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Georges Jenny | Ondioline


The Ondioline is an electronic keyboard instrument, invented in 1941 by the Frenchman Georges Jenny, and is a forerunner of today's synthesizers.

The Ondioline was capable of creating a wide variety of sounds. Its keyboard had a unique feature: it was suspended on special springs which made it possible to introduce a natural vibrato if the player moved the keyboard (not the entire instrument) from side to side (laterally) with their playing hand. The result was an almost human-like vibrato that lent a wide range of expression to the Ondioline. The keyboard was also pressure-sensitive, and the instrument had a knee volume lever, as well.

The instrument's movable keyboard was modeled after the keyboard of another early electronic instrument from France, the Ondes Martenot. The Ondioline did not feature a ring (or ribbon) controller to control pitch, as the Ondes did. Instead, the Ondioline had a strip of wire, that when pressed, provided percussion effects, but it could not produce the Ondes's theremin-like pitch effects.

However, the Ondioline's sounds possibilities were much more varied, compared to the Ondes Martenot, which could only produce a few variations of sounds. This was due to the Ondioline's filter bank, which featured an array of 15 slider switches for various tones. Selected combinations of these switches could create sounds ranging from near-accurate recreations of symphonic instruments (oboe, French horn, etc.) to totally unique sounds of its own.

Like the Ondes Martenot, the Ondioline's circuitry was purely vacuum tube-based. However, unlike the Ondes, whose oscillator is based on the theremin (two ultra-high frequencies beating against each other, to produce a third audible frequency), the Ondioline used a multivibrator oscillator circuit to produce its tone. This gave the Ondioline a more versatile tone, richer in harmonics than the Ondes. Another advantage of the much smaller Ondioline was that it was very portable, and could be played in tandem with a piano or organ. At $500, its price was also much less than that of the Ondes.

The first recording artist to have a hit using the Ondioline was France's Charles Trenet. His song "L'âme des Poètes" ("Soul of the Poets") was recorded in 1951 on Columbia Records. This hit also marks the recording debut of a very young Jean-Jacques Perrey, who had already become known as a virtuoso of the instrument. Perrey's Ondioline solo sounds remarkably like a real violin.
BrandGeorges Jenny
Engine TypeAnalog
Legend: Obvious Y: Yes, N: No, N/A: Not Applicable
VCO Voltage Controlled Oscillator DCO Digital Controlled Oscillator
LFO Low Frequency Oscillator Sub Sub Oscillator
VCF Voltage Controlled Filter VCA Voltage Controlled Amplifier
Velocity As with a piano, the harder you hit a key, the louder the sound, unlike most organs which always produce the same loudness no matter how hard you hit a key. Aftertouch Pressing a key after you activated it. Channel Aftertouch, no matter which key, it will send a Channel message. Poly Aftertouch, sends the pressure per key instead of the whole channel.
Values for OSC, LFO, Filter, Envelope are per voice unless stated otherwise.

Manuals, patches etc.


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