The first time I heard the Omnichord on a record was via a track on Broadcasting from home by the Penguin Cafe Orchestra. I didn’t get to see one actually played until 1985′s Live Aid concerts when Daniel Lanois would appear on screen playing one. On the one hand they looked like somebody had cut the auto chord section off a cheap Bontempi organ with the naff auto accompaniment of more expensive home organs. It was made by Suzuki and intended originally as a toy electronic version of an autoharp.
The unique feature was the touch sensitive strip which could trigger chords and arpeggios. The Omnichord has gone through many revisions and is now available as the QChord which added midi to this rather odd little instrument.
Here’s an extract of Heartwind from the Penguin Cafe Orchestra which features both the conventional and unconventional use of the Omnichord:
If this musical instrument in any way intrigues you then you can download and play with a loose software version of the instrument written by JJ Wiesler at Stanford University. This can be played via your computer keyboard and mouse.
A further example of playing from YouTube:
Mattias Olsson playing the Omnichords Autokomp section
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Odd Musical Instruments