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De Trayser van de webmaster






The Trayser harmonium used in the top menu

All text and pictures on this page are © Frans van der Grijn 2008

It is permitted to download the pictures on this page for personal use. However, publication is only permitted when the text referring to the pictures is quoted in full and a link to the original source is visible and clickable on your page. copied

An explanation of the top menu can be seen on this page In this topic detailed information about the mechanical action of this little but beautiful Trayser 2-rank harmonium.

Let's start with some details about this German harmonium builder.

Philip J. Trayser in Stuttgart. The middle name J. is not know up until now. The same happens with his brother George W. Trayser, owning his own company in the United States in Indianapolis IN.
Possibly, George W. had some clairvoyant skills and was dreaming about unlimited power on the market of harmononium, melodeon and reed organ. :-)
Both Philip J. en George W. were trained at Alexandre in Paris, France. Alexandre built harmoniums under a licence of Debain, the inventor of harmonium.
This means the educational line Debain - Trayser was a short line.

The Trayser firm was founded in 1847, according to literature. Only in 1853 the first written formal documents have been located. These are documents of the Stuttgart taxes for the accounting years 1853/1854. In these documents Trayser is referred to as "Physharmonica-Fabrik". Ahrens et al in "Das Harmonium in Deutschland" mentioned that Ph. J. probably has been invited to join an existing small business. The Trayser firm has been in Stuttgart during its full existence.
In 1883 the firm has filed a request for bankruptcy, [*] however they managed to solve the debts and succeeded in bringing back the firm to full healthy financial power.
[*] In Western-Europe it is not a realbankruptcy, but a proceeding to avoid real bankruptcy. In the Netherlands we call it "Surceance of payments". Thomas Gregory explained to me in the USA this is a proceeding named: filing for chapter III bankruptcy. When payments are no longer possible, than the bankruptcy will be executed.

In 1905 the firm ceases production and the firm is legally liquidated. In 1906 the firm officially goes out of business. The firma Trayser from 1847-1905 built approxemately 37.000 instruments, all of the "pressure persuasion", according to the Museum of Musical Instruments of the University of Leipzig , formerly the Karl-Marx Universität [*]. Additional to the statement of Leipzig, Ord-Hume suggests suction instruments have been built. However he does not give any proof of that statement.
[*] See:Gernhardt/Henkel/Schrammek: Orgelinstrumente & Harmoniums, VEB Deutscher Verlag für Musik, Leipzig 1983.

About 1890 Trayser built for the Japanese scientist dr. Shohei Tanaka from Tokyo, a harmonium tuned pure, built according to the invention by Tanaka. Tanaka named the instrument "Enharmonium". This instrument is based on 20 notes in each octave.

One illustrious day in the future, I see on pages coloured #333333 an article featuring the Enharmonium by Tanaka.

So, Philip J. started his company in 1847 in Stuttgart, at the same time his brother George W. started his company in 1849 in Indianapolis (Indiana).
Based upon pictures of an instrument built by Philip J., hence a German instrument, you will be informed about technical details an properties of the pressure harmonium.

Each picture is commented with text and or videoclips. Starting with a full view, next we turn the instrument around and start at the bottom and working our way up to the top.
All to explain the generating of sound from the instrument.

Trayser harmoniumium numbered 554


Trayser 554-01  

In the instrument a number is found on various places. The number is 554. We know that number 948 dates back to 1873. I presume 554 means before 1870.


The stoplist of this 2 rank instrument is:

Bass   Treble
E Expression
O Forté   1 Flûte
S Sourdine   2 Clarinette
2 Bourdon   T Tremblant
1 Cor Anglais   O Forté
G Grand Jeu   Kneelever Forté B +T

Forté is written in French style on the stoplabels.

Restoration 2005 by Piet Bron, Oss, The Netherlands

Now we go to the back of the instrument. Here we see the parts that are responsible for creating sound. For making music you still need a guy or gal at the frontside.

Backside from the bottom to the top we see:

  • the two treadles working the two feeder bellows
  • the two feeder bellows, with white leater glued onto them
  • above the feeders, glued with blue paper two wind channels and the windcheest, and below the windchest and above the two feeders is the reservoir bellow, the latter one resting on two spiral springs.
  • the windchest has blue paper glued onto it. Using blue paper is an old method to make the system airthight. Above that: the colour blue is a way to protect the leather and wood against the moth.
  • on top of the windchest the various layers containing the reeds, the valves and stops.
Trayser554-03   On the left you can see the connection between treadles and feeders. It only takes a simple lever construction to push the feeder upwards by pressing down the treadle.
In the bottom of the right feeder the inlet holes are visible. On te inside of the feeder over the holes there are leather flaps. Once starting pumping, the contents of the feeder will be smaller, so the pressure rises. The higher pressure presses the leather onto the holes. So aire can only travel to the reservoir bellow.
Camera on a tripod. I moved the feeder by hand a few times. So air has gone to the reservoir bellows. So it was filled with air, compared the the previous pictures.
The two springs push the bottom of the reservoir upwards, hence a stable pressure onwards the reeds is produced.
Trayser554-05   Here we reached a new level. the bottom layer op top of the windchest.
On this picture the mechanism to activave a stop.
Connected to wooden blocks we see brass levers. Once a stopknob is pulled, the lever will put pressure on an underlying lever. This lever on its turn, moves a wooden pilot (black) down. The black pilot on its turn moves down a brass pilot. The brass pilot opens the stopvalve, which is in the inside of the windchest.
From here on we can sound the pulled stop by pumping and pressing keys on the keyboard.

On the right we can see the "Grand Jeu" which is harmonium-speak for "all stops on".
The black iron lever has various arms on it. They end upon the top of the brass levers activating the stops as mentioned before. One arm is not on top, but below the heavy brass lever. When pulling the stop "Grand Jeu" this lever will make the black iron lever to move axial, and all stops are activated now.

To make it more and better visisble, a bigger picture of the one on the right side, is below.

By the way in suction instruments it works different, however the principle is the same.



Trayser554-08   Trayser554-09
The pictures left and right show the same stop. On the left picture the stop is off.
On the right picture the stop is on.
It can be clearly seen that pulling the stop, the big lever is pushed down.
  Also visible on the lift picture is the wearing of the lever. The track of the mechanisme has created a trail.
My calculations show that around 2078 the stop will not work any more, because the trail has become a split. :-)

The first stop in front is the Forté stop. When talking about harmoniums we talk French, hence Forté. Suction instruments are considered to be Anglosaxon, hence Forte. Without an diacritical accent.

Forté opens a valve in order to make the sound louder.

Trayser554-11   Now we are in te layber just below the keys of the keyboard. Below the keys are balanced levers, connected to the reed valves. (In French: "les soupapes de debouchés" (Mustel book) When a key is pressed, the balanced lever will open the valve (soupape) so wind can flow through the reed and sound will be generated. Or as often said: the reed will speak.

The balanced levers are activated by the keyboard keys. See the pictures right and below.

To make it more understandable I created a little movie, showing a key pressed and pressing the balanced lever, lifting the valve / soupape.

To see the movie, click here

This movie was made using a harmonium cut in half. A project by Arie Schüller form the Netherlands. He did this with both an harmonium and a reed organ.



  Here are the springs that move back the balanced lever to there state of rest. Valves are closed again. Also the key on the keyboard goes up again.
Trayser554-24   Trayser554-30
Above is one balanced lever taken out. On the left end you see the valve. This one operates two rows of reeds.   The bottomside of the valve. Due to many years of playing, there is some dirt on the leather of the valve.

The punched number in the action of the instrument. "Action" is a word used to described the part of the inner mechanism of the organ, the windsystem excluded.

This action is number 554, an indication of its age.

Trayser medaillon
The tin medal used for nameplate of this Trayser. The medal is 4 cm in size. = 1.57480 inches.   The keyboard and stops and namesign.

The top of the instrument taken of, and also the keyboard, the stops-machnisme.

In the back of the instruments two hooks of casted iron are visible. At the front are two smaller ones.

Left front there is a cast iron black hinge. By unhooking the hooks in the back, the layer can be opened and turned over.

They layer is opened now. The cast iron hooks are very visible in the front. The layer is now upside down. Behind the layer is the topside of the windchest.   Trayser554-16
Trayser554-23   On this picture can be seen that all balanced levers have a number. With a reason. When new all are ecqual. But after intens usage, they fit best and travel easiest when on their original place in the row. By numbering you are sure all are on the original place when putting them back after tender care.
Trayser554-27   Trayser554-28
The stop "Sourdine" is exactly the same as the main stop Cor Anglais. They share the same row of reeds. By pulling the stop Cor Anglais the red valve will open and wind flows to the reeds.
By pulling the Sourdine the red valve stays closed. Only the round opening on the left is used. The moving cover is used to block the windflow. By closing the cover less wind will flow. The Sourdine gets less wind than the Cor Anglais. And hence sounds softer.
Left of the Sourdine mechnisme is a small mechanism with a little spring on it. This is the relief valve. When the stop is pushed in, this relief valve is unblocked in order to let the pressure out through a small channel to the side of the instrument. A channel of only a few millimeters, so air flows slowly without noise.

Above is the Tremblant, which is French for Tremolo or Vox Humana. This tremolo is in the chamber of the 8' Flute and hence only works on this stop. Flute and Tremblant cannot be in use together, hence two separate stops. When Tremblant is pulled and Flute is pulled also, the Tremblant is disabled.

Due to the size of the valve of Flute, the tremblant simply won't work.

The Tremblant is a very simple construction. A piece of wood hinged with leather and a piece of felt as weight. To avoid to turn over fully, the piece of wood is to long to be upright inside the reed chamber. So it has to fall back down.


The Tremblat cover lifted. A small valve in red is below the cover.

As soon as the Tremblant stop is activated, the air wil flow through the valve opening. The wooden cover will be lifted. By its own weight it will fall back en disrupts the airflow. And the result: a vibrating tone.

Het resultaat is dat de toon gaat vibreren, het klinkt als een vrij fanatieke, kort stotende tremulant. Waarschijnlijk zou bij een iets groter contragewicht het effect iets rustiger worden. (De "slag" wordt dan langzamer).

And for the inquiring minds, of course we have a movie. Counting exactly 6 seconds. Bad lighting, and many different sounds, and no tone.
"Tremblant The Movie" has been nominated for a Golden Globe. :-)

To view clik the link below.

See the movie

the Oscar is on the right.

The Oscar


The purple lines on the pictures above are "wads". A wad is a long band of leather, sewed around a bunch of wool threads, all together about 1-1.5 cm in diameter. The result is a round string used to make the connection between windchest and reed layer airtight. There is a page on this website about Louis Huivenaar, one of my teachers. On this page a bunch of pictures about sewing wads and apllying them to a harmonium. This page is here.

De reeds by Trayser

A few German builders mounted the reeds in a special manner, opposed to the "normal French harmonium". In French harmonium we see reeds with single reed frames. At the Trayser workshop we see "plates" containing a number of reeds. Many times I have heard them being referred to as "octaveplates". However, in this Trayser non of the plates has an octave. In the table below are the numbers of reeds in the plates in this instrument. Both lowest bass note and lowest treble note are in a seperate frame, obviously cut from a bigger plate.

16 voet
8 voet


The two rows of reeds of this instrument, splitted in bass and treble
the bass reeds
treble reeds
16'reeds bass in lowest octave ( European: Great Octave/ Anglosaxon CCC-octave)
Detailed view treble reeds
The screws fixing the reeds on the plate and the screws fixing the plate on the chest. The white stripes are bands of leather, used for airtight fixing on the wood.
The upper reed is the lowest note on this instrument. As mentioned in a seperate frame cuted from a plate.
The Trayser name stamp in the plates. (above and below). The stamped name is in the treble plates only.

Pressure and suction reeds compared, using a picture from an English supplier of reeds. The top image are pressure reeds, the lower image are suction reeds.

In both editions of reeds, the difference between a 16' and 8' reed are marginal in lenght. To make the 16 sound at the correct pitch, the tong is fixed with a weight. This makes the tone lower.



Fancy a bigger one to see?

What you have seen above is a small two rank instrument. Another page on this website has the same construction, detailed pictures of the mechanism. Only this beast has 12 rows in treble, 7 in bass. As this page, the next page is in English too.








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