violin celeste pipes

Two or more ranks of violin pipe ranks tuned to celeste. * Synonyms: vox celeste, voix celeste.

violin pipe

Flue pipe of raspy violin-like quality popularly used in coin pianos, orchestrions, and organs. The tone quality is regulated by a distinctive-appearing harmonic brake (also listed in this Glossary). Bass range violin pipes are called cello or violoncello pipes, middle range pipes are called violas, and treble range pipes are called violin pipes.


Treble-pitched 4-stringed instrument played with a rosined horsehair bow. The two commercially successful automatically-played violins were the Hupfeld Phonoliszt-Violina and the Mills Violano-Virtuoso.


1. The process by which the tone quality of the pipe is regulated (as opposed to tuning, which regulates the pitch). Techniques include adjusting the shape of the tone-producing mouth of a flue pipe, cutting small nicks into the mouth, regulating the shape of the reed in a reed pipe, adjusting the size of the toe hole where air enters the pipe, and others. 2. The process by which the hardness of a felt piano hammer head is adjusted or regulated. Techniques include reshaping the hammer by sanding, pricking the felt with sharp needles, applying chemicals to harden or soften the felt, and others. 3. Term used to describe the loudness, softness, or the harmonic or tone quality of a pipe. For example, calliope whistles have very loud


A German-origin term which is generally used by collectors today. 1. An electrically-operated (usually) cabinet-style player containing a reproducing mechanism which uses reproducing piano rolls. The cabinet is equipped with felt-covered "fingers" and is pushed up to the keyboard of a piano. The fingers and corresponding pedal mechanisms then automatically play the keyboard and pedals of the piano. Vorsetzer = sitter-in-front-of, in German. Vorsetzers with reproducing mechanisrns were made by Hupfeld, Welte, and others. (This definition, vorsetzer with a reproducing mechanism, is the one generally used by collectors today.) 2. Any push-up piano player or device, often foot-pumped, which is placed in front of a piano or organ keyboard to play it. * Synonyms: piano player, push-up piano player.

vox celeste box

Cylinder music box with reed organ section tuned to produce a celeste or chorus effect.

vox celeste pipes

Two ranks of violin pipes tuned in celeste commonly found in the countermelody section of dance organs and large street organs, tuned an octave above the other countermelody ranks. They frequently provide long sustained chords, serving the musical function of backup singers in a popular vocal group. * Synonym: voix celeste.

vox humana pipe

Reed pipe rank, usually with a capped metal resonator. Literally, "human voice." Used in photoplayers and many pipe organs, especially theatre organs.

waldfl ote pipe

German term meaning "forest flute," used by Welte for an open wood flute pipe, very imitative of the orchestral instrument. An important voice in many Welte orchestrions often characterized by a wedge-shaped cap forming the lower lip of the mouth, and a round hole forming the upper lip.


Small box with a coin slot, connected to an electric piano, orchestrion or jukebox by wires. When a coin is deposited, an electrical contact is made which causes the instrument to play. An effective way of providing many coin slots throughout a business establishment, thus increasing the receipts of a single instrument. European coin pianos and orchestrions were rarely equipped with built-in coin slots but almost always contained electrically-actuated start mechanisms; a single wallbox was often attached to the outside of the case of such an instrument, or on a nearby wall.


plural: Walzen. German term for barrel.

water motor

Water-driven motor, connected to a water main, used mainly 1870-1905 to power automatic instruments in a time when electricity was not available in many areas.

weight drive

Power system used to operate organ clocks, early barrel orchestrions, and other instruments. A heavy weight (several hundred pounds or more in large instruments) is wound up to near the top of the instrument. As it falls, it powers the instrument through an escapement.

wind motor

Suction-operated (or rarely, pressure-operated) motor used for turning music rolls, or for other devices. * Synonyms: air motor, vacuum motor.

wind pressure

Pressure, usually measured in inches or in centimeters of water, of air used to operate pipes or pressure-operated pneumatic actions. Refer to definition of "pipe" for further information.

wonder light

Wurlitzer’s term for a rotating jeweled ball, illuminated with a light bulb in the center, and surrounded by a segmented mirror cone. Used as a decorative effect on certain coin piano, orchestrion, and organ cabinets. A popular feature in many models of Wurlitzer orchestrions.

wood block

Hardwood block, usually hollow or with a cavity, struck by a hard beater. A popular effect of dance band drummers during the acoustic recording era, as it produced prominent syncopated accents that could be heard in early recordings better than the snare drum could. Very popular in orchestrions during this same era. The piccolo wood block is much smaller and produces a very loud high-pitched tone. * Synonyms: Chinese block, Indian block, wood drum. * Dutch: jazzblokjes, blok. * German: Holz Trommel.


Family of musical instruments including the piccolo, flute, clarinet, oboe, saxophone, bassoon, and other instruments (as opposed to the brass, string, and percussion families).


See endless screw.


1. Set of tuned wooden bars struck by hard or medium-hard mallets, producing a bright staccato sound. From the Greek language: xylo = wood + phon = sound. A popular extra instrument in coin pianos and orchestrions, especially American nickelodeons of the Prohibition era. See marimba. 2. Careless description of orchestra bells (which are of metal and thus by logical definition of the word, cannot be a xylophone).

Zinn pipe

German term used by Welte to identify a silver-colored tin alloy pipe found in the front row of most Welte orchestrions.


1. Plucked stringed instrument with separate sections of unfretted bass/accompaniment and fretted melody strings. Produces a clear, ringing tone. 2. Music box attachment that applies a hollow cylinder of tissue paper to the comb, producing a pizzicato or plucked string effect.

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 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.

takeup spool

In a roll-operated instrument, the powered cylinder to which the end tab of the roll is affixed. The take-up spool pulls the roll over the tracker bar.


Wooden hoop inset with small metal discs or jingles which rattle when the instrument is shaken, often with a drum head attached to one side. A popular addition to orchestrions, photoplayers, etc.


German term for keys on a piano or organ keyboard, or metal keys in an organ key frame.


1. Term denoting a system of tuning in which the various intervals are tempered or adjusted. The errors inherent in the chromatic scale of twelve half-steps are distributed among the intervals in such a way that each interval has a small error but none sounds offensive. 2. Loosely, that group of 13 or more notes in a piano, organ, or tuned percussion instrument which is first tempered during the tuning procedure. From this group of notes all other notes are tuned, directly or indirectly.

temple blocks

Tuned gourd-like hollow blocks, usually with a horizontal slit at the end, used as percussion effects in certain dance organs. Usually seen in sets of three or four. * Dutch: koppen.

tempo regulator

Manually-set device which regulates the speed of a music cylinder, disc, barrel, or paper roll. Sometimes connected to a governor (also listed in this Glossary). In the Duo-Art Concertola roll changer, the tempo of each roll is punched into the leader according to a simple code, and the Concertola mechanism automatically sets the speed. * Synonym: speed control.

tenor drum

Small drum, usually under 12" diameter, without snares. (Compare to bass drum.)


High bass notes, approximately in the octave immediately below middle C. Frequently used for countermelody parts or to reinforce the melody.

theatre organ

Pipe organ made for accompanying silent films, or for entertainment between films, in a movie theatre or cinema. Loudly-voiced (usually with 15" and 25" pressure for certain pipe ranks) and contained in one or more swell chambers for volume control. Contains pipes imitative of orchestra instruments. Contains tibia pipes as a main foundation rank. Unified control system by means of which functions assigned to a particular keyboard or manual can be shifted to another by means of pneumatic or electrical connections, and for this reason sometimes called a unit organ or unit orchestra (the latter being a Wurlitzer trademark: Wurlitzer Hope-Jones Unit Orchestra). Usually with a horseshoe-shaped console. * British synonym: cinema organ.


1. The subject part of a musical composition; the main melody (as opposed to the accompaniment or countermelody). 2. Mechanism in Duo-Art and other reproducing, expression, and player pianos which accents a note or chord.

tibia clausa pipe

Huge-scale stopped flute pipe having almost no harmonics. Used widely in theatre organs.

tibia pipe

In a church organ, an open wood 8′ flute pipe. In a theatre organ, a large scale stopped flute considered to be a foundation rank.


A vibrating reed or, less common, a tooth in a tuned comb.


1. Tuned tine or projection, usually made of hardened steel, used to sound a note in a music comb. 2. Projection in a gear (toothed drive wheel).

tracker bar layout,

tracker bar scale. Diagram or listing of the function of each hole in a tracker bar.

tracker bar

In a roll-operated instrument the wood or metal bar containing a series of spaced openings through which air passes in order to actuate a pneumatic mechanism (or to directly sound a note, in the case of paper-as-a-valve organettes). * Synonyms: tracker board (term rarely used), keyless frame (in fairground organ and dance organ terminology only; mainly European usage).

tracking mechanism

Device in a roll frame which keeps the music roll centered and aligned with the holes in the tracker bar by shifting the supply spool (most common), both spools, or the tracker bar. * Synonym: automatic tracking mechanism.


To shift music into a higher or lower key without making any other changes.

transposing device

Device which enables the tracker bar, especially of a piano, to shift laterally for up to several notes so as to transpose the music arrangement to a higher or lower range for use in accompanying a singer. The sustaining pedal hole in many tracker bars is several perforations wide, or is located in a separate stationary part of the bar, permitting automatic sustain to work when the music is played in several different keys. Not used in instruments with other control perforations in the tracker bar, because transposing the tracker bar would confuse the controls (exception: some very late Duo-Art reproducing pianos in which only the note-playing portion of the tracker bar shifts).


Term denoting non-tuned percussion instruments and sound effects in a large orchestrion or dance organ. * Synonym: traps. * German: Schlagwerk


The upper range of the musical scale (as opposed to bass). * German: diskant.


1. In orchestral music, the rapid reiteration of the same note played by quickly reversing the bow on violins and other stringed instruments. 2. In pipe organs, mainly theatre organs, repeatedly varying the pitch and loudness of the pipes by shaking the wind supply in imitation of vibrato. 3. In dance organs, General Tremolo rapidly interrupts the wind supply to provide rapidly-repeated notes, and Jazz Tremolo rapidly shakes the wind supply to imitate the vibrato of clarinets and saxophones in 1940s dance bands. In orchestrions, tremolo is used synonymously with vibrato. 4. The mechanism used for producing vibrato or tremolo in an organ or orchestrion.


The mechanism for producing tremolo (also listed in this Glossary).


Round steel bar bent into a triangular shape. The ends are close but do not touch. Suspended from a cord and sounded with a metal striker, producing a high-pitched "ting" sound. Widely used in automatic instruments.

trombone pipe

Brightly-voiced reed pipe made of wood or metal. Mainly used in fairground organs, sometimes as the bass part of a trumpet rank. Imitative of the trombone sound. * Synonyms: bombardon, posaune.

trumpet pipe

In a fairground organ, a brightly-voiced reed pipe, made of wood or metal (usually brass), imitative of a trumpet. Usually used in combination with a bass rank of trombone pipes.

tune card

Card with list of tunes giving the program of a music box, coin piano, orchestrion, etc. * Synonym: program card.

tune indicator

Pointer arm, numbered dial, or other device which indicates the number of a tune being played on a cylinder music box, coin piano, or other instrument.

tune selector

Device found in certain coin pianos and orchestrions that enables the patron to select a desired tune by turning a dial or knob, or by dropping a coin in one of several numbered slots. Selectors of several different types were offered by Hupfeld, Cremona, and Western Electric as options. All National Automatic Music Co. pianos included a selector as a standard feature.

tuning weights

The lead weights attached to the underside of the teeth on a musical box comb, especially in the bass section, causing them to vibrate more slowly and thus sound a lower note. Also, the adjustable weights in the Mills Violano that are affixed to leverage arms to keep the strings in tune.


Kettle drum, or in an orchestrion or organ, kettle drum effect made by smaller beaters on a bass drum. Contemporary spelling is "timpani," but during the golden age of automatic musical instruments, "tympani" was more popular and is used throughout this book. * German: Pauke, Pauken

Una-Fon bells

Bar-type bells, usually with a scoop-like depression in the center, with a closed-end tubular resonator behind each bar, made by J.C. Deagan. The Una-Fon is a hand-played instrument with the bells played by reiterating electromagnets fitted with hard beaters. Due to their unusual shape, resonator length and hardness of the beaters, the bells have a unique sound with a prominent harmonic clang tone. Una-fon bells, also called Unitone bells by Deagan, were used in certain early Cremona Style J orchestrions (as Unatone bells) and Wurlitzer 180 band organs (as Uniphone bells).

unda maris

Literally, "waves of the sea." Two ranks of celeste-tuned string pipes used in dance organs and street organs, usually in the melody section, tuned an octave below the melody violins. The unda maris pipes produce a characteristic undulating sound from which the "waves of the sea" name (in Latin) is derived.


Or unified system. System used in most theatre organs and in some smaller instruments (such as certain mortuary organs made by Seeburg and Operators) whereby the keyboard may be connected to the rank of pipes in several different ways. If the 8′ flute stop is selected, for example, the keyboard is connected to the rank of flute pipes so they play at normal pitch. If the 4′ flute stop is selected, the pipes play an octave higher. If the 16′ flute stop is selected, they play an octave lower. Or, by selecting the 16′, 8′ and 4′ flute stops at the same time, three pipes in the same rank play when each key is played. In contrast, a straight (or non-unified) organ has a separate rank of pipes for each stop. Because each rank of pipes in a unified organ is available at several pitches on several different manuals, a unified organ has fewer ranks of pipes in proportion to the number of stops.

unit valve

Type of pneumatic stack construction with individually-removable valve units. Each valve and pouch (and sometimes pneumatic) is contained within one unit, making servicing of defective notes easier when factory replacement units were available. Today, restoring a unit valve pneumatic stack frequently takes longer than restoring a stack made in one big chest, as there are many parts to break open for restoration instead of one big unit that usually comes apart with screws.


Small electronic organ used in some Decap and Mortier/van den Bosch dance organs built in the 1950s.

upright piano

Large piano in which the strings and soundboard are mounted vertically. In descending order of size, vertical pianos are called uprights, studio uprights, consoles, and spinets.

vacuum level

Intensity of suction, not quantity of air movement. The opposite of air pressure.

vacuum motor

Suction-operated motor used for turning music rolls, or rarely for other devices. * Synonyms: air motor, wind motor.

vacuum pump

Pump, usually containing bellows and a crankshaft, which supplies suction to operate a pneumatic system.

valve chest

Box containing a set of valves, pouches, and associated parts of a pneumatic mechanism.


Device which controls the flow of air. Usually operated by a pouch, pneumatic, key or other mechanism.

variations box

Cylinder music box with finely-spaced teeth, programmed to play intricate, lengthy variations on a theme.


A thin sheet of wood glued to various cabinet parts. The stronger, but plainer-looking core wood is invariably first covered with "cross banding" glued at right angles to its grain, and then the cross banding is covered with fancy veneer with the grain running parallel to the core. This sandwich greatly strengthens a cabinet against cracking and warping. Marquetry consists of small pieces of veneer of various grain patterns and colors inlaid flush into the surface of the surrounding veneer to create various designs, borders, etc.


A rapid, repetitive change in pitch used by musicians for imparting more warmth or emotion to music. A vibrato effect is achieved in the Mills Violano-Virtuoso by shaking the tail piece, and in the Hupfeld Phonoliszt-Violina by acting on the string tension. In organs, the effect is achieved by shaking the wind supply. See also tremolo.

vibratone pipe

A jazz flute pipe (also listed in this Glossary) with a thin diaphragm of metal, plastic, or other substance mounted in a circular hole in the front of the pipe. When the pipe sounds, the diaphragm resonates and produces a buzzing kazoo-like sound. Usually fitted with a jazz tremolo mechanism. * Synonyms: vibraton, vibraphone.

viola da gamba pipe

Pipe organ string-toned rank of delicate tone, imitative of the stringed instrument from which it derives its name.

viola pipe

Organ pipe of 8′ or 16′ pitch, imitative of the orchestral viola; somewhat smoother sounding than the violin pipe.

ride cymbal

Medium-sized cymbal struck with a hard beater, frequently played on every beat, adding a driving rhythm or pulse to the music. Widely used in dance bands and certain Decap dance organs.

rigid notation

The horizontal engraved lines found on some early musical box cylinders. The lines were said to be used to aid in timing the music in the absence of a rotary dividing engine. Mostly used by Francois Nicole.

roll frame

Music roll mechanism comprising the tracker bar, takeup spool, mechanisms for shifting from play to rewind, pinch rollers or hold-down roller, tracking mechanism, etc.


1. Perforated paper roll as used on a player piano, orchestrion, organ, etc. Can be of the endless or rewind type. 2. Sustained or reiterating striking action, particular on a drum (as in snare drum roll).

roller organ

Tabletop organette using a small pinned wooden cylinder. Also called a cob or "Gem"


The catastrophic occurrence when the spring power in a musical box is discharged very rapidly, as when the governor fails. In cylinder boxes this causes the cylinder to spin at great speed and can result in damage to pins, gears, teeth and tips. In disc boxes it can fracture the spring barrel and strip the gears and destroy the teeth.

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.

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.