The celeste is a struck idiophone operated by a keyboard. It looks similar to an upright piano (four- or five-octave), albeit with smaller keys and a much smaller sized cabinet, or a large wooden music box (three-octave). The keys connect to hammers that strike a graduated set of metal (usually steel) plates or bars suspended over wooden resonators. Four- or five-octave models usually have a damper pedal that sustains or damps the sound. The three-octave instruments do not have a pedal because of their small “table-top” design.
The celeste sounds similar to the glockenspiel, but slightly softer and more subtle. The celeste is often used to enhance a melody line played by another instrument or section. The delicate, bell-like sound is not loud enough to be used in full ensemble sections; as well, the celesta is rarely given standalone solos.
One of the best-known works that uses the celesta is Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” from The Nutcracker.
- Celesta. Wikipedia, retrieved 7 September 2017.