The Hohner Organette – also marketed as the Weiss Fluta – is a free reed diatonic instrument that has a modified accordion reed block inside a cylinder with a mouthpiece. Sound is produced when the player blows or draws into the instrument and presses one or more of the keys which are on the outside and resemble sax or clarinet keys. The instrument was produced in the early 1900s by Hohner and previously to by the Weiss Harmonica Company. The existing literature indicates they were produced as alternate band instruments. Organettes show up on eBay every couple of weeks and are sometimes labeled as rare collector instruments. The instruments are actually quite common and there is little interest in them by collectors. However, a playable organette could accurately be classified as rare. I’ve seen organettes built from brass as well as pressed wood veneer. The bodies are robust and most are in tact. However, almost every organette for sale has broken or missing keys. The keys are not currently produced and there is no known source of supply for keys. The restoration of an organette usually entails additional organette purchases for buttons and other parts.
The tuning and musical layout of the organette somewhat resembles that of a diatonic button accordion and hence, the organette is referred to in some literature and eBay auctions as a blow accordion. Starting from the mouthpiece, there are ten (10) spring loaded buttons. The root note usually starts around hole 3 blow, although all the notes – blow and draw – fit into the major scale. At the bell end of the instrument are two (2) additional keys that are labeled “Bass”. These produce a single bass note and the major chord representing the I and V of the key. The bass keys are usually played in unison with the other notes and offer a chordal backing or an interesting “oompah” sound. The internal reed block is usually wood with a zinc plate attached. The reeds are paired in the same way as an accordion or harmonica. However, most organette reeds come from the accordion family.
The original organettes had leather valves or wind savers attached. Although possibly still in tact, almost all of them are badly curled which makes the organettes unplayable. Organettes can be restored to playable condition but the entire instrument must be completely disassembled. There is no way to make repairs short of removing almost all components. I’ve worked on several organettes and restored individual parts as well as complete instruments. In the restored condition, they are a very interesting instrument that can be used in a wide range of musical context. There is no way to estimate the cost of an organette repair without inspecting it or at a minimum seeing detailed and complete photos of all the parts. It is unlikely that an organette could be put into service as a functioning musical instrument for under $250 and this price would only apply to organettes in outstanding condition. Most restoration costs would be closer to $400.
If you have an organette for sale, you may contact me and it is possible I may be interested. If you have purchased an organette and wish to have it restored, you may take photos and send them to me. However, these photos will not likely reveal the condition of the reeds and repair costs will vary based on reeds.