Oakeley, Sir Herbert (Stanley)

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Technique used by woodwind players to ascend to a higher register. The Air column of a woodwind instrument is characterized by a set of natural (‘normal’) modes of vibration. A stable note can normally be sounded only if its fundamental frequency is close to that of one of the natural modes (or resonances) of the air column (see Acoustics, §IV). In the first register of an instrument, the fundamental frequency of the sounded note is close to the first natural mode frequency; within this register, the pitch is changed by altering the pattern of open and closed side holes (see Fingering, §III), thereby modifying the length of the air column and hence the first mode frequency. Overblowing is the term applied to the process by which the player ascends to a higher register, in which the fundamental frequency of the sounded note is close to the frequency of the second (or a higher) air column mode.

For instruments with approximately conical tubes (such as the oboe or bassoon), and for those with approximately cylindrical tubes effectively open at both ends (such as the flute), the frequencies of the first few natural modes form a complete harmonic series (frequency ratios 1:2:3 …); these instruments therefore overblow to the octave in the second register. For cylindrical instruments effectively closed at one end (such as the clarinet), the lower natural mode frequencies form an odd-member-only harmonic series (frequency ratios 1:3:5 …), and these instruments overblow to the 12th.

On the flute overblowing involves an increase in blowing pressure, modification of the shape of the jet of air issuing from the lips, and the angle at which this strikes the far edge of the mouth-hole. On a reed instrument it requires, as well as increased wind pressure, the adjustment of the pressure and position of the lips on the reed blade. Modern reed instruments have certain very small ‘speaker’ holes in the body tube which assist the process (see Speaker key). The muscular adjustments required are extremely small and subtle, and are learnt only by long and assiduous practice. Once acquired, however, they become quite automatic to the player.



See Dotted rhythms. See also Notes inégales and Performing practice, §I, 5.

Overend, Marmaduke

(bur. Isleworth, Middlesex, 25 June 1790). ?English organist, theorist and composer. According to Fétis, Overend was born in Wales, although this is not verified by later biographers. From 1760 until his death he was organist at Isleworth. He assisted Hawkins in transcribing early music for the General History. He also compiled a dictionary of musical terms that remained unpublished. His verse introduction to the first rudiments of music got only as far as a few proof sheets, and his compositions, most of which remained in manuscript, made little impact in his day.

Overend is, however, remembered as part of an English school of music theory concerned with the mathematical structure of musical pitch. The investigations of the founder, J.C. Pepusch, were continued by his pupil, William Boyce, with whom Overend studied. After c1776 the two men retained communication until Boyce's death, when Overend bought his teacher's manuscript treatise from his widow Hannah. His own investigations are contained in four manuscript volumes and summarized in his course of eight lectures on the science of music (c1781). In 1784 he issued proposals for publishing Boyce's treatise together with his own work; but this plan came to nothing and after his death copyright was assigned to J.W. Callcott by Overend's sister, Mary.

In 1791 Overend's library was sold at auction. His manuscript volumes, as well as Boyce's treatise, were bought by Callcott, who used these manuscripts as sources for his own manuscript treatise. In 1807 Callcott donated all the manuscripts to the Royal Institution (sold in 1972 to the Bodleian Library). John Farey visited the Royal Institution to study the manuscripts, which were cited by him in several articles written for the Philosophical Magazine. These articles, as well as Farey's subsequent investigations, mark the culmination of the school of English theory that began with Pepusch.


A Brief Account of, and an Introduction to, Eight Lectures in the Science of Music (London, 1781)

MSS on music theory, GB-Lbl, Ob

Correspondence with William Boyce, Lbl, Ob


The Epithalamium made on the Marriage of … King George III. and Queen Charlotte (London, 1761)

12 Sonatas, 2 vn, vc, bc (hpd), op.1 (London, 1762)

A Lesson, hpd/pf, no.1 (London, c1780)

A Hunting Cantata (London, c1780)

Several songs and glees pubd singly and in 18th- and 19th-century anthologies

Additional MS works, now lost, listed in: Dr Callcott’s Library: a Catalogue of the Very Fine and Extensive Collection of Musical and Literary Works, printed and M.S.S. … which will be sold by Auction by Mr White (London, 1819)


DNB (L.M. Middleton)


Mrs V.D. Broughton, ed.: Court and Private Life in the Time of Queen Charlotte: being the Journals of Mrs. Papendiek (London, 1887), ii, 236–9

E. Regener: Pitch Notation and Equal Temperament: a Formal Study (Berkeley, 1973)

A.N.L. Munby and L. Coral: British Book Sale Catalogues, 1676–1800 (London, 1977), 91

J.C. Kassler: The Science of Music in Britain, 1714–1830 (New York, 1979), ii, 804–8 [see also entries on Boyce, Callcott, Farey and Pepusch]


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