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MMD > Archives > May 1999 > 1999.05.02 > 05Prev  Next

Seeburg Style G Pipes and Expression
By Art Reblitz

I have seen five different types of original flute pipes in Seeburg
Style G orchestrions.

1.  Large scale piccolos, speaking an octave higher than the violins
and piano.  These are the loudest flute pipes used by Seeburg.  They
are quite prominent, even with the front doors shut.  They are roughly
half the length of the violins.  (Most commonly found in pre-1920 Gs.)

2.  Smaller scale piccolos, speaking an octave higher.  They are not
quite as loud as type 1, but still add considerable brilliance.  They
are also half the length of the violins.  (Most commonly found in mid-
teens Gs.)

3.  Harmonic flutes, speaking an octave higher.  They are the same
length as the violins, but each pipe has a nodal hole which assists
prompt speech at the octave pitch.  They are a little less loud than
type 1, but still add good sparkle to the music.  (Found in Gs of all
ages, except the very earliest ones.)

4.  Open flutes, speaking the same pitch as the violins and piano.
They are about the same length as the violins.  (Found mainly in rare
Gs made after 1920.)

5.  Stopped flutes, speaking the same pitch.  They are shorter than
the violins but have stoppers with rounded handles.  (Only 1 mid-teens
G and a few Ks and KTs known with stopped flutes.)

To me, octave flutes (types 1-3) are one of the factors that make the
G an exceptionally desirable orchestrion.  They add a musical sparkle
found in few others.  (Other factors include the effective expression
on both piano and drums - when restored and regulated properly - and
the huge variety of rolls that were made, including the fine Capitol
G rolls.)

Type 4 pipes make a G sound more mellow, with less tonal variety.
The extremely rare type 5 pipes cause a G to sound more like a
Wurlitzer keyboard-style orchestrion with stopped flutes.

One key to the great Seeburg G "sound" is the fact that each percussion
instrument (except for the triangle) has an adjustment to balance it
against the other instruments.  The percussion and piano have separate
expression regulators.  All of these adjustments provide very effective
means of balancing the instruments for both loud and soft playing.

Also, the snare drum reiterating (repeating) speed is adjustable --
a very important feature that enable the best rolls to play a single
tap or a roll with the same beater.  A homemade orchestrion playing
G rolls loses much of its effectiveness if equipped with a snare drum
beater whose repetition rate can't be adjusted, such as a Coinola or
Link style beater.

In the Seeburg mechanism, the beater pneumatic controls the reiterating
valve via a threaded stem with adjustable leather nuts.  Spreading the
nuts farther apart reduces the reiteration rate.  Manually adjusting
the pneumatic rest position limits the pneumatics power, even on loud
playing, so the snare drum doesn't have to be overpowering.

Art Reblitz

(Message sent Sun 2 May 1999, 15:12:35 GMT, from time zone GMT-0600.)

Key Words in Subject:  Expression, G, Pipes, Seeburg, Style

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