Dulcitone Tuning Fork Piano, by Thomas Machell & Sons


Item #000185
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This 5-octave, 61-note Dulcitone is in very good cosmetic and functional shape. Invented and built by Thomas Machell and Sons of Glasgow from the 1880s until circa 1930, this historic instrument is the ancestor of the Rhodes piano and a close relative of the celesta. Its sound is produced by a range of tuning forks, which vibrate when struck by felt-covered hammers activated by the keyboard. A significant feature of the dulcitone is 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.


With its original customer base largely being the missionary community, who needed portable keyboard instruments to bring with them, the Dulcitone has a solid, yet lightweight and compact construction. The tuning forks give off a sound very similar to a celesta, but rounder and sweeter, with less piercing harmonics. The tuning forks are acoustically coupled to and thus amplified by a spruce soundboard that rests under the instrument. Because of this tight-grained soundboard, the Dulcitone is able to equal the volume of a standard celesta, which uses resonating tubes/chambers to amplify its sound.


This Dulcitone is an 8 out of 10 with respect to functionality, which is very good, given that most Dulcitones found today do not play well. It has a very nice sound. All notes play, though a few sound a bit noisy but still musical. Repair of the noisy-sounding notes usually requires realignment of the tuning forks, tightening of rivets, or reriveting or welding the coupler foil to the tuning fork to make a more solid connection. We have not attempted to repair this particular Dulcitone. All the parts are there, including all the tuning forks, none of which are snapped; all of their coupling u-shaped metal foils are intact, and everything is very secure and tightly screwed down. The key height needs to be evened throughout the whole keyboard. This Dulcitone has several cracks in the soundboard, but none are likely of any damage to its structural integrity.


Dimensions: 32"x15"x12"


Range: A3-A8 (61 notes, 5 octaves)

Condition Used / Vintage

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