This site was last updated on September 26th, 2017
Welcome to Vintage Percussion Sound Effects. Enter a world of yesteryear where silent films reigned, supported by percussionists with a vast array of instruments designed to replicate all the sounds needed to bring the cinema alive.
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See some of my restorations HERE
A Brief Explanation of These Wonderful Instruments
Few drummers these days recall the life of an early 20th century drummer, and the many circumstances they were faced with that would often require creativity, and an extensive branching out of their instrument collection. Basic additions to the trap kit were ratchets for off-beats, and triangles for soft strains and theatre work. When jobs at motion picture houses were widely in demand, sound effect instruments added realism to the silent screen. These basics of these would often include a songbird whistle, cuckoo whistle, clog mallets (for dancing scenes), and a duck call that could produce farm animal sounds. Larger cinemas would separate the drummer from the effects, having a full table of “contraptions” (or "traps") for thunderstorm sounds, vehicle sounds, and animal sounds. Every time the screen showed a locomotive, a rooster, a gunshot, a doorbell, a dog barking, a streetcar, or even a growling bear, the traps drummer would be prepared!
When the silent film era ended in 1927, the need for the more bizarre effects diminished. Jazz songs with amusing themes about train travel would have the drummer picking up the train whistle once in a while; and, a “billy goat stomp” would start with humorous bleat, but the need to pack your case with car horns and horse hooves was certainly gone. Sound effect instruments had a brief second calling in radio, but as many of the radio studios would build their own effects, the need for the portable traps that a drummer could buy from his local drum shop slowly faded away.
Recently Restored! Ludwig 4-in-1 Whistle
Photos from our show at PASIC
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