it.
 

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NickC, regarding volume, I wouldn't be afraid of the power, since it comes paired with greater sensitivity and response, allowing you to achieve the same volume you're used to with less air and effort. It might take a slight adjustment in your play style but in my opinion it can only widen your expressive range.

(Don't drive the Bugatti to the grocery store, it's too fast...)
 

losthobos

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@NickC ... I have owned plenty of boxes over the years... YES HM Binci reeds are very powerful especially in cassotto and i couldn't get on with the in/out cassotto mix so though the bassoon in cassotto was awesome it didn't warrant the heavy weight of a box of other Binci reeds that i rarely used...
I have two boxes now... The piermaria TAM bassoon in cassotto and MM out and the blend works well enough for me... And a lightweight MM maugein with duralium bog standard reeds... I love this little box for the ease of grab and play and find the reeds breezy summer toned and a pleasure to play...
Most days i go into the room and can't decide which to pick up... Often the duralium reeded maugein wins unless i need a certain bass run then the 3x3 piermaria gets it or sometimes just want that round cassotto bassoon...
You've a sweet bugari already so I'd probably go for factory reeds and a breezy sound for your italian folk songs...
Check a couple of my vids to compare differences if helps...
Just saying what keeps me happy at the mediocre level i play at....
Outdoors i love the maugein... 😉
 

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Whilst in the process of purchasing my new Paolo Soprani earlier this year, I could not travel to Europe but I did maintain direct contact with a company representative in Castelfidardo. And when I asked the gentleman about whether my accordion could be fitted with A Mano reeds (the “Super Paolo” model I was ordering came standard with excellent quality Voci Armoniche Tipo a Mano reeds) his response surprised me. He said that he would of course provide me A Mano reeds (at additional cost) on demand but that for an LMMM musette-tuned instrument such as the one I was buying, he said that Tipo A Mano reeds are recommended and provide a tone that is preferred by nearly all players over A Mano reeds (also Voci Armoniche).

I guess that Paolo Soprani is more of a “midrange” instrument, especially in comparison to the Piginis, Bugaris, Jupiters, Scandalli Vis, and Beltunas owned by many of you gents. Still, I thought it was interesting that an accordion builder would recommend a “lower quality” reed in this scenario based on the tuning of the accordion and the type of music (folk) it would mostly be used for. Has anyone else ever encountered this?
 

NickC

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@Scuromondo I feel like I heard something similar, probably two years back, but I can't remember who or when.
 

debra

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... He said that he would of course provide me A Mano reeds (at additional cost) on demand but that for an LMMM musette-tuned instrument such as the one I was buying, he said that Tipo A Mano reeds are recommended and provide a tone that is preferred by nearly all players over A Mano reeds (also Voci Armoniche).

...
I guess that what he meant was that the more expensive A Mano reeds are overkill for an accordion that is expected to be used with considerable tremolo most of the time. The most "refined" sound you might get using just the L, M or LM registers is then "wasted" on an accordion not really intended to be used that way.
But of course an LMMM accordion can be used with just L, M or LM and you do want these to sound right and also have good voicing and tuning. So it's a bit strange that an accordion manufacturer would ever recommend against the best reeds.
 

NickC

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You've a sweet bugari already so I'd probably go for factory reeds and a breezy sound for your italian folk songs...

The Bugari has the hand finished reeds. It's a nice instrument and I am happy with the tone, but I ultimately want to have a wetter musette. I will re-listen to your videos to see if I can hear the difference.
 

NickC

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NickC, regarding volume, I wouldn't be afraid of the power, since it comes paired with greater sensitivity and response, allowing you to achieve the same volume you're used to with less air and effort. It might take a slight adjustment in your play style but in my opinion it can only widen your expressive range.

(Don't drive the Bugatti to the grocery store, it's too fast...)

You're right. Having more dynamic range is a good thing. It's something to consider.
 

NickC

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I guess that what he meant was that the more expensive A Mano reeds are overkill for an accordion that is expected to be used with considerable tremolo most of the time.

This is the kind of thing that I wanted to discuss. I would be using a considerable amount of tremelo with this instrument. I would use either LMM (master) or MM tones. It is for Italian waltzes, mazurkas and polkas. I can't decide if the benefits would be 'lost' or would they just be less noticeable?
 

debra

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This is the kind of thing that I wanted to discuss. I would be using a considerable amount of tremelo with this instrument. I would use either LMM (master) or MM tones. It is for Italian waltzes, mazurkas and polkas. I can't decide if the benefits would be 'lost' or would they just be less noticeable?
I'm pretty sure the benefits of a mano reeds in LMM or MM (or LMMM or MMM) would be completely unnoticeable.
 

debra

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The Bugari has the hand finished reeds. It's a nice instrument and I am happy with the tone, but I ultimately want to have a wetter musette. I will re-listen to your videos to see if I can hear the difference.
I have two Bugari accordions: a 508/ARS/C with a mano reeds and a 540/ARS/C with typo a mano reeds. I do not notice a difference in sound between the type of reeds. I do notice a significant difference in sound caused by the 508 having 2 reed blocks in cassotto and the 540 having 3. (The difference is most obvious in the M register: the cassotto makes the sound of the first row of buttons very mellow, the second row a bit less mellow and the third row even less mellow. The effect is more pronounced on the 540 than on the 508.
I used to have a small all-bugari ensemble with several Artist Cassotto instruments and to my ears they all sounded the same, although I know they were bought with years in between and did not all have the same brand of reeds...
 

Scuromondo

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So it's a bit strange that an accordion manufacturer would ever recommend against the best reeds
He did say that for any double octave laccordion with piccolo reeds and not musette tuned, he will absolutely recommend A Mano.
 
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debra

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He did say that for any double octave accordion with piccolo reeds, he will absolutely recommend A Mano.
Of course. You need the best reeds to get a sufficiently stable tuning in L, M and H, and especially for the LH register, where not only tuning deviations but also voicing problems are immediately apparent.
 

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This is the kind of thing that I wanted to discuss. I would be using a considerable amount of tremolo with this instrument. I would use either LMM (master) or MM tones. It is for Italian waltzes, mazurkas and polkas...
and one could also argue, that as a professional, and in a sense being competitive with
one's contemporaries, these benefits you seek will be totally overshadowed by the simple fact that
everyone else at this level is using LMMM or MMM accordions, and even with the most plebian
reeds they will by far blow the LMM off the stage

this is different for Jazz and Stroller accordions designed to use solo voce Tone Chamber
and LM tone chamber in primary useage...

in addition, i will personally suggest that, having found i truly DO prefer the most sensitive
most responsive reed for the L reedblock,
(whether in or out of a tone chamber)
this led me to prepare a set of L reeds salvaged from a late 40's professional Paolo Soprani
which i am switching into my Woody this summer
(the FisItalia with standard Artigana Voci reeds... LMMM

the MMM reeds are fabulous in combinations, but having more sonority and quicker
reed response in the L set would make me happier and make this specific accordion
even more special than it already is

you would likely need to have a very good relationship with a builder to get then to
"mix" reeds like this, i would imagine.

a really well made, well set-up L reed, even in the lowest pitches, will start more quickly
with less pitch distortion, less growl, and come up to full sonority better than the ordinary

my opinion is not always in line with true professional accordion technicians and the
knowledge they have of parts and methods, as i am an amateur regarding repairs/customization

ciao

Ventura
 

debra

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...

a really well made, well set-up L reed, even in the lowest pitches, will start more quickly
with less pitch distortion, less growl, and come up to full sonority better than the ordinary
...
What is critical for low L reeds is the use of sufficiently strong and/or thick steel, so that the reed tip can sit lower above the reed plate. When this opening is smaller the reed will be faster to respond at low volume, and the stronger steel will prevent the reed from choking. Reed voicing is an interesting difficult process and ideally it is done with the player in mind. Generally a strong male will give stronger accents with risk of choking whereas a woman playing less strong can play with reeds voiced closer without them choking. (Some women of course play just as strongly as men and need the gap to be wider to prevent choking... My Russian bayan has clearly more responsive low reeds than the Italian accordions I have. When I use the low notes on the bayan they are more responsive than the same notes on my Pigini bass accordion, with larger but Italian reeds. (And this is not because the bayan uses multi-note large reed plates because the bass accordion also has multi-note large reed plates.)
 

NickC

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and one could also argue, that as a professional, and in a sense being competitive with
one's contemporaries, these benefits you seek will be totally overshadowed by the simple fact that
everyone else at this level is using LMMM or MMM accordions, and even with the most plebian
reeds they will by far blow the LMM off the stage

Absolutely. Good points.
 

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