Hammond Solovox - An app for your piano.

I'd never heard of the Hammond Solovox until I flipped the page and saw this 1950 ad. So, it's time to do some more technological archaeology. Team GO!, ... to the internet!

"Our piano was almost forgotten - 'til dad gave us this Christmas present!" Any technological novelty may enjoy a brief period of excitement - even one you screw to your piano. The Solovox was one of the earliest synthesizers, and certainly one of the very first that could be purchased by consumers.

The Hammond Solovox attempted to add some capability to a standard piano by mounting a small electric analog synthesizer underneath the piano's keyboard. It could produce just one note at a time, so chords were an impossibility, which is what they mean by "SOLO-vox" the term "solo" is still used today to describe a patch in a synthesizer intended to be used for single melodies over chords played by another instrument.When you dial up one of these sounds on a modern synth, more often than not, the synthesizer will only produce one note at a time, nomatter how many keys you press. This is intended to mimic the functionality of old instruments as well as conventional ones. A flute, for example, can only do one note at a time.

There were two main components to the Solovox: the keyboard and the sound generator unit, connected by a few cables. Sounds were produced by an oscillator, tubes, and a speaker. The tone cabinet is very shallow, clearly intended to fit underneath the piano without kneecapping the musician. The sound is something like a viola with a bad cold. The Solovox's keyboard (or "manual" in organ-speak) could be played with either hand, thanks to what looks like a limited amount of horizontal adjustability. Twelve square toggle switches on the front of the keyboard changed the voice of the Solovox to simulate anything from an unhealthy viola to a sick cello.
I can't find any pricing info for the Solovox, but it was produced from 1940 to 1948. I'll assume it cost a crapload of money, making this a toy for the rich, or a well-funded church.

"But what about MY Christmas present?" says Mom. "Doesn't anybody want to try the trombone?
I can't deny the fun of having more than one sound under your fingers. Years ago, I had a pile of terrible Casio-grade electronic keyboards, and I used to put one on top of the other so I could play them simultaneously in different combinations. This is really fun, and teaches you how waves overlap and effect each other. Now that I'm a big man and have a few shekels to spend on my hobby, I have a big Roland workstation. It's a very powerful instrument, which lets you do almost anything you can think of, including splitting the keyboard into two different instruments. technically, this is the same as having two keyboards, but it's just not as quick or fun as dialing up two sounds on different devices and hearing the sounds pulse against each other to make a new sound that, combined in your ear, exists only in your head. Wooo. Freaky!


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