Historical Fifes

Military-style, historical, traditional… Fifes for fife & drum corps, for folk music, for historical dance.

Models available on this page below:


Historical Models

The fife dates back, as far as we have been able to ascertain, to Europe around the 12th century.  That is not very clear, for it is a form of flute and flutes of varying forms are much, much older.  But the fife as distinct from the transverse (or horizontally held) flute certainly comes about around that time.  It is, in essence, what might be termed a “tabor pipe with benefits”; it consisted of a tube, almost always of wood, with a very tight bore meant to sacrifice the tone and volume of the lowest register to favour the second and third registers which, when played, carry quite the distance and could be heard over other, loud instruments such as its traditional association with the side or field drum.  Its obvious application was for martial use in providing recognizable tunes in company with the drum for military “camp duties” and specific “calls” during battle wherein troops could hear the commands without necessarily seeing the commander… Serving the purpose of radio communication, as it were.  But it also was known for folk dance music as well as work accompaniment music much like the pipe and tabor and can actually still be found in this capacity in some remote villages throughout western Europe.  As the transverse flute began to evolve, so too the fife which eventually became the piccolo, the instrument of choice in fife and drum music cultures such as for the Swiss Fasnacht.  In fact when performing on any fife one might benefit from regarding it more as a piccolo than a flute.

For your amusement, although copyrighted and not for general public re-use. – YE ART OF YE FYFE

The traditional fife is an example of an instrument still reflecting the varying pitches of the 18th and 19th centuries… You might do yourself a service to read this. In the 18th century, it appears that most Anglo-American fifes were actually in the pitch of nominal C, with some lower pitches available but less common and more for parade and/or “pleasure” performances.  French, German, Spanish, Dutch, Italian fifes appear to generally be in the pitch of nominally D, rising to a D# in today’s European fife culture.  There are certainly exceptions to this, but the common use of Bb in Britain and America is really more of a 19th century development.  You can read a source for some of this here, but also please do look at my page on  “Fife tuning and pitch“.

Corps Discount for sets purchased – Please inquire!

MusiqueMorneaux@gmail.com      or    860.749.8514


<< Je viens de recevoir le fifre aujourd’hui. Comme ceux-là, c’est vraiment génial et ça sonne très bien !! Vous devez dire sur votre site que je suis vraiment fan de votre travail !! >>  Gilles Graimont, Paris, France



The Dillon/Cahusac Model Fife

Dillon/Cahusac in C of American Boxwood

Steve Dillon of Dillon Music has amassed quite the collection of early American and corresponding English fifes.  What he has learned from them has popped so many commonly believed myths about fife history.  Here is a replica of one made by Thomas Cahusac of London; an English fife from the time of the American Revolution but in use from roughly the time of the English civil war to the first half of the 19th century.  It is thick walled and in the key of C.

By request I also offer this model in Bb… It is modern pitch (A=440) and so a little flat of trad fife pitch.  If you need something different, please ask.




The Cavalier – 1600s Model fife

After some research and discussion with several interested in this model, but lacking access to any known surviving example fife for the English Civil War period, I made an educated guess based upon surviving documentation, paintings and etchings from the period, and a few fifes known to be from the 18th century in England and an alleged 16th century fife in Switzerland as well as one I handled in England.  What I came up with is not a reproduction of an original but a good interpretation of a fife likely to have been used in the 17th century in the British Isles for you English Civil War buffs.  I named it the Cavalier Model; it is nominally in A (a half-step below the traditional Bb fife commonly used today) which could be regarded as Bb in “Baroque pitch”.  The design is faithful to instruments of the time such as small tone holes and embouchure, cylindrical bore, thick walled as English fifes from the following century all seem to have been…

The pieces I currently have are in Bolivian Rosewood (dark) or one in Black Walnut, but will make another to order should a different wood be desired.


Cavalier Model Fife



The Callender 1787 Model fife

William Callender was a wood and ivory turner in Boston during the latter 18th century and many of his fifes survive today in private collections, such as the original to this one to be found in the collection of the Manchester Historical Society in New Hampshire.  Like the Dillon/Cahusac it is nominally in C and plays alongside the other model but a thinner design and slightly tighter bore.  For something in Bb, please see the Yorktown Model.



Williamsburg Pitch Model

Back in the day when I was the fifemaker for Cooperman Fife & Drum Co, I regularly crafted a replica of a fife in the collection of Colonial Williamsburg for use BY Colonial Williamsburg Fifes & Drums.  In recent years I had been commissioned to make a few of this model for individuals, mostly in the reenacting world.  It plays flat of B (A = 456) (instead of the slightly sharp Bb (A = 443/5-ish) of trad fife&drum corps today), which means it is NOT what you need when you wade into a fife&drum jam session.  Instruments in the 18th century generally played about a half tone lower than we think of the pitches today… So what THEY called a “D” in the 18th century would sound more like a “C#” to us; you might consider this to be somewhat in the key of C, 18th century style.  Please see my page on tuning and pitch for further info on this!  For public use outside of Colonial Williamsburg, I do offer this only in Rosewood, currently, although I have made this in other woods in the past.  You may inquire, should you have something else in mind.

Combined Colonial Williamsburg and York Town Fifes & Drums playing all Musique Morneaux fifes. Stephen R Casella, photographer. Used with permission.

Set of 20 for Colonial Williamsburg – 2022

<<These fifes are truly AMAZING! From appearance to ease of playing they top the charts in all categories!! I love the cocobolo you chose for these!! And aside from that, just the overall wonderful experience of purchasing from you completely tops the charts!! I can’t thank you enough!!>>  James Mesnard, Sykesville, MD

Williamsburg Pitch Fife




French Fife 1790 model

    This model was copied from a fife in a private collection in France and the scholarship at hand asserted that it was from a military unit serving in about Paris in the late 18th century.  It is in the key of D which would be considered a “high-pitch”, the commonly encountered pitches for the era being about a half step lower – so they might have regarded this to be in Eb.   The common fife or piccolo used in most of Europe today is Eb (nominally A=440).  The original to this had serious intonation issues and to make the replica meet the requirements of the initial customer who did the legwork, this copy has been “tweaked” to work better with itself and ensemble work.

French Fife 1790 Model


Ralph G Sweet Colonial Model

Using a Klemm fife at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Ralph had created this model as a good, general design to cover fifers looking for an 18th century/early 19th century appearance while still being able to play in traditional Bb.  Simple, one piece, brass ferrules.  The key of C is also available, this pitch being actually the far more commonly used in the 18th century.

Colonial Model Fife


Cloos Model Fife 

Ralph copied this from a model fife made in the late 19th century by George Cloos of NY.  Nickel-silver tapered ferrules, key of Bb only.  REALLY popular design for some Civil War impressions and amongst fife & drums corps from the late 19th century through the 1950s.

Batterie-fanfare Bravade de Fréjus, France – playing my Cloos model fifes.

Cloos Model Fife



1815 N’Orleans Model Fife.

Held at a research center in New Orleans is a little fife that had been donated by someone that claims it was used at the Battle of New Orleans in January 1815.  It certainly has the look of something that had “gone through the war”, and is believed to have been carried by the fifer from the region about Kentucky or Tennessee.  A friend brought this to my attention and took measurements; from this, I base our “N’Orleans Model Fife”.  It follows the original rather closely based upon photos and measurements, minus the crushing cracks and the brass bands placed along the length – there’s some question that this was done to hold the instrument together from cracking, but I’m inclined to think that it was an aesthetic much like some of the models later offered by Crosby, Cloos, and a few other makers.  Here, I don’t bother with the bands mostly because at this point it is an unnecessary expense for an otherwise fully functional fife.  The original was not of Boxwood but of a domestic fruitwood, and here I made this set in Apple wood.  The model is in C – as was most common in the 18th and turn of the 19th century, based upon surviving examples – and is an excellent choice for your War of 1812 impression. The head ferrule is slightly tapered while the foot ferrule is the more common “barrel” cylindrical, both brass; just like the original.






1759 Ingolstadt Model – Bavarian Pfeife

Some years back I obtained someone’s measurements of a fife held in the Armeemuseum, Ingolstadt, Germany.  It had measurement data but not aesthetic details.  I reached out to the Armeemuseum but in vain, so I replicated the fife from the measurements at hand.  A customer who was doing a RevWar Hessian impression wanted one, but felt that it didn’t play like traditional fifes do; he had me make him a modified version.  Recently, I was approached to replicate the fife again but to stick to the original measurements.  The “Ingolstadt” model is this replica, which is rather plain, or devoid of taper in the body and lacking markings on the ferrules.  It has a larger bore than most fifes that have survived from this period (larger than 1/2 inch), and the data at hand indicates that the original fife was made of Boxwood.  It is ostensibly dated to 1759, but I have no further information as to the original maker or how they are sure of the date.  I can say that unlike most fifes I’ve seen believed to be 18th century and German, this is not in nominal “D”, but rather in “C”.

It seems appropriate a fife for those who are presenting a “Hessian” interpretation for RevWar reenactors, or for that matter, the Seven Years War.

This model is made to order, so it will be doubtful that I will have any in stock at the time you place your order.  At this time, I offer it in American Boxwood only, but you can inquire should you desire a different wood.

1759 Ingolstadt Fife