Vintage Organ Donates Parts For Two New Instruments

It’s often hard to know what to do with a classic bit of electronics that’s taking up far too much of the living room for its own good. But when the thing in question is an electronic organ from the 1970s, the answer couldn’t be clearer: dissect it for its good parts and create two new instruments with them.

Judging by [Charlie Williams]’ blog posts on his Viscount Project, he’s been at this since at least 2014. The offending organ, from which the project gets its name, is a Viscount Bahia from the 1970s that had seen better days, apparently none of which included a good dusting. With careful disassembly and documentation, [Charlie] took the organ to bits. The first instrument to come from this was based on the foot pedals. A Teensy and a custom wood case turned it into a custom MIDI controller; hear it in action below. The beats controller from the organ’s keyboard was used for the second instrument. This one appears far more complex, not only for the beautiful, hand-held wooden case he built for it, but because he reused most of the original circuitry. A modern tube amp was added to produce a little distortion and stereo output from the original mono source, with the tip of the tube just peeking above the surface of the instrument. We wish there were a demo video of this one, but we’ll settle for gazing at the craftsmanship.

In a strange bit of timing, [Elliot Williams] (no relation, we assume) just posted an Ask Hackaday piece looking for help with a replacement top-octave generator for another 1970s organ. It’s got a good description of how these organs worked, if you’re in the mood to learn a little more.



8 thoughts on “Vintage Organ Donates Parts For Two New Instruments

  1. The rhythm boards from Lowery and Hammond (70/80’s) are best sounding of that era. You can push more than one button and mash the rhythms, instead of the last button logic to a big chip. A few were added on by dealers and are easy to take off and do this.

    I have a 2 octave pedal board that needs the MIDI treatment. Only as big as two of the type in this post, not the floor filling type. Most of all I harvested a chord matrix keyboard from an S6, Hammond’s attempt to entice the many accordion players into an organ. It has more chords than the 120 bass type on the squeezebox. It will require a little extra decoding as it has 2X6 instead of the 12 outputs one for each note in an octave.

  2. Cool build I will definitely have to peek back in to see that rhythm section do its thang :)
    Love those. As echodelta pointed out, the multipush button trick is super sweet and these era machines are easy to modify with individual outputs for each drum :) I re-purposed a bass pedal system many moons ago as a poor man’s midi Taurus but it got destroyed when a tree literally fell on it :(

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