Melotones were an early form of electronic organ, fitted to some Compton Organs from 1935 until 1939. 74 units are known to have been installed.
Melotones use a form of rotating disc to generate tones electrostatically. The basic timbre is a modified sine wave available, via the conventional organ relay, at selected pitches (usually 8′, 4′, 2 2/3′ and 2′) mainly on the Solo organ. As well, derived mixtures are available (Krummhorn, Musette and Carillon) and a vibrato and extended echo control.
The sound integrates well into the overall organ ensemble, and no doubt created a sensation when first introduced. They were a valuable additional resource on small organs, for example the ABC 3m/6r and minimalist Ritz 3m/4r organs.
At best (when in good condition), the ethereally pervasive sounds of the Melotone do much to bolster the image of the theatre organ as being one of might and mystery.
Notable installations included the Paramount Tottenham Court Road (with Al Bollington), Forum Southampton (with Reginald Porter-Brown) and, perhaps best of all, ABC Plymouth where Dudley Savage used the Melotone right to the end of his live ‘As Prescribed’ broadcasts in the 1970’s.
Post-war, Comptons further developed the same electrostatic tone generation principles for pipeless instruments.