A Tutor for the Musical Glasses

A popular form of musical entertainment in the early 19th century was playing Musical Glasses. First to use a moistened finger drawn around the mouth of a wet glass to produce musical sound was a Dr. Franklin. He fixed his glasses on an iron spindle, the smaller within the greater. This was put into motion by the foot, leaving the hands free to produce the tones as the glasses revolved. He called his instrument a ‘Harmonica’. Another version of this instrument was constructed by Dr. Gullen of Dublin. He had glasses made in the shape of sugar bowls. These were blown on long stocks fitted on to wooden blocks which were in turn screwed to a board, forming a horizontal plane. The glasses diminished in size as they ascended in pitch. These glasses had to be tuned with water and, owing to evaporation, did not prove very satisfactory. An improved version by Captain Menzies of the Perthshire Militia had the number of glasses reduced to two octaves and, instead of using water for tuning, had the glasses ground exactly to pitch before fitting to the frame. The player stood with the glasses before him and with a small bowl of water within reach. The hands were loosely flexed and the fingers moved round the glasses in a motion similar to that of the hands in swimming. Both hands could be used together thus producing chords. By strong or light pressure of the fingers volume be regulated. The glasses, not suitable for quick music, were ideally suited to the old Scottish airs.
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EADO161a; EADO161b; EADO161c
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East Ayrshire Council
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