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.
safety check: A device invented by C.H. Jacot, which prevents damage to the comb in a cylinder music box by locking the mechanism if it suddenly speeds up or "runs," a condition which causes immediate severe damage to the comb and cylinder.
saucer bells: See bells.
saxophone pipe: 1. In an orchestrion or fairground organ a reed pipe similar to a clarinet, but larger. 2. In an orchestrion, a reed pipe with a 4-sided inverted pyramidal wooden resonator, open at the large end. A popular addition to jazzband-type orchestrions of the 1920s. 3. In a dance organ a visible but non-musical saxophone is sometimes mounted on the front. Behind the saxophone and concealed from view is a rank of saxophone pipes. When a saxophone pipe is played, a corresponding key on the display instrument is opened by means of a wire connected to a pneumatic. 4. Name given to the bass part of a clarinet rank in an orchestrion.
scale: 1. Musical range of an instrument. Description or number of notes from the lowest playing bass note to the highest playing treble note. (This may differ from the actual number of piano notes; for instance, a 65-note piano roll uses only 65 notes of an 88-note piano). 2. The number of playing notes plus the number of holes necessary to perform register changes and other functions. Thus an instrument may be described, for example, as having a 30-note* Synonym: key (also listed in this Glossary, definition 4). 3. Layout or diagram of the function of each hole in a tracker bar, key in a key frame, etc. 4. Dimensions of a pipe relative to its length. A smaller scale pipe has a smaller cross section for a given note than a larger scale pipe has. For example, the violin pipes in a Wurlitzer orchestrion are of smaller scale than the stopped flutes. Generally, smaller scale contributes to more prominent upper harmonics and consequently brighter tone.
scale stick: Long narrow strip of cardboard, wood, or other material marked with the scale of a tracker bar or key frame. Used by roll and book arrangers as a guide for the correct placement of marks on a master roll.
Schausteller Orgel: German term meaning showman's organ.
Schlagwerk: German term for the untuned percussion section of an automatic musical instrument, especially of an orchestrion or organ.
Schutz Marke: German term for patent mark.
second wheel: The gear in a governor which is engaged with the endless screw and is mounted on a shaft which has a pinion that engages the first wheel, which in turn is mounted on a shaft that has a pinion that engages the great wheel. This is the wheel that transfers speed regulation from the endless to the cylinder. Synonym: escape gear or worm wheel.
sectional comb: A comb in a cylinder musical box which is made from separate sections of teeth, typically from one to five rather than as one piece of steel. Late 18th, early 19th century.
selector: See tune
semi-helicoidal: A cylinder musical box in which the cylinder rotates in a normal fashion and is laterally shifted at one position during its rotation. To enable longer-than-normal pieces of music to be played, arrangements are made for the musical pinning to be continued during the time when the cylinder is making its lateral shift in what is known as the "dead space." There is also a secondary mechanism which prevents the mechanism from stopping in the normal way after one cylinder revolution.
serinette: See bird organ
serpentine: A musical box case that typically has a double curved plan form (double "S").
set pins: The metal pins found under the musical comb to allow for proper alignment of the comb to the cylinder pins. Synonym: Dowels.
sforzando (forzando): 1. The sharp accenting of single notes or groups of notes. 2. In an organ or photoplayer the pedal which, when depressed, will bring into play one-by-one all (or nearly all) ranks of the instrument. * Synonyms: crescendo pedal, full-organ pedal.
shallot: 1. In an organ pipe with a beating reed, the slotted metal tube against which the reed vibrates to produce a tone when air pressure is directed into the pipe (or less commonly, a wood tube, as in certain band organ trombone pipes). The slot is slightly narrower and shorter than the reed, so the edges of the reed beat against it. The bottom end of the tube is capped to make it airtight, and the top end fits into the block that acoustically connects it to the resonator. The shape of the(cylindrical, conical, end perpendicular or angled, etc.), the shape of the reed, and the shape of the resonator all contribute to the tone quality of the pipe and determine whether it sounds like a trumpet, clarinet, oboe, baritone, etc. 2. In an organ pipe with a free reed, a similar tube but with a slot slightly wider and longer than the reed, so the reed vibrates through the slot. Beating reed pipes are commonly found in European and American fairground and band organs, while free reed pipes are more common in European orchestrions.
shutoff: To cease operating. * Synonyms: off, stop, coin trip, contact. * French: arc, fine, arret. * German: ab, Kontakt, Auslösung.
single stroke: Type of pneumatic or mechanical action which causes a beater or hammer to strike just once when a note is sustained in a music arrangement. Compare to reiterating (also listed in this Glossary).
siren: Mechanical device which produces a slowing rising and falling wailing tone. Incorporated as part of certain photoplayers and theatre organs as a novelty sound effect for accompanying silent films.
skating rink organ: Band organ, often with visible brass pipes, used to provide music in a skating rink. * Synonyms: military band organ, trumpet organ (if cylinder-operated).
sleigh bells: Tuned sleigh bells, usually with one to six bells per note, mounted on a strap or board which is shaken. Found in certain European fairground organs and in many theatre organs. * French: grelotphone.
snail (cam): The helical gear which laterally shifts the cylinder (from tune to tune) in a musical box or other cylinder or barrel-operated instruments.
snare drum: Small two-headed (usually) drum with "snares" (tightly stretched pieces of gut or wire) which rattle against one drum head when the other drum head is struck. A popular addition to automatic instruments, especially orchestrions, fairground organs, and dance organs. * Synonym: side drum. * French: tambour. * German, Dutch: Trommel, kleine Trommel.
snare drum brush: Several dozen wires bound together with a handle; used for soft drumming on the snare drum. A popular feature in Decap and Arburo dance organs. * German: Borste.
snuff box: A small, pocket-sized box typical of one used to carry snuff, often fitted with a musical movement, ca. 19th century. The musical movements were often placed in simple metal transit cases for shipment from the maker to the sales agent. The agent then placed the movement in a more elaborate case.
soft: Having a low volume of sound. Opposite of loud. * Italian: piano.
soft pedal: In an upright piano a pedal which brings the piano hammers closer to the strings, thus causing them to strike more softly. In a grand piano the pedal shifts the keyboard laterally to cause a piano hammer to strike just 2 strings instead of 3 on a 3-string note, etc. In this book, the soft pedal is designated as the hammer rail in upright instruments.
Sohn; Sohne (plural): German word for son; sons.
solo instrument: Solo section. In an orchestrion, organ, or other instrument a chromatically-tuned (usually) extra instrument (such as a rank of pipes, set of xylophone bars, or bells) which, on occasion, plays the main theme or solo part while the other sections of the instrument play accompaniment. In a fairground organ, a brightly-voiced rank of pipes may play a solo part while other pipes in other sections of the organ provide accompaniment and countermelodies.
sostenuto: Third piano pedal (between soft and sustaining pedals) which sustains selected notes or chords. Found in medium and high quality grand pianos, but only a few of the highest quality uprights.
soundboard, sounding board: A thin wooden board, to which the vibrations of pianos strings, music box combs, or other sound-producing devices are transmitted, usually by means of a wooden bridge. The soundboard, usually found at the back of a vertical musical instrument or the bottom of a horizontal one, amplifies the sound and contributes to the desired tone quality. In almost all pianos, the soundboard is made of quarter-sawn (or vertical grain) spruce, because spruce is the strongest, stiffest wood in proportion to its weight. In music boxes and other mechanical instruments, it is sometimes made of a softer variety of wood.
speakeasy: A place where alcoholic drinks were sold illegally in the United States during the Prohibition era. Many speakeasies featured musical entertainment, including "Roaring Twenties" jazz bands (larger night clubs) or small electric pianos and orchestrions (smaller establishments).
speed regulator: Found on some musical movements to allow for the governing of the speed of the movement.
spill valve: Regulator valve which spills air (or admits air to a suction chamber) when the pre-set limit is exceeded.
split hammer rail: See hammer rail.
spoolbox: See roll frame.
sprag: See Stop tail.
spring barrel: The drum-shaped metal housing which contains the mainspring in a clockwork-powered mechanism. In cylinder musical boxes it is usually of brass, while in disc-playing musical boxes it is frequently of stamped steel or cast iron.
spring barrel hook: The device inside the spring barrel that holds the outer end of the mainspring in place. The inner end is attached to the arbor hook, the outer to the barrel hook.
staccato: A note having very short duration.
stack: See pneumatic
star wheel: In a disc music box, an intervening star-shaped wheel that is turned by a projection on the disc and which, in turn, plucks a tooth on the musical comb or combs.
stop: 1. In a music box or other spring-wound instrument, a mechanical device (such as the Geneva Stop) which locks the winding shaft after a certain number of turns, preventing overwinding. 2. In an organ or other instrument with pipes, a register for controlling one or more ranks of pipes. In a pipe organ or reed organ manually-operated stops are located above or beside the keyboard and are called draw-stops, draw-knobs, or stop tabs.
stop tail: The small metal finger below the airbrake that stops the movement when it connects with the stop lever.
street organ: Specially constructed loudly-voiced organ designed for use on a hand cart. Used mainly in Holland. * Synonyms: Dutch street organ, pierement.
street piano: Hand-cranked, loudly-voiced barrel piano, usually mounted on a cart, used to play music in city streets, especially during the 19th century.
string instruments: (or: stringed instruments.) Family of musical instruments including the violin, viola, cello, string bass, and other instruments (as opposed to the woodwind, brass, and percussion families).
string pipe: Organ pipe voiced to sound like a violin, cello or other member of the string instrument family.
sublime harmonie: Widely-used comb arrangement in cylinder and disc music boxes, in which identical notes on two different combs are purposely mistuned very slightly in celeste tuning, producing an extra depth and richness to the tone. The combs do not necessarily have the same note sequence, but many of the same notes appear somewhere on each comb. In cylinder boxes, the sublime harmonie combs are often combined with one or more additional combs (situated next to each other, forming one long row of teeth), and are given elaborate names such as sublime harmonie fortissimo, sublime harmonie piccolo, etc., depending upon the musical arrangements and tonal characteristics.
suction: Term used in this book to describe lower air pressure, which actuates certain pneumatic mechanisms. * Synonym: Partial vacuum. See also Vacuum motor, vacuum level, vacuum pump.
sur plateau: See platform movement.
sustaining pedal: In a piano a pedal which lifts the dampers (also listed in this Glossary) from the piano strings, causing the vibrations to be sustained or continued until they fade naturally or until the sustaining pedal is released.
Swanee Whistle: Patented (in 1924) pneumatically-actuated slide whistle. The pitch rises and falls as the bottom slide or stopper is moved in and out. Sometimes called a lotus flute (although lotus flute refers to another style of pipe). Popular addition to jazzband-type orchestrions of the 1920s, for imitating the slide whistle which was popular in dance bands of the time.
swell division: A division of the pipe organ controlled by its own manual and contained in a box fitted with swell shutters for expression purposes.
swell shades: Swell shutters.
swell shutters: Louvered shades which open and close to vary the volume of sound which can be heard. * Synonyms: swell shades, swell, shutters, crescendo. * Dutch: zwelblinden. * French: jalousie. * German: G. Werk, Schweller.