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Goofy organs with built in synth

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  • Goofy organs with built in synth

    We've all seen them, I think, those seventies (?) spinet home organs from Yamaha, Kimball, et cetera, with basic features of a theater organ, often chord organ functionality and a basic built in monophonic synthesizer.

    (I think Hammond's S-6 or whatever it was called was a key predecessor in that it had a monophonic "solo" section based on similar technology to the Hammond Novachord vacuum tube "synth.")

    Today I was looking at one at my local antique store (which I am also a seller at) called a Kimball Syntha Swinger 800. Was just barely functional and one of the keys was shorted out but if I had space and a spare $50 I would have probably screwed around with it in my garage and tried to get it semiplayable.

    One idiot running a charity store on the gulf coast sold my cousin a Hammond M3 and Leslie 700 for 200 bucks and then got a Yamaha of this type that was almost completely ruined, and wanted 500 for it! Same fellow once put $1000 on a basic film enlarger because I told him 70 was too little....
    ​​​Does anyone have fond memories of this kind of thing? I wasn't born when these things were coming out but I have played any number of them at thrift stores. Some of them, the synthesizer is the only part that still works!
    Last edited by RLangham; 05-13-2022, 08:45 PM.

  • #2
    Just like the basic Hammond sound took the world by storm, by the late 1940's early 1950's it was a featured sound on many popular recordings.
    It might not have even been an actual Hammond, but the organ sound was it.

    Well, let's fast forward to the early 1970's. That sound was passé, and here comes the "The Space Age". If it didn't have some relation to a computer then it was sooooo old.
    Enter Robert Moog https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moog_synthesizer
    One cannot underestimate the impact his equipment had on the musical scene.
    And a few years later, as technology allowed, the organ manufacturers jumped on it. Anything to flesh out something other than grandmas' standard organ sound. And since it didn't have to sound real, like the attempts at piano or trumpet in the same organs, it sold.

    And let's not forget the color schemes to go with it. Right up there with shag carpet, bell bottoms, mini skirts, and mustaches.
    No one capitalized on it more than Glenn Derringer with Wurlitzer and it's Orbit III synthesizer.


    Current inventory.
    Yamaha HX-1, FX-20,Hammond Colonnade w/ Leslie 720, Hammond CX-3000
    Roland AT-90SLW, Technics SX- FN3(2), Technics SX-FA1,F100 Yamaha Tyros 5, PSR 910.

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    • auronoxe
      auronoxe commented
      Editing a comment
      That sure is the strangest version of Girl from Ipanema I ever heard ;-) The analog rhythm is fine however!

  • #3
    Personally I think they were pretty cool. By now, the sounds a standard monophonic synth makes are accepted as normal, and in an organ like this, they can actually make some pretty convincing lead sounds that blend well with the rest of the organ. The trouble now is finding one where both the organ and the synth work! They really were almost totally separate systems.

    Current: Allen 225 RTC, W. Bell reed organ, Lowrey TGS, Singer upright grand
    Former: Yamaha E3R
    https://www.exercisesincatholicmythology.com

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    • #4
      Having helped design a few of them, I would not label them as goofy.

      Wurlitzer were the first with the 3rd manual Orbit III synth on the model 4037 in 1971. Now that instrument was pretty much a theatre organ based organ and the synth was a small 2-octave affair (that never changed, even several generations later) that had some fairly authentic (for analogue) presets as well as a good set of sine waves, and could make some very synth-y sounds!

      But it wasn't long before organs started to become more orchestral, with much more realistic sounds, and that preset monophonic synth became more common, either as an extra section on a 2 manual model or as a 3rd manual. Some were better than others, of course! As time went on, the quality of the synth section and the organ's main voicings equalled out, and that mono synth could sometimes be switched to polyphonic, depending on how you wanted to play.

      Over the years, I think I've played most of the organs with a synth built in. I've had a lot of fun with them!
      It's not what you play. It's not how you play. It's the fact that you're playing that counts.

      New website now live - www.andrew-gilbert.com

      Current instruments: Roland Atelier AT900 Platinum Edition, Yamaha PSR-S970, Kawai K1m
      Retired Organs: Lots! Kawai SR6 x 2, Hammond L122, T402, T500 x 2, X5. Conn Martinique and 652. Gulbransen 2102 Pacemaker. Kimball Temptation.
      Retired Leslies, 147, 145 x 2, 760 x 2, 710, 415 x 2.
      Retired synths: Korg 700, Roland SH1000, Jen Superstringer, Kawai S100F, Kawai S100P, Kawai K1

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      • #5
        Originally posted by andyg View Post
        Over the years, I think I've played most of the organs with a synth built in. I've had a lot of fun with them!
        That must be a lot of different models, from what I've seen! Some of them were probably better than others. Tell me, did you work at Wurlitzer? If so, were you involved in the Funmaker Super Sprite? Me and my younger cousins had a lot of fun with one of those for a couple years before donating it back to the thrift store where I got it so I could bring home my M3 (from the same thrift store as well). I used to put on the percussion sounds (you could have multiple rhythms at once) and play all the different parts of OMD's "Enola Gay"...

        I think the one I'd most like to have is one of the Yamaha models. The Yamaha organs from a certain period (I have a non-functional Electone A3, by the way) often have these short little flapper levers instead of switches, which actually act like drawbars in that they control the amount of a given sound being output. The Yamaha organ I saw on the coast was definitely a serious instrument in that it had drawbar-like control of the different Tibia ranks, percussion and so on, though everything but the synthesizer was 100% broken. I even looked inside and golly bob howdy, it was even more intimidating than the interior of my Electone. Pre-80's solid state tech gives me a sinking feeling when I consider repairing it or servicing it.

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        • #6
          No, I never worked for Wurlitzer. The Super Sprites were not held in the highest regard over here, to put it mildly! They looked cheap and didn't sound like Wurlitzers. But they were fun and they did sell so I think the dealers were happy in the end! Multiple rhythms were great fun in the analogue days and many a product specialist would find some great combinations!

          Yamaha's tone levers were part of their instruments from the very first model in 1959. They were much missed when they phased them out, with only the largest FS/FX models having a slide out drawer with mini-drawbars for the flutes. They had to make a drawbar module for the HS series models and then the larger EL and AR models gained on screen drawbars.

          Pre 80s analogue tech is often serviceable when post 80s digital organs go into the dumpster for lack of parts!
          It's not what you play. It's not how you play. It's the fact that you're playing that counts.

          New website now live - www.andrew-gilbert.com

          Current instruments: Roland Atelier AT900 Platinum Edition, Yamaha PSR-S970, Kawai K1m
          Retired Organs: Lots! Kawai SR6 x 2, Hammond L122, T402, T500 x 2, X5. Conn Martinique and 652. Gulbransen 2102 Pacemaker. Kimball Temptation.
          Retired Leslies, 147, 145 x 2, 760 x 2, 710, 415 x 2.
          Retired synths: Korg 700, Roland SH1000, Jen Superstringer, Kawai S100F, Kawai S100P, Kawai K1

          Comment


          • #7
            Originally posted by andyg View Post
            No, I never worked for Wurlitzer. The Super Sprites were not held in the highest regard over here, to put it mildly! They looked cheap and didn't sound like Wurlitzers. But they were fun and they did sell so I think the dealers were happy in the end! Multiple rhythms were great fun in the analogue days and many a product specialist would find some great combinations!
            ​​​​​​It was a toy organ but it was a jolly fun toy. It had a lot of noise with some voices and some voices were nonfunctional, but I enjoyed it greatly, even having a Conn Theatrette to also play. Someone else is surely playing it now, as it was bought within two days of me donating it. I felt bad because I later realized I had the original manual and the bench that matched it in my closet...

            But yes, drawbar or drawbar-like functionality is a big selling point for me. I've often said that the Theatrette would be greatly improved by having Yamaha-like tone levers for its (somewhat tonewheel-esque) tibias. As it is it just has an on-off tablet for each footage of tibia, 16' to 2 2/3's on the swell manual and 16' and 8' on the great. If I could move it easily I'd readily donate it the moment I found a Yamaha organ in working shape.

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