Mechanical Music Through the Ages

A collection of Mechanical Music and Arcade Machines – highlighting examples of the development in mechanical entertainment over time.

Dulcitone 1911 (Glasgow- Scotland)

A Dulcitone is a keyboard instrument in which sound is produced by a range of tuning forks, which vibrate when struck by felt-covered hammers activated by the keyboard. The instrument was designed by Thomas Machell of Glasgow and manufactured by the firm of Thomas Machell & Sons during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

A significant feature of the Dulcitone was its portability, a product of its lightweight and compact construction and the fact that the tuning forks (unlike, for instance, the strings of a piano) were not prone to going out of tune. However, the volume produced is extremely limited.

One piece scored for the Dulcitone is Vincent d’Indy’s Song of the Bells (1888)

In 1911 there were 3 versions listed: Style B, with 3½ octaves in solid mahogany (polished Chippendale) or in solid oak (fumed) complete with folding stand, for £12; Style R – in mahogany or oak with 4 octaves for £15; Style F – in mahogany or oak with 5 octaves, for £18.

Surviving examples exist as far afield as New Zealand, where one is preserved in the Whittaker’s Musical Museum.

The example below is a Style B , 3½ octave model.