Monday, June 28, 2010

Aries Music Inc. Modular ad #2, Synapse 1977

Aries Music Inc. Modular advertisement from page 42 of Synapse Magazine November/December 1977.

This second Aries 1/2-page advertisement ran in a couple of Synapse issues starting in November/December, directly following the first 1/2-pager. It was an improvement over that first ad in some ways, and not in others.

First, the negative. And it is obvious. White text on a black and white image hardly every works - you really have to darken the image to make it readable. When my eyes glance quickly at this ad, they are immediately drawn to the knobs - not the logo or tag line. Both get lost in a sea of light grays. Aries tries to darken the photo behind the text, but for the most part it fails to make the text readable.

And it is a shame that the readability of the ad is compromised because that Aries logo (suspiciously absent in the first Synapse Aries ad) would look gorgeous against a darker background.

Also, the ad-copy is a significant improvement over the first ad. In fact, its almost perfect for the audience. Usually I don't copy out the full ad-copy, but I really want you to read it...
"Almost every synthesizer has a keyboard, but not every keyboard player is a synthesist.

Aries makes modular systems for the musician who considers the synthesizer to be his primary instrument. Modular design allows complete control over pitching and normalled connections - thus each player can achieve a personalized repertoire of sounds.

Every Aries system is a custom design because every customer gets involved: choosing from our kits, modules and cabinets the kind of system he wants to use.

So if you play the synthesizer, and not just the keyboard, we think you've already made the connection."
As you can see, this ad-copy is totally customized for a Synapse audience. Put this advertisement in Contemporary Keyboard magazine and you would only reach a fraction of that magazine's reading audience. But in Synapse, Aries can target with pin-point accuracy someone that is willing to take the time to plan and build their own personal modular synthesizer. That special breed of musician known as a 'synthesist'.

Someone like Kevin Kissinger - a musician, composer, and recording artist from Kansas City, Mo. who chose to build his modular from Aries kits. He originally built his Aries modular back in the 70s and has a Web page on his site devoted to his Aries modular.

I contacted Kevin to ask him a few questions about his decision to build rather than buy a modular, choosing to go with Aries, and other stuff. Luckily for me, he was quick to reply a nd *very* generous with his answers.

As with most musicians, his decision to build a modular back in the 70s started off with a good dose of inspiration.
"Since I always admired the work of Wendy Carlos one of my goals was to do 'Switched-on' music on the synthesizer. While the Arp Odyssey, 2600 and Mini-Moogs were great for live performers, I wanted something flexible, expandable, and fully patchable."
But inspiration can only get someone so far - eventually you have to sit down and do your homework and financial calculations. Some call it 'research', I call it 'the fun stuff' :o)

According to Kevin, cost-savings played a big role in his choice to go with an Aries kit, but that didn't mean that quality and performance features were pushed aside.
"The Moog and Arp modulars were too expensive for me and I spread the word among my friends that I wanted to build a synthesizer though I had never tackled such a project before.

A friend-of-a-friend gave me a brochure about Paia Electronics. I went as far as to select modules and draw up a mock-up control panel for the instrument. However, I felt the short keyboard would compromise my work, I was uncomfortable with linear tracking VCOs and had heard that the keyboards were hard to calibrate.

So, I held back and then the same friend-of-a-friend sent me an Aries brochure. The brochure touted the pure waveforms, the 61-note keyboard, and the use of precision 1% resistors in the keyboard and the VCO's. At the time, Aries did not have a demo recording however I felt confident about building it. As I recall, the Aries kits were about half the cost of a comparable Moog Modular."
Once built, Kevin was definitely impressed with the quality and the sound of Aries, and was able to compare it to other big-name modulars.
"After I had built the Aries I had the opportunity to work with a large Moog Modular at the university -- at the time it had probably lost some of its original specs -- it was noisy, the VCO's drifted, and audio and control signals weren't compatible. As wonderful as the big Moog was (and is), it seemed outdated compared to the Aries. What the Moog had that the Aries didn't was a trigger-delay and a fixed-filter bank."
Kevin definitely provides a unique historical perspective on Aries - more than any technical reference information you can pull off a piece of paper or Web page. A big thanks to Kevin for taking the time to answer my questions!

Check out Kevin's Web site for more information, including recent and upcoming performances.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Aries Music Inc. Modular, Synapse 1977

Aries Music Inc. Modular ad from page5 of Synapse Magazine March/April 1977.

This 1/2-page advertisement ran in Synapse for three consecutive issues starting in the March/April issue and I have to say right off the bat that I'm a little disappointed (and surprised) that the ad didn't include the awesome Aries logo that appeared in the two Aries ads in Contemporary Keyboard magazine around the same time period (you can catch those advertisements in my two blog posts from November 2009 and March 2010 ).

But the one thing that definitely excites me about this ad is the photo. Look familiar? If you have ever come across the classic 'Explore Sound - The Aries System 300 Electronic Music Synthesizer' brochure, you will notice that this ad uses the same photo (with the second dude cropped out).

In fact, I just came across the cover image of that brochure in an auction post on MATRIXSYNTH. That post was actually what triggered my memory about this ad and I knew it was time to dig it up.

I'm not 100% certain, but based on this photo from Robert Leiner's awesomely cool Aries Web site, I'm pretty sure the guy in the ad photo sitting in the chair is Jimmy Bastable. He was the partner of Bob Snowdale, who purchased Aries from Frank Fink in 1976. Someone correct me if I'm totally wrong on that.

The 'second dude' that is not in the ad, but is in the photo on the brochure (see MATRIXSYNTH link above), has gotta be Dennis Colin. I'm basing that comment on the crazy beard alone. Dennis was the designer of the Aries 300 - and according to Rob's site, before the Aries, Dennis designed the Arp 2600!

As mentioned in the ad, Aries was one of many modular companies that also sold their modules in kit form. I've never been seriously interested in building my own modular synthesizer, though I'll admit I've day-dreamed about being proficient enough in electronics to build any kind of sound device. But seriously... you don't want to be around me with a hot soldering iron.

I can definitely understand the cost-savings incentive when deciding to buy modules from kits - especially when you consider we are talking about 1970's $$'s. But without the Internet around, and only a few music mags, how did someone get enough information to make an informed choice about which modular company to order from? Why choose an Aries kit over, say, Paia or Serge?

Well, I think I found someone with an answer to these questions... more on that in the next blog post.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Wersi Bassie (bass/mini synthesizer) ad #2, Contemporary Keyboard 1978

Wersi Bassie (bass/mini synthesizer) advertisement from page 48 of Contemporary Keyboard Magazine March 1978.

This was the second Wersi Bassie advertisement to appear in CK. In my blog post last week about the first Bassie ad, I mistakenly said it ran from September 1977 to May 1978. In fact, this second 1/4-page advertisement replaced the first in March 1978 and ran for three issues.

As mentioned in that first blog post, the photo used in both the first and second ad has 'Bassie' next to the logo (front left side), but I still have yet to find a photo of a real-life Bassie with the English name on it. All the photos I've come across have the German version on the name.

Wersi decided to take a bit of a different direction with this ad - especially with the top tag-line. It is an odd one with a mixture of upper- and lower-case letters. I'm sure the mix was meant to play into the 'punch' aspect of the tag-line, but, because of the font used, it really just looks wonky. Plus, there are some letters that you really don't known whether they are supposed to be upper- or lower-case.

"aDD exTra PuncH To Your Bass Line"
"aDD eXTra PunCH TO YOur BaSS LIne!"

I showed this ad to someone else, and she said that maybe it was actually the font itself that always used a small 'a' for a capital 'A'. I'm not so sure....

... but, I do know that using a different font might have helped make the point better. Plus, I can see why the a's would be lower-case to match the 'a' in the 'Bassie' name, but like I'm prone to do, I started to fixate on that tagline. Maybe there was a coded message in there... maybe the capital letters spelled out something? I never could find anything - let me know if you do.

The ad-copy also slightly changed directions. They still focused on the 'pure bass guitar sound', but tossed out the ' full range of flute stops'. It's like Wersi was making an extra effort to distance it even further from any association with an organ keyboard. Smart move in my opinion.

And, being Canadian, I noticed right away that they removed the Canadian contact information completely (Moog - well, Norlin- was good at including a Canadian address in their contact info). Wersi also slightly changed the American info for the Dept id (KY to K2) and ZIP (17601 to 17604). No biggie... :o)

I've questioned the effectiveness of putting small ads in the back-half of CK, especially if the ad was only appearing for a limited time. Wersi obviously thought it was cost-effective to regularly run smaller sized ads, as did many other companies including Aries (label), Steiner-Parker (label), EML (label) and Paia.

But what about those even smaller ads - the ones that usually appeared three-in-a-row at the bottom of the page in the last-half of CK - each ad measuring about 1/15th of a page in size? They were often keyboard dealers, small manufacturers, and schools advertising courses in piano tuning and music theory. Some of them appeared in CK for what seemed like months, or even years at a time.

In the March 1978 issue, there were two such rows at the bottom of page 56 and 58 (there were other small single ads scattered throughout the mag as well).

Here's some scans of the two rows:

Thinking back now, I remember some of these smaller ads quite well - while others I had totally forgotten about. Some really used the small space well, while others just tried to splash as much text as possible into the cramped space provided. As seen in the images above, using logos was probably the best bet to grab the eye of a reader (ARP!). So, maybe some of these small ads, run enough times, could provide enough exposure to stick in the minds of readers.

And, you have to give CK credit for providing smaller companies with even smaller marketing budgets a platform to advertise on a national level. I wonder what it cost to run one of these small ads?

I think I need to take a closer look at some of these smaller ads in the near future. I'll be sure to report any conclusions.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Yamaha SY-2, Contemporary Keyboard 1976

Yamaha SY-2 synthesizer advertisement from the back outside cover of Contemporary Keyboard Magazine May/June 1976.

Man, I hate address labels on old magazine covers. Seriously.

The number one rule about presentations is never to apologize for a bad image. Everyone already knows the image sucks because they are looking at it too. But those address label marks stand out like a sore thumb. I was even hoping that the heals on that dude's shoes would help draw attention away from the ripped address label.

No luck. Oh well, down to business.

This SY-2 advertisement appeared twice in Contemporary Keyboard (CK) - the May/June and July/August issues.

I knew next to nothing about the SY-2 when I came across this ad. But I dig all portable synths. Especially ones that have their own carrying handle. So, both of those reasons were kinda the kick-in-the-butt I needed to do some research (and report in a blog post :o)

Basically, the SY-2 is a preset synthesizer with more than a few extra controls to modify many of the sound parameters. The SY-2 replaced the wooden case of it's older sibling (the SY-1) with a tolex wrapping and gave it a hinged cover, making it much easier for a musician to take on the road.

The SY-2's biggest claim to fame is that it showed up in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Unfortunately, not in that final scene where the aliens come down to earth (you can thank ARP for that), but in an earlier scene that takes place in a studio or lab somewhere. A post on SynthWire includes a great screen shot from the film. (As pointed out on the page by MATRIXSYNTH, one of the best things about this picture (besides the SY-2) *is* the blurry poster of Farrah Fawcett in the background).

If you happened to be a regular reader of CK back then, then you might have seen the good reference information that showed up in the Spec Sheet section of CK the previous month (in cool 1976-tech-speak :o):
"Yamaha SY-2 synthesizer: Preset sounds of 28 different timbres ranging from piano to "trumute" serve as the SY-2's building blocks, which the performer can use to construct his own sonorities. High- and low-pass filters, each with variable frequency and resonance controls, shape the harmonic structure of the sound being produced while attack, sustain, decay, and release sliders handle transient generation. The SY-2's 37-note keyboard actually covers a range of four octaves, depending upon the "natural range" of the selected preset instrument, reports the manufacturer. Also supplied are transposition levelers, a variable pitch control, a pitch-bending switch, and variable vibrato speed and depth. The keyboard is touch sensitive, permitting the pressure on the key to control volume, vibrato, and wah-wah intensities. The unit is completely solid-state in design, is housed in a reinforced road case, and weights 49 lbs. List price is $995.00. Yamaha Musical Instruments, Box 6600, Buena Park, CA 90620."
Although you can find a lot of good basic reference information online on both Vintage Synth Explorer and, I find that you can pull some of the best information about the SY-2 from the photos and comments in blog posts.

For example, some excellent close-up photos and comments can be found in MATRIXSYNTH.

An August 2009 MATRIXSYNTH post has great photos of the control sections of the synth and the legs that would unscrew from the bottom of the case and get stored in the lid cover. It also included a great comment from Joshua concerning the synth's aftertouch:
"This was one of the first synthesizers with aftertouch, and it's rather strange how the aftertouch works: the keyboard sits on top of a floating rack which contains a potentiometer. Applying pressure on one of the keys causes the whole thing to sink, operating the potentiometer."
A December 2009 post has a few more photos, but its the comment from the always informative Micke that gives us details on the synth's use at the BBC.
"This synth was used quite alot in the '70s and early '80s by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop composers, especially Paddy Kingsland. Listen for example to the the clarinet and flute parts on Kingsland's Whisper from Space, Brighton Pier and Whale (from the TV version of "Hitch Hikers Guide"),and some of the music from the Doctor Who episodes Meglos and Full Circle etc. That's the SY-2."
An even older post from 2007 links us to MATRIXSYNTH's Flickr SY-2 photo stream for some great photos of the cover of the manual and the tolex case. But it is one of the details quoted from the auction copy that gets my attention:
"This is the only alternative to gets the classic GX-1 filters without paying 50000$. I'm telling you, you'll never heard something like that. The sound is unique, personnal and organic. It looks like a preset synth, but it's definately not! Think of the presets as your waveforms..."
Whaaaaat? If you are not familiar with the GX-1, its the grandfather to the CS80. Much like the recently blogged GS-1 ads are the grandfather to the DX-7.

I had to get a listen to one of these.

A quick YouTube search for the SY-2 pulled up a couple of videos, but in particular by StephenTeller included a description that also claims the filter's lineage goes back to the GX-1.
"Some vintage tones from the Yamaha SY-2. This synth features the same filter as the legendary GX-1 which was the pre-cursor to the mighty CS-80. You'll hear the similarity instantly. This keyboard also features aftertouch."

I can hear some resemblance, but I don't think I'm familiar enough with the CS80 or GX-1 to make a professional judgment call.

If you want to hear more SY-2, check out this ten-minute YouTube video from 2006. The sound is missing a bit of bass, but it covers off a lot more of the sounds.

Do you hear any of that Vangelis sound?

You can compare the sound of the SY-2 to some YouTube video queries for the GX-1 and CS-80.

What do ya think?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Wersi Bassie (bass/mini synthesizer), Contemporary Keyboard 1977

Wersi Bassie (bass/mini synthesizer) advertisement from page 48 of Contemporary Keyboard Magazine December 1977.

This small 1/4 page advertisement appeared religiously in back half of CK from September 1977 to February 1978. And I got to tell you, it pulls me in every time I see it. One reason is the cute logo with the circle surrounding the C to E keys creating a stylized 'W', along with the logo-text font with the 'W' that also emulates the same C to E keys in reverse colours.

But its the photo of the machine itself, and not the ad's design, that does most of the pulling.

You see, as I mentioned at the end of a Moog Sonic Six blog post last January, I love portable synthesizers - especially the ones with suitcase handles. Seriously. The Sonic Six, the EML 101, all of them. Mini-synths like the DX100, Prophecy, CZ101, CS01 also fall into this category - although they don't have built-in handles :o( .

And the Wersi Bassie is just enough of a different beast to make me look twice and then pull out my credit card.

Just look at the description in the ad:
"Advanced electronics delivers pure bass guitar sounds with a full range of flute stops-plus synthesized woodwinds and brass."
Now, I have to admit I don't know enough about organs to understand a flute stop, but put the text 'bass guitar sounds' and 'flute stops' so close to each other in the same sentence, and you can count me in.

The Bassie was a German import from the late 70s, and its name in German was even cooler than the English import - Baß Synth.

According to Till Kopper's awesomely cool Web site page for the Wersi synthesizer, that crazy ß is "...more or less the equivalent to a double "s". And to make things more complicated: the german speaking parts of Swiss don't use this letter officially." Nice.

Till's page contains a lot of great reference information on the Wersi Bassie, including a great photo of the front of the machine. There are also photos of the inside of the machine and some audio samples. Definitely check out the page.

MATRIXSYNTH, as always, is also a great source of good photos. A quick click on the 'wersi' label brings up quite a few posts, a lot of which are posts about this synth.

Interestingly, a quick Google search didn't bring up any photos of the Wersi Bassie that actually has the 'Bassie' name beside the logo (lower front left, under the keyboard and horizontal sliders). All the photos have the German name. But, if you look closely at the photo in the ad, it definitely includes the word 'Bassie' beside the logo. And the ad-copy definitely refers to the synth as 'Bassie' as well.

I did find one image of a Bassie with the 'Bassie' logo-text, but its actually a photo of a brochure/manual cover (?) from a MATRIXSYNTH auction photo set on Flickr. And I think it is the exact same photo used in this ad. All the other photos of the front of the machine in the Flickr set have the German version of the name on it.

The one other difference I spotted was that in all the photos of the German version, the square wave button is gray, like the saw wave buttons to the left of it. But in the Bassie photo in the ad (and the brochure/manual cover photo), the square wave is very light in color - probably white like the WAH-WAH buttons.

I wonder if 'Bassie' actually ever appeared on a production model? Or were they all imported with the German version?

Anyways, you can view/hear a good demonstration of most, if not all, of the features of the Wersi Bassie in this YouTube video. I have to say, the bass guitar sound does sound kinda yummy to me:

Even cooler, it apparently came in kit form as well. Here is a great YouTube video of an admittedly not-fully-functional kit version of a Wersi bassie. Notice that the buttons have been replaced with switches in this kit. And there is no logo to be found on the front panel.

Well, time to go explore Till Kopper's Web site a bit more. It seriously has a lot to offer. And most of it has English translations of the German text. Till - much appreciated!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

ARP Arpeggio newsletter, October 1976, Volume 5, #2

[PDF version]

ARP Arpeggio newsletter from October 1976, Volume 5, #2.

This is kind of an experiment for me. Scan a lot, blog a little. In this case very little, since I'm kinda in a time crunch at work at the moment. So I thought this twelve-page newsletter from ARP would be a good candidate for this experiment.

I will however, point out a few things about this particular newsletter that I find interesting.

First, and most importantly to me, is the gobs of historical information that can be found within these pages. I did scan one smaller 1974 ARP Arpeggio newsletter late last year that was about half the size, but it just doesn't compare to the amount of information in this one.

No matter if you are looking for technical/reference information, the synthesizers different bands used, interesting stories, or images from this time period - it's all there. Sure, it's all from ARP's perspective, but I would argue (and most would hopefully agree :o) its all valuable historical information.

Second. the Patchworks section on page 10. It contains "...Josef Zawinul's lead solo patch from the title cut of the group's latest album, BLACK MARKET". Maybe I don't look around the
InterWebz hard enough, but I think it would be cool if more musicians/bands included patches of some of their signature sounds on their Web sites - both hardware and software.

Third, and finally, it wouldn't be an ARP post if I didn't point out two of ARP's main marketing strategies. The awesomely fantastic amount of name-dropping that can be found in this newsletter is like machine-gun fire the way it's spread across the pages. And, of course, ARP's continued use of the term 'Human Engineering'. Both strategies were used effectively to sell a lot of ARP instruments for a number of years.

So, with that.... enjoy!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Yamaha GS1 (GS-1) and GS2 (GS-2), Keyboard 1982

Yamaha GS1 (GS-1) and GS2 (GS-2) synthesizer advertisement from page 36 and 37 of Keyboard Magazine January 1982.

Unlike the two previous introductory GS1 ads (the G. Leuenberger Company ad and Yamaha's own ad), this two pager appeared in Keyboard Magazine more than once in early 1982.

The advertisement does two things. First, it introduces the GS1's younger brother, the logically named GS2. Second, the ad builds on the previous ad's themes of simplicity and beauty by keeping the clean layout, as well as the dramatic lighting and shadows that were originally introduced.

In fact, Yamaha's themes are even spell out by 'the three key considerations' that make these keyboards different from every other keyboard:
  1. a philosophy (keeping it simple for musicians)
  2. advanced technology
  3. stunning beauty
I think I gushed over the design of the GS1 as well as the ad itself in the last blog post. So, I'm not even gonna touch #3 above. So, lets concentrate on #1 and #2.

When introducing a new 'advanced' technology, it's sometimes a trade off between trying to keep the human interface simple enough to use while still allowing the user to access and wield the power of the technology itself. In other words, if you want the interface to be easy to use, then you often can't allow the user to do too much without it getting complicated. It just leads to a lot of button pushing and knob twisting - more time being a geek than a musician. And once you make the interface complicated, you scare away many of your potential users (ie: $$$).

In the case of Yamaha, they definitely chose to kept the GS1 interface simple - it was a preset instrument. Push button -> new sound. But the trade off was that a user couldn't do much to change or edit the sounds.

So, if you are not going to let users under the hood, then you may as well keep the explanation of the technology simple as well. Yamaha does just that in the ad-copy of this ad. They explain FM synthesis in under 30 seconds:
"Briefly, FM digital synthesis enables the GS1 and GS2 to precisely recreate the harmonic structure of acoustically produced sounds, as well as many other sounds, by generating a brilliant range of harmonics "all at once". And all without the tedious and expensive drawbacks of other digital synthesizers."
Now compare that to the way Sound On Sound magazine explained the technology behind the GS synthesizers in their August 2001 article 'Yamaha GS1 & DX1 - Part 1: The Birth, Rise and Further Rise of FM Synthesis (Retro)'.
"Named the GS1 and the GS2, these abandoned recognisable synth facilities such as oscillators and filters, in favour of frightening new things such as multi-operator equation generators, 30kHz data rates, and digital-to-analogue converters. What's more, despite offering just two-operator algorithms, the operation of these monstrously expensive machines (the GS1 retailed for £12,000) was a complete mystery to all but the most mathematically orientated."
I'll say it again - I think Yamaha was right to keep it simple in their ads (and in their synthesizers) until the concepts of FM synthesis trickled out through magazine articles. (If only bloggers were around back in 1981... :o)

So, how did someone like Gary Leuenbeger program those presets then? According to's synthesizer reference page:
"The GS1 and GS2 had their small memory strips "programmed" by a hardware-based machine that existed only in Hamamatsu (Yamaha Japan headquarters) and Buena Park (Yamaha's U.S. headquarters). It had four 7" monochrome video monitors, each displaying the parameters of one of the four operators within the GS1/2. At that time a single "operator" was a 14"-square circuit board -- this was of course long before Yamaha condensed the FM circuitry to a single ASIC. The GS1/GS2 programmer's envelope circuitry had well over 50 "break points"...but these proved quite ineffective in modifying sounds, hence the subsequent regress to the analog-synth type ADSR envelope generators in the design of the DX series instruments."
I found some images of a working programmer online on the Memories page of the Dave's Group Web site. Definitely hi-tech-cool looking. Any piece of gear that requires A KEY to turn on is cool.

A blog post on MATRIXSYNTH from two years ago also shows some images of a programmer, and two of the comments below the post stand out for me.

The first comment from Loscha tells us that allegedly only four programmers were ever made.

The second comment is from Carbon111 and he makes a very interesting observation:
"Its kind of interesting the GS1 is a beautiful piece of cabinetwork and its programmer is so "utilitarian"...kind of an odd couple when placed next to each other."
I agree.

And if you compare many of Yamaha's products during this time period, you might notice that some of them fell into the totally retro category while others looked totally contemporary. Even different products within the same company division had no real standard method to their design styles. Or did they?

But that will have to wait until a future blog post.

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)