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Optigan for $20 down the street


Darren Landrum

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I'm kinda caught in a quandary here...

 

I have a couple of hours to act upon picking up an old Optigan in working order (except for one key you have to thunk pretty hard to get it to sound) being sold by the barber down the street.

 

Should I or shouldn't I?

 

Thank you for your input.

 

EDIT: I forgot to mention is also comes with a bunch of Optigan disks, although I can't say offhand specifically which ones.

Darren Landrum
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For 20$. Why not? How is that a quandry? I almost bought an electric kazoo for 20$.

 

Once my wife was at a second hand store trying to decide if she should buy the dress for 1$... 1$!!! Seriously, if she never wore the dress, it cost her 1$.

I'm just saying', everyone that confuses correlation with causation eventually ends up dead.
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Originally posted by Phred:

For 20$. Why not? How is that a quandry? I almost bought an electric kazoo for 20$.

 

Once my wife was at a second hand store trying to decide if she should buy the dress for 1$... 1$!!! Seriously, if she never wore the dress, it cost her 1$.

And before anyone asks... It wasn't the love dress...
I'm just saying', everyone that confuses correlation with causation eventually ends up dead.
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Hehe... I went ahead and bought it, but I can't fit it into my car. Now I need to see if I can arrange alternative transportation.

 

DafDuc, just so you know, it is in Croswell. I live in Port Huron, and work here (I'm at my job now). If you can help me out with transportation, I'll buy your gas and a beer. ;)

Darren Landrum
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I could help you tomorrow, if it's not raining - pickup truck, no tonneau or cover.

 

PM me, we can work out details.

 

Almost bought a farmhouse in Croswell 10 years ago. Still sorry I didn't sometimes.

 

Daf

I played in an 8 piece horn band. We would often get bored. So...three words:

"Tower of Polka." - Calumet

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Boy, you Michigan folks are too nice to each other. You're giving 'Suthnahs' a run for our money. :freak:

 

Here is a picture of the Optigan just in case there are folks out there who don't know what the beast looks like.

 

It's old. In fact, it's actually a pump organ with 'little people' who live inside and run the bellows.... I'm kidding. But it DID have a optical disk drive in it. :eek: Read the description below.

 

http://www.keyboardmuseum.org/pic/o/opti/opti.jpg

 

The Optigan was a novelty instrument built and marketed by the Optigam Corporation (a subsidiary of Mattel) in Compton, USA in the early 1970's. The unusual feature of the Optigan was its method of sound synthesis; the Optigan optically read graphic representations of waveforms from a series of 12" celluloid LP sized discs, hence the name Optigan - 'Optical-Organ'. The Optigan read the discs by passing a light beam through the transparent discs, the beam was interrupted or reduced by the shape of the printed waveform and picked up by a photoelectric cell causing a variable voltage which was in turn amplified and passed to the speakers.

 

The Optigan was essentially an optical sampler, the disks contained 57 loops of sounds which were recordings of real instruments, 37 of the loops were reserved for keyboard sounds ( with individual loops for each key) the other 20 loops being sound effects, rhythms etc. The celluloid discs were sold as a collection for Optigan owners and were mainly sustained organ sounds, as the continually spinning loops had no beginning or end it was impossible to create an attack or decay.

 

"The Optigan Music Maker. The most revolutionary musical instrument ever. Because it's EVERY musical instrument. And every combination. You've never heard anything like it because there's never been anything like it. And you have all the talent you need in your little finger to play the OPTIGAN. The "soul" of the OPTIGAN is the Music Program Disc. Organs try to mimic or imitate different musical sounds. But with the OPTIGAN you actually play the real sounds of pianos, banjos, guitars, marimbas, drums and dozens more. The sounds are on the Programs. You choose the sounds you want -to play the songs you want- on our piano-style keyboard and left-hand accompaniment panel. And you choose from Classic guitar to old time Banjo Sing-Along to Nashville Country to Rock and Roll. It all depends on the Program and there's a Program for every musical taste."

 

from the Optigan users manual

 

 

 

The Optigan Corporation marketed the Optigan as a novelty home instrument for a number of years, selling the instrument in high street stores for as little as $150 and eventually passed on the business to the Miner Company in New York ( organ manufacturer) who continued to manufacture the instruments and discs under the company name of Opsonar. An unsuccessful 'professional' version of the machine was later marketed by a company called Vako under the name 'Orchestron', only about 50 were built and the company soon folded.

 

Some Optigan Disc Titles

Banjo Sing-Along

Big Band Beat

Bluegrass Banjo

Bossa Nova Style

Cha Cha Cha!

Dixieland Strut

Folk & Other Moods-Guitar

Gay 90's Waltz (6/8 time)

Gospel Rock

Guitar Boogie

Guitar in 3/4 Time

Hear and Now

Latin Fever

Nashville Country

Polynesian Village

Pop Piano Plus Guitar

Rock and Rhythm

The Blues-Sweet and Low

Waltz Time (3/4 Time)

 

 

-------------------------------------------------

"Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent." - Victor Hugo
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That description doesn't even begin to tell the story. The fun begins when you do things the machine was never intended to do...put discs in upside-down, layer two or more discs on top of each other, misalign discs...be sure to experiment!

 

When these things were new the guitar player in our band was also working in a music store. We'd get high afterhours and laugh ourselves silly screwing around with the Optigans.

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A couple of caveats: The fidelity is awful. Around 1970 we actually tried it out in the band, hooking it straight into the PA with the idea that it could be a kind of affordable Mellotron (really affordable at under $200) but it sounded horrible....like one of those old phonograph machines with the megaphone for amplification. And the goofy tricks we did were child's play compared to any sampler...but samplers were years away...even string machines weren't around at that time. But it was fascinating for awhile.
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Well, that was an experience.

 

Poor Darren was stuck waiting a half hour for me, cos I misjudged the time. Optigan broke free of the bungies and plopped over in my truck bed, but seems to have come through the ordeal. That is one heavy little SOB...

 

Great to meet Darren & fam, and big fun playing with the Optigan.

 

Daf

I played in an 8 piece horn band. We would often get bored. So...three words:

"Tower of Polka." - Calumet

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It's always good to meet someone off the forum.

 

+1 to you, Daf, for helping out with your truck. I'm certain Darren appreciates it.

 

Music is cool.

"Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent." - Victor Hugo
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I'm guessing if you can intercept the sound before the first preamp, you'll get something much cleaner. But will it be as interesting? Hmm...

 

Anyhow, Darren seems to be a serious DIY'er, so the Optigan is def in the right hands!

I played in an 8 piece horn band. We would often get bored. So...three words:

"Tower of Polka." - Calumet

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