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Chord Organ and Kinderklavier review – Two retro apps from SMG

Lately it seems, in the world of iOS music apps, the motto has become "bigger is better". Korg Gadget boasts 15 synths, Thor ships with over 1,000 presets, and Z3TA+ comes equipped with 6 oscillators and 6 LFO's.

But Chord Organ and Kinderklavier, two apps from SMG Media, go the opposite way. These apps are faithful emulations of the classic chord organ and toy piano that you have played as a child (or maybe still do). And I must say, these apps have absolutely nailed those sounds.

KinderKlavierChordOrganPromoShot1

Chord Organ is a modern-day version of a 1960's classic. This app emulates a classic Magnus/Bontempi reed-based organ. Just like the classic organ, there are two rows of 6 buttons - 6 major and 6 minor chords. Press one button, and you're playing the chord. The virtual keyboard provides two octaves' worth of keys, with a toggle switch to access two additional higher octaves.

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Like I said before, the sounds of Chord Organ are spot-on. SMG recorded these samples of a vintage Magnus chord organ in a studio in Nashville, TN. The sounds have that classic reed "breathiness", for lack of a better word.

I put together a quick demo below. All sounds are from the app, recorded straight into Cubasis. No mastering or effects added.

Which brings me to the second app, Kinderklavier. Now, I've got a cheap old toy piano around the house here that my girls used to bang around on. I've always loved the sound of a toy piano, and I've tinkered with the idea of recording my own samples to use. Gladly, I never did, and won't need to, thanks to Kinderklavier.

Kinderklavier is a Universal app, with the iPad version containing a two-octave keyboard, and the iPhone version containing one octave (a second octave can be accessed with the press of an 8va button). And the look is that of a classic, no-frills toy piano. A nice little touch is that the wood has a sort of dirty, fingerprinted look, with some chips on the top "edge" of the piano. Nice.

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As with Chord Organ, these sounds were individually sampled, with the recording taking place at the Sound City Studios in Los Angeles. You can tell that each key was recorded individually, as they each have a very unique sound. They have just the right amount of "plunk", with the higher notes having less sustain than the mid-range keys, just like an authentic toy piano.

For the sound demo of Kinderklavier, I figured that the most appropriate demo would be recorded by a kid. So, I enlisted the help of my 6 year-old daughter Isabelle to record Opus 777 No. 5, by Carl Czerny. This is actually her recital piece for her piano lessons, and she is already a better pianist than me. I may just have her do all my demos in the future.

Both apps are Audiobus-compatible, and the developer Scott McKay Gibson tells me that he is working on bringing Inter-App Audio (IAA) to both in the future as well. One great feature of these two is that they are also Core MIDI-compatible. So, you can plug in your external MIDI keyboard and play outside of the range available with the virtual keyboard. For Chord Organ, this obviously allows you to play any chord you'd like, and not be restricted by the 12 available buttons.

While growing up in Minneapolis, there was a local bankruptcy attorney that ran TV advertisements seemingly non-stop. His tagline: "This is all we do, and we do it well". That's what Chord Organ and Kinderklavier bring. You won't get LFO's, LPF's, or ADSR's. But, if you're interested in adding some retro sounds to your music, or just looking to take a trip back to your childhood, these apps will absolutely fill the bill.

If you're thinking a about buying these apps, please consider clicking through our App Store links below. Thanks!

Chord Organ (AppStore Link) Chord Organ
Developer: Scott Gibson
Rated: 4+
Price: $2.79 Download
KinderKlavier (AppStore Link) KinderKlavier
Developer: Scott Gibson
Rated: 4+
Price: $2.79 Download

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