Omnichord

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Omnichord
Omnichord.jpg
Suzuki Omnichord OM-150
Other namesQ-chord
Classification Electronic musical instrument, synthesizer
Inventor(s)Suzuki Musical Instrument Corporation
Developed1981
Related instruments
Tronichord, autoharp, keytar
Suzuki Omnichord OM-27
The 'Sonic Strings' on the Omnichord OM36, played by holding down a chord button and strumming the touchplate.
The chords from the Omnichord OM84.
The Rock 1 rhythm and auto bass patterns from the OM36 Omnichord.
Suzuki Omnichord OM-200m

The Omnichord is an electronic musical instrument introduced in 1981 by the Suzuki Musical Instrument Corporation.[1] It typically features a touch plate known as "Sonic Strings", preset rhythms, auto-bass line functionality, and buttons for major, minor, and 7th chords. The most basic method of playing the instrument is to press the chord buttons and swipe the Sonic Strings with a finger in imitation of strumming a stringed instrument. The Sonic Strings may also be touched in one place to create a single note. Originally designed as an electronic Autoharp, the Omnichord has become popular, due to its unique, chiming, harplike timbre and its value as a kitsch object.

History[edit]

Suzuki introduced the Omnichord along with the Tronichord, renamed the Portachord on some units, in 1981. The latter never reached full production, but both instrument share many technical and functional similarities. Omnichords feature preset rhythm patterns with tempo and volume control, as well as an auto-bass line feature, which the player can combine to use as a musical accompaniment. The Omnichord's most unique feature is the Sonic Strings strumplate, that allows the player to 'strum' arpeggios like a guitar.[2] Several later models of the Omnichord added MIDI compatibility, a greater selection of sounds for the Sonic Strings, vibrato, and chord memory, called Chord Computer.

The OM27 was the first Omnichord model, released in 1981. It was capable of playing 27 chords, and early models required a rubber plectrum to play, though later models featured an updated strum plate. The OM27 was a commercial failure,[3] so Suzuki released the OM36 and OM84 in 1984, also called the System One and System Two, respectively. The naming convention was originally meant to convey the number of chord types the model can produce, with OM36 prototypes only being able to play 36 chords, however the OM36 and OM84 production models can both play 84 chord types. The OM84 was the first model to feature an onboard Chord Computer, a feature that allowed the user to record a sequence of chords which could be played back as accompaniment.[4]

In 1989, Suzuki release the OM100 and OM200M, which replaced the OM36 and OM84, adding updated sounds, an angled strumplate for more comfortable playing, and an optional strap for standing performances.

The OM200M additionally introduced a MIDI output port, allowing the user to control other MIDI-equipped devices using the Omnichord. The OM150 and OM250M offered refreshed sounds, and the OM300 released in 1995 offered the features of the OM250M but with more updated sounds.

Suzuki released the Qchord QC1 in 2005; it features more modern versions of the original Omnichord's features such as PCM sampled sounds, and more rhythms.[5] The Qchord additionally features both MIDI input and MIDI output ports.

Sound and features[edit]

The Omnichord was primarily designed as an accompaniment instrument instead of a melody instrument,[2] an ideal way to accompany a singer with basic rhythms and the ability to easily play chords[6] with little music theory knowledge.

The Omnichord has three main sound generators:[7]

  • A percussion section that plays rock, waltz, slow rock, Latin, foxtrot and swing rhythms, with adjustable tempo and volume.
  • A chord generator providing different triad and seventh chords, either as organ-like chords or walking bass. The original OM27 was only capable of playing 27 different chords, but later models allow 84 different chords.
  • A Sonic Strings section producing an arpeggio or isolated notes from a chosen chord over a 4-octave span, played using the touch strip. The notes played on the touch strip are always in tune with the chord button currently selected.[8] Later models featured a selection of different voices for the Sonic Strings, including vibes, brass, organ, guitar and banjo.[2]

Later models feature a chord sequencer in a Chord Memory section that would allow the user to record up to 51 chords in sequence and play them back automatically or via a footswitch.[2]

Notable uses[edit]

Omnichord models[edit]

Model Released Notes
OM27 1981 Original model with 27 chord types.
OM36 1984 also called System One. Can play 84 different chord types.
OM84 1984 also called System Two. Can play 84 chord types and first to feature onboard Chord Computer.
OM100 1989 Entry model replacing OM36.
OM200M 1989 Premium model replacing OM84. Adds MIDI Out (denoted by the 'M').
OM150 1994 Replaces OM100 with an updated sound engine.
OM250M 1994 Replaces OM200M with an updated sound engine.
OM300 1995 Replaces OM250M with updated sounds.
Qchord QC1 2005 Contained new digital sounds and featured MIDI In and MIDI Out.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hills, Bruce (2 June 1982). "Device converts the musically illiterate into instant maestros". The Deseret News.
  2. ^ a b c d Renwick, Chris Jenkins writing as John (December 1989). "Omnichord (MIC Dec 1989)". Micro Music (Dec 1989): 48–49.
  3. ^ "Exploring the toylike world of the Suzuki Omnichord". faroutmagazine.co.uk. 13 February 2022. Retrieved 3 October 2022.
  4. ^ "Suzuki Omnichord OM36 and OM84". suzukimusic.co.uk. Retrieved 3 October 2022.
  5. ^ Orensten, Evan (20 December 2007). "Suzuki Omnichord". Cool Hunting. Archived from the original on 7 September 2011. Retrieved 3 June 2011.
  6. ^ "What is an Omnichord?". ABC Hobart. 23 October 2021. Retrieved 14 October 2022.
  7. ^ Ellis, David (May 1982). "Suzuki Omnichord (EMM May 1982)". Electronics & Music Maker (May 1982): 18.
  8. ^ "Toy Gear that We Love: the Suzuki Omnichord and Casio SK-1". reverb.com. 16 December 2014. Retrieved 14 October 2022.
  9. ^ "When David Bowie took on a Simon & Garfunkel classic". faroutmagazine.co.uk. 13 March 2022. Retrieved 3 October 2022.
  10. ^ Gerber, Brady (20 October 2020). "The Best, Worst, and Weirdest of Gorillaz, According to Damon Albarn". Vulture. Retrieved 3 October 2022.
  11. ^ Graham, David A. (26 May 2016). "Finding the Magic: The Secrets of Daniel Lanois". The Atlantic. Retrieved 3 October 2022.
  12. ^ "Suzuki Europe Ltd". suzukimusic.co.uk. Retrieved 3 October 2022.
  13. ^ "Joni Mitchell – Night Ride Home". jonimitchell.com. Retrieved 3 October 2022.
  14. ^ "Vintage Rewind: Suzuki Omnichord". MusicTech. Retrieved 14 October 2022.

External links[edit]