NAMM SCHMAMM - Where are the Chord Organs?
NAMM is all very nice and all with their sophisticated electronic musical hoo-has, but where is all the love for the ratty old electric musical hoo-has? [I think Bohus is suffering NAMM technology envy. -ed.] The Chord (or sometimes "air") Organ is a simple organ that implements one simple electrical part - a fan. The organ's innards consist of plastic reeds (metal in the more deluxe models), and the fan pushes air through them yielding a sound like an Accordion or a Melodica.
Chord Organs are terribly common because they've always been terribly cheap, the thrift stores are littered with them - at least around Chicago. Certain models get money on Ebay because they are miniature bakelite reproductions of big theater organs (attracting both movie collector and toy collectors), or because they are the classier models made of wood and employ real craftsmanship.
There is no such debate of craftsmanship with this particular cheesy model - the GTR Chord Organ. The molded in wood grain doesn't stop at the body of the thing - it also adorns the tops of what would be the black keys - amazing! You'll also note the series of numbers above the keys; many Chord Organs included music books with corresponding simplified notation that had neophytes jamming such public domain hits as "Little Brown Jug" or "Camptown Races". The right hand takes the lead parts while the left can hit the chord "shortcut" buttons.
If buying one on Ebay (Magnus is a popular name - some even had wooden legs so you play someplace other than the kitchen table), beware the people who list Chord Organs as sounding like a Farfisa or Mellotron. Ridiculous. Every Chord Organ sounds more or less like a child's toy.
Each note's attack is a quick swell as each keypress opens the reed, and there is no sustain. The volume control (if there is one) is usually just a speed control for the fan, or controls a valve to adjust air pressure. As long as the reeds are intact, a broken Chord Organ is simple to repair and you should pay no more than $15-20 for one.