Suzuki Omnichord

Omnichord PosterThis Month’s featured piece of gear is an electronic instrument introduced in 1981 by the Suzuki corporation which far surpasses it’s intended use. The Omnichord is basically an electric auto-harp with chord buttons that can play in every key using Maj, Min, Maj 7, Min 7, Augmented, and Diminished chords, but the result is something an acoustic autoharp can’t do without modification. To the right of the chord buttons is a ribbon strip (called a touch plate) which is strummed as you play it, and spans a three-octave range sounding the notes in the chord being held on the chord button. In addition, there is a rhythm section with adjustable volume and tempo control featuring popular beats like Rock 1 and 2, Tango, Blues, Latin, Country, Waltz, March, and Disco. This model is from 1984 and is labeled the “System 2 model OM-84,” which features a chord memory interface that allows the player to record a sequence of chord changes and then trigger them from a separate button. The model after this one (still in Omnichordproduction) is named the Suzuki Q chord and includes MIDI capability. It has a purple color scheme and also kind of has a guitar shape, which I find very weird. Although it was designed for people with little musical training, several musicians have latched onto this bizzare instrument’s idiosyncrasies. Notable users of the omnichord have been: Bjork, Devo, Daniel Lanois, and Brian Eno.