The Urkuharmonium Orchestra

An orchestral landscape at your fingertips with an "urkuharmoni" (in Finnish) also known as a harmonium in English

The story

One day many years ago a huge monstrosity of an instrument had appeared on my grandparents house – purchased by my grandfather, who was a music teacher and a choir leader.

My grandmother (who was never asked about this) wasn’t too keen on seeing the pile of wood that was blocking the hallways and has been doing that for decades.

This instrument is called “urkuharmoni” in Finnish, or harmonium in English. It is a very old tool used to replace orchestras in Finnish music schools in the 40’s and 50’s.

Nowadays these instruments are very rare (to my knowledge) and very hard
to obtain anymore. The instrument is played by pushing air inside it through foot-operated bellows. (hence the booming sound in the instrument)

There are many buttons used to choose which instruments of an “orchestra” the instrument is playing, which include bass, cello, viola, clarinet, celeste and “vox humana”.
Also including pedals and a mysterious “K” button, which activates a sort of chord mode. (maybe pianists would know better what it means). Some of the keys in the instrument are stuck, making the viola for example have two sounds playing always, giving an interesting detuned texture.

Now many years have passed and the instrument has been laying around collecting dust without anyone using it. Some of the keys are stuck and missing pieces, not all notes play and there are physically pieces missing. Best thing is that the instrument cannot be opened easily to fix anything.

It took many attempts to get a usable sound out of this instrument and every time a key got stuck I needed to give a hard punch for the keyboard.

So here I present to you, in its detuned old and cranky glory

The Urkuharmonium Orchestra
by SomniatorSound

Reviews for The Urkuharmonium Orchestra

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  • Character
  • Playability
  • Inspiration
  • GUI

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

  • Medieval Vibes

    This instrument has such a unique old fashioned 18th century church sound that i think is really awesome. Sure the sampling can be rough and its not perfect but i still think it has so much character. Sometimes i prefer these broken sounding instruments. This sounds really realistic to me. Its such a specific instrument that if i were to use this it would probably be the basis for this piece rather than trying to work this into an existing piece. this instrument is definitely rough but i still find it playable and inspiring.

    septemberwalk10 November 2021
  • I like the old booger

    I think I can use this instrument in some of my music. I do like to find old organs. Lots of character to say the least. Poor grandma, her blocked hallways.

    ronieaz27 October 2021
  • A chaotic organ?

    Once you find the folder with the patches, you will see 11 of them. Some of them like Full Organ and the High Full Section are like a normal organ instrument. Most of the others have something chaotic going on, like random noises or pitches. I am personally not sure how I can turn these into something creative, since I usually prefer more control over this kind of chaos. I also hope the unorganized folders doesn't hold you back from trying it.

    Alex Raptakis28 October 2021
  • Harmonium

    It's a unique concept, and there are some very usable sound here. However, it's important to note that these samples are pretty rough. Many notes contain a really loud low thump at the beginning, and many samples contain multiple, dissonant notes. One of the presets also has trouble locating the wallpaper. There are definitely some useable sounds here, but overall, this is a little on the rough side. Then again, that might be exactly what's needed in certain circumstances.

    Sam Ecoff16 October 2021