I finally got around to assembling and uploading some miscellaneous Optigan demo recordings made by Johnny Largo ca 1972. Some of these recordings have previously been heard elsewhere, but many of them are seeing the light of day for the first time here, direct from the original studio master tapes. Unfortunately Johnny didn’t last long enough at the company to make demo recordings of the later disc releases, so what we have here only covers about half of all the original Optigan titles. Eventually I’ll get around to making my own official demo videos of the rest of the discs, but this is a start anyway, and one things for sure- Johnny can definitely play rings around me! (If you need any definitive proof of that, check out his rendition of “Dizzy Fingers” in the LP I’ve posted below!)
From indie rock veteran Pall Jenkins (The Black Heart Procession, Three Mile Pilot) come the haunting sounds of DARKSOPHONE, featuring musical saw, Marxophone, skeletal guitar and heavy drums. Since the saw and Marxophone both have limited ranges, we’ve split the keyboard, placing the saw on the lower half and the Marxophone on the upper half. For those unfamiliar with the Marxophone, it’s a zither-like instrument that is played with a series of keys, which bounce metal hammers onto the strings for a repeated dulcimer effect. The musical saw is played with a bow, and each note has an organic vibrato and other articulations. The sparse guitar chords lend themselves to combining chord buttons for extended harmonies. The drums feature patterns in both 6/8 and 4/4. Trying slowing the disc all the way down and/or playing it backwards with the reverb cranked up for some spooky late-night shoe-gazing!
For a very limited one-month time period only, from now until March 14th 2017, we’re offering an opportunity to buy discs from our back-catalog (click this link to go to the web store). Normally we’re not able to keep these titles in stock, because historically the vendor that makes the raw discs has required a minimum order of 25 copies of any given title. Since our cost for these copies is quite high, and it’s an extremely niche market, we can’t afford to buy them in large quantities and remain thousands of dollars in the red while the orders slowly trickle in. BUT, over the course of a year we typically reach a point where there are enough total requests for discs across all the various titles that the vendor is willing to take an order without requiring the usual minimum number of copies for each title. This all has to happen in one fell swoop, so we’re limiting the time frame in which folks can place their orders. Once the deadline passes, we’ll order only as many copies as we have actual orders for. It will then take a month or two to get all those copies fabricated and sent out. Your patience is appreciated! Unfortunately, we cannot offer any sort of bulk discounts or other types of custom orders beyond what is offered in our store. In the past we’ve experimented with different bundle pricing schemes, etc, so the prices set for those bundles will remain in effect. All discs will ship with the printed jackets exactly as pictured on the product page for each item.
Optigan.com has just made its annual donation to cancer research, in memory of Mike Le Doux, the guy responsible for making all those Optigan discs in the early 70s. 10% of the proceeds from our Optigan Archives Vol. 1 sample set goes to cancer research, and this year $138.00 goes to the Jimmy Fund. Please consider making a donation of your own!
We recently had a query about servicing intermittent Orchestron keys, and Robert typed up this guide, which I thought would be helpful to add to the blog:
The Model A is basically a modified Optigan chassis in a different box.
Usually these don't have key contact problems.
The other models (Model B, Model C, Model D and their variants) have
"J-wires", which are gold plated wire contacts that are pushed against a
common bus rod by the keys. These models have key contact problems.
There are two things that should be done to eliminate flakey keys:
1. Replace all the capacitors on the keyboard PCB
2. Replace all the J-wires
The capacitors get leaky over time, causing a small DC current to flow
when you press a key, creating an audio thump. Even if yours doesn't thump
on every note, you'll be doing yourself a favor to replace them (you'll
have to remove the PCB anyway to remove the J-wires--next step). I
recommend using quality film capacitors, which will last forever. Make
sure the voltage rating is at least 25V (the bigger the voltage rating,
the larger the cap so don't go for too high of rating or you'll have a
problem fitting them on the PCB.)
The J-wires must be replaced. Don't try to clean-sand-polish them. It will
only be temporary and will give you grief later.
I buy J-wires from Carla Batman at Organ Service Corp:
P.O. Box 372
Marengo IN 47140
The J-wire part number is 999-036-00 (CONTACT, KEYBD LOOPED J-WIRE).
Email her to ask for current pricing (used to be around $1.50 per wire).
This is not a fulltime job for Carla, so it may take her a few days to get
back to you.
The J-wires from Organ Service Corp are not exactly the same as the
original Orchestron J-wires, but they are easily modified to work by
making two cuts:
1. The original wires are "J"-shaped; the new wires have a coiled-spring
bend. If you cut halfway up the first coil, you can get the wire into a
2. The new wires are too long, so the lengths need to be trimmed. I do
this as a last step after soldering them into the board so I can ensure
they are all trimmed to the same length (using the original wire lengths
as a guide).
Hi folks, I’ve been out of the loop for awhile since I broke my wrist, which set me back more than you would think. I’m still recovering (well, as much as I’ve got left to recover, which won’t be 100%), but am back to most of my usual activities now, and I’m eager to finish up some projects that were started before my accident. The first is a new Orchestron disc, with a new Optigan disc to follow shortly.
DREHORGEL is a newly recorded sound for the Orchestron. It’s a small, hand-cranked street organ that plays punched music rolls, similar to a calliope. The drehorgel featured here is owned by Pat Quilter of Quilter Labs. For our disc, we chose the unique “trill” sound of the drehorgel, which produces repeated notes. Great for playing creepy circus type music!
Here’s a clip of Pea playing the “Happy Birthday” roll on the drehorgel used in the making of this disc:
Hi all, I broke my wrist on my dominant hand a couple weeks ago, and am finding it very difficult to do most things with just my left hand, including computer stuff, packing and shipping, etc, so my apologies if I’m a bit slow in responding for the time being.
Since we’ve been authoring new disc titles for the Optigan, our feeling all along has been that these discs (at least the ones with significant musical content in the form of original arrangments and phrases) are sort of like “singles,” ie creative musical products in and of themselves, albeit with an interactive component. We’ve never really thought of these discs are a commodity sound library. As such, we made the decision a long time ago to make this material available via a Creative Commons license which states that you can use the sounds for anything you like, so long as a credit is given to Optigan.com. This seemed very reasonable to us, and up until recently, we’d never had anyone ask us about this policy or raise any concerns. We also have never policed it, and never intended to- we simply left it up to our end users to give us a shout-out if and when they made good use of our sounds.
Recently, however, we were contacted by one of our long-time users who only recently became aware of our Creative Commons licensing policy. Without going into all the details, suffice it to say that they had a huge problem with being obligated to give us credit, and couldn’t understand why we didn’t simply offer the same sort of licensing scheme as many other loop vendors do. We argued our points back and forth to a stalemate, and while we still feel that the Creative Commons scheme was/is appropriate for our situation, we’ve decided to simplify matters and go with a more common licensing scheme:
You MAY use any and all sounds on our Optigan/Orchestron discs to create derivative works for commercial or private use without any further licensing fee beyond the original purchase price of the discs. No credit to optigan.com is required. If your Optigan/Orchestron resides in a commercial studio which you operate, this license also extends to your clients.
You MAY NOT simply copy the sound contents of the discs and distribute the material directly as sample loops, either commercially or privately.
You MAY NOT make physical copies of the actual discs themselves, other than for private use/experimentation.
Also, for a very limited two-week time period only, from now until March 3rd 2016, we’re offering an opportunity to buy Optigan and Orchestron discs from our back-catalog. Normally we’re not able to keep these titles in stock, because historically the vendor that makes the raw discs has required a minimum order of 25 copies of any given title. Since our cost for these copies is quite high, and the demand is quite low (the Optigan has a very devoted, yet very small following mostly limited to owners of the vintage hardware), we can’t afford to buy them in such large quantities and remain thousands of dollars in the red while the orders slowly trickle in. BUT, we’ve established a once-a-year arrangement where the vendor is willing to take a bulk order of titles from our back catalog without requiring the usual minimum number of copies for each title. This all has to happen in one fell swoop, so we’re limiting the time frame in which folks can place their orders. Once the deadline passes, we’ll order only as many copies as we have actual orders for. It will then take a month or two to get all those copies fabricated and sent out. Your patience is appreciated! Unfortunately, we cannot offer any sort of bulk discounts or other types of custom orders beyond what is offered in our store. In the past we’ve experimented with different bundle pricing schemes, etc, so the prices set for those bundles will remain in effect. All discs will ship with the printed jackets exactly as pictured on the product page for each item.
Optigan.com has just made its annual donation to cancer research, in memory of Mike Le Doux, the guy responsible for making all those Optigan discs in the early 70s. 10% of the proceeds from our Optigan Archives Vol. 1 sample set goes to cancer research, and this year $392.00 goes to the Jimmy Fund. Please consider making a donation of your own!