Every instrument has a story, and this one is truly remarkable. However it is told, this one-of-a-kind, heirloom-grade instrument is certain to be the center of many conversations to come.
It could be told that the harmonium is vintage, as the shell of this instrument is constructed of 200-year aged teak harvested from old construction pillars taken from architectural salvage. Even some of the oldest harmoniums you find may be made of newer stock than this. Combining with Mohan Lal Premier grade Palitana reeds result in a warmth and stability you won't get from any newer stock, and this level of detail is something you'll only find from a maker with the heritage and dedication of Swarup. From the keys to the stainless hardware, you'll appreciate all the little details, which are quintessentially Indian, yet modern and very appropriate for this instrument. To compensate for some weak pigment in the original finish work (this is normal in India), we sent it to our Amish friends in Arthur, IL for perfecting. So yes, this is the best of India combined with Amish precision in the finishing touches - amazing!
MORE ABOUT THE MAKER --
Swarup was born into a family of notable Kolkata harmonium builders. His grandfather was the first to put a harmonium into a folding box, and his father refined this model to include automatic popping handles. Picking up where they left off, Swarup is making a name for himself adding quality details and artistry like no one else.
We have spent time with Swarup at his shop in Kolkata. His process is slow and meticulous, and the resulting instruments are true works of art. At Old Delhi Music, we may receive at most 6-8 of these harmoniums each year. Like all things we import, they don't arrive perfect. Our job with these is largely polishing / refinishing and some technical tweaking, which we do, and in the end, they are quite stunning - a true reflection of what we know this artist has intended for them both sonically and physically.
The Swarup Standard model is an absolutely impeccable 9/3 scale changer crafted from 50-year-aged Indian teak and finished in a dark mahogany color. All stainless steel hardware and brass accessories coordinate beautifully with the pearloid keys, valve, and other accents.
Includes: - Padded Gig Bag ($50 value) - Hard Case ($300 value) - FREE SHIPPING within continental U.S. - One month FREE access at Bhakti Breakfast Club -- hundreds of harmonium classes to explore! - Expert Concert Pitch tuning ($100 service value) and refinement services completed at our shop in our Urbana, IL
- Weight: 32 lbs. - Dimensions: 27.75 x 15.25 x 7.25 in. (closed), 24.75 x 15.25 x 10.25 in. (open) - Exterior Construction: 50-Year-Aged Indian Teak - Interior Construction: 50-Year-Aged Indian Teak - Box Type: Traditional Collapsing - Key Construction: Two-piece - Number of Keys: 37 sliding - Reed type: Palitana, Mohan Lal Deluxe - Reed banks: 3 sets (Bass, Male, Female) - Reed orientation: All Vertical - Scale changer: 9 scales - Stops: 4 (Male, Bass, Female, Male) - Drones: 5 (G#, Bb, C#, G#, F#) - Coupler: left action
SHIPPING: Your instrument will arrive safely, and if it doesn't, we'll take care of it. Our packing methods have ensured that over 99% of the instruments we ship arrive undamaged. Should things not go perfectly, we will get you a replacement, refund, part or whatever is necessary. No problem.
STORE: Old Delhi Music carefully curates a selection of only fine quality ethnic musical instruments. Our business is family owned and operated in Urbana, IL since 2010. For the back story, check out this video:
It's a shame when we receive harmoniums purchased elsewhere and have to bill someone a couple hundred dollars for the work we would have included for free...
Q: How long have you been doing this?
A: Since 2010.
Q: How'd you get started?
A: Our first "factory checked" shipment of harmoniums arrived needing some serious attention. Rather than selling bad products, we went to work learning how to make them to sound great and we've been improving at that ever since.
Q: So you know what you're doing?
A: Yup. We know how to bring just about any harmonium to it's full potential.
Q: Shouldn't that be the builders job?
A: The builders put the instruments together, and we mostly work with people who do that well. Our job is refinement- we coax the good sounds and feels out by manipulating this and that - scraping here, turning there. On a Kolkata-style box, that process can consume an entire day. On a standard twin reed, 3-4 hours is pretty typical. It's a process, but when you've drawn out all the goodness, it's totally worthwhile.
Q: But is it really practical to do this with each one?
A: Well, "The Harmonium Handbook" does say that fully retuning "an entire harmonium" (even a two reed) is impractical. But we do it anyway...every single day.
Q: Is it tedious?
A: Sure. But it's also fairly meditative, and the days go pretty fast.
Q: So it's worthwhile?
A: Absolutely. Taking an instrument that's "decent" to awesome in a few hours is good work. No question.
Q: I've shopped around, and your prices are pretty competitive. Given the level of service you're talking about, how do you do it?
A: We do pretty good volume, and we don't have a storefront, so we keep our expenses low.
Q: Any other competitive advantages to note?
A: Definitely. We are THE ONLY shop anywhere that offers custom, hand tuning services for ANY new two, three or four reed harmonium. Only one competitor offers a similar service, and that's only for a couple of their two reed models.
Q: But don't all the others claim to have A440 tuned harmoniums?
A: Many competitors advertise harmoniums that are "~A440" or "A440+/-...", but for true precision and accuracy, every single reed must be touched, allowed to settle, and refined until the tuning is stable. The process takes time, and it can't be rushed or sit too long in a warehouse waiting for eventual fulfillment. Quality, custom set up and tuning can ONLY be completed on a per-order basis, which means you'll have to wait a few extra days. It's NOT a service you can offer via Amazon Prime.
Q: Tell me about your tuning options?
A: We can do anything. But in general, we offer these three options:
- Equal tuning (Free): An Equal or Indian tuned instrument can be played with other instruments as long as they are tuned to match the harmonium. To complete this basic service, we determine roughly where the instrument is already settled out, which is typically higher than A440 and generally out of tune up and down the scale. Once we know about how it is generally pitched, we check and adjust each reed individually as needed and then match octaves along with common intervals. Altogether, it's a lot of small to medium adjustments and in the end, we have generally touched 75-100% of the reeds to get everything in tune. This is our standard approach.
- Concert Pitch / A440 tuning (Optional; fee varies): A Concert Pitch tuned harmonium will match the default tuning for Western Instruments, meaning this is a very versatile tuning choice. For this service, all reeds are retuned up and down to scale to correspond with Concert Pitch standard tuning where the middle A note resonates at 440hz. This service requires additional wait time since we have to first tune everything once, allow it to settle out for a day or so, and then go back through it again to make finer adjustments similar to what we do when Equal tuning. Only in this case, we are Equal tuning so that everything is pitched to correspond right with A440.
- Cosmic Pitch / A432 tuning (Optional; fee varies): A Cosmic A432 harmonium will work only in conjunction with other A432 tuned instruments. This is a newer service, and we offer this for only select harmoniums that handle this tuning well. With this service, all reeds are drastically retuned nearly a quarter tone below Concert Pitch to match a middle A resonating at 432hz., which is said to be a frequency that resonates in true harmony with the universe. This service takes a week+ to complete.
Q: Do you believe the hype about A432?
A: It does sound pretty deep and beautiful when it's done, but who knows...
Q: What aren't you guys good at?
A: We focus on the instruments, which means we often times lag on website updates. And social media is definitely a priority...
Q: So what's the best way to contact you if I have additional questions.
A: Give us a call or send an email.
While much of India is rapidly advancing, the Indian instrument manufacturing process remains very old school. From touch ups to tuning, much of what we do at Old Delhi Music is add a layer of quality control to an otherwise non-standardized production process.
We wrote THIS ARTICLE to ensure customers understand and might appreciate this vintage production style, the unique products we carry, and how we're working to ensure genuine quality, despite the odds. It's a quick read, and definitely worthwhile for anyone considering the purchase of a traditional Indian instrument.