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.


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.


German term for the untuned percussion section of an automatic musical instrument, especially of an orchestrion or organ.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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).


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 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.

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.

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 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.


Having a low volume of sound. Opposite of loud. * Italian: piano.

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.


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.


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.

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.

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.


A note having very short duration.

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 tail

The small metal finger below the airbrake that stops the movement when it connects with the stop lever.


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.

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.


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.


In a music box cylinder or piano, organ, or orchestrion barrel, a protruding piece of metal that actuates a tooth, key, or lever, causing the note to sound. Staple-shaped pins are used for sustained notes.


The small gear which drives a larger brass gear or other device that will be the receptor of the power transmitted through the pinion.

pipe chest

Wooden box on which organ pipes are mounted, filled with air under pressure. The pipe chest contains valves (usually pallet valves) which open and close channels, directing the flow of air to each pipe as required by the music. * Synonym: wind chest.

pipe organ

Musical instrument containing ranks of pipes (and sometimes other instruments) played by pressurized air and controlled by one or more keyboards (manuals) and (usually) a pedalboard. A player pipe organ is one fitted with a music roll attachment. A reproducing pipe organ plays special rolls which reproduce the playing of a human artist.


A tubular instrument which produces sound by the action of air against a reed or against the pipe mouth, in combination with the resonance of the air within the tube itself. Pipes are generally referred to as having a pitch or tonal length expressed in feet, such as 2′, 4′, 8′, etc. Pipes are usually either open or closed (stopped) at the top. Generally, the tonal length of a stopped pipe is twice that of a comparable open pipe (the same pitch sounded by a 2′-long stopped pipe would take a 4′ long open pipe to produce). Pipes used in automatic musical instruments are of two main types: flue pipes which produce their sound by the action of air against the edge of the pipe mouth in combination with a column of air; and reed pipes which produce sound by the action of a vibrating reed. There are two types of reeds: free and beating. The reed sound is amplified by the upper part of the pipe which, on a reed pipe, is called a resonator or horn. A third type of pipe, the diaphone, produces sound by intermittent bursts of air which are rapidly introduced into the base of the pipe under high pressure. Used in theatre organs. (Also refer to flue pipe, and reed, definition 2.) Pipes are mounted on a pipe chest or wind chest and are blown by air under pressure. Pipe pressure is measured by the number of inches that a given pressure will force a column of water up an open glass tube. (Pressure for calliopes is sometimes measured in pounds per square inch-the amount of pressure that the air will exert against a one-inch square area.) Pipes are tuned by adjusting the vibrating length of the reed by moving a tuning wire, or by changing the tonal length of the pipe by moving a tuning slide or stopper. Pipes are voiced to a specific wind pressure and cannot be interchanged with an instrument having significantly different pressure. Pipes are arranged in ranks and are controlled by registers or stops. Definitions of specific ranks are given elsewhere in this section. Refer to flute, piccolo, etc. for additional information. Often fanciful names ("fanfare trumpet," for example) were used to describe basic ranks. Certain ranks in large orchestrions are called foundation or fundamental pipes. These provide a rich bass sound which makes the treble pipes and solo pipes sound richer and fuller. Foundation pipes are never played alone but are always used in combination with other ranks. Solo ranks are those pipes with distinctive voicing which are used to play solo parts (or to carry the basic musical theme) while other ranks play accompaniment.


1a. Pipe rank found in the melody division of many Mortier and Decap dance organs, with tapered wooden resonators and beating reeds. Some examples have an opening in the front and a wooden cap over the top. The term is an abbreviation of “Cornet à piston,” another name for the cornet used in modern bands. Therank has a less brilliant tone than that of the curved brass trumpet rank found in many Wurlitzer band organs, just as the hand-played cornet is mellower than the trumpet used in bands and orchestras. 1b. Large reed pipes with brass resonators found in the countermelody division of 98-key Gavioli organs. 2. One of several buttons in rows between the manuals of a pipe organ console, or toe studs near the pedals, which actuate combinations of ranks that may be preset by the organist. These facilitate rapid changing of several or many stops at once, saving the organist from flipping numerous stop tabs when a change of registration is desired.


1a. Pipe rank found in the melody division of many Mortier and Decap dance organs, with tapered wooden resonators and beating reeds. Some examples have an opening in the front and a wooden cap over the top. The term is an abbreviation of “Cornet à piston,” another name for the cornet used in modern bands. The piston rank has a less brilliant tone than that of the curved brass trumpet rank found in many Wurlitzer band organs, just as the hand-played cornet is mellower than the trumpet used in bands and orchestras. 1b. Large reed pipes with brass resonators found in the countermelody division of 98-key Gavioli organs. 2. One of several buttons in rows between the manuals of a pipe organ console, or toe studs near the pedals, which actuate combinations of ranks that may be preset by the organist. These facilitate rapid changing of several or many stops at once, saving the organist from flipping numerous stop tabs when a change of registration is desired.

pit organ

See photoplayer. So-called due to its placement in the orchestra pit of a theatre.


1. The musical note played by a piano string, organ pipe, xylophone bar or other tuned instrument or voice; e.g., C, C#, D, etc. 2. The tuning standard or reference used for tuning an instrument; e.g., if an instrument is tuned to A=435 hz, the note A above middle C plays at 435 vibrations per second. 3. The octave at which a rank of pipes is connected to a manual in a pipe organ. Middle C on the keyboard plays middle C on a rank of pipes at 8′ pitch; the same key plays C one octave below on a rank at 16′ pitch, or one octave above at 4’4. The octave at which a rank of pipes is tuned in an organ or orchestrion. In an orchestrion, pipes tuned to 8′ pitch speak the same notes as the piano notes to which they are connected. Pipes at 4′ pitch speak an octave higher, at 16′ pitch, an octave lower, etc. In a fairground organ, for example, the melody division violin pipes play at 8′ pitch, and the melody unda maris pipes at 16′ pitch (an octave lower). The countermelody cello, baritone, or saxophone speak at 8′ pitch, and the vox celeste pipes at 4′ pitch (an octave higher). Most Weber Otero and Seeburg G orchestrions include a rank of 4′ harmonic flutes or piccolos, adding a bright, cheerful sound to the music.


A push rod, made of thin metal wire or wood, used to connect a key with a pallet in a pneumatic instrument.


Wood strip pinned with a music arrangement, used to play the DeBain mechanical piano.

platform movement

A small musical movement used in some 18th and 19th century watches and other small items. The pins are arranged in sequence on the surface of a disc or platform. Separate steel teeth are arranged around the periphery and are plucked by the projections on the disc. Synonym: Sur plateau.


To operate; to commence producing music. Sometimes seen in notations as replay, marche avant, or the confusing term reverse. In a rewind music roll system the term play refers to the function which returns the roll to the playing direction when rewind is completed.

player organ

Player pipe or reed organ. An organ which is played automatically by a paper roll or other system.

player piano

1. Foot-pumped (usually) upright or grand piano with the pneumatic mechanisms built into the case (in contrast to the push-up piano player, a device which contains the player mechanisms in a separate cabinet which is placed in front of the keyboard). Made for home use. Uses 65-note (early models) rolls or 73-note (early European models) or 88-note (universally used after 1908) rolls. Hundreds of different makes were produced during the early 20th century. * Synonym: inner-player (early usage). 2. Any type piano which uses a paper roll. Collectors designate roll-operated instruments by specific terms, including player piano (foot-pumped type), coin piano, orchestrion, etc.

plerodiénique box

Cylinder music box with the cylinder made in two parts, each of which shifts laterally outward from the center at a different time to provide continuous music during the normal tune-changing process.

pneumatic action

The suction- or air-operated series of pouches, valves, and other devices used to sense the paper roll (or music book, paper strip, etc.) and cause an instrument to play automatically. Definition sometimes used to include auxiliary systems as well: pump, blower, reservoir, etc.

pneumatic stack

A series of air-actuated pouches, valves, and bellows, especially in a piano or orchestrion, built as a coordinated unit and used to play a piano action automatically.

pneumatic system

Complete system, including tracker bar (or key frame or other sensing mechanism), pump, reservoir, pneumatic stack, wind chest, etc. of an automatic musical instrument which utilizes wind pressure or suction (or a combination of both) to operate the player mechanisms.


1. Adjective describing a musical instrument which is operated automatically by the action of wind pressure or suction (as opposed to mechanical). 2. Small bellows, especially one used in a pneumatic stack.

polytype box

A cylinder musical box with multiple arrangements pinned onto the cylinder. One type was a revolver movement that had a separate comb and bedplate for each cylinder and was like several complete music boxes in a single case. The other was a more conventional box with the airs arranged in different styles, e.g., sublime harmony, tremolo zither, etc.


The classical term used to describe a portable, hand-cranked barrel organ or similar instruments.


A person who sets the comb to the cylinder. Also known as a setter.


The lower adjustable bearing for the endless screw in the governor. The potence holds the lower pivot of the endless screw and, by means of the regulating screw, allows the proper depthing of the endless screw to the second wheel.


A unit of length approximately 1.066 inches used to measure the length of cylinders on a music box.


In a pneumatic action, a flexible diaphragm (made of thin leather or other material) which, when one face is acted upon by air pressure or suction, causes a valve or key to operate. * Synonym: puff (mainly European usage).

pressure bar

In a disc music box, the bar which by means of hold-down wheels holds the disc against the star wheels when in the playing position. See hold-down arm.

prestant pipe

Short diapason-like pipe in band organs and pipe organs, sometimes mounted on the front of the facade. Plays with a bright string-like tone.


The scoring of the cylinder for a musical box which precedes the drilling of the cylinder for the pinning of the musical program. Synonym: piquage.

production master roll

Finished master roll, ready to use on a roll-duplicating perforator, as opposed to an incomplete master roll which is used in the preparation of a production master. An incomplete master sometimes has only the introduction, one verse, one chorus, and the ending. From this, a production master having repeated choruses is made.

program card

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


Term used to describe the protruding studs on the underside of a music box disc. Made by forming metal displaced by partially perforating the disc surface.


(mainly European usage.) Facade or front, esp. of a fairground organ or dance organ.


1. Bellows-operated device used to provide suction or wind pressure to operate an automatic musical instrument. 2. Tracker barUsually a hand-held device which produces suction by means of a piston in a cylinder. Used to clean lint and dirt from the tracker bar, tubing, and bleeds.

push-up piano player

A cabinet-style device which contains pneumatic mechanisms and which is pushed up to the piano keyboard in order to play the piano automatically via paper rolls. Usually foot-pumped. * Synonym: cabinet player. * German: Vorsetzer.


Cylinder music box in which the music is arranged with four distinct musical parts. Many quatuor boxes have four separate combs.

quintadenta pipe

A stopped metal flute pipe which produces a third harmonic which is nearly as loud as the fundamental. Widely used in mortuary organs, photoplayers, pipe organs, and very large European orchestrions.

rank of pipes

Single row of pipes, arranged in musical order and of the same type or tonal character. Sections of a single rank may be given individual names. For example, a single rank of violin pipes may be called violin, viola, and violoncello, violin pertaining to the treble part, viola to the middle range, and violoncello to the bass. In orchestrion and organ nomenclature a listing of such terms usually does not correspond to the actual number of ranks of pipes in the instrument. Note: do not confuse with register. A register is a device for controlling one or more ranks of pipes or even a portion of a single rank.


A stepping mechanism consisting of a gear and a spring-loaded lever (pawl) that allows movement in only one direction. A necessary part of a spring-wound mechanism.


The scoring of pins too close together which keeps the damper from operating properly when the cylinder pins strike the dampers in succession.

reed organ

An organ containing from one to many sets of tuned free reeds. Small reed organs have one manual (keyboard), while larger ones have two manuals and pedals like a pipe organ. See harmonium.


1. Vibrating metal tongue which produces sound in a harmonium or reed organ. 2. Type of organ pipe: 2a. Free reed: a metal tongue which moves in and out of its aperture (called a shallot) freely as it vibrates. Used in reed organs and harmoniums, organettes, and in certain types of organ pipes, especially those of soft or medium voicing. 2b. Beating reed: a carefully curved (according to principles of voicing) tongue covers the shallot opening (but is too large to enter it) and then springs back again as it vibrates. Mainly used for loudly-voiced pipes.


Control for turning one or more ranks of pipes, piano, percussion instruments such as xylophones and bells, or other effects on and off in an organ or automatic instrument. * Synonyms: stop, organ stop.

registration stud pin

The threaded pin that protrudes from the end cap of a musical box cylinder and rests against the snail cam. Turning the pin allows for fine adjustment of the cylinder position in order to align the registration marks with the tips of the comb teeth.


The selection of stops to be used while playing a pipe organ.

regulating screw

The screw located in the rear of the governor block which allows for the depthing adjustment of the endless screw with the second wheel by sliding the potence in and out.


Spring-loaded bellows connected to the main pressure or suction supply in a pneumatic instrument, with an escape valve or a choker, which helps to keep the air pressure or suction at a constant level. * Synonym: equalizer.