from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
engl. : reed organ , harmonium / franz. : harmonium
classification Aerophone
Template: Infobox musical instrument / maintenance / parameter range missing
Template: Infobox musical instrument / maintenance / sound sample parameters missing Related instruments

Accordion , harmonica

The Harmonium ( plural Harm o nien [emphasis on the o ] or Harmoniums) is a keyboard instrument , in which the sound by differently long breakdown tongues is produced which flows around the air to be vibrated. This makes the harmonium one of the aerophones . A similar system of sound generation have z. B. the accordion or the harmonica .

In contrast to the pipes of the organ , the reeds of the harmonium produce more inharmonic overtones , resulting in a less pure sound. This one tried especially when Saugwindharmonium through narrow Kanz Ellen damp, causing the Saugwindharmonium gets a soft, buzzing, some organ-like sound. In contrast, the pressure wind harmonium is stronger and sharper in tone and timbre, comparable to a good accordion.

Construction and technology

A pressure wind harmonium with an open rear wall. Below you can see the two bellows, above the magazine bellows, then the wind chest with the tongue chamber

Two systems can be roughly distinguished in the harmonium: the French system ( pressure wind harmonium ) and the American system ( suction wind harmonium ).

In both systems, the fan with the feet by alternately depressing two adjacent so-called is Tretschemel (also: pumping the pedals ) is actuated.

In the French system, the stool actuate bellows, the scoop bellows , which inflate a pressure accumulator, the wind magazine , directly or via the canal . The wind magazine (magazine bellows) is connected to the wind chest , an airtight wooden box, the top cover of which forms the tongue board , at whose holes the tongues attached to metal plates are located. The game valves or sound valves close the holes in the tongue board and are mechanically connected to the buttons on the manual, with which they can be opened. Due to the overpressure created in the wind chest, the air flows outwards, has to pass the tongues and vibrate them, which creates the sound. The magazine bellows can be switched off by a register (expression) so that the player can directly influence the volume of the tone ( crescendo / decrescendo ) via the bellows .

The American system works in the opposite direction: with the help of the bellows, air is pumped out of the wind magazine and the wind chest, i.e. a negative pressure is generated. If you now open a sound valve, air flows in and sets the tongues vibrating.

Both in the French and in the American system, the tongues are fixed freely swinging in a metal frame. While in the French system a number of tongues can be attached to a plate, in the American system the tongues are in individual chambers. This construction makes it easier to clean the tongues, which tend to collect dust in the suction air system. Only the American system, which is easier to produce, has established itself worldwide and in terms of numbers: In Germany too, most of the harmonies made since the end of the 19th century were suction wind instruments.

The artificial harmonium plays a special role . For these instruments, the pressure wind systems were mainly used in Germany and France. The art harmonium meets high artistic demands. For this instrument composed u. a. César Franck , Sigfrid Karg-Elert , Max Reger , August Reinhard . (It was Karg-Elert who introduced the term “harmonist” for virtuosos on the harmonium in his harmonium school, op. 99. )


One or more reeds can be present per key, which may result in different possible timbres . As with an organ, stops can be drawn individually or together, and playing aids such as octave couplers are also available.

Registers occur from 32 'to 2'. The 32 '(introduced by Mustel with the name "Baryton") only occurs as a treble register. On a few instruments whose clavitures begin with F, the 16 'registers do not repeat in the lowest octave (as is the case with the majority of instruments), but are extended to the F of the 32' register (Mason & Hamlin, Liszt Organ, F -Scale, Estey, Philharmonic, Cornish & Co., model Corniscean, Karn, 6-octave models, Kotykiewicz, concert harmonium No. 20). Few pedal harmoniums have a 32 'pedal register (Mason & Hamlin Style 1200, instruments by John Holt and Balthasar Florence). The 2 'mostly repeats in the top octave, only rarely is it completely expanded (e.g. Mannborg's legendary "forest flute"). In instruments influenced by the organ movement and designed as an organ substitute, there are also aliquot registers (1 1/3 ', 2 2/3') or mixtures.


In English usage, the suction wind harmonium (the harmonium of the “American system”) is usually called “reed organ” (also “pump organ” or “parlor organ”), while the name “harmonium” in English usually refers to ( the pressure wind harmonies, which are rare in the English-speaking area. In France and Germany, the name "harmonium" is used for both systems.

There are separate names for harmonies with special properties, such as the pure harmonium with two manuals or the orthotonophonium with 72 or 53 notes per octave.

Wind instruments with a keyboard, on which reeds are blown, are for example the melodica , the harmonetta , the triola or the couesnophon .


The harmonium consists of the following main components: the housing, which acts as a load-bearing element, the musical mechanism and the fan . In principle, all harmonies are built according to the same scheme: A stable base plate sits vertically in the middle of the housing. The play mechanism is mounted on top and the registration device above it. The bellows are located below the base plate.


Main articleHistory of the penetrating tongue

Precursors and Origin

In 1780, Christian Gottlieb Kratzenstein was the first European to develop resounding reed pipes , probably based on Chinese models. Before 1800 the first keyboard instruments such as pianofortes and organs that used such reeds were made. After 1786 Abbé Vogler had many organs rebuilt at his own expense, beginning in Petersburg, Munich, Paris, Vienna, Prague and dozens of other cities. In 1796 he performed his converted portable organ, which he called the Orchestrion , in Stockholm for the first time. The St. Petersburg organ builder Kirschnigk built “free-swinging pipes” (i.e., punched reeds) into an organ piano (combination of fortepiano and organ) around 1788. Vogler encouraged all organ builders to implement innovations. Probably an inspiration also came from the sheng , which was then played by an artist by the name of Johann Wilde in St. Petersburg.

The direct forerunners of the harmonium, however, are the instruments called Aeoline and Physharmonica . Both were instruments with two scoop pedals, a keyboard with a range of four to five octaves and usually only one row of penetrating reeds. The Aeoline was developed around 1810 by Bernhard Eschenbach together with his cousin Johann Caspar Schlimbach , who were inspired by the jew's harp. At the same time, around 1810, the French organ builder Gabriel Joseph Grenié (1756–1837) created his orgue expressif . The term "expressive" (= expressive) alludes to the fact that the volume of this instrument could be influenced by the wind.

In the USA , the organ builder Ebenezer Goodrich built the first harmonium-like straight reed instrument after 1812, inspired by his contact with Johann Nepomuk Mälzel .

“In June 1811 a curiose instrument called a Pan Harmonicon was brought to Boston. It was invented by Maelzel, whose name is usually linked with the Metronome. William Goodrich was employed to set up and exhibit the Pan Harmonicon in New York and other cities. He […] traveled with the instrument from September 1811 until June 1812. ”

“In June 1811 a strange instrument called the Pan Harmonicon was brought to Boston. Its inventor was Maelzel, who is usually associated with the metronome. William Goodrich was commissioned by him to set up the pan-harmonicon and to demonstrate it in New York and other cities. He [...] traveled with the instrument from September 1811 to June 1812. "

- Orpha Caroline Ochse : The History of the Organ in the United States

The Physharmonika was patented by Anton Haeckl in Vienna in 1821 .

Greniés compatriot, the important French organ builder Aristide Cavaillé-Coll (1811–1899) created a harmonium-like instrument for chamber music use around 1833, the so-called “Poikilorgue” (from ancient Greek. Ποικίλος (poikílos) “manifold, diverse”, so the name means as much as "organ with diverse dynamic possibilities"). All the essential features of today's harmonium are finally combined in one instrument that the French organ builder Alexandre-François Debain (1809–1877) patented under the name of harmonium in 1842, which is the first time this name appears.

Debain's harmonium was a pressure wind instrument that dominated the harmonium landscape until the 1870s. The simpler suction wind system was invented in 1836 by the Berlin Physharmonica builder Christian Friedrich Ludwig Buschmann , but initially it was not able to establish itself in Europe. In the USA, the development of the suction wind system had been advanced since the 1860s; James Cahart is considered to be the inventor of the suction bellows. The American company Mason & Hamlin presented their first suction wind instrument in 1861 and won first prize with such an instrument at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1867 . This marked the beginning of the global triumph of the suction wind harmonies.

Pedal harmonium (Lindholm, 1928) with a 30-note organ pedal as well as pedal stools or, optionally, an electric fan

Since around 1860, one- and two-manual harmonies with organ pedals have been produced and referred to as pedal harmonium (also: organ harmonium ). They were mainly used as an organ replacement in sacred spaces or as a domestic practice instrument for organists. Later (after 1900), with the triumphant advance of the electrical power supply, these pedal harmonies in particular were given electric fans, since it is difficult to operate the pedal stool with your feet and play the organ pedal at the same time; in return, however, the possibility of being able to nuanced the wind pressure by stepping on the stool was no longer possible.

Flowering period and afterlife

The harmonium experienced a heyday towards the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, when it was discovered as a kind of home organ and house instrument of the middle-class middle class, as a replacement for pipe organs in smaller churches , but also as a veritable concert instrument. “ Salon orchestras ” have also regularly used the harmonium. At times (around 1900) twice as many harmonies as pianos were sold in the western world.

The harmonium also played a role in religious gatherings (for example in Pietism ) because it came close to the sound of the organ, but was cheaper and could also be set up in smaller rooms. In some pietistic groups, the singing of religious songs accompanied by the harmonium has almost become a characteristic, which led to the jokingly derogatory term "Hallelujah pump". In Germany, the harmonium was also mainly used in smaller churches or chapels of both Christian denominations when there was not enough space and / or the financial means for a pipe organ.

For use in field services during the First World War , small, robust and, above all, light war harmonies were built.

All in all, well over half a million instruments have been manufactured by the German harmonium building companies. The most important German harmonium producers were the following companies (sorted by date of foundation): Pianofortefabrik Schiedmayer in Stuttgart , founded in 1853, also produced numerous harmonies until the 1950s; Philipp Trayser in Stuttgart, founded in 1853, dissolved in 1906; Company Ernst Hinkel in Ulm , founded in 1880, harmonium production until about 1975; Company Theodor man Borg in Leipzig, founded in 1889, in 1961 the company Lindholm united; Hörügel company in Leipzig, founded in 1893, expired in 1952; Company Magnus Hofberg in Borna , founded in 1894, in 1930 by company Lindholm taken; Company Olof Lindholm in Borna, founded in 1894, harmonium production recruited in 1990, but still repairing harmonies; Bongardt company in Wuppertal , founded in 1897, subsidiary Bongardt & Herfurth in Wiehe founded in 1920, dissolved in 1991. In Austria, Teofil Kotykiewicz's company was located in Vienna , all of which manufactured pressure wind instruments.

A revival of the harmonium, born of necessity, occurred in the years immediately after the Second World War , when, due to the destroyed churches, a large number of congregations resorted to the harmonium to ensure the musical accompaniment of congregational singing. Usually the harmonium was only used as a makeshift and was replaced by a "real" organ as soon as possible.

In the mid-1950s, the harmonica manufacturers Hohner and Koestler began to include small electrified harmonium variants under names such as Organetta or Harmophon in their product ranges; In the GDR , similar instruments were produced in Klingenthal under the name "Harmona" until the 1970s .

With the advent of electronic sound generation and at the latest since the spread of electronic organs, the harmonium has largely been displaced from musical life. The more diverse sound possibilities of the electronic instruments have certainly contributed in the first place. If you look for the cause of the harmonium itself, one can think of the often relatively loud noise that occurs when the fan is stepped on, and the sound of worn and unkempt harmonies is not an advertisement for the instrument. Another reason might be that the deep reeds in the bass range in particular need a relatively long time to settle in and are therefore slightly delayed in their response. This disadvantage has been countered with pressure wind harmonies by the fact that a so-called “percussion register” was often installed, which makes them sound precisely with small hammers that hit the tongues (with suction wind harmonies, however, the installation of percussion registers was too complex).

Because of their widespread use and the large number of pieces produced at the time, harmonies can still be found frequently on the antique market . However, since these are not particularly popular instruments today, they usually have little commercial value, especially since a professional restoration of damaged or even just worn pieces is usually quite time-consuming and therefore expensive. However, many instruments have elaborately crafted cases in the style of Historicism or Art Nouveau , so that they are very decorative.

The harmonium was only used sporadically in popular music of the 20th century. It was used most intensively by the German singer Nico , whose main instrument was the harmonium, but it is also used by younger bands such as the Kaizers Orchestra . In addition, the harmonium experienced a certain renaissance, at least among experts, after the turn of the millennium.

The harmonium in India

Indian harmonium

The harmonium ( called baja or peti depending on the region ) has become an integral part of Indian music today. Originally, English missionaries brought it to India and used it as an organ substitute. Hence the name "missionary organ" comes from. Alexandre Debain's foot-operated model from 1842 was initially distributed mainly by missionaries in India. In 1875, the instrument maker Dwarkanath Ghose in Calcutta developed a hand-operated harmonium that was better suited to Indian needs and is operated by a musician sitting on the floor. In the decades that followed, the European harmonium gradually disappeared from the Indian market and Dwarkanath's harmonium became the standard model for India. By 1913 India had become the world's largest producer of harmonies. In principle, the Indian harmonium is half an accordion , the bellows of which is operated with one hand while the free hand plays the melody. Its ease of use has not only made it a popular instrument in the folk and religious music of all religious communities in India, but also given it a permanent place as a vocal accompaniment in certain genres of classical and semi-classical North Indian music such as khyal and thumri . There the harmonium has taken on the role of the string sarangi . This despite all the objections raised against the harmonium: especially at the beginning of the 20th century, when the differences between Indian and Western music were considered insurmountable, the harmonium was one of the foreign, i.e. non-Indian instruments. A second objection is that the harmonium cannot play smooth transitions through intermediate tones. The players work against this restriction, which hinders the correct performance of ragas, by omitting certain ragan notes and fine ornamental decorations of the melody. The third objection, that the harmonium was wrongly tuned for Indian music, could be largely refuted by making appropriate adjustments.

The harmonium in folk music

The harmonium has hardly been able to establish itself as an instrument for interpreting traditional music. In some regions of the British Isles it was customary in the 19th century to accompany folk tunes with it. In Sweden this practice continues to this day, even inspiring some modern folk bands to include it in their instruments (e.g. "Triakel"). As an accompaniment instrument to the violin for traditional Celtic dance music it is still used occasionally in some areas of the Canadian Atlantic coast (Prince Edward Island, traditional music on Cape Breton Island). It is also beginning to spread in the music of the medieval scene , for example with the groups Faun from Germany and Sandragon from England.

Harmonium museums

There are harmonium museums

See also


  • L. Hartmann (Ed.): The harmonium. comprehensively the history, the nature, the construction and the treatment of the pressure and suction wind harmonium together with a treatise on the harmonium playing . Bernh. Friedr. Voigt (State Institute for Music Research), Leipzig 1913, mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de
  • Christian Ahrens, Gregor Klinke: The harmonium in Germany. Construction, economic importance and musical use. Frankfurt am Main 2001, ISBN 3-923639-48-1 .
  • Martin Geisz: Harmonium cultural heritage . Berlin 2015, ISBN 978-3-865739599
  • Martin Geisz: Music in the service “Pour orgue ou harmonium” . Berlin 2015, ISBN 978-3-7375-1766-9 .
  • Martin Geisz: Harmonium - an instrument in mission stations. A brief look at the history of missions between colonization, missionary preaching and inculturation. Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Berlin, Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-96138-046-6
  • Klaus Gernhard, Hubert Henkel: Organ instruments - harmoniums . Breitkopf & Härtel, 1984, ISBN 3-7651-0201-6 .
  • Georg Kinsky: Wilhelm Heyer Museum of Music History in Cologne Small catalog of the collection of old musical instruments . Leipzig 1913, Textarchiv - Internet Archive [general information on the history of the harmonium with catalog section]
  • Robert F. Gellerman: The American Reed Organ and the Harmonium: A Treatise on its History, Restoration and Tuning, with descriptions of some outstanding Collections, including a Stop dictionary and a directory of Reed Organs. 2nd Edition. New York 1997, ISBN 1-879511-12-6 .
  • Gero Christian Vehlow: Studies on the history of music for harmonium. Cologne 1998, ISBN 3-7649-2635-X .

Web links

Commons : Harmonium  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Harmonium  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Harmonium, das. In: Duden . Retrieved February 9, 2020 .
  2. Robert Willis: About Vocal sounds and reed pipes. In: Annalen der Physik und Chemie , Volume 3, 1832, pp. 397–437, here p. 402
  3. ^ Robert Eitner:  Vogler, Georg Joseph . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 40, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1896, pp. 169-177.
  4. ^ Waldo Selden Pratt: The History of Music . New York 1927, § 149, p. 354
  5. ^ Orpha Caroline Ochse: The History of the Organ in the United States . Indiana University Press, Bloomington / London 1975, p. 77, books.google.at
  6. ^ Cécile and Emmanuel Cavaillé-Coll: Aristide Cavaillé-Coll. His origin, his life, his work. German translation by Christoph Glatter-Götz. Schwarzach 1982, p. 26.
  7. ^ Christian Walf: Kriegsharmoium: An instrument for front music. (pdf, 2.1 MB) In: Ludwigsburger Kreiszeitung . June 24, 2014, accessed on February 9, 2020 (reproduced on garnisonmuseum-ludwigsburg.de).
  8. Matt Rahaim: That Ban (e) of Indian Music: Hearing Politics in The Harmonium. In: The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 70, No. 3, August 2011, pp. 657-682, here pp. 658 f.
  9. ^ Harmonium working group of the Society of Organ Friends : Harmonium-Museen. December 8, 2018, accessed February 9, 2020 .