1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Batyphone

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BATYPHONE (Ger. and Fr. Batyphon), a contrabass clarinet which was the outcome of F. W. Wieprecht’s endeavour to obtain a contrabass for the reed instruments. The batyphone was made to a scale twice the size of the clarinet in C, the divisions of the chromatic scale being arranged according to acoustic principles. For convenience in stopping holes too far apart to be covered by the fingers, crank or swivel keys were used. The instrument was constructed of maple-wood, had a clarinet mouthpiece of suitable size connected by means of a cylindrical brass crook with the upper part of the tube, and a brass bell. The pitch was two octaves below the clarinet in C, the compass being the same, and thus corresponding to the modern bass tuba. The tone was pleasant and full, but not powerful enough for the contrabass register in a military band. The batyphone had besides one serious disadvantage: it could be played with facility only in its nearly related keys, G and F major. The batyphone was invented and patented in 1839 by F. W. Wieprecht, director general of all the Prussian military bands, and E. Skorra, the court instrument manufacturer of Berlin. In practice the instrument was found to be of little use, and was superseded by the bass tuba. A similar attempt was made in 1843 by Adolphe Sax, and met with a similar fate.

A batyphone bearing the name of its inventors formed part of the Snoeck collection which was acquired for Berlin’s collection of ancient musical instruments at the Technische Hochschule für Musik. The description of the batyphone given above is mainly derived from a MS. treatise on instrumentation by Wieprecht, in 1909 in the possession of Herr Otto Lessmann (Berlin), and reproduced by Capt. C. R. Day, in Descriptive Catalogue of the Musical Instruments of the Royal Military Exhibition, London, 1890 (London, 1891), p. 124. (K. S.)