It was invented by Constant Martin in 1947 in Versailles. It consists of a keyboard and a separate amplifier and speaker unit. The keyboard usually covered three octaves, and had a number of switches to alter the tone of the sound produced, add vibrato, and provide other effects. The Clavioline used a vacuum tube oscillator to produce a buzzy waveform, almost a square wave, which could then be altered using high-pass and low-pass filtering, as well as the vibrato. The amplifier also deliberately provided a large amount of distortion.
Several models were produced by different companies; among the more important were the Standard, Reverb, and Concert models by Selmer in France and Gibson in the United States in the 1950s. The 6-octave model employing octave transposition was developed by Harald Bode, and under licensed by Jörgensen Electronic in Germany. In England the Jennings Organ Company's first successful product was the Univox, an early self-powered electronic keyboard inspired by the Selmer Clavioline. In Japan, Ace Tone's first prototype, Canary S-2 (1962), was based on the Clavioline.
The clavioline has been utilized on a number of recordings in popular music as well as in film. A selection follows.
- "Little Red Monkey" (1953) by Frank Chacksfield’s Tunesmiths features Jack Jordan on clavioline.
- In 1953–54, Van Phillips composed music for the clavioline for the science-fiction radio trilogy Journey Into Space.
- In the Bollywood Hindi film Nagin (1954), Kalyanji Virji Shah plays the snake-charmer tune "Man dole mera, tan dole mere" on the clavioline, under the musical direction of Hemant Kumar.
- "Runaway" (1961) by Del Shannon features a bridge solo by Max Crook, performed on a heavily modified clavioline that he called the “Musitron”.
- The Joe Meek instrumental "Telstar" (1962) by The Tornados features the Clavioline or Univox (another instrument similar to the Clavioline), as well as does the B-side, "Jungle Fever".
- The jazz albums The Magic City (1966) and The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra, Volume Two (1966) and Atlantis (1967) by Sun Ra include clavioline
- The Amon Düül II album "Wolf City" (1972)
- Icky Thump (2007) by the White Stripes.
- "Good morning" (2012) by BAM
- Darren Allison plays clavioline on William Blake's "Eternity" by Daisy Bell, from their London album (2015)
- John Lennon played the clavioline in the song "Baby, You're a Rich Man", which appears on the Beatles album Magical Mystery Tour.
- John Barry of the John Barry Seven made a recording called "Starfire" which featured the instrument, and it was on the 45 single version of his theme for the TV series Fireball XL5.
- A clavioline appears on Mike Oldfield's 2017 album, Return to Ommadawn.
- Reid, Gordon. "The Story of the Clavioline". Sound On Sound. (March 2007)
- Sound On Sound (March 2007).
"... it was the vibrato that was to become the defining factor in the Clavioline sound. This was true vibrato: ..."
- Sound On Sound (March 2007).
"To quote Selmer's service manual, “The Amplifier is an unusual type insofar as a large amount of distortion is deliberately obtained. This distortion is used to further modify the signal and contributes in no small measure toward the construction of the authentic tone. The Amplifier is, therefore, an integral part of the instrument...”"
- "Electronic keyboard, 'Clavioline', metal / plastic, Henri Selmer & Co Ltd, London, England, 1950-1965.". Powerhouse Museum. Registration Number: 2004/116/1.
"'Clavioline' electronic musical keyboard instrument (Concert model) consisting of keyboard, amplifier, leads, keyboard stand and brochure.", "It was capable of producing sounds an octave higher or lower than played, extending the three octave range of its keyboard up to seven octaves. [?]"
- Nelson, Philip I. "Gibson Clavioline Keyboard Instrument (1953)". Phil's Old Radios (antiqueradio.org).
"In the United States, Claviolines were manufactured by the Gibson instrument company. They were also built by Jörgensen in Germany and Selmer in England.", "Martin applied for a U.S. patent in 1948 and on August 7, 1951, he was granted patent 2,563,477, "Electronic Musical Instrument.""
- Bode (6 octave) Clavioline (photograph). Clavioline.com. 2002. Archived from the original on 2006-08-21.
- Windler, Christian Oliver. "Jörgensen Electronic Clavioline". TableHooters, warranty void (weltenschule.de).
"On the type plate stands the manufacturer "Jörgensen - Electronic" and the German address "Düsseldorf - Hüttenstr. 8". ... it was licensed from Constant Martin, Rene Seybold and Harald Bode", "3 connected octave switches (4 settings, 6 octaves in total)"
- "Vox Electronic Organs". Music Soul (reinout.nl).
"Probably Jennings [Musical Industries]’ first “portable” keyboard instrument was the Univox ... Usually assumed to be the instrument used on The Tornados’ “Telstar” (although it may actually have been a Clavioline, but that’s another story), it was born in the very early 1950’s. ... / Contrary to popular belief, the Univox is NOT a Clavioline. Derek Underdown tell it in his own words: “...Tom Jennings ... found a local electronic engineer, Les. Hills, who studied the Clavioline and designed another circuit different to the existing French patent. ...In about 1951/1952 the Univox took off in a big way due to its competitive price and Tom’s country wide marketing program. ... So, No the Clavioline was not the same as the Univox, only catered for the same market.” "
- All About Electronic & Electric Musical Instruments (in Japanese). Seibundō ShinkōSha. 1966. p. 32, 34. ASIN B000JAAXH6, 電子楽器と電気楽器のすべて.
"♪ クラビオリン / ...第10図はクラビオリンを参考に日本で[使い]易く設計したキャナリーS-2回路図です。..."
- Interview with Charles Chilton on “Round Midnight”, BBC Radio 2, 1989.
- Nardi, Carlo (July 2011). "The Cultural Economy of Sound: Reinventing Technology in Indian Popular Cinema". Journal on the Art of Record Production (Issue 5). ISSN 1754-9892.
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