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.

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 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 below.



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!  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.

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