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.
Becken: German term for cymbal.
band leader: A carved (usually) statue which stands on the facade of a band organ. Many of these beat time with a small baton. Motion often governed by the bass drum key in the music book. * Synonym: band master. * German: Dirigent, Kapellmeister.
band organ: (Mainly American usage). Loudly-voiced self-contained automatic pipe organ designed for skating rink, carousel, or outdoor amusement use. Models with brass trumpets, trombones, and piccolos are sometimes called military band organs. * Synonyms: fair organ, fairground organ, carousel organ.
banjo: Fretted stringed instrument with the bridge mounted on a skin (or in modern times, plastic) head. Strings are picked (one at a time) or strummed (repeating the notes rapidly), producing loud staccato tones.
baritone pipe 1: Band organ pipe register sounding together two ranks: a rank of saxophone-type pipes and a rank of open flute or cello pipes. 2. Large softly-voiced reed pipe which produces a humming, nasal sound. * French: baryton.
barrel: Pinned cylinder, usually of wood, on which a musical composition is programmed for use in an organ, orchestrion, or piano. * Synonym: cylinder. * German: Walze; hence Walzenorgel and Walzenorchestrion for barrel organ and barrel orchestrion.
barrel orchestrion: An orchestrion with the musical arrangements on pinned cylinders. Barrel organ orchestrions (made by Welte, Imhof & Mukle, etc.) were typically in elegant cases and played refined music. Barrel piano orchestrions, many of which were coin-operated, were noisier and were made for use in caf鳬 pubs, and similar establishments.
barrel organ: A loudly-voiced (usually) organ operated by a pinned wooden cylinder. Made for outdoor use. Softly-voiced instruments for church and other indoor uses were also made, primarily in England and France.
barrel piano: Piano, usually without a keyboard, operated by a pinned wooden cylinder. Those used in streets are called street pianos or hurdy-gurdys (the latter being an incorrect usage from a historical viewpoint).
baseplate: See bedplate.
bass: 1. The lower range of a musical scale (treble is the upper range). 2. General term (sometimes used in organ and orchestrion advertising) for pipes in the bass note range.
bass drum: Large drum, usually 14" or more in diameter, which often plays on the beat, helping to establish the "pulse" of the music, especially in louder passages. Used in most orchestrions, band organs and dance organs. * Dutch: grote trom, (previously: groote trommel). * French: caisse, grosse caisse. * German: grosse Trommel.
bassoon pipe: (Called orchestral bassoon in pipe organ literature.) A reed pipe, imitative of the bassoon sound, sometimes found as the bass octave of a clarinet or oboe rank. Used in certain photoplayers and large orchestrions. In certain band organs and orchestrions, the bassoon pipe is called fagott.
baxophone pipe: Reed pipe rank voiced somewhat between a clarinet and saxophone, distinguished by wooden resonators with stoppers, each resonator having a large aperture on the front through which the reed tone speaks. Often placed behind the xylophone on a dance organ. Invented by Guillaume Bax of the factory of Th. Mortier, and used extensively in Mortier dance organs.
beater: Striking stick or metal rod used to sound a percussion instrument such as a drum, cymbal, bell, etc.
bedplate: Metal plate, usually of brass (early instruments) or cast iron, which supports the music combs and other mechanisms of a music box.
bell ringer: A carved statue standing on the facade of a band organ, which rings a small bell by striking it with a beater. Certain early organs with bell ringers controlled them with a special key or keys in the music scale. Later instruments often coupled the bell ringer to the bass drum hole. Most popular in the 1910-1920 era, and very popular with collectors today.
bellows: Two hinged boards, covered with leather or rubberized cloth. Smaller bellows (often called pneumatics) perform a mechanical function by collapsing or opening when connected to suction or pressure, respectively. Pumping bellows, (sometimes called feeders) powered by a crankshaft and connecting rods, are attached via one-way valves to spring-loaded reservoirs that store suction or air pressure. Manifolds or distribution boxes act as connecting points for the tubing that conducts suction from, and air pressure to, pneumatic-operated mechanisms, organ pipes, accordions, etc.
bells: Tuned metal bars used in many band organs and orchestrions, producing a clear high pitched tone. (Also, tuned cup-shaped saucer bells, mainly in music boxes). * Also: orchestra bells or glockenspiel in American literature. * Dutch: metallofoon, klokkenspel. * German: Glocken.
biphone: Pipe register used by Carl Frei in certain street organs, including one or two ranks of stopped flutes playing at 16' (or 16' and 8') pitch in the melody or countermelody division. Frequently used with general tremolo.
bird organ: A small hand-cranked organ with a small number of pewter or wooden pipes. It was developed in the 18th century to teach canaries to sing. The music is pinned on a wooden barrel. Synonyms: canary organ, serinette, perroquette.
bird whistle: Metal organ pipe of special construction, often about 1 1/2" in length, with an extension of the open end immersed in a container of oil or glycerin, causing the pitch to warble in imitation of a canary. Used in certain theatre organs and photoplayers for sound effects, and rarely in orchestrions, such as the Capitol Bluebird Orchestra, for novelty purposes.
bird, singing: Usually a tiny bird automaton in a decorated metal, tortoise shell or composition case. The bird pops up from under a spring-loaded lid, moves its wings and, on the higher quality, early models, the head. A bird song is produced from a bellows-operated flute or whistle within the box. Also includes birds enclosed in a cage and/or fixed on a perch that may or may not move but make whistling/birdlike sounds and do not pop out of a box.
blank: Usually in a tracker scale, a hole or key that is not connected and/or serves no purpose. In some scales blank holes or keys were included to provide for additional pipe ranks or other effects which might be added in the future. In other scales, a blank space represents a function originally planned but never used, or a function which was discontinued from an earlier scale layout.
bleed: A restrictive orifice, accomplishing the same function as a tiny hole in a pouch, allowing air pressure to be equalized on both sides of the pouch so it may return to its "off" position when a tracker bar hole is closed or an actuating valve is turned off. * Synonym: vent.
bombardon pipe: In some band organs, trombone (large, bright-sounding bass reed pipes). In others, a separate more mellow rank of bass reed pipes. In a pipe organ, a reed rank brighter than the fagotto but not as brassy as a trombone.
book music: Long strip of stiff cardboard made of separate pieces glued together in two staggered layers (like two rows of bricks), and folded in zig-zag fashion into a compact pile or "book." Music is scored lengthwise on the book by rectangular or round perforations. Book music is usually played on a key frame or a keyless frame (also listed in this Glossary). Most very large band organs and dance organs use cardboard music because books are generally less susceptible to tracking problems than music rolls. * Synonyms: cardboard music, music book. * French: carton. * German: Kartonnoten.
bourdon: In a pipe organ, a large scale flute, usually wooden. In a Dutch street organ, two ranks of loudly-voiced melody flutes tuned to a strong celeste. Bourdon is often used generically to refer to stopped flute ranks in many types of organs and orchestrions.
brake: See harmonic brake.
brass instruments: Family of musical instruments including the trumpet, trombone, baritone, tuba, and others (as opposed to the woodwind, string, and percussion families).
breveté: . French term for patented.
bridge: A metal support which holds the arbor in place on the bedplate in a cylinder musical box. Synonym: pillow block.