Low "d" Bechonnet with compact bass drone

Musette Bechonnet

Bechonnet Tete

Bechonnet Drone Detail

The Bellows

Musette Meillet

France: Musettes of Central France


These were developed from the Cornemuse du Centre during the 19th Century and the following three are probably the most well known and are named after their makers.


Musette Bechonnet

Joseph Bechonnet (1820 - 1900) living in Effiat on the borders of the Basse Auvergne and Bourbonnais regions transformed the basic Cornemuse to produce this very useful instrument that is exceptionally stable and even toned.

Like the Cornemuse, the keynote of the chanter is the six finger note and the pitch is also denoted in the same way by the length of the chanter e.g. 16p G (Sol). The modifications were that the bore of the chanter was evened out from a bi-conoidal form to a plain straight taper and the tone holes repositioned and graded in size with the smallest at the top gradually increasing in proportion to larger holes at the bottom. The effect being to "sweeten" the tone without diminishing the volume. The drones were given narrow bores and fitted with metal tongued reeds and a further drone added behind the chanter/tenor drone stock which played in unison with the chanter's six finger note. This drone was either of the normal two part type or incorporated into the stock and operated by a layette.

The pipes became bellows blown using the same pattern as that employed on the Musette du Cour which are like a miniature organ bellows and are extremely efficient. The majority of his pipes were made from ebony and many of these had a characteristic "Van Dyke" inlay in ivory at the ends of each section. The Musette Bechonnet that I make have all the above features with the addition of an extra drone at the rear of the chanter/tenor drone stock that can be tuned to either an octave below the chanter's fourth or fifth. Both of the small drones are fitted with an on/off mechanism of the same pattern as that used on the Northumbrian Small Pipes.

On the larger sizes an option is to have a compact bass drone where the first joint has three bores connected in series to reduce the overall length.


Cornemuse Dechaud

A mouth blown Cornemuse/Musette from the Allier region in the Bas Auvergne named after it's maker Jean Dechaud (1829 - 1904) from the village of Commentry.

Like the Cornemuse du Centre the chanter's bore is bi-conal although the change in taper is only slight and the tone holes are graded in size increasing with the bore expansion but not as great as the Musette Bechonnet which give the chanter a mellow tone with a good volume. It has the usual configuration of tenor drone parallel to the chanter and a bass drone over the shoulder and retains a "rustic / rugged" appearance much like the Cornemuse du Berry.

An excellent instrument for the beginner and expert alike.


Musette Meillet

Claude Meillet (1808 - 1886) from the village of Varennes in the Allier region was a maker and player of Musettes.

Like the instruments made by Joseph Bechonnet the bore of the Hautbois was made as a single straight cone and the tone holes graded in size although not to the same degree, the upper hand being all of similar size and drilled at an angle towards the reed. The drones are also similar having narrower bores but the bass instead of being held in an almost vertical position tended to lie over the shoulder in the manner of the Cornemuse du Centre.

The format of the instrument is either mouth or bellows blown with either just a tenor drone, a tenor drone and treble drone (incorporated into the chanter stock, operated via a layette and sounding the six finger keynote), or Treble, Tenor and Bass.

Drones at rear of Tete


Materials:

Exotic hardwoods with bone or ivory mounts for the Bechonnet and Meillet, the Dechaud being box or fruit wood with horn mounts.