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Oh Sweet Celeste

By superchar, 12/18/2014 - 14:53

It's been fun introducing people who stop by the store to our Celeste by Jenco, a little known keyboard whose delicate sound has been featured on some of the greatest tunes in Rock history. As the reigning question regarding the Celeste is what is it? Our friend the talented music writer and musician Mike Bieber has so graciously written about it for us and you. Please read and come see for yourselves at Rock and Roll Supplies, thanks Mike!

JeN-Co 3-Octave Celeste

Every band needs a celeste. It’s the ultimate badass rock and roll noisemaker, especially if you put it through a few ring modulators, a ProCo Rat or two, and an octave divider.

Seriously, a celeste—also known as a celesta—is one of those obscure musical instruments that, in the course of recorded music history and pop culture, has appeared in the fore- and background. On a song like Buddy Holly and the Cricket’s “Everyday,” there’s nary a Stratocaster to be heard as the glockenspiel-toned celeste takes center stage along with Buddy’s hiccupping vocals. Meanwhile, the Velvet Underground tickled the celeste “ivories” on “Sunday Morning.” And, some fifteen years after Buddy, Iggy and the Stooges turned the celeste on its head by adding its nursery crime chime throughout “Penetration.” The combination of celeste and James Williamson’s guitar grind created a warped layer of creepiness, as if the ol’ Iguana was opening a music box and the cute little ballerina beckoned us toward the gates of h-e-double hockey sticks. Let’s see…who else? Ellington, Sinatra, the Beach Boys, the list continues.

An obvious question by now should be, What the fuck is a celeste? Simply, it’s a percussion instrument using a keyboard to activate hammers that, in turn, strike metal plates and create a bell-like sound similar to a glockenspiel but without the harsh, buzz-killing overtones. In its upper registers it truly sounds like a music box, and the instrument evokes a strangely nocturnal timbre that would usher babies into dreamland instantly. But like we said, in the right hands this little box of merriment can be dangerous…very dangerous.

Celestes often resemble an upright, or spinet, piano. Still, one of the more popular celestes is the Jenco 3-Octave model, looks like an accordion case and is portable. Can’t you imagine yourself arriving at your gig with a guitar in one hand and a celeste in the other? It needs to be mentioned that the Jenco 3-Octave is an acoustic instrument and thus needs to be mic’d. If you’re curious, Jenco-not to be confused with Remco or Whammo or Blammo or Teisco—was around during the 1940s until the early 1980s. Based in Illinois, it produced a variety of quality percussion and marching band instruments that were embraced by educational institutions everywhere.

You get the idea.

The Jenco 3-Octave celeste is for sale here at Rock and Roll Supplies. We invite you to come by and experience its haunted doll house maelstrom in person.