The musical instrument Celesta

There is a lot of misleading and in some cases wrong information on the musical instrument Celesta, on its origins, and particularly on its sound-generating action circulating. Even otherwise reliable standard reference books get many of the facts wrong.

Here are the most important things to know about the Celesta:

  • The Celesta was invented and patented in Paris by Victor Mustel in the year 1886.
  • In his patent Victor Mustel also determines the name Celesta he specifically created for this new instrument.
  • The Celesta’s unique sound is generated by its very specific action: By pressing the key a felt hammer is set in motion. The felt hammer strikes a sound plate from above. A wooden resonator is placed under each sound plate.
  • Victor Mustel therefore emphasizes in his patent that the Celesta action is completely distinct from an upright-piano action (hammers strike the vertically aligned strings from the side) or a grand-piano action (hammers strike the horizontally aligned strings from below).

There are keyboard glockenspiels made by other manufacturers using a piano action (sound plates are struck vertically/from the side) or a grand-piano action (sound plates are struck from below). So it is very misleading to call these instruments a celesta which unfortunately happens.

Due to the construction, instruments with piano-/grand-piano action do not create the typical and unique Celesta sound according to the specifications of the inventor Victor Mustel.

More details on this and many other interesting facts about the Celesta you will find under the menu options to the right.