ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

What is Calliope?

Updated on March 28, 2015

What is Calliope?

Calliope is a rare musical instrument possessing a remarkable history. This instrument produces a very loud sound when steam passes through its whistles. The name for the instrument comes from the Greek goddess with the name Calliope, which means, “beautiful voiced” in Greek. Calliope is popular for its very loud sound, which can be heard several miles into the distance. In terms of the tones and loudness of the Calliope, there are not many variations. This instrument is played for an artistic expression through variation of the duration and timing of the notes.



Use of Calliope

At the time when steam was used as a major power source, the steam Calliope was hugely popular. The most common use of this instrument was in circuses and on riverboats. In this application, the required supply of steam was made available especially for playing calliope. When used in circuses, Calliope was towed and brought into the circus parade, where it traditionally made an entrance in the end. Other than the use of electric power, gilded wagons pulled by horses were also used for towing the Calliope. Considering the incredibly loud sound of calliope, these carved, gilded wagons loaded with calliope were used to announce the entrance of the circus into town.

Calliope The Muse


Playing the Calliope

Maintaining the sound quality of Calliope is considered very important. For this purpose, a chromatic scale is used for tuning the whistles of a calliope. This is a process that is difficult and should be performed repeatedly. The fact that every note’s pitch is dependent on the temperature of the steam makes it hard for the tuning to be completely accurate. For a steam calliope, off-pitch notes have become quite the trademark, especially in the upper register. Playing calliope has always been considered a brave act because the performers had to play in the hot blistering sun, with keys that were hard to push while bearing the hot water and blasts of steam. Not only this, but calliope has a loud, almost deafening sound and playing this instrument took considerable time to master.

A Real Calliope


Construction of Calliope

Originally, the whistles used in the construction of Calliope were locomotive whistles and steam was passed through them for producing the loud sound. Later on, steam was replaced by gas and recently, both have been replaced by compressed air. Traditionally, a calliope may have anywhere between 25 and 67 whistles.

Modern Calliope

Calliope has been a major part of the Mississippi River lore and the original calliope has become very rare. In fact, there are just fourteen original calliopes that are in working condition in the present age. Today, the original calliope has evolved into an instrument with ivory keys and electric valves. Compressed air is used for powering the modern age calliope.

The loudness of the calliope is still the way it originally used to be. One can hear a calliope being played from an 8 miles distance. In the modern music, calliope has become so rare that people experience pure delight whenever they hear a calliope being played.

Delta Queen Calliope Music


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)