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Thread: Melodeon Harmonium Chapel/Parlor-organ?

  1. #1
    ppp Pianississmo nutmegct's Avatar
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    Melodeon Harmonium Chapel/Parlor-organ?

    As a newcomer to the reed organ world, I've discovered a bit of "fuzziness" in terminology.

    While searching online and in person, the terms Melodeon, Harmonium, and Chapel/Parlor organ seem often overlapping and intertwined.

    Melodeons usually have no stops/voices (reed sets?). But sometimes do. And usually have a single (right foot) pedal for the bellows. Melodeons I've heard in person and on YouTube seem very "delicate" and limited in color.

    Harmoniums often seem to be melodeons, but sometimes very small parlor organs (without those "display tops). And of course there are the Asian one-hand "accordion" type harmoniums.

    I'm looking for a small reed organ with a few stops/voices.

    (Although, frankly, after seeing this video ...



    ... I'd like to plunge in with a *large* reed organ - but don't have the space for one.)

    Is there an accepted definition of the terms Melodeon, Harmonium, Chapel/Parlor organ? Could someone recommend a multi-voice melodeon, or a relatively small single or dual manual parlor organ?

    Thanks.
    Tom M.

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    Moderator myorgan's Avatar
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    1 members found this post helpful.
    Quote Originally Posted by nutmegct View Post
    Is there an accepted definition of the terms Melodeon, Harmonium, Chapel/Parlor organ? Could someone recommend a multi-voice melodeon, or a relatively small single or dual manual parlor organ?
    Tom,

    Welcome to the Forum and the world of Reed Organs. Shall I assume from your moniker that you are from CT?

    Melodeons are a different breed of cat, and you generally have them pegged. Harmoniums (not the ones from India) are generally European and work on a pressurized system. Reed/Pump/Parlor Organs are generally of US or Canadian manufacture and employ a suction system for sounding the reeds.

    If you search on *raigs*ist or *Bay, you'll find several options available, however, people (for some strange reason) are generally asking much more than in past years. During the economic downturn in the last several years, one would often see reed/pump organs selling from $1>$50 with minor repairs needed. Recently, the minimum appears to be $200. That doesn't mean that's what they'll get, but that's the asking price.

    The organ in your video is a 2-manual with no pedals. It's probably a Doherty from Ontario, Canada. I have an Estey 2-manual with pedals, and it is from Brattleboro, Vermont. You can view the Classifieds for this Forum for organs for sale, or keep your eyes out for a larger organ, but if you don't have room for the organ in the video, you definitely don't have room for an organ with pedals.

    Best of luck with your search. You can always search for the Reed Organ Society's Reed Organ Database to find out more information on reed organs, in which you might be interested.

    Michael
    Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
    • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
    • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
    • 9 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 4 Pianos

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    ppp Pianississmo nutmegct's Avatar
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    Michael - thanks a zillion for the information, and yes indeed, I'm a Connecticut Yankee.

    Altho' I have more to learn ahead of me than could be contained in the entire Internet, here's a quick question. You mention "pressure" organs and "suction" organs. What's the reason that harmoniums use pressure, and other types (I assume including melodeon) use suction?

    I hope this forum braces itself for all the other questions I'm going to have as I start my "which one should I choose" journey!

    Thanks.
    Tom M.
    Eastford CT
    retired cellist, recently exploring clavichord and alpine zither.
    PS - do you know the Pease Collection in Palmer, Mass.?

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    ff Fortissimo SubBase's Avatar
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    Just wait til you start following European free reed groups, and learn that abroad, "harmonium" is basically any free reed keyboard!
    America built suction instruments because the basic design of the reedboard lent itself to mass-production. And american style reeds were machine made out of sheet brass, harmonium reed frames are cast one at a time, then machined.
    A friend of mine has a 2M harmonium with 14 sets of reeds, so the idea they are by definition smaller than suction organs is mistaken. The price points dictated that suction and pressure instruments were made with specifications ranging from a single set of vibrators to ten sets or more.
    Melodeons with more than two sets (8ft and 4 ft) are rare because of the limitation of their winding system.
    The 2M foot-pumpers are definitely something to aspire to, they were the creme-de-la-creme.
    Last edited by SubBase; 08-07-2018 at 10:33 PM.

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    ppp Pianississmo nutmegct's Avatar
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    Thanks. I'm getting the feeling that the terminology is a bit "loose".

    Say, I've seen in the ROS database many Gulbransen melodeons, which show four "stops" and what looks like a Swell knee arm.

    Example:

    http://www.reedsoc.org/Database/scro...&fs=GULBRANSEN

    This one shows DIAPASON (8'), VIOLA (4'), MELODIA (8'), CELESTE (8').

    Would that indicate the instrument has four sets of reeds?

    Thanks.
    Tom M.


    Quote Originally Posted by SubBase View Post
    Just wait til you start following European free reed groups, and learn that abroad, "harmonium" is basically and free reed keyboard!
    America built suction instruments because the basic design of the reedboard lent itself to mass-production. And american style reeds were machine made out of sheet brass, harmonium reed frames are cast one at a time, then machined.
    A friend of mine has a 2M harmonium with 14 sets of reeds, so the idea they are by definition smaller than suction organs is mistaken. The price points dictated that suction and pressure instruments were made with specifications ranging from a single set of vibrators to ten sets or more.
    Melodeons with more than two sets (8ft and 4 ft) are rare because of the limitation of their winding system.
    The 2M foot-pumpers are definitely something to aspire to, they were the creme-de-la-creme.

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    Moderator myorgan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nutmegct View Post
    This one shows DIAPASON (8'), VIOLA (4'), MELODIA (8'), CELESTE (8').

    Would that indicate the instrument has four sets of reeds?
    Tom,

    Not always. In this case, for example, the Viola 4' could be a continuation of the Celeste 8' with the same rank of reeds. Also, in most one-manual reed organs, you can figure on approximately half the amount of reeds because the same set of reeds will usually have one name in the left-hand half of the keyboard, and another name in the right-hand half of the keyboard, but only be one set of reeds. That's not always the case, but usually.

    Don't you hate the qualifying language I use? That's because every manufacturer did things a bit differently, and there was no standard practice for all manufacturers. However, within the same manufacture, they often had their own set of rules they followed (i.e. a sub-bass extension instead of a full set of reeds, etc.).

    If I'm not mistaken, the pump organ you are referencing in another post is an electrified reed organ, which came about in the mid 1900s. They didn't catch on. I'm not sure about the Gulbransen you linked, as I never knew they even made reed organs. Whoo'd a thunk it?

    Michael
    Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
    • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
    • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
    • 9 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 4 Pianos

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    ppp Pianississmo nutmegct's Avatar
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    Michael - thanks for the background info.

    As I've been reading about that "four stop Gulbransen" in the ROS database I linked, I wondered if "four stops" mean four "new sounds" could be added onto the "basic" melodeon reed set. Or (worst outcome), the four stops are just rudimentary "mutes" which slightly change the sound of the single reed set. The link:

    http://www.reedsoc.org/Database/scro...&fs=GULBRANSEN

    I'm thinking the only way to find out, is to either hear from someone who plays one, or hope that the Pease Collection has one. (I've called the Pease phone number six times - but no luck. It rings once, then picks up, then a "click" then silence. Weird.)

    Thanks.
    Tom M.

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    ff Fortissimo SubBase's Avatar
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    The stops on the left side control the bass end of the keyboard (the 8ft and 4ft) and the 2 @ 8ft on the right are the treble stops. Almost all reed organs have divided sets, bass & treble. Exceptions being larger 2 manual instruments designed to stand in for pipe organ practice.
    Casey

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    ff Fortissimo Organfella's Avatar
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    Tom, welcome to the mob. You will not be sorry but do beware - once the bug has bit, its bit!

    My two cents worth on the differences between suction and pressure types: I own a few of both and generally, very generally the pressure types are capable of more volume than the sucking ones. I have a two-manual Jilles van der Tak built in Rotterdam in 1880. This beast has a pressure system and really bellows! It has a pedal board (foot operated note pedals) operating the sub bass. It can be pumped by treadles, lever operated bellows or a blower. Nice, antique church organ with lots of breath to breathe...

    The other big one I own is the pic in my avatar - a Mannborg Tudor (senior) similar configuration but suction system.

    Whatever you get -enjoy the thing!

    Nico
    Last edited by Organfella; 08-08-2018 at 06:51 AM.
    "Don't make war, make music!" Hammonds, Lowreys, Yamaha's, Gulbransens, Baldwin, Technics, Johannus. Reed organs. Details on request...

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    pp Pianissimo Rodney's Avatar
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    Hello Tom, welcome to the fun and confusing world of reed organs.

    In my short time with reed organs, I found that there is no global naming convention - it varies from country to country and area to area. In most areas of Europe, they are always called harmoniums, or American Organs if they are from the Americas.

    In USA and Canada, then a domestic suction made instrument can be generalized as a reed organ (or non-technical "pump organ"), and a harmonium is pressure (unless it is a Vocalion)

    Reed organs can be called the following depending on style:

    Baby, Portable, Child's, parlor, chapel, melodeon, lap... plus more. The unfortunate part is that it is not always so, it can be more confusing than homonyms and synonyms of the English language!

    The Reed Organ Society has attempted to standardize through its publications, and I think it has helped, but there is much more to do yet.

    Rodney
    To play a reed organ or harmonium, it helps to disconnect your feet from your brain and connect them to your emotions.
    Most of all, be creative, make music and have fun...


    Website: http://www.rodneyjantzi.com/

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