The culture of playing barrel organ on the streets of the Netherlands was quite popular in the 19th century. The company that manufactured barrel organs for street men was founded in 1875 in Amsterdam Brouwersgracht. Street musicians could buy or rent a barrel organ from this company. They used to repair the old ones and make new ones.

The barrel organ street players used to roam around the streets of Amsterdam and entertain the neighborhood. People would stand outside their houses and listen to their favorite melodies.

Barrel organs have a unique significance in Dutch culture. Nowadays it is not commonly played on the streets, however, it is an important musical instrument that is loved by music enthusiasts. Professional musicians enhance their musical performance with this instrument.

What is a barrel organ?

A barrel organ is designed to play different tunes like polkas and waltzes. The standard barrel organ comes with 35 pipes and 35 keys to allow the musician to play unique dance tunes and songs. The organ pipes allow you to play loud-sounding music. You can entertain music lovers outdoors with this wooden barrel instrument.

It is a highly decorated musical instrument that is easy to carry along. The metals and staples on the wooden barrel produce versatile sound tones. The sound quality depends on the staples and the pins. The pins allow the musician to make short notes while the staples are meant for the long notes.

The pins and the staples of the organ barrel must be sturdy to produce a musical sound. If there is any damage to them, it could have an impact on the quality of music the musician plays.

Barrel organs are available in different sizes. The size depends on the number of pins and staples. The more the pins and staples the longer the barrel and the more sound versatility you can produce.


The barrel organ is a traditional instrument that is available in smaller and portable versions. The weight of the barrel organ varies between 25 to 100 pounds. The more experience organ grinder can handle a heavier and hard-core organ barrel. The large barrel organs are mostly used in churches and theatres.

Organ grinders who use the barrel organ to play around the street use smaller ones that are easy for them to carry and use. Modern technology has introduced electrical barrel organs that give you the option to play music of different genres. Some barrel organs come with an automatic mechanism which makes it easy for the organist to play.

The decline of street barrel organ

During WWII, the German forces prohibited any form of musical instruments from being played in the streets. Many organ-grinders had to sell their barrel organ off for money after the ban. People stopped taking interest in the street barrel organ. Only the true music lovers remained interested in the barrel organ.

In 1937, street barrel organ was completely banned all over Amsterdam. This led to the decline of street barrel organ usage. When the Netherlands was liberated from the German forces, the ban on the street barrel organ was lifted. However, not many people were left in playing the instrument. To revive the street barrel organ culture in the Netherlands, some music enthusiasts formed an organization in 1954. This organization was dedicated to reviving the tradition of playing barrel organs on the streets.


The barrel organ was the identity of the Netherlands. Tourists from all over the world love to enjoy the sound of the barrel organ in the street of the Netherlands. You can see a street entertainer near a few churches in the Netherlands. Especially during the summer season, you might have a glimpse of an organ grinder enjoying playing a melodious sound.


If you are inspired by the barrel street organ culture, you’d surely want to possess a barrel organ. Get your hands on the best barrel organ by checking out the online musical stores that give you the best quality at a reasonable price.