The Capri – Mid Century Fan Organ

The Capri is a rare electric fan driven reed organ, made in Italy by Serenelli in the 1950’s. The sound is somewhat like the melodica, harmonium, or the accordion.

The story

The Capri is a rare electric fan driven reed organ, made in Italy by Serenelli in the 1950’s.

My wife spotted this exquisitely crafted mid-century relic at a local antique shop & surprised me with it back in 2018. We live in a mid-century home built in 1959 in southern California & the interior design of our home & music studio is also inspired by the era, so this instrument sits cozy & comfortably among other era inspired instruments, electronics, & doohickies.

The sound of The Capri: Mid-Century Fan Organ is somewhat like the melodica, harmonium, or accordion. It’s an instrument which manages to be extremely cheesy & mysteriously eerie at the same time. When you experience this instrument in person, you are immediately transported back in time. From the moment you plug it in, flip the electric switch that turns on the fan. The organ anxiously waits for you to press one of the clickety-clackety smooth white plastic keys, which opens the valve of your desired tonal expression, allowing the mid-century “cool” air to blow through one of the reeds. This causes it to vibrate & produce a swirling, cheesy, oscillating, eerie, sound wave. Well, at least that’s what my brain thought of when typing up this story.

The instrument is incredibly simple & so is this Piano Book exclusive sampled version. The interface is sleek, simple, & mid-century inspired. It was recorded in stereo in my home studio’s dead room using a Neuman TLM-102 & a Sterling Audio ST-66. The recording captures the instrument’s real life subtle stereo imaging along with the natural phase, wow & flutter that takes place due to the oscillating fan blades blowing the air through the reeds, giving this instrument it’s unique tonal voice. I used Waves Z-Noize to remove the sound of the fan noise. The keys are very clicky when you press & release them & this is an important part of the sonic experience, so there is no separate volume control over it. All though this acoustic instrument is not velocity sensitive in real life I chose to make it velocity sensitive for a more expressive playing experience. You have control over each mic’s volume level, the instruments master volume (SWELL), a basic cut-off filter (MOOD), lush reverb (AMBIENCE), & lastly the ability to turn on & off the fan along with volume control over the fan noise. When you first play this instrument, I strongly encourage that you turn on the fan, play around with the instrument, & then turn off the fan. This will give you the most authentic experience.

Final Note: Listen to the song “Butcher’s Tale (Western Front 1914)” by The Zombies from the grossly underrated album Odyssey and Oracle circa 1968. This simple song showcases a haunting Victorian Pump Organ & melodic vocal arrangement and really sums up how this instrument makes me feel. I hope you enjoy this instrument as much as I do. Happy music making.

The Capri - Mid Century Fan Organ


Reviews for The Capri – Mid Century Fan Organ

Leave a review to let others know what you thought of the instrument!

  • This one is a keeper!

    What you get:

    The full keyboard (34 keys), sampled by minor 3rds.
    3 vel levels + release triggers.
    2 microphones (Neumann TLM-102 + Sterling Audio ST-66).
    + bonus: sound of The Capri turning on, and then off.
    100 samples total.

    What I liked:

    - the GUI is very evocative. I feel like I'm sitting down to the instrument as I look at it.
    - the sampling is simple, but complete. even down to the release triggers and background fan noise.
    - the sounds are very usable, especially to somebody like me (I happen to really like using the sound of non-portable harmoniums in neoclassical settings). mellow enough, but can also cut through the mix as a lead instrument.
    - the 'extras' added (right/left mics, 'mood', 'ambience') give the instrument enough give/take to be tailored to taste right from the GUI.

    What I Wish For:

    Not a thing, really. This is a great effort. I suppose some might wish for the 'chord section' (to the left) to be sampled/included...? I myself would not, because I suspect (but don't know for sure) that the chords in a section like this would be rather dense, and those can often be grating, even when incorporating a nice solo tone.

    Thanks for this instrument, Taylor! I will be keeping it, and using it, for sure!

    LoFoMusic05 August 2022