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Our Antique Musical Instruments

 

All of the musical instruments, the brass and percussion instruments, used by the Dodworth Saxhorn Band are antique instruments from the 19th Century. Most of the instruments were made between 1860 and 1880.

 

Horns

Saxhorn Family

Valved brass horns were not invented until the early 19th Century. Prior to that time, one could find keyed brass horns such as ophicleides, natural horns such as post horns or herald horns, and slide trombones. With the advent of valved instruments, music could be played chromatically and quickly without the intonation problems of keyed instruments. Brass bands, such as the Dodworth Band became immensely popular in America. Every town had to have at least one brass band. Town bands all over America could be found playing in churches, at political rallys, at balls, and even at baseball games.

Brass horns were primarily produced in the three configurations shown in the picture above, with the bell of the instrument pointing forward, up, or over the shoulder of the musician when played. One can find instruments of the same type, such as a B-flat cornet, in all three configurations depending upon how it was made. One can also see from the picture that the valves are not uniform in size, shape, or mechanism of action.

Over-the-shoulder horns, also known as "back'ard blasters," were invented and patented by Alan Dodworth in 1838. They were designed primarily for military use. When a band marched at the head of a column of soldiers, the “back’ard” bells made it easier for the music to be heard.

Adolphe Sax, a Belgian instrument maker working in Paris, developed a family of bell up instruments in the 1840s (soprano, alto, tenor, baritone, and bass). Sax’s innovation inspired the production of similar families of instruments in the US. Such horns were widely referred to as "saxhorns."

Saxhorns may have been made in families, however, the instruments played by the Dodworth Saxhorn Band all came from different families. There was also no uniform pitch at which instruments were designed to be played. A440 pitch did not become the international standard for pitch until after World War I. In fact, the Dodworth Saxhorn Band tunes to A447, as that is the pitch at which the instruments can be played more or less in tune with one another.

Drums

 

Our drums are rope tension drums of the 19th Century. Tension is maintained on drum heads by a rope tightened with leather slides. The drum heads are made of calf skin, as were the original, and as such subject to effects of weather. High humidity or rain softens the skin, so that constant adjustment in tension must be made. Otherwise, the drums respond more like foam rubber.