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MMD > Archives > December 1996 > 1996.12.15 > 13Prev  Next

Re: Sound of Tine, Tooth and Tongue
By Philippe Rouillé

Robbie wrote to me:

> Philippe, I should have thought to ask you!
> Can you tell me, please, what are the French and German terms used
> when speaking about the "sound generator" of a music box?
> I believe the Digest readers, too, would welcome a discussion from
> you. Am I creating more confusion than enlightenment?

Dear Robbie, You always create enlightenment, but I am afraid that in this case you are also creating confusion. Music boxes is a very special and technical field, and some terms are still used by the makers, restorers, and collectors which are from two centuries ago! To change them could be an improvement in the principle, but I am afraid that in practical fields, it could bring confusion. ... I shall give you some answers, and you may do what you like with them ...

> Subject: Sound of Tine, Tooth & Tongue

"Tine" is a very strange word for that !

The German terms I do not know for sure -- Zaehne [teeth] and Kamm [comb or crest], I believe. In French, people used to say "les dents du peigne" (The teeth of the comb), but they tend now to use the better words "Les lames du clavier" (the comb of the keyboard), which are actually the words used by the makers, although some also use "peigne" (another word for comb).

> In my list of music devices and mechanical tone generators I said that
> the sound in a music box is created by "plucked pendant metal tines".
> "Pendant", in this case, denotes "hanging or suspended" -- perhaps not
> the best description.

Certainly not suspended, because a tooth is not pendant (I hope so at least, or your music box is broken). Remember that a music box tooth is nothing else than a kind of knife's blade ("lame" in French), as when you put a knife firmly with the hand on a table, and you pluck the blade to make it vibrate. The shorter is the free part of the blade which is not maintained strongly on the table, the higher is the pitch.

And a music box tooth makes good sound only if it is strongly attached to the metal comb (by screws in the very early boxes, or ideally part of the comb as in most boxes, or soldered, but this last is not very good).

> Beatrice Robertson sent these definitions appearing in the music box
> reference books:
> Tallis: "plucked tuned steel tongues"
> Bulleid: "plucked tuned steel teeth"
> Webb: "plucked tuned metal teeth"
> Ord-Hume: "plucked tuned steel element capable of vibrating"
Bulleid and Web seem to me the best ones. Ord-Hume is right, but too complicated.

> I guess I'll use the "tongues" definition from Tallis above, because I
> don't agree with "teeth". I think "tongue" is better; it surely has a
> parallel in the tongue of the organ reed (and accordion and harmonica).

Definitely no. Completely different.

> And consider this: if the tongue of a reed is plucked it generates the
> same type of sound as a music box. Conversely, I bet that a music box
> comb fitted with air channels could be used like a rank of organ reeds!

Certainly not! It would need a wind of at least 500 kilometers per hour! And a very strange shape of each individual tooth/reed box.

> In English we say, "the teeth of a comb", but also "the tines of a fork
> or rake". The tuning-fork used in the lab and for tuning the piano has
> two tines.

That is a good comparison.

> I view teeth as short and stubby, while tines are long and thin.
> In more typical usage neither teeth nor tines are associated with
> vibration, but the tongue certainly is!

My knowledge of English sometimes puzzles me. I know you are a very surprising man, Robbie, but can you really make your tongue vibrate in your mouth ?

[ Only a French girlfriend could answer that, Philippe! However,
[ some girls can talk "a mile a minute", others speak "double-talk" !

And, Robbie, try to make music with fork's teeth by holding the fork strongly on the side of a table. You may do that with a blade's knife, but certainly not with a fork (unless it becomes a dangerous weapon). Perhaps you use very special forks at home ...

> My purpose is not to force a new definition on the music box world;
> there the traditional terms must be preserved. Rather, I am exploring
> better definitions and terms for delineating categories, which are based
> upon physics and physical properties instead of traditional origins.

Vibrating blades would be a good term (in French "lames vibrantes"), but I am not sure we really have to change the traditional terms, Robbie.


Philippe Rouille

[ Author's note:
[ Thanks to Philippe and Beatrice Robertson for their reviews. As I
[ write more about "sound generators" I shall emphasize that the
[ "terms of physics" I use are different from the traditional terms
[ of the music box industry.
[ Robbie Rhodes

(Message sent Sun 15 Dec 1996, 11:33:50 GMT, from time zone GMT+0100.)

Key Words in Subject:  Sound, Tine, Tongue, Tooth

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