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