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Taxonomy of free reed instruments

Desert Dancer 05 Aug 06 - 10:32 PM
The Fooles Troupe 05 Aug 06 - 10:50 PM
Desert Dancer 05 Aug 06 - 11:03 PM
The Fooles Troupe 05 Aug 06 - 11:23 PM
Desert Dancer 05 Aug 06 - 11:52 PM
Dave Hanson 06 Aug 06 - 02:07 AM
The Fooles Troupe 06 Aug 06 - 02:14 AM
Dead Horse 06 Aug 06 - 02:35 AM
Bob Bolton 06 Aug 06 - 02:46 AM
Desert Dancer 06 Aug 06 - 02:48 AM
Desert Dancer 06 Aug 06 - 02:55 AM
The Fooles Troupe 06 Aug 06 - 02:56 AM
Desert Dancer 06 Aug 06 - 03:00 AM
The Fooles Troupe 06 Aug 06 - 03:15 AM
Dave Hanson 06 Aug 06 - 03:17 AM
JohnInKansas 06 Aug 06 - 04:30 AM
The Fooles Troupe 06 Aug 06 - 04:52 AM
curmudgeon 06 Aug 06 - 08:45 AM
Amos 06 Aug 06 - 12:35 PM
Artful Codger 06 Aug 06 - 03:23 PM
JohnInKansas 06 Aug 06 - 04:07 PM
Desert Dancer 06 Aug 06 - 04:19 PM
GUEST,Rowan 06 Aug 06 - 07:22 PM
The Fooles Troupe 06 Aug 06 - 11:55 PM
Bob Bolton 07 Aug 06 - 12:53 AM
Artful Codger 07 Aug 06 - 01:26 PM
GUEST,Rowan 08 Aug 06 - 08:03 PM
GUEST,Walter the Bayanwannabe 11 Aug 12 - 01:23 AM
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Subject: Taxonomy of free reed instruments
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 05 Aug 06 - 10:32 PM

I came on this interesting page today, with a chart characterizing instruments in general, and free-reed instruments in particular:

The Classical Free-Reed, Inc.
The Free-Reed Family: A Brief Description Taxonomy of Musical Instruments, By Henry Doktorski
and
The Free-Reed Family of Aerophones, By Diarmuid Pigott (his page, referred to here and linked on an old Mudcat harmonium thread, seems to be gone)

Clicky

Wow.

While I'm at it, that site didn't quite explain the difference between a "free reed" and a "beating reed" clearly enough, and I found this site did:
What is a free reed

and I reached that one via the Wikipedia entry on Free reed aerophone.

~ Becky in Tucson
(I looked around to see about adding this to another thread, but didn't want to limit viewers to those interested one instrument or another.)


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Subject: RE: Taxonomy of free reed instruments
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 05 Aug 06 - 10:50 PM

Very Good! - I added a link to this from

Technique: Piano Accordion for The Recycled Muso


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Subject: squeezebox wiki
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 05 Aug 06 - 11:03 PM

I've also come on this:

Squeezebox, an open repository of squeezebox knowledge on Wikia (not Wikipedia)

That one needs some work though. The concertinaphiles definitely haven't reached it yet, judging by the field guide!

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: Taxonomy of free reed instruments
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 05 Aug 06 - 11:23 PM

Doktorski has a web store too BTW.


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Subject: RE: Taxonomy of free reed instruments
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 05 Aug 06 - 11:52 PM

To get to the gift shop & other stuff:
Classical free read home page (scroll down for menu)

or Henry Doktorski's home page (check out his biography, it's great!) (sound files, too).

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: Taxonomy of free reed instruments
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 06 Aug 06 - 02:07 AM

What does ' taxonomy ' mean ? I can't find it in my dictionary.

eric


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Subject: RE: Taxonomy of free reed instruments
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 06 Aug 06 - 02:14 AM

'gullible' isn't there either...


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Subject: RE: Taxonomy of free reed instruments
From: Dead Horse
Date: 06 Aug 06 - 02:35 AM

How can they tax sumthin thats sposed ta be free, huh?


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Subject: RE: Taxonomy of free reed instruments
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 06 Aug 06 - 02:46 AM

G'day eric the cheap,

That's the problem of sticking to the cheao student's dictionary you had in Primary School! The full OED (Oxford English Dictionary) gives:

1. Classification, esp. in relation to its general laws or principles; that department of science, or of a particular science or subject, which consists in or relates to classification; esp. the systematic classification of living organisms.
   
2. (With a and pl.) A classification of anything.

BTW: The site linked by Becky in Tucson/ Desert Dancer seems to be mainly posted by the American Chemnizer players groups (judging by their distinctive terminology). They do, however, cover most of the main categories fairly evenly.

Regard(les)s,

Bob


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Subject: RE: Taxonomy of free reed instruments
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 06 Aug 06 - 02:48 AM

tax·on·o·my

   1. The classification of organisms in an ordered system that indicates natural relationships.
   2. The science, laws, or principles of classification; systematics.
   3. Division into ordered groups or categories: "Scholars have been laboring to develop a taxonomy of young killers" (Aric Press).


Substitute "free reed instruments" for "young killers" above.

~ B in T


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Subject: RE: Taxonomy of free reed instruments
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 06 Aug 06 - 02:55 AM

Bob -- we cross-posted -- where do you get the "American chemnitzer" connection?? The page author, Doktorski, who's an American accordion player, cites two Austrians (I don't know what they played) and an Australian harmonium player.

~ Becky in Tucson
(Does this mean I'm staying up late enough for it to be early in Australia? It doesn't seem that late!)


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Subject: RE: Taxonomy of free reed instruments
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 06 Aug 06 - 02:56 AM

"tax on, o my"

That is what the British were heard to complain after VAT was brought in...


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Subject: RE: Taxonomy of free reed instruments
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 06 Aug 06 - 03:00 AM

So what time is it in Australia? It's 12:02 Mountain Standard Time in Arizona.

~ B in T


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Subject: RE: Taxonomy of free reed instruments
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 06 Aug 06 - 03:15 AM

17:15 - GMT + 10


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Subject: RE: Taxonomy of free reed instruments
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 06 Aug 06 - 03:17 AM

Thanks for that Bob, it's just laziness really, I got you to look it up for me.

Cheers, eric


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Subject: RE: Taxonomy of free reed instruments
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 06 Aug 06 - 04:30 AM

Any such "taxonomy" is likely to be somewhat superficial; but then it's probably best not to delve into too much detail when atttempting to make general classifications of this sort.

An example of "superficiality" is in the description at the first link of clarinets, saxophones, oboes, etc as having a fixed length reed. These instruments MOST EMPHATICALLY DO NOT HAVE A "FIXED LENGTH REED." The reed is arranged so that the player's lip pressure and center of lip/reed contact change the length of the free/vibrating part of the reed to match the length of the air column produced by the opening of the appropriate holes on the instrument (when played "properly," by any competent performer).

The initial description for the "beating reed" is also simply WRONG. In normal play with these instruments, the reed NEVER closes completely against the mouthpiece, so to say that the read "beats against something" is preposterous.

It is possible, particularly with the lower pitched saxophones, to produce what is sometimes refered to as a "slap reed" effect, where the reed gap closes enough to essentially stop the airflow for an instant; but this is a "special effect" akin to calling a banjo a drum if you slap the head. The "slap" effect is nearly impossible with alto and higher pitched saxophones. Some players can do it on a tenor; but it's heard most often from a very few baritone saxophonists. It would probably be easy on a bass sax - if anyone ever actually played one. It has the tonal effect of a "fart" in the music.

Placing the trombone with bugles because it doesn't have keys would also be considered "illogical" by most. The more important functional distinction is between instruments with a fixed air column length (bugles) and instruments in which the length of the air column can be changed (trombone via the slide, trumpets via connecting of a selection of different length tubes by using keys/valves.)

While the precise physics of the free reed is a worth a study all to itself, the defining characteristic of nearly all free reed instruments is that the reed alone determines the pitch, tone, and harmonic content of the note sounded. There is (almost) never a resonant air column/volume tuned to the individual note that comes from each individual reed, so it all depends on the reed itself. In all other kinds of "aerophones" the pitch and tonal quality of the note is determined primarily by the resonant characteristics of an air volume.

For plucked and bowed instruments, in most cases there is a significant "resonant volume;" but it doesn't get retuned for each note, so it contributes more to the "tonal quality" than to the pitches of the notes played. Among instruments of these kinds, the hurdy-gurdy and the autoharp are about the only common things I can think of that lacks any significant "resonant air member," making it sort of the "stringed analogue" of the free reed instruments.

(Are the only common stringed instrument that lack a tuned/resonant air mass the autoharp and hurdy-gurdy?)

John


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Subject: RE: Taxonomy of free reed instruments
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 06 Aug 06 - 04:52 AM

I have a Symphonia, which is an early version of the Hurdy Gurdy. It does have a small chamber inside, but that is mainly intended for 'coupling' (impedance matching) to the outside air.


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Subject: RE: Taxonomy of free reed instruments
From: curmudgeon
Date: 06 Aug 06 - 08:45 AM

There might be some helpful information    here -- Tom


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Subject: RE: Taxonomy of free reed instruments
From: Amos
Date: 06 Aug 06 - 12:35 PM

John:

Your usual brilliance shines again.

A


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Subject: RE: Taxonomy of free reed instruments
From: Artful Codger
Date: 06 Aug 06 - 03:23 PM

The bellows chamber, though constantly variable, alters the free reed tonal quality in a similar way to the resonator boxes of stringed instruments. Consider how differently the reeds sound when not enclosed--like a harmonica played uncupped. Notes can also be bent by a heavy draw. So I think even strings with resonators--like hammer dulcimers, harps and the unfretted halves of concert zithers--can be considered essentially analogous to free reeds. The basic concept is "one reed (string), one fundamental pitch", with the pitch determined primarily by the reed (string length and tension).

(And lest one wants to quibble about chromatic levers, let me point out that some harmonicas have a similar mechanism.)


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Subject: RE: Taxonomy of free reed instruments
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 06 Aug 06 - 04:07 PM

Artful -

One consideration when comparing free reed instruments to any air-column or string instruments lies with the physics. An air column or string produces harmonics that are normally very close to the theoretical 2x, 3x, 4x, etc multiples of the fundamental frequency. A free reed does NOT "naturally" produce its harmonics at those same points.

An even more extreme "deviance" is seen with rectangular bars, as on a simple xylophone or glockenspiele. The typical "natural" second harmonic vibration of such a bar is at 2.68x the fundamental frequency, rather than at twice the fundamental. The lower overtones typically form a series at frequencies of 1, 2.68x, 3.73x, 5.25x, ... ; NOT the expected(?) 1, 2x, 3x, 4x ....

Tuned air columns (tubes) are added to the marimba to "mellow out" these overtones, and most will recognize the difference in sound.

The deviation from "pure harmonics" is a bit less with typical free reeds, since tapering of both width and thickness, twisting, curling, etc are commonly employed and affect where the overtones occur. Expert "tuning" of the reeds can bring some of the overtones more in line with the linear series (if one finds it needed?), but a method that "tunes" one overtone often drives others (usually higher ones) further "off."

Extreme attempts to produce "harmonious" free reed instruments seem (to me) rather futile - if you want something that sounds like a flute you should just get a flute. The "grating" noise of a free reed instrument does become "less objectionable" as one grows used to it, and some (eventually) find it "quite charming."

John


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Subject: RE: Taxonomy of free reed instruments
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 06 Aug 06 - 04:19 PM

some (eventually) find it "quite charming."

primarily those of discerning taste and superior intelligence, of course.

;o)

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: Taxonomy of free reed instruments
From: GUEST,Rowan
Date: 06 Aug 06 - 07:22 PM

Great thread!
The postings from John in Kansas reminded me of several things, one of them being the notion I learned as a botany student dealing with systematics of the formal plant classification type as well as ecological vlassification of plant communities. The "best" taxonomy is the one that best meets your needs; ie form follows function. It's be extraordinary if more than two discerning characters agreed about any taxonomy, which is why people keep getting PhDs for their efforts at shaking the trees.

Another thing that came to mind was the notion that Jeffries concertinas are supposed to be possessed of superior action, (mine's great) and the reeds are supposed to have a wonderful response (can't complain) with a sweet tone. The sweetness of the tone is (by some) thought to be due to the type of steel used and (by others) thought to be due to the resonant chamber behind each reed being sized specifically for the pitch of that pair of reeds. When I first heard these notions they seemed plausible but I'm a bit of a sceptic because I haven't seen "compelling" evidence. Bob Bolton, who knows his stuff, as well two Australian concer makers (Richard Evans and Ian Simpson), might be able to set us straight on those issues.

And the third thing about constant screamers that the postings brought to mind was the notion that part of the timbre is due to the shape of the wave form produced by the free reeds in the various instruments. Most classifications of the sort favoured by contributors to Groves etc are from people who might be musically literate and even anthropologically astute but very few of them have the expertise to know the difference between sine waves, square waves and saw-tooth wave forms, all of which might be useful in such a discussion.

Cheers, Rowan (in Australia at 0921 AEST on Monday 7 August, while Mudcat's clock displays "6:54pm EDT"   sorry about you Americans getting all that second hand time)


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Subject: RE: Taxonomy of free reed instruments
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 06 Aug 06 - 11:55 PM

"Notes can also be bent by a heavy draw."

In the thread "Technique: Piano Accordion for The Recycled Muso" linked above is some discussion on this about (piano) accordion reeds - normally they only do this (with the 'traditional' design of PAs) if there is something out of adjustment with most piano accordions, but there is now a manufacturer who will modify instruments with a different reed and chamber mounting, which is designed to allow the reeds to be bent easily and intentionally (there was some discussion of the theory at their site), and there is a 2 stop positions on the keyboard to allow normal or bent playing styles.


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Subject: RE: Taxonomy of free reed instruments
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 07 Aug 06 - 12:53 AM

G'day,

Becky (Desert Dancer - back on 06 Aug 06 - 02:55 AM)

We are in very different time zones: (apart from an apparent 14 minute error in Mudcat's clock) local time, here in Sydney seems to be 14 hours ahead of Arizona. Rowan is in the same time zone ... about 430 kilometres (~265 miles) north.

The reason I suspected American Chemnitzer input in the site was the specific terms they used for different scale arrangements ... however, it may be that the compiler of their site is drawing on the same sources you cite (or vice versa). Anyway, it all sounds strange to us Aussies ... who have our own distinctive descriptions of these instruments - as I found out during some corresponsdence with Alan Day in England!

Rowan: I've heard a lot about the alleged effects of 'tuned' chambers for different pitch reeds ... but I note that I had a new set of reeds D and G made up by Richard Evans and fitted into what had started out as a Lachenal Anglo in G and C: a nominal fourth higher... and maybe more if it started out in "old high pitch" (aka 'Kneller Hall' - late 19th century British Army Band pitch) where A = 456 Hz. The result was a really strong instrument ... very firm and rich in its lower range.

After that one was stolen - I made up an 'economy' replacement - working in Richard's workshop: no hand-made replacement reeds - just swapped places for reeds that still fitted into the new scale ... and swap-overs for the lower pitch reeds needed. I only opened out some reed slots to take one size larger reed shoe (and made a small compromise in the matter of the lowest draw note in the new G scale ...). ASs it happens, I was making a point to someone ... out in the open air, by the access road at Bulli, during the 2006 Illawarra Folk festival ... and Malcolm Clapp walked up and asked me what was the very strong concertina I was playing! (OK ... just don't ask malcolm about how hard he thinks I play my concertinas ... and how overdue they are for his tender revivals ...

Interestingly, Richard Evans has been working to the general Jeffries model for all his Anglo instruments to date ... but he suggests that he may be changing to Wheatstone / Lachenal layout in the immediate future. I don't think he believes in any 'magic proportions' in the Jeffries instruments he has handled. (Quality of reed steel ... now that may be another point entirely ...)

Regards,

Bob


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Subject: RE: Taxonomy of free reed instruments
From: Artful Codger
Date: 07 Aug 06 - 01:26 PM

John wrote: "One consideration when comparing free reed instruments to any air-column or string instruments lies with the physics."

It depends on the purpose of the comparison. For a simple string analogy to the free reed concept, the characteristic harmonic profiles of the two families don't really matter, though it's illuminating for understanding the differences in tonal qualities between strings, free reeds and air column reeds.

WITHIN the free reed group, what are the most useful taxonomic divisions (realizing that these create a matrix of relationships, rather than a nice neat tree) and what are their relative taxonomic priorities?


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Subject: RE: Taxonomy of free reed instruments
From: GUEST,Rowan
Date: 08 Aug 06 - 08:03 PM

When gasbagging with people who understand concers I've taken the liberty of describing clarinet, sax, oboe & pipes as instruments using captive reeds rather than free reeds and nobody has sandbagged me yet.

When someone sees my Anglo and tells me that their grandpa/favourire aunt/ancient relative of choice "used to play one of those" I usually extend the conversation. Sooner or later the topic of 'what sort was it?' arises and that's about the only time cosiderations of which taxon the fabled instrument belongs to arise for me. If there is the faintest chance they still have access to it I try to encourage them to get it and have a go at playing.

To help them along I'd ask whether it has straps for the thumbs and little rests for the little fingers; "English, and the keyboard works like ...." I'd explain. Wrist straps on English concers are not common in Australia so I'd ask if it has wrist straps like mine and, if it did, how many buttons were there. 20 is always an Anglo, 30 ditto, whereas more than that you have to ask whether the rows are curved in a roughly vertical orientation (still an anglo unless they've got a Jeffries duet) or whether the rows are basically horizontal, in which case it's aone of several other duet concers.

Of course, if they volunteer early on that it's a lot bigger than mine (150mm high, or 6" to those of who aren't into SI units then different options arise. Artful Codger might be right about matrices but, having taught dichotomous keys I'm happy with that groove.

And Bob (who shares my time zone in so many ways), you've just given me an idea about restoration of a broken down 20 key Lachenal I've come across. Thanks.

Cheers, Rowan


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Subject: RE: Taxonomy of free reed instruments
From: GUEST,Walter the Bayanwannabe
Date: 11 Aug 12 - 01:23 AM

I would love to hear some intelligent gassbagging on the topic of hand made (mano a mano)reed quality versus machine fabricated free reeds, the latter being of lower quality, presumably due to the deeper work damage inflicted into the reed surface, thereby reducing the real dimensions which still conform to the theoretical intrinsic bulk properties of hardness or modulus of elasticity. Then couple this to the thread of inharmonic overtones. GO! W


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