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MMD > Archives > July 1997 > 1997.07.31 > 04Prev  Next

Ariston Organnette Discs
By Mike Knudsen

I've been learning more about disc organettes (now own two) and will
share some info that I hope does more good than harm.

Most disc organettes were made in Leipzig, a city once famous for an
organist and composer, and also the site of most disc music box
production.  There seem to have been two major makers.

One, Phoenix Musikwerk, use projection-free discs that are convenient to
handle and store, but do require a more "fussy" key-frame to play.  Their
product line included the 14-note Diana, 16-note Intona, a 20-note, and
the 24-note Ariston if I recall right.  All but the 14-note used annular
rings or "hollow discs" or "bagels", which allowed more than one diameter
disc to be played on the same instrument.  I own the 14 and 16 versions.

The key-frame is tricky to adjust because the disc surface has to hold
down all the note fingers, as in a book-organ key-frame.  The internal
levers and springs have to be adjusted tight enough so that each finger
holds its reed pallet closed, but not so tight as to wear out its holes
on the discs (as the original poster mentioned).  Over time the levers
get less stiff, so the organette develops ciphers and loses wind.

I've been advised to lightly grease each disc bottom with Lubriplate or
the like, for easier cranking and less wear on the disc and the key-frame

It's hard to adjust or tune a Phoenix organette, since with no disc
mounted, all notes want to play at once.  Adjusting can be done, though.
You might make a special tool, sort of a right-angle pliers, for bending
the transfer levers to eliminate ciphers.  As for tuning, have another
beer until the sound improves.

The other maker, whose name I forget, made center-drive disks with
projections that push the key-frame pins that open the valves directly,
much like a barrel organ.  Much simpler mechanism, since you don't have
"dueling springs" opposed to each other, and you can test or tune the
organ by mounting no disk, cranking, and pushing each key-frame finger by
hand, since no disk means no notes (instead of all notes open as with the
Phoenix products).

The Phoenix system does have the advantage of providing a faster attack
(always a problem with reed organs) and permitting shorter, more staccato

Both makes operate on pressure, not vacuum, further complicating the
pallets and bellows.  The Phoenix reservoirs use a bedspring -- looks
funny but it works fine.

Large 24-note Phoenix Aristons sometimes have a volume control knob and
maybe even a tremolo device -- a good idea, since these German pressure
organs are voiced loud and bright!

The makes and models are shown in the reproduced ad sheets in Bowers'

I like disc organettes for the unusual (in the US) German, Polish, Czech,
and Hungarian tunes that occupy most of the discs.  And the 16-note
Intona I picked up at the Sandusky Organ Rally included a disc of "It's
Howdy Doody Time", aka "Ta-ra-ra-boom-der-ay" to folks even older than I

BTW, that Intona was ciphering horribly when I bought it.  An hour later
when I cranked it in my hotel room, the ciphers were all gone!  Of course
they may return at any time of their own choosing...  For now it just
needs the usual bellows work so the music no longer beats time to my

Mike Knudsen

(Message sent Thu 31 Jul 1997, 16:54:27 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  Ariston, Discs, Organnette

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