This fascinating instrument appears to have been made in the 1950s, in the San Diego area. It's a compact soundbox with 2 chromatic octaves of strings. Its salient feature, however, is a grid, placed over the strings, with 15 openings which span all of the strings. The rail which forms the left side of each opening has a series of depressions in it, at locations which correspond to the notes of a chord. A complicated picking device includes a spring-loaded pick with a roller attached. When the pick is drawn along the opening, the roller dips in the the depressions in the rail, allowing the pick to play only the selected notes. Even better, the entire grid can be placed in any of 12 positions, allowing the instrument to be played in every possible key, with instant transposition. Theoretically this adds up to 180 chords! (Of course some are duplicated.) And amazingly, there still aren't enough. More to come…
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This page was banged out with Word 97, 17 Oct 99.