The explanation of the terms listed below refer to their usage in the field of Mechanical Music. Many of the descriptions are from the book The Golden Age of Automatic Musical Instruments by MBSI member Arthur A. Reblitz, published by the Mechanical Music Press, Woodsville, New Hampshire; copyright 2001. They are used here with permission of the author and publisher. Permission is granted for writers to use a limited number of brief excerpts provided credit is given to the MBSI web site, the title of the original work and the author. Written permission is required for all other uses. German nouns and words that are also names of places are capitalized.
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hammer rail. A long strip of wood in a piano action upon which the piano hammer shanks rest when not in play. Usually movable for soft and loud effects; controlled by the soft pedal. When separated into separate sections for treble and bass, called a split hammer rail, which was operated automatically in certain expression pianos but never available to the pianist via conventional pedals. * German: Hammerleiste, Schieb.
hand organ. A small hand-cranked organ.
hand-cranked. Operated by continuously turning a handle or crank, as in many barrel organs, street pianos, street organs, etc.
hand-played roll. A music roll that is created by a musician playing a keyboard. The keyboard is connected to a recording machine, which draws lines representing the perforations on blank paper as the musician plays. After the recording session, a hole is cut wherever a line occurs on the paper, creating a master roll. A skilled musician then edits the roll to make it sound as much like the artist's original performance as possible. For the Mills Violano-Virtuoso, a high-speed perforator actually punched the rolls as the artists played the piano and violin parts on separate keyboards (after mid 1920). Generally, this method wasn't accurate enough to capture the playing of the finest classical pianists for reproducing piano rolls, as the punches could not respond as quickly as a line-marking device could. * See also drawing board arrangement.
harmonic brake. Metal blade, usually of brass and usually secured with two screws, placed at the mouth of a violin pipe to stabilize the tone and to enable it to speak more quickly. On large-scale violin and cello pipes the harmonic brake is often made in the form of a wooden roller. * Synonyms: harmonic bridge, frein.
harmonic flute pipe. Pipe, usually wooden, used in orchestrions, photoplayers, and organs. The harmonic flute is open at the top and has a small hole at the nodal point (of the sound wave) about at the center of the front or back of the pipe. This hole causes the pipe to speak an octave higher than it normally would, more promptly and with greater tonal stability. A harmonic flute pipe is not quite as loud as the equivalent piccolo pipe that is half as long. Used in many types of instruments; certain Seeburg coin pianos and orchestrions have harmonic flutes, for example.
harmonium. 1. Reed organ, usually pressure operated. In Europe the designation harmonium is preferred to the American designation reed organ. 2. One or more sets of organ reeds used as an accompaniment or even a solo voice in certain photoplayers, orchestrions, and other automatic musical instruments. Usually each rank of reeds is assigned the name of an organ pipe rank such as cello, diapason, clarinet, French horn, oboe, etc.
harp effect. Term used by Hupfeld, Philipps, and other coin piano and orchestrion manufacturers to designate a regular curtain-like mandolin attachment in an electric piano or orchestrion. Hupfeld used this device (called Harfe Illusion) in its Pepita and Pan orchestrions, and the reiterating Mandolin mechanism (Mandolinen-Illusion) in its Helios orchestrions.
harp. 1. Instrument with its strings arranged vertically in an approximately triangular-shaped frame. Played by plucking the strings. The Wurlitzer Automatic Harp (made by Whitlock) was popular during the early 20th century. 2. Metal plate or frame which bears the tension of the strings in a piano. Correctly called a piano plate. 3. Large scale marimba struck with dense felt hammers. Used in pipe organs, particularly theatre and residence organs.
height wheel. In a disc musical box, the small, flat discs positioned in the starwheel gantry that maintain the correct height of the tune disc, allowing it to pluck the star wheels properly.
helicoidal. 1. Descriptive of the arrangement of pins in a barrel-operated instrument, with the pins arranged in a continuous helix. The barrel continuously shifts sideways as it turns, keeping the keys aligned with the key frame. In this way a long selection (sometimes comprising six or more revolutions of the barrel) may be played without interruption. 2. Helicoidal music box: a cylinder music box with the cylinder pinned in a helicoidal manner instead of the usual manner which requires the cylinder to be shifted in successive steps. In a semi-helicoidal music box, the cylinder is pinned diagonally only at the normal shifting area, permitting music to be pinned across the shifting gap which is normally silent.
hi-hat cymbal. A double cymbal; two cymbals spaced apart with the faces parallel. Used in certain instruments of the 1920s and later, including the Hupfeld Sinfonie Jazz and many dance organs. * Synonyms: double cymbal, pedal cymbal, Charleston cymbal. * Dutch: hi-hat, dubbel bekken. * German: doppel Becken.
hold-down arm. 1. The bar which holds the disc against the star wheels in a disc musical box. The bar holds the roller or idler wheels which apply direct pressure to the disc. Synonyms: pressure bar, idler arm. 2. In a piano, it holds the strings in position between the tuning pins and the agraffes on the upper plate bridge.
hooked teeth. Found in early cylinder box combs to allow for rapid plucking of the teeth. They improved the action of the dampers by allowing the damper to curl in and under the tooth.
hurdy-gurdy. 1. A lute-like instrument with small keys, in which the strings are actuated by contact with a rotating rosin-coated wheel. Two open strings play all the time in the same manner as the drone of a bagpipe. * French: vielle * Medieval Latin: organistrum. 2. Popular usage: barrel-operated street piano or organ. This incorrect usage probably originated from the hurdy-gurdy, street piano and organ all being instruments used by street musicians and played by turning a crank.