The distinctive way in which musical parts are written and performed in support of a certain melody or theme. A composer creates an original melody and often arranges the supporting accompaniment and countermelody parts, instrumentation, percussion parts, etc. An arranger does all of this except for creating the original melody. In some instances, two equally great but completely different arrangements exist for different automatic instruments, such as Swanee Smiles for the Seeburg G (arranged by Victor Arden) or the Weber Maesto (arranged by Gustav Bruder).

automatic disc changer

In a disc music box, a device which stores a quantity of discs (usually 10 or 12) and which plays them automatically, either in sequence or by manual selection.

automatic musical instrument

A musical instrument which plays a musical composition programmed on a pinned cylinder, disc, music roll, or other medium, and which usually requires no musical knowledge on the part of the operator. A self-playing or mechanical musical instrument. The term "automatic" was originally used to describe all types of self-playing instruments. Although the term "mechanical" is often used synonymously today, "mechanical" was not generally used originally to describe instruments with sophisticated expression capabilities (e.g., certain large orchestrions, player pipe organs, reproducing pianos). Motive power for an automatic musical instrument may be provided by a hand crank, spring-wound clockwork, a weight-driven system, an electric motor, a water motor, a foot pump, or by other means.

automatic roll changer

Ferris-wheel type device (usually) which stores 2 to 12 perforated paper rolls and changes them automatically, usually in the sequence in which they are placed on the changer mechanism (or, if desired, a particular roll can be selected). Several variations occur, including a device made by Philipps which incorporates extra roll-holding sections which hang below the basic revolver mechanism; and a 10-roll cartridge-type changer unit, called a 10-roll magazine, by Popper & Co., but constructed on different principles from those used in a standard revolver- or magazine-type mechanism. Perhaps the most sophisticated roll changing device was one developed by Hupfeld, which, in its most elegant form, consisted of two 10-roll changers arranged side by side (for a total selection of 20 rolls) and equipped with a device for selecting a desired roll from a distant control panel or wallbox. In America, the Wurlitzer Automatic Roll Changer (capitalized in Wurlitzer’s usage) achieved fame, as did the Philipps-made roll changer employed in many Wurlitzer PianOrchestras. For use in a Hupfeld, Philipps, or Wurlitzer roll changer, rolls were made with a wood (Hupfeld) or metal rod in place of the normal tapered end and tab. In the Duo-Art Concertola, a separate metal rod with a hook was attached to each roll, enabling the use of rolls with ordinary end tabs. * Synonyms: magazine system, revolver system.


(plural: automata.) A mechanically-operated figure of a human or animal, often smaller than life size. Automata of the 1880s-1920s typically were powered by a spring motor; many incorporated a cylinder music box or small mechanical organ.

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.


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 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).


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.

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.


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.

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.


Striking stick or metal rod used to sound a percussion instrument such as a drum, cymbal, bell, etc.