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The strangest concertina I have ever seen...

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The strangest concertina I have ever seen. It's called... Wheatstone's Wind Fiddle!  

How does it work? 

Do any still exist?

Any ideas?

Students demonstrating a concertina and a wind fiddle or bellows fiddle, both invented by Wheatstone (Ref: K/PH7/1/7)




Part concertina part violin ... The Wheatstone wind fiddle. Practice two  instruments at once. : lingling40hrs




Edited by Tarquinbiscuitbox
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Though it has "concertina" bellows, it was never a concertina. It was a prototype, there was only ever that one, and it still exists - though much-ruined by students of King's College trying to "play" it, especially during "rag week".


I can't understand how Wheatstone imagined it could possibly work, and I guess he discovered for himself that it didn't...

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The relevant patent is A.D. 1836, No. 7154, Charles Wheatstone and John Green, "A New Method or Methods of forming Musical Instruments, in which continuous Sounds are produced from Strings, Wires, or Springs." ... "by means of a current of air, which is directed upon a limited portion of of the vibrating length" ... "adapted or adjusted ... to a slit or linear aperture through which the current of air passes."


I have three 4-row button keyboards (also from the Wheatstone Laboratory) in my collection that are described in this 1836 Patent, and were made to press rosewood "frets" against the strings of another related instrument.

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On 3/8/2021 at 11:13 PM, wunks said:

What's one that uses springs?


To quote the Patent:


"... the word string is understood by musical instrument makers to to signify a length of any suitable, flexible, and elastic material capable of producing sound when stretched. We shall therefore employ the word string to signify either a watch spring, stretched between fixed supports, and applied in the manner of what is termed a string by makers of musical instruments, or a metal wire, or a string of any flexible and elastic material capable of vibrating when stretched."





Edited by Stephen Chambers
Edited to add "to quote the Patent"
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I think there are reeds.  In the fingerboard there are buttons of a sort so you press the buttons like fretting a string.  The buttons are connected to pads so if you "fret" a button then  air goes through the reed for that note , which may be hidden inside the body of the fiddle.  So if you know the fingering on a fiddle (or for that matter a mandolin) you can play this instrument and move the bellows as if you were bowing strings.   I actually saw an instrument shaped like a guitar that worked that way (but no bow, I think it was hand-pumped).  Wheatstone may also have made that.

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13 hours ago, arkwright said:

I think there are reeds.


I have the Patent, which I'm quoting from, and I've seen and handled the instrument - in fact I went to a Sotheby's auction to try to buy the remains of it, which Neil Wayne had put up for sale in 1989 along with a bunch of other Concertina Museum items that had come from from the Wheatstone Laboratory, only to be thwarted in my attempt by King's College stopping the sale with a very last minute court injunction - it seems they'd suddenly woken up to their Wheatstone heritage/inheritance, over the previous weekend, after dispersing so much of it previously!


It is described in the Patent in these terms:


"The following is our method of forming a musical instrument similar to the violin, excepting that the strings are sounded by wind instead of a bow. The shape and size of the instrument represented at Figure 32 are the same as those of the violin. The four strings occupy their usual situations on its front or belly, and are fastened in the usual manner to the tailpiece at one end, and to the tuning pegs at the other. Each string is furnished with its aperture, to which it is adjusted in the manner represented at Figure 1, so that it will sound only when the wind passes from without into the instrument. The length of the aperture we prefer is about an inch and a half, and it should not extend towards the top or head of the instrument farther than the middle of the string. ... To this instrument is attached a double bellows, one part being placed at each side of the instrument, as represented in Figure 32."


Figure 32:




I can assure you there were never any reeds, and there were never any buttons on the fingerboard of  the violin.


What you saw was a mélophone, patented by Pierre Charles Leclerc in Paris, in 1837, and I have one of them!





Edited by Stephen Chambers
Edited to add Patent description and Figure.
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Does the patent say, or does anyone have any idea, what was the supposed benefit of sounding the strings by air instead of a bow? And is there any way to choose which string sounds, or do all four sound all the time the air is flowing? You could play all four at once on a conventional fiddle by making the top of the bridge almost straight, as on a hardingfele but more so.

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