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Hammond Novachord

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owner and photo by Marc R.A. Doty

The Hammond Novachord was first marketed in 1939, and was on the market until 1942. 1069 of them were created before World War II brought an end to production.

The Novachord, although often erroneously labelled an organ (it certainly depends on your definition of organ, of course... all synthesizers could be considered organs, as well as all organs synthesizers... but there are definitions that separate the two, and according to those definitions, the Novachord is an analog synthesizer), was the first commercially marketed synthesizer. It uses 12 oscillators, giving a six octave range through the use of frequency dividing tubes. With one tube per key plus oscillator tubes, and the other tubes altering sound, the Novachord boasts a staggering 169 tubes for the creation and control of the sound, and over one thousand capacitors. It is capable of simulating a variety of sounds through various filters, circuits, and a vibrating-reed mechanical/analogue vibrato. It is capable of imitating orchestral instruments such as the piano, harpsichord, stringed and woodwind instruments as well as a range of it's own new sounds. Like analogue synths of the sixties and seventies, (I would say vintage synths, but since the Novachord is some twenty five years their senior... IT is the vintage synth) the Novachord's filters, etc. can be altered during performance to create timbral changes.

Because only 1069 of them were created, they are quite rare. It is unknown how many still exist, and of those that do, few of them are operational due to the immense amount of tubes and capacitors, etc. they require. The device weighs five hundred pounds, and is as large as two spinet pianos (52 inches deep, 37 inches wide, 38 inches high).

If you have a Novachord, or know someone who does, please register it at www.museslave.com/novachord!

article byMarc R.A. Doty
(Portions of this information were derived from "Introduction to the Hammond Novachord: Directions for Playing," and "The Hammond Novachord: A Manual for the Service Technician [second edition]" as reprinted by ORGANized SERVICES)

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