Harald Bode

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Hohner Multimonica, first released in 1940, designed by Harald Bode

Harald Bode (October 19, 1909 – January 15, 1987) was a German engineer and pioneer in the development of electronic musical instruments.


Harald Bode was born in 1909 in Hamburg, Germany. At the age of 18 he lost his parents and started studying,[1] and graduated from the University of Hamburg in 1934.[2] In 1935, he began his pioneering work in the field of electronic musical instruments, and with funding support provided by Christian Warnke, his earliest work was completed in 1937.[1]

The Warbo Formant Organ (1937),[model 1][photo 1] an archetype of today's polyphonic synthesizer, was a four voice key-assignment keyboard with two formant filters and dynamic envelope controller. Eventually it went into commercial production by a factory in Dachau,[model 2] and it became one of the earliest polyphonic synthesizer products, along with Novachord (1939) by Hammond.

The Melochord (1947–1949), developed by Bode, was extensively used by Werner Meyer-Eppler in early days of the electronic studio at Bonn University.[model 3] Then in 1953 a Melochord, along with Monochord by Friedrich Trautwein,[3] was specially commissioned by the Studio for Electronic Music of the Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR Studio in Cologne),[4] and used by the Elektronische Musik group throughout the 1950s.[model 3] (see Melochord at the WDR Studio in Cologne)

From 1950, Bode designed electronic organs for the Apparatewerk Bayern [de] (AWB) in Germany and the Estey Organ Company in the United States. In 1954, Bode immigrated to the United States as a chief engineer (later vice-president) of Estey Organ,[4] and resumed his research at several companies and as a contractor of German companies.

In 1959–1960, Bode developed a modular synthesizer and sound processor, and in 1961, he wrote a paper exploring the advantages of newly emerging transistor technology over older vacuum tube devices;[5][6][7] also he served as AES session chairman on music and electronic for the fall conventions in 1962 and 1964;[2] after then, his ideas were adopted by Robert Moog, Donald Buchla and others.

After retiring from the chief engineer of Bell Aerospace[4] in 1974, he composed TV-advertising spots and gave live concerts. Also in 1977, Bode was invited as a chief engineer of the Norlin/Moog Music[8] after Robert Moog left.

He died in New York in 1987.[2] Bode's influence upon electronic music has persisted long after his death, with a number of 21st century musicians referencing or sampling his work.

His complete estate is preserved at the ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, where it is accessible for research.


Theory, circuits and devices to the sound production and sound figuration. Development and building of monophonic and polyphonic electronic organs/synthesizers and the sound processors:

  • Warbo Formant Organ (1937) one of the first key-assignment polyphonic synthesizer with formant filters and dynamic envelope shaping, designed and built by Bode with the funding support provided by Christian Warnke. (Note: "Warbo" is acronym of Warnke-Bode)[model 1][photo 1][model 2]
  • Melodium (1938) monophonic touch-sensitive keyboard instrument developed with Oskar Vierling,[model 2] used in film scores and "light" music[4]
  • Multimonica (1940, Hohner) dual manual electronic/acoustic hybrid keyboard instrument, consists of monophonic sawtooth wave oscillator (upper) and air-driven reed harmonium (lower)[model 4]
  • Melochord (1947–1949) 37-key monophonic keyboard with dynamic envelope wave shaping, volume pedal controller, and transpose switches to cover seven octaves. Later a second keyboard was added to control the timbre.[model 2][model 3]

For the Apparatewerk Bayern [de] (AWB) in Germany,[4] Estey Organ Company in Brattleboro, Vermont, USA, and others:

During his time as an executive of the Wurlitzer Organ Co.:[4]

Frequency shifter, model 735 Mark III,
designed and manufactured by Bode
Vocoder, model 7702,
designed and manufactured by Bode

As the products of Bode Sound Company:[8]

Notable users[edit]

The Melochord at the WDR Studio in Cologne was used by:

But in the case of Karlheinz Stockhausen, a student of Meyer-Eppler at the University of Bonn in 1954–56, his only use of the melochord was in a failed experiment with a ring modulator.[11] After this, he chose to disregard such instruments in favor of sine-wave generators, which he used in producing Studie I (1953) and Studie II (1954). This was also true for the two works by Karel Goeyvaerts produced there, and for Seismogramme (1954) by Henri Pousseur.[12][13][14]

Personal life[edit]

He was the father of cinematographer Ralf D. Bode,[15] and Peer Bode.[16]


  1. ^ a b Palov, Rebekkah (July 2011), "Harald Bode – A Short Biography", EContact!, Canadian Electroacoustic Community (CEC), 13 (4)
  2. ^ a b c "In Memoriam" (PDF), Journal of the Audio Engineering Society (JAES), 35 (9): 741, September 1987, retrieved 2007-07-18
  3. ^ "The Monochord (1948)", 120 Years of Electronic Music, archived from the original on 2012-04-02 – Monochord, a modified Concert Trautonium, was commissioned from Dr. Friedrich Trautwein by the Studio for Electronic of WDR, Köln.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Rhea, Tom (May 2004), "Harald Bode", Video History Project, Experimental Television Center, archived from the original on 2011-07-19
  5. ^ a b Bode, Harald (1961), "European Electronic Music Instrument Design", Journal of the Audio Engineering Society, ix (1961): 267
  6. ^ a b Bode, Harald (Bode Sound Co.) (September 1984), "History of Electronic Sound Modification", Journal of the Audio Engineering Society (JAES), 32 (10): 730–739, archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-06-09, retrieved 2011-09-13 On the PDF version, draft typescript is available at the tail; also HTML version without draft is available in "here". 1984. Archived from the original on June 9, 2011. Retrieved 27 February 2021..
  7. ^ a b Bode, Harald (The Wurlitzer Company), "Sound Synthesizer Creates New Musical Effects" (PDF), Electronics (December 1, 1961)
  8. ^ a b "Harold Bode's biography", 120 years of Electronic Music, archived from the original on 2012-04-02
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Harald's wonderful Instruments, Harald Bode News, 27 April 2010
  10. ^ Morawska-Büngeler, Marietta, Schwingende Elektronen: Eine Dokumentation über das Studio für Elektronische Musik des Westdeutschen Rundfunks in Köln, 1951–1986, Cologne-Rodenkirchen: P. J. Tonger Musikverlag, 1988, p. 13
  11. ^ Kurtz, Michael (1992), Stockhausen: A Biography ((cloth) (pbk).), translated by Toop, Richard, London and Boston: Faber and Faber, p. 62, ISBN 0-571-14323-7
  12. ^ Stockhausen, Karlheinz (1964), "Komposition 1953 Nr. 2: Studie I, Analyse", in Dieter Schnebel (ed.), Texte 2, Cologne: Verlag M. DuMont Schauberg, pp. 23–36, here p. 23
  13. ^ Stockhausen, Karlheinz (1971), "Elektronische Musik: Brief von Douglas M. Davis (Antwort: geschrieben am 13.IX.1970)", in Dieter Schnebel (ed.), Texte 3, Cologne: Verlag M. DuMont Schauberg, pp. 341–347, here pp. 344–345
  14. ^ Ekbert Faas, "Interview with Karlheinz Stockhausen Held August 11, 1976", Interface 6 (1977): pp. 187–204; reprinted in Feedback Papers 16 (August 1978): pp. 23–40. here p. 191 and p. 27, respectively.
  15. ^ Finch, Jim. "eContact! 13.4 – Interview with Harald Bode by Jim Finch". Canadian Electroacoustic Community (CEC). Retrieved 2019-10-19.
  16. ^ "Peer Bode > Artists > Burchfield Penney Art Center". www.burchfieldpenney.org. Retrieved 2019-10-19.


  1. ^ a b Rhea, Thomas L. (July 2011), "Harald Bode's Four-Voice Assignment Keyboard (1937)", EContact! (reprint ed.), Canadian Electroacoustic Community (CEC), 13 (4); Originally published as Rhea, Tom, "Electronic Perspectives", Contemporary Keyboard (December 1979): 89
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "The 'Warbo Formant Orgel' (1937), The 'Melodium' (1938), The 'Melochord' (1947-9), and 'Bode Sound Co' (1963-)", 120 years of Electronic Music, archived from the original on 2012-04-02
  3. ^ a b c d e "The "Melochord" (1947–9)", The Keyboardmuseum Online, archived from the original on 2007-11-14 (description and history)
  4. ^ "The Multimonica (1940)", 120 Years of Electronic Music, archived from the original on 2012-07-24
  5. ^ "The Tuttivox (1946)", 120 Years of Electronic Music, archived from the original on 2012-04-02 (Note: year in title may be incorrect)
  6. ^ Windler, Christian Oliver, Jörgensen Electronic Tuttivox (antique portable electron tube organ)
  7. ^ "The Clavioline (1947) & Combichord (1953)", 120 Years of Electronic Music, archived from the original on 2012-04-02
  8. ^ Windler, Christian Oliver, Jörgensen Electronic Clavioline (monophonic portable tube synth keyboard with great electro noises)
  9. ^ Bode, Harald, Instruments by Harald Bode and The Bode Sound Co., Experimental Television Center
  10. ^ Bode Feedback Stabilizer MOD. 741XR (PDF) (Pamphlet). Bode Sound Co.


  1. ^ a b Warbo Formant Organ (photograph). 1937.
  2. ^ Bode (6 octave) Clavioline (photograph). Clavioline.com. Archived from the original on 2006-08-21. (photographs of Bode Clavioline and Bode Melochord with Harald Bode)
  3. ^ Levin, John. Estey Electronic Organ model AS-1, designed by Harald Bode (photograph). Estey Organ Museum, Brattleboro.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]