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The fife is a member of the transverse wind family (don’t let anyone call you that). It is a very simple instrument, essentially a wooden tube with 7 holes drilled in it and a cork (just beyond the blow hole) used to adjust the tuning. Chosen as a military instrument because of it tremendous volume, a really good fife player can clear a room in less than 2 songs. Much of the appeal of the fife is best noticed at distances over 500 yards. Using this to advantage highwaymen would often use fifes stopping wayward carriages with a downed tree and declaring “Your money or I’ll fife!” There is reference to Martin Luther being accompanied by fifes and drums during his graffiti phase in Wittenburg and prior to the Diet of Worms. The fife was used militarily (as both singaller and entertainment) through the 18th century and the early 19th ultimately being replaced by the bugle.


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