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The MELOPHONE.


Anglogeezertoo
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I wondered briefly why there are more buttons than pads/notes, then realised that the upper notes of each row ("string") are the same as the lower notes of the next one. The connections between the buttons and the pads are apparently by fine wires. It's a bit reminiscent of the connections to railway signals, on a miniature scale.

 

The push-pull action of the double bellows is brilliant, corresponding (sort of) to up and down with a bow.

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There is one in the Horniman Museum, Forest Hill, London.

It is now fully restored. However  when I first visited the Horniman in the 1950s, many of the musical instruments were in a very sorry state, owing to neglect during the war. The Melophone was was totally fallen apart in it's case, and you could see all the internal mechanism with wires connecting from the buttons to little trap doors. This was much more interesting to me, as I have always been fascinated by how musical instruments work.

Inventor.   

Edited by inventor
Wrote on instead of in.
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This is my one, #99 by A. Brown, Paris:

 

314965905_Melophone1.jpg.00c2f7a1632a3ad2efcd72be5d2c93d8.jpg

1574491142_Melophone3.jpg.96ad44005493877b32cf113593dae071.jpg1989821500_Melophone4.jpg.0ff8ba76680a329cc64eb572af98be55.jpg1737604284_Melophone2.jpg.68df6c204d2875225bbbf635dfa5d12f.jpg

 

And here's the carte de visite of the American melophonist John B Donniker - blackface performer and composer of popular songs, who belonged to several minstrel companies in the 1850s and '60s

 

534722815_MelophonistJohnBDonniker.jpg.5fb06366c5a02d69af8f15c7fc4aba90.jpg

 

 

 

 

Edited by Stephen Chambers
Edited to add photo.
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On 8/3/2020 at 6:07 PM, Stephen Chambers said:

And here's the carte de visite of the American melophonist John B Donniker - blackface performer and composer of popular songs, who belonged to several minstrel companies in the 1850s and '60s

 

Interesting that he’s playing it with the cover removed.

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42 minutes ago, Stephen Chambers said:

 

Indeed, and the only other photograph (that I know of) of a melophonist (taken in Istanbul, Turkey, in the 1860s/'70s) also shows him playing without the cover:

 

Neat. I don’t imagine you have any recordings of someone playing one? I found two YouTubes of people squeaking out random notes, but not actually playing it.

 

https://youtu.be/UVreOGOr5jo
https://youtu.be/kg-Sr5Ae7bQ

 

YouTube is frustratingly hard to search for “melophone” because it wants to believe you’re searching for “mellophone.”

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6 minutes ago, David Barnert said:

Neat. I don’t imagine you have any recordings of someone playing one?

 

'Fraid not, though a guitarist should be able to make some sense of one... 

 

Quote

YouTube is frustratingly hard to search for “melophone” because it wants to believe you’re searching for “mellophone.”

 

It's the same with Google, but the words are so similar that they're bound to get misspelled sometimes.

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23 hours ago, David Barnert said:

Do we even know that the rows of buttons are tuned like guitar strings? They all seem to have more than six rows.

 

They were designed for players of stringed instruments to play - think of the buttons as "frets" to understand how they work along a row. But some sources compare them to guitars (which would be tuned in fourths from row to row), whilst others say like a cello (which would be fifths).

 

 

 

Edited by Stephen Chambers
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2 hours ago, Stephen Chambers said:

They were designed for players of stringed instruments to play - think of the buttons as "frets" to understand how they work along a row. But some sources compare them to guitars (which would be tuned in fourths from row to row), whilst others say like a cello (which would be fifths).

 

Be it cello or guitar, one major difference with the melophone would be the absence of “open strings.” Unless the internal machinery is much more sophisticated than it looks, you can’t rely on the thing to play an A (for instance) if you’re not pressing any of the buttons in the row that corresponds to an A string. This would make playing the melophone much more complicated than playing either the guitar or the cello (both of which I play).

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6 hours ago, David Barnert said:

Be it cello or guitar, one major difference with the melophone would be the absence of “open strings.” Unless the internal machinery is much more sophisticated than it looks, you can’t rely on the thing to play an A (for instance) if you’re not pressing any of the buttons in the row that corresponds to an A string. This would make playing the melophone much more complicated than playing either the guitar or the cello (both of which I play).

 

Mind you, classical "strings" players would normally try to avoid playing "open strings" anyway...

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