Thursday, June 3, 2010

Yamaha GS1 (GS-1) advertisement #2, Keyboard 1981

Yamaha GS1 (GS-1) advertisement from page 77 of Keyboard Magazine December 1981.

I love it when new gear arrives in the mail. In this case, it was a midi->cv converter all the way from the UK. And it arrived in under 5 days. I think they may have actually pushed it out of a warehouse in Canada to get it here so quickly. Smart.

I love technology. And fast shipping.

But before I go play with my new toy, I just have to get all this GS1/FM synthesis stuff rattling in my head down in some kind of coherent blog post.

Remember how in my last blog post I mentioned that after the G. Leuenberger Company came out with their GS1 advertisement, it took Yamaha four months to come out with theirs?

Well. This is Yamaha's ad. And it's all about beauty.

The gorgeous photo of the GS1 is the centre piece, with dramatic lighting casting shadow giving the impression you are looking at a piano. The ad is well balanced with lots of breathing space. Minimalist to the point that some may even suggest it tips towards the down-right boring. But the ad simply reflects the GS1's minimalist front panel controls that hide the complicated technology required to produce its FM sounds.

And thankfully, Yamaha didn't spend a lot of time talking about FM synthesis during this introductory phase - I think it would have just confused and scared readers at this point. In my last blog post I pointed out that the technology was so new, so different and complicated, that I thought Yamaha wasn't too anxious to start educating readers on FM synthesis. Until there were programmable FM synthesizers (and that was a big 'if' at this point), there was no need for readers to look under the hood too deep.

So, on purpose or not, Yamaha got it right by not slapping technical jargon all over this ad, elaying any tech-talk until after readers started hearing FM sounds on records and reading articles on FM that started trickling out of magazines the following year.

And with the GS1 being so cost-prohibitive, I doubt this ad was meant to move much product. According to the synthesizer page on, this is exactly what happened.
"Yamaha reports indicated that only 16 GS-1's were ever produced, and they were all either showcase pieces or donated to Yamaha-sponsored artists, which included (in the U.S.) Stevie Wonder and Chick Corea. Despite the fact that it wasn't actually sold, the GS-1 bore a retail price of about $16,000..."
So, if the ad wasn't meant to sell the GS1, and it wasn't to introduce FM technology, what could have been the purpose?

One of my theories is that it was created to do one thing. To let readers, and most certainly other synthesizer companies, known that Yamaha was on to something different (the tag-line in the ad is: Its only similarity to other keyboards is that it has a keyboard). Something potentially BIG.

Unfortunately, this particular ad only ran once (as far as I can tell) on page 77 of the December '81 issue, and I'm not sure they made much of a splash. Plus, in this issue alone they were competing against some major players sporting proven technologies, including Roland's kick-ass two-page Jupiter 8 ad and E-mu's highly creative 'Play a Turkey' Emulator ad, as well as a highly descriptive two-page Synclavier ad and the great artwork of a Sequential Pro-One Ear-Force ad.

Yamaha definitely had their work cut out for 'em. But, if you recall, even though the GS1 didn't sell that well, I think in the end Yamaha's FM technology did alright. :o)

1 comment:

FilthyMcNasty said...

Bob James used the GS-1 when it came out.

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