Piffaro Italian
Fiffaro Italian
Voce Umana Italian

Audsley and Locher describe Piffaro and Fiffaro as being 4' or 2' flutes. Audsley describes it as imitative of the orchestral flute; Adlung and Wedgwood simply list it as a synonym for Flauto Traverso. Grove supports this definition, dating it from the 16th century, and stating that in later times it was made with double mouths. Grove also lists an alternate definition:

An important Italian stop of the 16th century onwards; it had treble compass Principal-scaled pipes mistuned with the Principale 8' and thus producing an undulating effect (Schwebung), more singing and less reedy than 19th-century céleste stops. It was sometimes called Voce umana.

Williams places the Italian celeste form of Piffaro in 18th-century Portugal and “Italianate Catholic” areas of Germany. Maclean claims that the Voce Umana is a flute celeste, and that Piffaro has also been used as a synonym for Schalmei or Piffero (a claim supported by Adlung). The name Voce Umana is also a synonym for Vox Humana, and Piffaro has been used as a synonym for Bifara.

According to Williams, the names Piffaro and Fiffaro derive from pfeife or fife, or vice versa. The piffero was an Italian reed instrument of the shawm type.


Osiris contains nineteen examples of Piffaro. Three appear to be independent single-rank stops of 8' or 4' pitch, one of which is documented as an Italian Principal. Three are 8' celestes. The rest are compound stops. (See Bifara).

The same source contains six examples of Fiffaro, all at 8' pitch except for one at 16'.

Osiris contains over two dozen examples of Voce Umana, over half of which are known to be flues. Three appear to be reeds by their placement in the stoplists. The rest are ambiguous, but appear in Italian organs. Two are at 16', the rest are at 8'.

Fiffaro (Voce umana) 8' treble, Manual; San Carlo, Brescia, Italy; Antegnati 1630.

Fiffaro 16', Manual; Church of San Guiseppe, Brescia, Italy; Antegnati 1581.

Voce umana (from Do#3, 24 pipes); S. Maria della Consolazione (usually called S. Nicola), Bergamo, Italy; Antegnati 1588.

Voce umana 8', Positif; Broadway Baptist Church, Fort Worth, Texas, USA; Casavant 1996.


Adlung[1]: §143 Fiffaro, §178 Querflöte, §186 Schallmey. Audsley[1]: Fiffaro. Grove[1]: Piffaro. Locher[1]: Piffaro. Maclean[1]: Piffaro. Wedgwood[1]: Flauto Traverso. Williams[1]: Glossary: Piffaro; Unda Maris; Vox Humana.
Copyright © 2000 Edward L. Stauff, all rights reserved.
Piffaro.html - Last updated 13 May 2003.
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