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harmonium advice

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fellow harmonium players? (54)
retuning a harmonium (4)
Help: Old Harmonium/Organ (4)
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alison 13 Oct 01 - 12:42 AM
Joe Offer 13 Oct 01 - 03:33 AM
alison 13 Oct 01 - 03:43 AM
alison 13 Oct 01 - 03:48 AM
Joe Offer 13 Oct 01 - 05:15 AM
Joe Offer 13 Oct 01 - 05:22 AM
alison 13 Oct 01 - 06:26 AM
Wyrd Sister 13 Oct 01 - 02:33 PM
IvanB 13 Oct 01 - 02:53 PM
Joe Offer 13 Oct 01 - 03:25 PM
JohnInKansas 13 Oct 01 - 05:06 PM
IvanB 13 Oct 01 - 08:34 PM
Alice 13 Oct 01 - 11:07 PM
alison 14 Oct 01 - 03:11 AM
Llanfair 14 Oct 01 - 10:45 AM
GUEST 14 Oct 01 - 10:59 AM
Alice 14 Oct 01 - 01:14 PM
alison 14 Oct 01 - 09:01 PM
GUEST,alison 15 Oct 01 - 11:10 PM
GUEST,vmusic39 24 Mar 11 - 04:04 PM
Ross Campbell 25 Mar 11 - 12:11 AM
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Subject: harmonium advice
From: alison
Date: 13 Oct 01 - 12:42 AM

I have been offered a harmonium.... appears to be in very good condition....... a few of the "stops" seems to be jamming notes... and the tuning needs tweaked..... it is pretty much in tune with itself..

has anyone got any experience with these? are they easy enough to muck around with / fix? or is it specialised work? should the stops give different tones, or are they like drones?

slainte

alison


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Subject: RE: harmonium advice
From: Joe Offer
Date: 13 Oct 01 - 03:33 AM

I think you can have some fun with it, Alison. They're quite easy to repair. When I was in high school, I hooked ours to the vacuum cleaner to eliminate pumping, but I wouldn't recommend that - just think of it as a great way to get shapely legs.
Most of the stops should give different tones (but they usually affect only half the keyboard). As I recall, some stops modulated the tones in various ways.
Have fun!
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: harmonium advice
From: alison
Date: 13 Oct 01 - 03:43 AM

Joe its an genuine Indian article... hand bellows at the back... not a foot pump type one....

and just how do you know that my legs aren't already shapely enough eh???????? *grin*

slainte

alison


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Subject: RE: harmonium advice
From: alison
Date: 13 Oct 01 - 03:48 AM

actually it is like the one in the top picture at this page only in much better condition and with more stops.....

slainte

alison


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Subject: RE: harmonium advice
From: Joe Offer
Date: 13 Oct 01 - 05:15 AM

Well, since Mr. Scanner went to the work of copying this for you, I'm going to post it - even if the piece covers only German and American harmoniums. It's from a books called Harmonium-Schule, by Heinrich Bungart (no publication date).
-Joe Offer-


Theoretical Part.
I. The Harmonium.
        The 1-larmonium is a keyed instrument, in which the sound or tone is produced by means of metallic reeds set vibrating by currents of air passing through them.

        The principal parts of the harmonium are the outer case, box or frame, the inner mechanism and the bellows. The bellows constitute the most important part, as (in German instruments) they furnish and conduct the current of air required to the reeds. The bellows are worked by two adjacent treadles (pedals) each of which is connected with a bellows which is compressed by the pressure of the foot, the wind from the same being thus conveyed or forced through the channel into the wind-reservoir. A valve, consisting of a piece of leather, prevents the air from returning from the wind-reservoir into the bellows. The wind reservoir is directly connected with the wind-chest, an air-tight, hermetically closed, wooden box. The upper lid of the wind-chest is called the reed-board and is furnished with apertures. In harmoniums built on the German system the reeds lie upon said reed-board. In those built on the American system the reeds are contrived on the outer side of the reed-board. Above the reeds is contrived the reed-valve, which perfectly closes the aperture in the reedboard, and is connected with the key visible from the outside. By pressing down a key, the valve is opened, the wind rushes in through the aperture and sets the reed vibrating, and thus the tone is produced.
        This method of producing the tone by outstreaming compressed air constitutes the system on which the German harmonium is built. In the harmoniums built on the American system, on the other hand, the air is drawn-in, i.e., the instruments are built on the suction-system, which works in the following manner: By the action of both treadles, the reservoir worked by a spring, is compressed i.e., becomes a vacuum. The object and aim of the spring is to press the reservoir open again. By the pressing down of a key an aperture in the reed-board is re-opened, through which the outer air is sucked in by the reservoir and the respective reed is thus set vibrating and produces its tone. Hence the name: Suction-System.

Sets of Reeds and Stops.
        The name: a set of reeds explains itself; each key has its corresponding reed. The smallest harmoniums have only one set of reeds; a harmonium in which each key commands or works several reeds has two, three or four sets of reeds. A harmonium may also have one and a half or two and a half sets of reeds, the latter, i. e. the half set being worked by the lower or by the upper half of the key-board.
        The knobs set and arranged above the keys and indicated by, or furnished with, names or figures, are called "Stops".
        We distinguish between sounding-stops and auxiliary (mute) stops. Sounding -stops are those which are furnished with, or work, a set of reeds. The wind-chest is divided into as many partitions as the harmonium has sounding-stops or sets of reeds. Whenever a stop is drawn or opened (in the harmonium built on the German system), a valve opens in the corresponding partition, thus admiffing the wind to the corresponding set of reeds which sets them vibrating. By closing the stop, the wind is (again) shut off, and the harmonium remains silent, even though the key be pressed down.
        In harmoniums built on the American system the reeds lie below a small, movable board (tablet) which, closing air-tight, completely shuts off the air. The moment a stop is drawn dr opened, the little board (tablet) lifts, and, on the respective key being pressed down, admits the air from outside into the reservoir. The moment the stop is closed, the air is shut off, although the respective key be pressed down. As a rule, each set of reeds is divided in the middle, hence and accordingly, each half of the key-board (above and below) has its own spedal stops, each having its special name. Hence, in order to have one series of notes (tones), at least two complementary stops must be drawn, i. e. two stops which belong to, or work, one and the same set of reeds.
        The fact of each set of reeds being divided renders it possible to emphasize (and bring out more prominently) a melody on the one half of the key-board with several loud stops, while the accompaniment is being played on the other half with a soft stop.
        The number of stops is adapted to the size of the instrument. Small instruments with one set of reeds have frequently no stops. Other instruments with but one set of reeds have from one stop to four stops. These are either auxiliary stops, or else the one set of reeds is furnished with a special stop in both its parts.
        The names given to the sounding-stops are the same as those on the organ, mostly derived from orchestral Instruments, for instance: flute, hautbois, cello, clarinet, viola, etc. Beside the name of the stop we find the designation: 8' (8 feet). 4' (4 feet), 2' (2 feet) or 16' (16 feet). Thus we have the technical term of "tone" or "Pitch" (Foot- or Feet-tone). This term, derived from the technical art of organ-building, signifies that an organ-pipe 8 feet long sounds the "Double C" (normal pitch). So that with an 8-feet stop, the notes produced are those indicated by our musical notation.
        A stop marked 16', produces atone an octave (=8 tones) lower, a stop marked 4' produces a tone an octave higher, a stop marked 2' produces a note two octaves higher, than the normal pitch.
The stops most commonly used in German and Amencan harmoniums are the following, the names corresponding to the timbre characteristic of the instrument imitated and indicated:

Aeoline 8', a very soft, dulcet whispered tone, imitating the zephyr-wind.
Bassoon 8', imitating the bassoon.
Bourdon 16', deep, round~ full bass-note.
Clairon 8' or 4', a shrill, piercing stop, imitating the trumpet.
Clarinet 8', imitating that orchestral instrument.
Cor anglais 8', soft, clear tone.
Cello 8', imitating that well-known string-instrument.
Cremona 8', soft, somewhat reedy tone.
Delicante 8, soft, dulcet tone, occurring mostly in the bass.
Diapason 8', fundamental tone or voice, powerful, clear tone.
Dolce 8' or 5' the names explain themselves: soft, dulcet parts or voices, of a sweet, caressing tone.
Dulciano " " "
Dulcet        " " "
Echo 8', soft and dulcet tone.
Fagoti JO', deep, full tone, resembling the bassoon.
Flöte (Flute, Flauto) 8' or 4', imitating the pleasant tone of the flute.
Gamba 8' of a somewhat reedy tone; name derived from the organ.
Gemshorn (chamois) 8', beautiful solo-stop.
Hautbois 8', powerful tone (solo-stop).
Melodia 8', fundamental part (voice), clear tone.
Musette 8', resembling the tone of the shalm.
Oboe 8', imitating the tone of the hautbois.
Piano 8', a very soft-sounding stop.
Piccolo 4' and 2', shrill, clear flute-tone.
Prinzipal 4', clear tone, not a fundamental part (voice) on the harmonium as it is on the organ.
Salicional 8', stop of a reedy tone.
Saxophone 8', powerful, clear tone.
Schalmey (shalm) 8', imitating the tone of that well-known
Sourdino 8', dulcet, soft obbligato-stop. [instrument.
Subbass 16', deep, sombre bass-tone, mostly embracing only one octave.
Viola 8' and 4', imitating the well-known string - instrument
Violetta 4', very soft, dulcet tone, beautiful obbligato-stop, for the left hand
Violine 8' and 4', soft, dulcet tone, imitating that of the string-instrument after which it is named.
Vox coelestis 8' beautiful solo stops, with a waving,
Vox angelica 8'        undulating character.
Vox /humana, on the German harmonium: a stop of 8' of an undulating character, imitating the human voice; on the American harmonium: a mechanical stop (cf. the same).
Waldflöte(Forest- or woodland flute), beautiful flute like tone.

Pedal harmonlum.
        A harmonium with pedal-keyboard, is furnished with a lever which works the bellows. As the feet must be free to work the pedals, a second person is required to pump in the wind, as with the organ. Most pedal-harmoniums are, however, also furnished with both treadles to enable the player to furnish the wind himself, when not using the pedals.
        In small instruments, the pedal is mostly coupled with the contrived bass-stops. Larger instruments are furnished with special pedal-stops enriching the bass with a full, powerful tone. The following are the names given to the (principal) pedal-stops:
Bourdonbass 16', a round tone.
Bourdondolce 16', softer than bourdon. Pedalbass 16', powerful tone.
Pedalsubbass 16', powerful bass-tone.
Violoncello 8', reedy tone.


        On the German harmonium we frequently meet with the figures 1 to 6. which mean 1, 4, 5 and 6 ft stops, 2 Indicates 16' and 3 Indicates 4' stops. The combination of the stops for bass and treble is here easier: 1 belongs to 1, 2 to 2, etc.

Auxillary (Mute) Stops,
also called mechanical or secondary stops, as already stated, affect a change in the tone or timbre of the sounding-stops. German and American harmoniums generally have the following auxiliary stops:
Forte, swells the tone, i. e. increases it.
Sourdine (damper), decreases the tone.
Tremolo, produces a tremulous (undulating) tone.
Treble-coupler, adds the upper octave.
Bass-coupler, adds the lower octave.
Percussion, consists of a number- of small hammers, which rap upon the reeds, causing these to respond with the utmost precision. Applied in quick runs, passages and shakes (trills) etc.
Prolongement, a mechanical contrivance, by means of which, as the name says, the tone, the notes or chords, may be prolonged, i. e. sustained at the pleasure of the player.
Vox humana, in the German harmonium, a sounding-stop with vibrating tone; in American harmoniums, a mechanical contrivance which gives the tone a vibrating sound. (Imitation of the human voice).
Crescendo, a mechanical contrivance, synonymous with a knee-swell, a lever contrived on the right side below the key-board, serves to swell and to decrease the tone.
Grand organ or Grand jeu, the left knee-lever, open all the stops (at once), causing them all to sound together and at once (= full organ).
Expression, this mechanical contrivance causes the wind to pass directly from, the bellows to `the wind-chest thus rendering the swelling and decreasing of the tone dependent upon the pressure exerted by the feet upon the treadles or pedals. it requires much practice to use the Expression stop to perfection. Before the one treadle is entirely pressed down, the player must begin to use the other. Quick, violent treadling or pedalling produces Forte, sforzato, crescendo, whereas steady, slow treadling or pedalling produces piano and decrescendo. The player should begin by trying to sustain one note by slow treadling or pedalling in equal tonal power. Having achieved this, the player should try it with chorids of several parts. Having learnt to sustain a uniform piano and forte, the player will soon be able to produce a fine crescendo and decrescendo.

A few brief Remarks and Hints on Registering
(using the Stops).

        It were useless and misleading to lay down any hard and fast rules with regard to registration, or the use of stops, owing to the . difference in the build and construction and the names given to the stops respectively in the German and the American harmoniums. Even those built in Germany differ so much one from the other as regards construction and stops or registers, that it will best suit the purpose and be most expedient to give a few general rules. The first thing the player must do is to render himself thoroughly familiar with the stops of his own instrument and their timbre.

        In combining or blending stops, he must remember above all that the normal pitch i.e., the 8' tone, - always predominates. If he adds stops in the 16', 4' or 2' tone, these must always be sufficiently covered by 8' stops or registers, both in number and tonal power.
        As a rule, the 16', 4' and 2' stops or registers are not used by themselves, but should always be combined or blended with one or several 8' stops or registers to increase the tonal power or change the timbre (tonal colour).
        The player must generally be guided in choosing or selecting the stops or registers by the tonal power, the character of the piece and the tempo (time) in which it is to be played. Pieces of a solemn, sombre, melancholy character, in slow time call for sombre 8' and 16' stops or registers, whereas in playing those of a cheerful, merry character in quicker time, the artist should use 8' and 4' stops or registers, and, if needs be, add a 2' tone.

        The following signs, terms or letters determine the tonal power:
pp, a very soft (weak) 8' stop Or register.
p, one or two soft (weak) 8' stops or registers.
mf, several 8' stops and one 4' stop.
f, all the stops without the Forte-stop. if, full organ.
        The following terms refer to the tone-colouring (timbre)
With soft parts - soft 8' stops.
With sombre parts - soft 8' stops and 16' stops.
With clear parts - 8' and 4' stops.
With shrill, clear 8', 4' and 2' stops.


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Subject: RE: harmonium advice
From: Joe Offer
Date: 13 Oct 01 - 05:22 AM

And a little more...
-Joe offer-


How to sit at the Harmonium, position and pose of the body.
The player should seat himself opposite the middle of the key-board. He should use a stool the seat of which slants about 2 inches towards the instrument. The stool must be so high, that the forearm of the player and the back of this hand shall form a horizontal line. He must avoid twisting or moving the elbows outwards, they must remain steady and lightly in contact with the body. The feet are placed upon the treadles (pedals) and so far on them that the heels shall not quite touch the lower edge of the treadles or pedals. The body should be held and remain in an upright, unconstrained position.

How to hold or set the hands and fingers.
In playing, hands and arms should remain steady, avoiding any and all unnecessary movements or action. The hands are turned slightly outwards, so that thumb and little finger shall lie in a straight line. The fingers, counting from the thumb of each hand respectively, numbered and indicated with the figures: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, are of unequal length, which necessitates such a slight, corresponding curving of the second, third, fourth and fifth fingers, that they shall press down the keys with a hammer-like motion. The key must be pressed down with the tip of the finger, but not with the nail. The thumb forms an exception to this rule, in that it meets the key and sets it in motion with its lower lateral part. The knuckles must not project and the two thumbs are not to be withdrawn from the keyboard.

The Touch.
        The manner of playing the harmonium differs essentially from that of playing the piano. On the piano the tonal power depends upon the power with which the key is struck, which in no way affects that of the harmonium.
        To acquire a good touch on the harmonium, It is necessary that the respective key be pressed down softly and completely to the bottom in the selfsame moment exactly when the note is to sound. On the harmonium the bound or legato touch prevails; it is indeed the normal style of playing on the instrument, unless the respective sign or term is expressly added, indicating the opposite style. A legato touch is acquired in the.following manner: Press down the key and hold it down exactly as long as the value of the note requires and until another finger sounds the next key, so that there shall be no audible break between the two notes. In other words, each note must be given and receive its full time-value; the notes must succeed each without the least interruption. On the other hand, a key must not be held down too long; this is as great a mistake as holding it down too short a time, as it produces an intermixture of the tones. It is also of the greatest importance that the indicated fingering be observed, which is shown by the figures 1 to 5 written above or below the notes. A pressed down key must not be released, until the right finger is ready for the next note.

How to work the treadles (bellows).
        Expression in playing the harmonium depends chiefly upon the skilful employment and correct action of the treadles or pedals. Hence it is absolutely necessary to devote the greatest attention to the use of the bellows. The upward and downward motion of the feet proceeds from the ankles, alternately, so that the rest of the leg shall remain perfectly motionless and steady, affording the knees perfect freedom in working, enabling them to work the knee-swell without the least incumbrance. Carefully avoid a jerky action in working the treadles; they must be worked with perfect uniformity, and as far as they will go; the one not being set in motion until the other has risen completely. When playing with one or several weak stops or registers, a small quantity of wind will suffice, so that the treadles or pedals must then be worked slowly and with ease, lightly. When using powerful stops or registers and such of 16, in fact when playing with powerful tone, more especially with "full organ", the treadles or pedals must be worked quicker and more powerfully. According as the treadles or pedals are worked quicker or slower, the tone increases or decreases. To produce the softest tone the stop is capable of giving, the treadles or pedals must be worked as slowly as possible.


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Subject: RE: harmonium advice
From: alison
Date: 13 Oct 01 - 06:26 AM

you are wonderful..... thanks Joe

slainte

alison


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Subject: RE: harmonium advice
From: Wyrd Sister
Date: 13 Oct 01 - 02:33 PM

I rescued a harmonium a couple of years ago. I felt sorry for it sitting on the pavement outside a junk shop. It was a bit like Auntie Wainwright's.


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Subject: RE: harmonium advice
From: IvanB
Date: 13 Oct 01 - 02:53 PM

The info Joe posted above certainly should answer your questions about tones of the stops, etc. I restored one many years ago (foot-pedal model) and found everything about it pretty sraightforward. Probably the first thing to check is for integrity of the bellows and the various wind chambers. Any unwanted seepage is going to affect the sound. As far as 'jamming' of notes, this is probably a result of faulty mechanical connections in the stop levers themselves, also not a complicated thing to fix.

The harmonium I started with was in terrible shape, in fact, when I tested it to decide whether to buy it or not, I had to lie on the floor pumping one of the bellows by hand while reaching up and playing each key individually to make sure the reed was present. This instrument had 8 voiced stops, so I had to repeat the procedure for every stop. But, as it turned out, everything internal was at least present, if not working properly, and I was very pleased with the rebuilt instrument. However, it went long ago to someone who appreciated it even more than I.


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Subject: RE: harmonium advice
From: Joe Offer
Date: 13 Oct 01 - 03:25 PM

I have to say I don't think I've ever heard "beautiful" music come out of a harmonium. "Wheezy" is the first word that comes to mind when I think of the sound. I've always heard of it referred to as a practice instrument, or something used by bad organists in low-budget churches.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: harmonium advice
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 13 Oct 01 - 05:06 PM


Foot-pumped reed organs were quite popular here in the U.S. flatlands in the early part of the century. Apparently they were deemed not to require as much tuning and other maintenance as pianos. A few were to be found as church organs - mostly in small rural churches - late into the '50s.

These instruments looked more like an upright piano than like the harmonia pictured in alison's clicky, but worked somehwat the same. They show up fairly often in antique shops and estate sales now, with occasional samples in quite good shape.

The one my granny had probably dated to the 1920's or before, and was still playable as late as 1950 or so, probably with no maintenance during its lifetime. Sadly, when one of the (2) pedal bellows failed, an uncle "salvaged" it for the good walnut panels, and it "went away."

John


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Subject: RE: harmonium advice
From: IvanB
Date: 13 Oct 01 - 08:34 PM

Joe, the 'wheezy' sound of a harmonium or reed organ is almost invariably caused by air leaks. After I made mine airtight, it was responsive to the slightest pressure on the pedal. But it did require a certain technique to maintain a constant pressure. Hafta admit my kids could get some awful sounds out of the thing, but I did learn how to play it passably. Probably my greatest gripe with it was that, no matter how a stop was described, the sound was still created by a reed, so belief had to be suspended big time to believe that you had, for example, an 'oboe.'


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Subject: RE: harmonium advice
From: Alice
Date: 13 Oct 01 - 11:07 PM

alison, there are old threads on the harmonium that I started a couple of years ago when I got my Indian harmonium. The info Joe posted is not about the kind you and I have. I have a book that came with my harmonium (from India) and it shows different poses of sitting on the ground with the harmonium, and have also seen photos and video of people playing it standing with the harmonium on a stand. I play it standing, with the instrument on a marble topped plant stand. The stops pulled out will give you either a chord when you press a note, or drones. They are set up for Indian modes, but I think it's a great instrument for any kind of tune. Here's a page with a photo of my harmonium.
Alice's Harmonium, Shruti, and folk harp.
Alice


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Subject: RE: harmonium advice
From: alison
Date: 14 Oct 01 - 03:11 AM

great... thanks for the info.......

I should pick it up in the next few days

fun.. fun... fun...

slainte

alison


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Subject: RE: harmonium advice
From: Llanfair
Date: 14 Oct 01 - 10:45 AM

I bought a chapel harmonium at a local sale for £30. It's in quite good condition and doesn't sound wheezy at all. Probably from a Welsh household or chapel, made in Chicago!!!
A very ornate one went for &10 last week. They are not valued here.
Cheers, Bron.


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Subject: RE: harmonium advice
From: GUEST
Date: 14 Oct 01 - 10:59 AM

You didn't tell us you logged on while we were jhaving breakfast Bron. NEITHER did you tell us you got a harmonium !


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Subject: RE: harmonium advice
From: Alice
Date: 14 Oct 01 - 01:14 PM

Here is a link to the older thread, 1998, for anyone interested in more information about the Indian Harmonium.
fellow harmonium players?

Alice


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Subject: RE: harmonium advice
From: alison
Date: 14 Oct 01 - 09:01 PM

we used to have a lovely old one in the church I went to as a kid...... a foot pedal type... it was gorgeous..... I think it was sold at some stage... used to live up in the gallery..... but I got to play it most Chrstmasses while the choir and organist paraded in.....

wish I'd been given a chance to buy it now.... would have been an interesting thing to have sitting around the house.....

slainte

alison


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Subject: RE: harmonium advice
From: GUEST,alison
Date: 15 Oct 01 - 11:10 PM

Here is a good site sent to me by a friend with info on repairing....... we took it apart yesterday... very simple

harmonium repair

slainte

alison


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Subject: RE: harmonium advice
From: GUEST,vmusic39
Date: 24 Mar 11 - 04:04 PM

A mother of one of my piano students gave me a harmonium just so it would have a good home. It is very old and she says that it came over from Germany to America with her godmother. She says that it was built in the late 1800's - early 1900's, and the name on the harmonium is Ernst Hinkel. It has a very ornate needlepoint wooden stool that came with it. Does anyone have a ball park value on this?


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Subject: RE: harmonium advice
From: Ross Campbell
Date: 25 Mar 11 - 12:11 AM

Sadly, the "ornate needlepoint wooden stool" may well out-do the harmonium in the antique value stakes. I have paid between £40 to £80 ($60 - $120?) for various harmoniums over the years. All needed some work to make them "playable", but condition and playability don't seem to make much difference to the asking price. Any that I have seen where the price was way beyond that remained for sale for a long time. The ones I have are probably not worth much more now than I paid for them, but they have been an interesting study. You can pay quite a lot more for a new model and still find it needs considerable tinkering before being acceptable.

Ross


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