Flex-A-Tone

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Instrument Name

Etymology and Alternative Spellings

Ger. - flexaton; It. - flessatono
Alternative English Spellings:
Flexatone
Flexitone

Construction

Small sheet of flexible, spring steel in a wire frame with wooden strikers mounted on either side.[1] The beaters or made of wood and are mounted on thin, spring steel. The instrument can creates a tremolo effect with high and low tones when the metal tongue/plate is bent.

History

The invention of the flexatone is recorded in the British Patent Office records of 1922 and 1923. The original Flex-a-tone was manufactured and patented by the Playertone Company in New York in 1924. It was marketed as a new instrument that would make "jazz jazzier" and was a combination of sounds inspired by orchestral bells, song whistle, and the musical saw.[2]
Within the genre of classical music, the flexatone has been employed by composers of note such as Arthur Honegger and Arnold Schoenberg. Honegger wrote for the flexatone in Antigone (1927), and Schoenberg employed it in Variations for Orchestra (1928), Von heute auf morgen (1929), and in Moses and Aaron (1951).[3]Other composers who have written for the flexatone include but are not limited to Aram Khachaturian (Piano Concerto, 1946); Hans Werner Henze (Elegy for Young Lovers, 1961); Krzysztof Eugeniusz Penderecki (De Natura Sonoris, 1966) and Vladimir Vogel (Sinfonia Fugato).[4]

Technique

The performer can hold the instrument in one hand with the palm wrapped around the wire frame and the thumb on the metal tongue/plate. The instrument can be shaken with a trembling motion moving the beaters back and forth against the metal plate. This is done while bending the metal plate with the thumb in order to bend the pitch.
For more articulate and rhythmic passages one can hold the instrument in one hand while pushing the two beaters away from the metal plate with the fingers. The performer can use an articulate mallet in the other hand to strike the metal plate.

Extended Technique

The performer can hold the instrument in one hand and separate the two beaters from the metal plate with the fingers. Using a violin, cello, or bass bow, the performer can bow the metal plate while bending the pitch.

Manufacturers

Percussion Plus
Gon Bops
Latin Percussion

Retailers

Latin Percussion
Percussion Plus
Steve Weiss Music
Gon Bops

See Also

References

  1. John H., Beck. Encyclopedia of Percussion. New York & London: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1995.
  2. Blades, James. Percussion Instruments and Their History. Wesport: The Bold Strummer, Ltd., 2005.
  3. Blades, James. Percussion Instruments and Their History. Wesport: The Bold Strummer, Ltd., 2005.
  4. Blades, James. Percussion Instruments and Their History. Wesport: The Bold Strummer, Ltd., 2005.