Celesta or ‘Celeste’

Courtesy of Arthur Ka Wai Jenkins
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Pitch range

Celesta pitch range, courtesy of Hannah Whale

The celesta is like a grown-up glockenspiel with a keyboard. It works mechanically, so that when you press keys little felt-covered hammers come up and hit steel bars.

Because the hitting is done mechanically, it’s easier than a glockenspiel to play chords – and to play fast! There’s a foot-pedal to control the dampers. These stop the steel bars vibrating, so the notes don’t last as long as they would otherwise.

The celesta is a keyboard instrument but it doesn’t need tuning like the piano. That’s because it doesn’t have strings inside.

A celesta player in playing position, courtesy of Tony Morrell

A celesta player in playing position

To play it

You play it like a piano: it’s usually played by a pianist.

The sound

The celesta makes a sweet, fairylike tinkling sound.

Do You Know?

Do You Know?

See if you can answer the questions below!

 What else is a celesta called?

a. A celestery
b. A celestial
c. A celeste

 Which of these does a celesta have?

a. A keyboard
b. Strings
c. Valves

 Which of these instruments does it sound like most?

a. Glockenspiel
b. Marimba
c. Cymbals

 Who would be most likely to play a celesta?

a. A percussionist
b. A pianist
c. A harpist

 A celesta is…

a. Sometimes found in the orchestra
b. Always found in the orchestra
c. Never found in the orchestra

Play More Music!

Play More Music!

Here is more music to listen to. Click the + to see tracks and information about each work!

Selected Celesta Extracts

Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky (1840–1893)
The Nutcracker, Op. 71: Act II. The Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy (extract)

The sweet and delicate celesta is perfect for depicting the dancing sugar-plum fairy in the Land of Sweets.

Performers: Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra; Ondrej Lenárd

Taken from Naxos 8.550515