Mechanical Music Restoration

Supplies & Services

Mechanical Music

Player Piano (Pianola, Piano Player)


Cylinder Musical Box

Disc Musical Box

This page will describe various instruments and will hopefully include some pictures, and perhaps even some sounds once I can master the techniques of digital recording and adding sound to the site!

It is aimed at newcomers to Mechanical Music, to give them a better understanding of the range of instruments available, and perhaps encourage them to take the plunge, or widen their horizons.

If you have details, pictures, sounds of unusual instruments you would like to add, e-mail me on

WHAT IS ...........................

Organettes are small, usually table-top sized, self-playing, reed organs. They appeared around 1880 and then declined rapidly in the early 1900s. The reeds are either brass or steel tongues mounted on a close-fitting base. When air is passed over the reed it vibrates at a fixed frequency depending on the size and stiffness of the reed. Organettes can be pressure or suction operated, with the air being moved by hand cranked bellows. Ammerican and English organettes tended to be suction operated, and German ones pressure, although there are exceptions.

There were several hundred different makes and models of organettes, with many different types of playing mechanism. These included perforated paper rolls, perforated cardboard discs, metal discs with holes, or tongues, or dimples, pinned wooden cylinders (or cobs), metal bands, etc. On simple machines the holes in the paper roll act as the valve and let air directly in to the reed cavity. On some there is a mechanical key, operated by the roll, disc or cylinder pin, which opens a pallet to allow the air in to the reed. On the most sophisticated machines, intermediate valves open and close, minimising the force on the key or playing medium, whilst being able to control larger volumes and pressures of air for the reed. These machines have much higher repetition and volume capabilities.

The best source of information about Organettes in general is The Organette Book by Kevin McElhone.