If you're looking for something a little left-field to add real organic warmth to your pads, or a uniquely textural lead sound, or an old-school roots vibe to your Reggae, the ShelTone might just fit the bill.
The ShelTone 226 is a cool electric reed organ built into a tolex suitcase. It makes its sounds by using an electric fan to drive air over reeds, much in the style of a harmonium or accordion. As well as three octaves of keys, the original 226 boasts a set of Bass Note buttons to the left of the keyboard, plus two sets of Chord buttons – one major set, one minor set. You don't get all
the bass notes and chords of a full octave, though, just a selection, which limits playing on the original keyboard to certain keys (basically C, D, G, A and F).
The great thing about the ShelTone is its warm, reedy, breathy quality of sound. It's simply more organic than most organs, with a rich, throaty sound in the bass and a keen, driving treble. With all its settings left on "natural", it sits effortlessly in folky or alt-folky tunes, and can sound either like an organ or – with a bit of manipulation – like an accordion. But run through some outboard effects, which of course we've built right in, the sound can become very different – everything from a 60s mellow mood-setter to much more driving, grungy and aggressive roar that works well for a 70s punk organ sound. It can do that Caribbean thing too, chunking along on the offbeat of your Bob Marley tributes.