Mechanical Music Digest  Gallery
You Are Not Logged In Login/Get New Account
Please Log In. Accounts are free!
Logged In users are granted additional features including a more current version of the Archives and a simplified process for submitting articles.
Home Archives Calendar Gallery Store Links Info
MMD > Gallery > Pictures > greinacher3

Spring Fundraising Drive In Progress. Please visit our home page to see this and other announcements:     Thank you. --Jody

back piano
Rueckenklavier Back Piano Plays Turkish Songs
Rueckenklavier Back Piano Might Be a Laterna
by Christian Greinacher (021218 MMDigest, 021222 MMDigest)

Recently I acquired a rare mechanical music instrument -- in the German language we call it Rückenklavier, i.e., a piano to be carried on the back.

I have no idea about the maker of this instrument. I am going to attach some pictures and would be happy if anybody could tell me more about the instrument.

Brief description:

  •  Dimensions are 62 cm x 45 cm x 102 cm (w x d x h)
  •  Barrel diameter 21 cm
  •  33 claves (32 notes plus 1 saucer bell)

  • Scale:
  •   two strings per note: A, H, D, E, Fis, G, A, H, Cis, D, E, Fis
  •   three strings per note: G, Gis, A, H, Cis, D, Dis, E, F, Fis, G, Gis, A, B, H, C, Cis, D, E, Fis

  • greinacher3_scale1.gif (5 kb)
    Play MIDI file of scale

    9 tunes on the barrel.  All these melodies are unknown and sound very strange to me.  I would describe them as "Turkish" (Janitscharenmusik) [Janizary music].

    The pictures show
      1) total view closed instrument
      2) total view open instrument
      3) label, glued inside the instrument; unfortunately all text is scratched out
      4) detail of the label, showing a drawing of the instrument
      5) barrel

    I would appreciate any answer!

    Greetings from Germany
    Christian Greinacher
    18 Dec 2002 212547 +0100

    Rueckenklavier Back Piano Might Be a Laterna

    Hello all of you!  First of all: The MMD is really great!  I got many valuable replies (postings and private communications) to my questions, posted on MMD 02.12.18.  I thank you all for your help to identify my Rückenklavier.  Special thanks to Robbie for his work to add the image and the MIDI file of the tuning scale to my original posting.

    Now let me add some additional remarks:

    1.  Craig Smith mentioned the brass fittings on the back of the Rueckenklavier.  Yes, these fittings are all mounted on the back of my instrument.  One of the brackets on the bottom of the instrument is an open hook, which makes it easier to get the strap on and off.  All these fittings are not of brass, but of iron.

    2.  Craig was guessing that my instrument plays "Turkish" because of bad tuning and adjustment.  He is absolutely right that this might happen when a beginner would try to do the job.  I suffered this experience years ago, too.  This time -- it's a good rule! -- I first made some basic restorations, adjustments, tuning, and checked especially the adjustment of the barrel, etc., before I started to play the instrument.  I tuned it to A = 425 Hz, following the scale as burned onto the pin block.  The result is, as mentioned before, Turkish "Janizary music".

    3.  Philip Jamison brought up the term "laterna"; what does that mean exactly?  Could I find a picture of a laterna somewhere?  I will try to get the EMI CD with laterna music and will compare it with the sound of my instrument.

    4.  As Christofer Noering mentioned, some letters printed on the label can be identified, but the rest is really very bad (same on the original label).  My hope still is that somebody could identify the graphics on the label.  That could be the key to find a similar or same label on any other instrument with the makers name.

    5.  As Robbie suggested in his email to me, I will try to find one of the many Turkish families living around here (Nuremberg!) which might have the skills to identify traditional Turkish music.  But I do not feel strong enough to follow Robbie's suggestion and carry my back piano on my back to meet and ask Turkish people on the streets of Nuremberg -- it weighs 41 kg [90 pounds]!

    Many thanks again, and I wish all the mechanical music enthusiasts, collectors, experts and friends Merry Christmas and all the best for the New Year!

    Christian Greinacher
    Roettenbach, Germany  (in Frankonia, i.e., the northern part of Bavaria, near Nuremberg)
    22 Dec 2002 15:49:07 +0100

    Photos and several MMD articles about the Greek laterna are at
    The CD, "Nikos Armaos - Laterna kai Defi", MINOS-EMI 724383483525, is listed at  price: 11.45 euro

    greinacher3_1.jpg (79 kb)
    1. Total view, closed instrument.

    greinacher3_2.jpg (76 kb)
    2. Total view, open instrument.

    greinacher3_3.jpg (69 kb)
    3. Label glued inside the instrument; unfortunately all text is scratched out.

    greinacher3_4.jpg (67 kb)
    4. Detail of the label, showing a drawing of the instrument.

    greinacher3_5.jpg (78 kb)
    5. Barrel

    18 December 2002, 23 December 2002

    Home    Archives    Calendar    Gallery    Store    Links    Info   

    Enter text below to search the MMD Website with Google

    CONTACT FORM: Click HERE to write to the editor, or to post a message about Mechanical Musical Instruments to the MMD

    Unless otherwise noted, all opinions are those of the individual authors and may not represent those of the editors. Compilation copyright 1995-2024 by Jody Kravitz.

    Please read our Republication Policy before copying information from or creating links to this web site.

    Click HERE to contact the webmaster regarding problems with the website.

    Please support publication of the MMD by donating online

    Please Support Publication of the MMD with your Generous Donation

    Pay via PayPal

    No PayPal account required

    Translate This Page