1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Fife (military flute)
FIFE (Fr. fifre; Med. Ger. Schweizerpfeif, Feldpfeif; Ital. otlavino), originally the small primitive cylindrical transverse flute, now the small B♭ military flute, usually conoidal in bore, used in a drum and fife band. The pitch of the fife lies between that of the concert flute and piccolo. The fife, like the flute, is an open pipe, for although the upper end is stopped by means of a cork, an outlet is provided by the embouchure which is never entirely closed by the lips. The six finger-holes of the primitive flute, with the open end of the tube for a key-note, gave the diatonic scale of the fundamental octave; the second octave was produced by overblowing the notes of the fundamental scale an octave higher; part of a third octave was obtained by means of the higher harmonics produced by using certain of the finger-holes as vent-holes. The modern fife has, in addition to the six finger-holes, 4, 5 or 6 keys. Mersenne describes and figures the fife, which had in his day the compass of a fifteenth. The fife, which, he states, differed from the German flute only in having a louder and more brilliant tone and a shorter and narrower bore, was the instrument used by the Swiss with the drum. The sackbut, or serpent, was used as its bass, for, as Mersenne explains, the bass instrument could not be made long enough, nor could the hands reach the holes, although some flutes were actually made with keys and had the tube doubled back as in the bassoon.
- Harmonie universelle (Paris, 1636), bk. v. prop. 9, pp. 241-244.
- For an illustration of one of these bass flutes see article Flute, fig. 2.
- Syntagma musicum (Wolfenbüttel, 1618), pp. 40-41 of Reprint.
- Musica instrumentalis (Wittenberg, 1529).
- Musica getutscht und auszgezogen (Basel, 1511).
- See Sir S. D. Scott, The British Army, vol. ii. p. 396.
- See H. G. Farmer, Memoirs of the Royal Artillery Band (London, 1904).
- Stowe's Chronicles, p. 702.
- Grose, Military Antiquities (London, 1801), vol. ii.
- See Colonel P. Forbes Macbean, Memoirs of the Royal Regiment of Artillery.