A harmonium, also called a “melodeon”, “reed organ” or “pump organ”, is a keyboard instrument that is a lot like an organ. It makes sound by blowing air through reeds, which are tuned to different pitches to make musical notes.
A harmonium can be made to work using either the feet or the hands:
- In a foot-pumped harmonium, the player presses two pedals with his or her feet, one at a time. This is joined to a mechanism which operates a bellows, sending air to the reeds. In this way, both of the player’s hands are free to play the keyboard. This type was invented in 1842 by Alexandre Debain of Paris, although similar instruments have been made in other places around the same time.
- In a hand-pumped harmonium, the player pushes and pulls a handle back and forth with one hand, which is joined to the bellows that blows the air. Because of this, he or she can only use one hand to play the keys as the other has to keep pumping the bellows. Some players can pump enough air with one hand, and then play the keys with both hands, when necessary.