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Keyboard Survey

Boosey & Hawkes

Three portable electronic organs intended for group and gigging use are distributed by Boosey and Hawkes in the U.K. These are in the Diamond range of Organs and they are the Diamond 600, 700 and 800.

The Diamond 600 is a single manual organ designed especially for group players who need an organ which is easy to carry yet provides full specifications. The organ is completely transistorised and is designed to facilitate servicing. There are 49 notes and the first 17 notes are bass/treble convertible. A built in 18 watt amp is included on this model although the organ can be plugged into an external amp.

Top of the range is the Diamond 800. This is a superb double manual instrument which offers the discerning professional a wide variety of tones and effects. Both keyboards have 49 notes and an additional glissando keyboard is built into the front panel. Tone voicings are selected by pre-set tabs and the usual extras such as vibrato and percussion are included. Bass pedals are available as an optional extra on this organ and it is supplied with a metal stand.

Arthur Butler

Expect to hear a lot more about Gulbransen organs in the future. The already quite well-known organ company was acquired by CBS Instruments last September and it's natural to expect the challenging retailing common to other CBS lines (including Fender) will be repeated on these instruments.

There's quite a few organs in Gulbransen's range many of which are suitable for serious consideration by the musician who plays for profit as well as pleasure. It's good to note that several models have drawbar tone controls and this will immediately endear these organs to the hearts of many pros.

Typical of the models that easily adapt to professional use is the Gulbransen Pacemaker. Not a cheap organ by anyone's standards, it nevertheless has an exhaustive specification which has to be considered. Gulbransen are currently very excited about the introduction of their Musi Computer, an accessory which enables the player to duet with himself among many other possibilities — and this model is available with that feature. Other features of this double manual instrument include a piano voice with a five-way performance and walking bass which is available as an extra. There's a built-in Leslie speaker system and the (now) obligatory rhythm unit.

Up range a bit is the President. This is rather a grand organ as its name suggests and it includes a 150 watt speaker system. There are 25 full length bass pedals and drawbars in addition to pre-sets to control voicings. A comprehensive auto rhythm unit is included and this organ, although primarily intended for static installation, must be considered as a contender for the man who's a real governor on the electronic organ.

As well as distributing Gulbransen organs in this country, Arthur Butler & Co., also market Kawai electronic organs. As you might imagine from the name, these are Japanese organs. Two models make up the range, the E500 and the E300. Both are console models with automatic rhythm and they're really designed for home use.


The Fender Rhodes range of electronic pianos is world famous for professional stage use and in the U.K. two main models are marketed by CBS/Arbiter.

The suitcase piano is a self-contained electronic piano and amp that packs away into two large suitcases suitable for the gigging musician. There's a choice of 73 or 88 note keyboards and special features on the instrument include touch dynamic keyboard action, tuning-fork type tone production, built-in volume, tone and vibrato and built-in sustain pedal. The built-in amp delivers 80 watts RMS through four 12 in. speakers.

The Mark I stage piano is most commonly used by professionals and this keyboard us also available in 73 or 88 note versions. The basic specs. are the same as the suitcase model but the piano stands on its own tubular legs and it can be plugged into any external amplifier.

Another well-known range of keyboards is distributed by CBS/Arbiter — Crumar. This range is spearheaded by a remarkable electronic organ designed by famous organist Alan Haven. This is the Traveller and this organ is a double manual model with tone controls based round the combination of drawbars and pre-set tabs. It's a portable instrument, designed to pack down into a case that can easily be carried by one person. Legs are provided and a bass pedal board is also available.

Each manual has 49 notes, a sustain pedal and stpps are provided for various effects.

J.T. Coppock

Elgan electronic organs are distributed by J.T. Coppock and the range includes both portable and console models.

The cheapest organ in the range is the tiny 1037 portable. This is a single manual instrument which mounts on tubular chrome legs and packs away into an easily carried package. The keyboard has 37 notes and tone is controlled oy pre-set keyboard tabs.

Top of the portable range is the 249. This is a double manual portable organ with a highly sophisticated specification. Both manuals have 49 keys and the superior keyboard has 19 registers, the lower, four. Special effects incorporated include vibrato, staccato, soundshift and reverb. A built in amp delivers 50 watts and tone selection is by tabs.


The Giant Italian based firm Davoli market two extremely sophisticated console electronic organs. Both are double manual instruments and both are intended for the professional musician as well as the ambitious amateur.

The K244 RSH is startlingly housed in a white cabinet with black control fascias and the organ features two 44 note keyboards (both F to F) and a built-in harmonic synthesiser.

An on/off switch provides a rapid change-over from normal organ sounds to synthesised sounds and the synthesiser effects include, frequency, emphasis, modulation, contour and time. Organ controls include percussion, crescendo, repeat, bassoon, wind, violin, and various trumpet voicings.

The K217 is a more sophisticated instrument. It includes built-in foot pedals and two 49 note manuals and a transposer. This instrument also has a roll-over locking top.


The Elka-Orla range of portable organs is well known in the U.K. and there's an exciting new model in the range.

This is the Elka X55. It's an attractive double manual organ which has both pre-set and drawbar tone selection systems. The upper keyboard has 49 keys, the lower 37. Special effects include vibrato (slow and fast), sustain on both keyboards, brilliance and noise attack. A bass pedalboard is available as an optional extra.


As keyboard specialists it's not surprising that Farfisa presents a really comprehensive range of organs and keyboards. Many of their fine console organs are intended for home use and are thus outside the scope of our survey but in addition the Italian company produces some portable organs which have as many (and different) effects as the console models but are aimed at the professional musician instead of the amateur at home.

Perhaps the most exciting portable organ in the range is the V.I.P. 600. This is a dual keyboard model which has rather an unusual keyboards arrangement — the lower manual being considerably larger than the top.

The reason for this is that a large section of the lower manual is taken up by the incorporation of the Professional Piano included as a built-in unit in this model. This means that in addition to the extremely wide range of sounds available from the organ section full piano facilities are also available. Despite the fact that synthesisers are outside this survey, it's important to note that the "Syntheslalom" is also a built-in feature. This is an automatic octave glassando which gives some incredible effects when used in conjunction with repeat percussion.

Smaller versions of this organ in the shape of the V.I.P.400 and V.I.P.233 are made by the company and these are often the perfect compromise for the player who wants to include an organ in his keyboards line-up without requiring an endlessly comprehensive specification. These models, like the V.I.P.600 can be supplied with bass pedal boards.

The two smallest portable organs in Farfisa's range are the V.I.P.345 and the Matador R. These are both single manual instruments but each have a surprisingly large selection of facilities and tone. For instance the Matador includes the "Partner 6" unit with automatic rhythms and an automatic bass is included.

The electronic pianos made by the company are the Professional Piano and the Super Piano — the Super being the more sophisticated.

It's the Professional which is intended for use by the gigging musician and the sounds available from the keyboard include; piano, honky-tonk, harp, clavichord, and banjo. Decay selections are available and the unit packs down to an overall weight of only 78 lbs.

Despite the fact that we've had to very strict and keep our notes about synthesisers to another time when we can give this rapidly expanding field the space it deserves, we really should mention the excellent Syntorchestra sold by Farfisa. It's one of those instruments that hovers on the synthesiser fringe being entirely pre-set in voice-shaping, but nevertheless has a sound and a range of effects which is pure synthesiser.

It's a compact unit, ideal for balancing on top of an existing keyboard and many keyboard players are choosing pre-set models of this kind rather than wrestle with the infinitely more complicated "pure" synthesisers.


It's the Hammond sound that brought electronic organs in to group use over ten years ago. That sound motivated people like Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, Zoot Money's Big Roll Band and the late Graham Bond to establish a new genere of "soul" music in this country, an innovation greatly helped by the pulsating sound of a Hammond organ, especially when coupled to a Leslie tone cabinet.

Today the models that were famous amongst the bands, the M and L series organs, are gone from the Hammond range and those that survive fetch high prices on the second-hand market. Hammond today sells organs that offer the latest advances in solid state technology while still retaining that true Hammond sound.

Most of the Hammond organs sell way above £1000 but there are a few which are so competitively priced that it makes sense for a group musician to consider lugging a console model about to capture that elusive sound.

The VS—450 is a full size console model which features two 44 note keyboards controlled by colour coded tabs. Out are the drawbars of the past and in is the automatic rhythm unit. The usual facilities such as Vibrato and reverb are included and a 13 note bass pedal board is a standard feature.

Up the scale slightly is the F—3000. Again this is a console model with built-in rhythm but a special feature here is a built-in Leslie speaker which has a two speed control over rotation. Extra features on this model include soft volume control, brilliance control and the internal power output is 20 watts.

The professional musician would probably settle on an organ like the Hammond T500. Again a double manual console organ, this retains the drawbars that give such a fine degree of tone variation. The specification is amazingly varied and the big feature is the Hammond Rhythm 3 unit which is built into the console.


Hohner manufacture and sell a number of fine keyboards, but pride of place among them belongs to the Clavinet D6. Part of its popularity stems from versatility, as this model can produce sounds as varied as a harpsichord, and electric guitar, a harp, a spinet, or a zither, but the D6 also claims 60 standard size keys, a five octave tone range, a push/pull drawbar for muting and a socket foot swell. At 47" x 15" x 16" it is compact and weighs a very light 69 pounds.

The Hohner Pianet is smaller but Hohner say that it is no less powerful, despite its decreased size. It has 61 keys, a five octave tone range, a vibrato switch, and an earphone plug.

Hohner's lightweight Combo Pianet is a recent addition to their stable. While it is identical in features and sound to the Pianet its principle strength is in use as an extra, when combined with an amplification unit.

A relatively new product from Hohner is the Hi-Piano. With sounds ranging from the traditional piano to honky-tonk, harpsichord, Hawaiian and steel guitar, the Hi-Piano offers dynamic touch expression complemented by vibrato speed and decay controls, as well as a sustain pedal.

John Hornby Skewes

Hornby Skewes of Leeds have the agency for Eko organs in the U.K. and through them the British musician is offered a wide range of both portable and console models — all at very competitive prices.

Most of the portable models are called Tiger Organs and these range from the new Tiger Junior to the complex Tiger Duo A.

The Tiger (around which the Tigers were based) is a single manual portable supplied with elegant angular legs. There are 49 notes on the keyboard (C to C) and the first 20 keys are coupled with bass. Tone is controlled by six draw switches and a headphone socket is built in. This organ is available with or without built-in amplifiers.

Typical of the Eko console range is the Cantorum. This organ boasts two manuals with 44 keys each (both F to C) and a 13 note bass pedal board. The organ is available with or without built-in rhythm.


A total of five portable electronic organs are distributed in this country by Kemble.

The YC—30 is top of the single manual range. This organ features touch vibrato, fuzz, sustain, portamento and two pre-set sections.

Yamaha electronic organs are designed to fold away for portability and to compliment the range Yamaha produce the YBA-100 amp and speaker cabinet and the RA—50 combo which includes a spinning speaker.

Two of the organs are highly sophisticated double manual models and the rest single manuals. Top of the range is the superb YC—45D. Two sets of pre-set controls are provided, one miniaturised, and there's a built-in swooping portamento. There's a Marimba rhythm incorporated and a special touch response effect is available when the upper manual is switched to a piano voice position.


The Italian Gem range of organs have built up an incredible reputation for themselves during the few years they've been generally available in the U.K. Rose-Morris distribute them here and for that reason availability of the organs and servicing is excellent.

The Gem Intercontinental is designed with portable use in mind. Despite the rather trite title (it's difficult to choose a good descriptive name that works well in all languages), the organ has all the facilities necessary for it to be regarded as a serious instrument for forming the foundation of a keyboard line up.

It's a dual keyboard instrument (upper is 61 key, lower 49) and a 17 note detachable pedalboard clips in place between the heavy support legs.

The weight of the organ plus legs is 127 lbs. height is 40 in, width 40 in, and it's 26 in deep.


Selmer market the famous Lowrey organs, and most interesting among them is the Super Genie. This model offers eight authentic rhythm patterns from bossa nova to waltz, and the player can choose from a wide range of personal accompaniments, which includes piano, banjo, guitar and string bass.

A bonus is a selection of Lowrey effects, which includes Vibra-Wow, Auto-Wow, Piano, Banjo, Mandolin, Fife and Repeat. The Super Genie is completely solid state, and has a 13 note pedal board which can be played either automatically or manually. With the addition of a built-in Leslie speaker, it can render theatre organ sounds.

The Holiday Stereo also includes the Genie automatic rhythms and boasts three automatic accompaniment voices and automatic string bass. The Holiday Stereo also provides a play-along cassette and an automatic organ computer. This model supplies its user with a full auto-wow section, and a host of delightful effects and features. It is completely solid-state and boasts two 44 note keyboards and a 13 note pedalboard, as well as two 35 watt high fidelity amplifiers, and four high-fidelity speakers. The unit also includes a stereo headphone socket, an auxiliary input socket for special hook-ups and built-in output sockets.

Selmer also do an interesting electronic piano which is completely portable. The standard mode1 comes with a 61 note, five octave keyboard, and six slider controls for volume, piano voice, clavicord voice, spinet voice, vibrato speed and vibrato depth.


A good organ is only half the story. The professional or serious amateur will necessarily need a rotary tone cabinet to produce the true choral and vibrato effects that add so much to an organ sound. Sharma specialise in the manufacture of such cabinets.

Sharma sensibly produce separate cabinets for professional and home use. Top of the professional range is the Sharma 5000 Professional. This is a superb cabinet which contains a dual power I/C amp with electronic crossover. There are two brass speakers and two trebly horns which are controlled by a three-speed motor. The cabinet is finished in black vinyl with concealed handles and is mounted on castors. The 650 is a cabinet developed specially for the player who needs a tone cabinet which is small and light to transport but which offers sufficient volume and tone facilities for smaller gigs.

The Sharma Combo pre-amp is a foot pedal developed to provide the gain necessary for use with Sharma speakers when they are to be used with most combo types of organs. It has its own volume control and two foot-operated switches control tremelo, choral and stop positions on the speaker motor.

Sola Sound

Larry Macari's Sola Sound company is currently shifting into top gear to promote a newly arrived pre-set synthesiser keyboard.

The keyboard is called the Insta. Strings and it's speciality is reproducing string sounds — another special feature is the price, £335.

Produced by Gem in Italy, the Insta Strings is extremely compact and packs down into a red leather-type carrying case. Its voices are violin, cello, horns and trumpets and Larry and the boys are sure that it's going to be a winner.

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International Musician & Recording World - Copyright: Cover Publications Ltd, Northern & Shell Ltd.


International Musician - May 1975

Donated & scanned by: Mike Gorman


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