Martinetta and Variophon

The Variophon is a monophonical electronical musical wind instrument, invented by Jobst Peter Fricke, Wolfgang Voigt and Jürgen Schmitz at 1975 at the Acoustical Department of the Musicological Institute of the University of Cologne. At the beginning it has been built up by the firm Ernest Martin KG.

inside the Martinetta



Videos: Jobst P. Fricke and Wolfgang Voigt playing the Martinetta

all pictures and videos: Jürgen Schmitz


At 1978/79 the firm "Realton", founded by Helmut Reuter (not related with me), has bought the rights for building up this instrument and introduces three versions of the "Variophon" at the Music Fair in Frankfurt 1980:

1. The Variophon spot had a  so-called "Musikcockpit" with 4 timbre module slots and it could be connected to radios, Hifi or PA systems.

Variophon spot

2. The Variophon standard had also the "Musikcockpit" with 4 timbre module slots. In contrast to the spot version it  had a built in amplifier (40 Watt), a  speaker system and a possibility to connect ear phones.

Variophon standard

3. The Variophon gig was a studio instrument in a 19"-case. On the back of this case have been 6 slots  for 6 timbre modules. On the front have been lots of effects and filter potentiometers. The instrument could be connected to PA systems.

Variophon gig

These Instruments could be played by a special keyboard or by a normal keyboard with a separate blow control.

Variophon blow controller with keys

Variophon Keyboard with additional blow controller

Variophon blow controller with recorder fingerings

Since the instrument consists of different modules (blow control, keyboard, timbre modules, sound generator etc.) it was possible to change these modules (e.g. pedals instead of a keyboard). One could play it as a wind instrument or with the help of a keyboard with a separate blow controller. One could even built parts of this instrument into other instruments (e.g. accordions).

Variophon built in an accordion

Variophon means not only the unique possibility to vary the timbre after the principles of timbre found by Karl  Erich Schumann, but also the variability of its modules. So it is possible to adapt the instrument to the player instead of adapting the player to the instrument.


Pioneers and Inventors of the Martinetta and of the Variophons
Karl Erich Schumann
Jobst P. Fricke
Wolfgang Voigt
Helmut Reuter
Jürgend Schmitz
Karl Erich Schumann,
Discoverer of the Principles of Timbre
Jobst P. Fricke
Inventor of the 
pulse forming process 
Wolfgang Voigt
Inventor of the 
pulse forming process 
Helmut Reuter
Founder of the 
Realton firm
Jürgen Schmitz,
Developer of the