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The Calliope Style

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Although there are no written guidelines for calliope music, there are several traditional standards that govern how songs are played. Given the 32-note limitation of the calliope keyboard, all songs must be played within a two-and-a-half octave range, from C to G. This means that nearly every song played on calliope will be in the key of C or F. Less common are those songs in B flat or G. Any song played in a minor key revokes the calliopist's right to play.

Much of the calliope music that exists today has its roots in old barbershop, ragtime, and bluegrass songs. Some are ballads, others are faster. Most songs talk about love, someone's sweetheart, or the glory of the deep south. Also common are patriotic songs and other American standards such as "Happy Birthday."

Although modern calliopes employ electronic switches to open the valves, alleviating the need for brute force to play the notes, calliope music today is generally still played at a slow tempo. In addition, the repertoire of songs has not changed dramatically in the past half century, as modern songs played on the calliope tend to lack the nostalgia associated with the old tunes.

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This site made 2005 for MUSC 140 | View site references/sources