Most Hohner melodeons and entry level accordions have T mensur reeds on aluminium plates stamped, not surprisingly, with a capital T and fitted with synthetic valves. This has been the norm for many years but there are still a lot of instruments about with H stamped reeds, or a mixture of H and T types, often with the original leather valves.
I have been asked on numerous occasions about claims that the "good old" H type reeds are superior to modern ones, are more powerful and responsive and sound mellower or, conversely, brighter.
The "mellow" reputation may well stem from the fact that very early
H reeds had brass/bronze/bell-metal blades on zinc plates. These sound quite nice when just tuned but do not stay that way.
Brass tongues quickly gave way to spring steel ones, still on zinc plates of varying thickness, which do sound brighter than their predecessors.
H types went onto very light and fragile aluminium plates and you will also find
T type ones on zinc plates so what is stamped on them is really academic!
One problem with zinc plates is the weight, though with smaller instruments it is not so noticeable, another is that it oxidizes more than aluminium. I have seen very plates where corrosion has restricted the reed throat but this is unusual, normally its effect is merely visual.
.Left to Right
Brass tongue on zinc plate (H type)
Steel tongue on zinc plate (H type)
Steel tongue on ally. plate (T type)
Steel tongue on ally. plate (Italian TAM)
As regards response, this is more a question of setting up than reed quality because, without it, the best reed will be lazy.
In my unqualified opinion there is little to choose between todays reeds and prewar ones. I think that if Hohner were to go that one extra step with factory tuning they would enhance the reputation of current reeds as well as their Chinese made instruments! On the other hand, there is no reason why, properly re-fettled, a seventy year old reed cannot go on to give another lifetimes service.
HOHNER REED QUALITIES
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5 March 2008
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