Thursday, March 31, 2011

Korg Poly-800 eight page fold-out poster/brochure, 1984


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Korg Poly-800 eight page fold-out poster/brochure from 1984.

I totally forgot I had this piece. But, after my last blog post on the Poly-800 introductory ad, I was flipping through my Korg sales brochures and came across this. I unfolded it, and, as usual, immediately looked for a print date. 1984. As soon as I saw that date on the poster, I was quickly reminded of that last bit of ad-copy from the ad:
"Or send $3.00 (check or money order) to Unicord, 89 Frost St., Westbury, New York 11590 for a Poly 800 demo record, color brochure and poster."
Could this be that color brochure and poster? Both in one printed piece? It would make sense. Now I just had to find a way to scan it.

Its real size is a rather large 16 x 21.5 inches. Too big for my home scanner and the local UPS store scanner/printer. So, I actually scanned it in four chucks to a side, and, unlike most of my scans, combined the pieces together in Photoshop. Gah!

Once created, I uploaded through Blogger, but because they were over 1600x1600 pixels, Picasa shrunk 'em down. Boo. So, in the end I uploaded them to Live.com. You have to do an extra click to view the larger version, but its worth it. :D I also dumped both of the hi-res images into a PDF.

What an awesome piece this brochure/poster is. So much reference information, all clearly laid out with some great design. So detailed are the step-by-step instructions, that in many cases, the text in this poster replaces the need for a manual.

And where readers don't find step-by-step instructions, Korg provides other detailed information about the keyboard. For example, just look at the info under the "6 Parameter Digital Envelope Generators" section. Korg provides lots of info for their "Newly Developed ADBSSR System". Nice! Another example - the big photo of the Poly-800 with the alpha-numeric references that lead readers to more detailed info below. Excellent.

The front of the poster/brochure is just as cool. The front image of the Poly-800 in space reminds me of the classic "cat on a synth in space" Web page (there might be pop-ups on that Web page - click at your own risk). And the other side of that section contains all the reference specs for the keyboard, as well as a great list of all the accessories that were available from Korg in 1984. AND another photo of the back of the synth.

Flip that side of the poster upside down and you get some more great photos of Chuck Leavell and the Poly 800 in a few not-as-awkward-as-the-ad photos.

But for me, one of the most interesting features of the poster is the photo of the reverse keyboard displayed next to the computer. I find this particularly fascinating because if this poster/brochure was actually the one promoted in the introductory Poly-800 ad, then that means that the reverse keyboard version was actually available early on, or even at the same time as the launch of the original version. Or at least a prototype was. Which means Korg had the forethought to produce a cool alternative version right from the start.

Just one more observation before I go. In the introductory ad, Korg refers to the synth as the Poly 800 (no hyphen). But, on the poster, as well as on the piece of gear itself - its listed as the Poly-800 (with hyphen). Okay. No point really. Or, if there is one, I guess it is that I prefer consistency. :D

Anyways, I love Korg. Seriously.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Korg Poly 800, Keyboard 1984



Korg Poly-800 synthesizer two-page and one-page advertisements from the inside front cover (and/or page three) in Keyboard Magazine starting in February 1984.

This was the first Korg ad to feature the Poly 800 - and Korg obviously wanted to hit the press with a loud synthesized bang. And as far as I'm concerned, they *almost* did everything right.

First, they kept the marketing campaign running for an extended period of time. The two-page version of the ad ran in that costly front-of-mag advertising space for a full six months - from February to July '84. Then, they switched it up with a one-page version of the ad for the August and September '84 issues of Keyboard for a total ad run of eight months. Then, after a bit of a break, Korg brought back the one-page version of the ad to page three of Keyboard from July to November '85.

Next, the layout it top-notch - well balanced, bright, with adequate white space. The ad contains a nice centre-fold photo of the instrument with the name of the instrument in big fat letters. Even the rather long winded tag-line is well placed and comes with a dash or wordplay.

Also, unlike a lot of introductory synthesizer ads that feature a HUGE photo and little or no ad-copy, Korg made sure to use those two pages of space to get a fair bit of synth info about the Poly 800 out to the masses. They give details on the eight voices, 64 programs, 50 parameters of control, the polyphonic sequencer, noise generator, on-board chorus, 4-way joystick (awesome!), MIDI and even the headphone jack.

If that isn't already enough of a feature buffet, Korg also let readers know that the keyboard also doubles as a 13-pound keytar! Although, I do think they could have used a better photo of Chuck Leavell rockin' out on his Poly 800. Not only does the one hand position look a little uncomfortable, but Chuck himself looks like he is having an awful hard time trying to lift that thirteen-pounder. Don't get me wrong, I respect his musicianship, but I think Korg was smart to not try and cram that photo into the one-page version of the ad. Just sayin'.

And finally, to put the icing on the cake, Korg even advertises a price. All this for "less than $800". Normally, I would have suggested going with the ol' psychological $799 price tag, but providing a number that lines up the price of the instrument with it's name is another small win for Korg.

The only thing Korg seemed to have missed out on with this product launch was the lack of any promotion in the Spec Sheet section of Keyboard. If there was one, I never came across it. But that's small potatoes with this smooth launch.

For real Poly 800 fans, the most awesome surprise about the instrument was still to come. The month after this ad stopped running in 1984, the October '84 Spec Sheet section of Keyboard let readers know that they could also strut around on stage with a reverse color keyboard version of the synth:
"Korg Synthesizer Keyboard. A limited edition of the Korg Poly 800 with a reverse color keyboard is now available. All other features of the Poly 800 remain unchanged: 64 memory positions, 256-note sequencer, MIDI, and six-segment envelopes are standard. Price is $849.00. Korg, 89 Frost St., Westbury, NYT 11590."
Korg even had the balls to charge an extra 50 bucks for the privilege of sporting those reverse keys around your shoulders! Worth every penny.

I happened to come across a reverse key version of the Poly 800 a long while back at my local music store. It was just sitting there all lonely. So, ten minutes and $99 later, it was at home, strapped around my shoulders, and plugged in.

Quite honestly though, back then, it just didn't do it for me at first. I thought there were just too many limitations. I was a bit of a synth-snob back then.

But over time, the more I played with it, the more fun it became. The chorus adds good movement to bass sounds without being too noisy. And combine that the noise generator together with the organ-like DCOs (each with its own extended envelope!) and you can start coming up with some great sounds. I use it a lot as a sample source for my chiptunes. It can almost sound Nintendo-ish sounding.

My GF came over and saw it on the floor as I was trying to take a picture for this blog post, so I just had to try it on for her. The next thing you know, we were trying to emulate Chuck's pose from the ad. The results....? About as uncomfortable as getting an open-mouth kiss from your drunk aunt during a family reunion.



Chuck must have very flexible wrists and knee joints of steel... :D

End note: And yes, that is a Green Lantern pillow on the chair behind me. It rawks almost as much as my reverse colour keyboard Poly 800.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Korg KR-55 rhythm machine, Contemporary Keyboard 1981



Korg KR-55 drum machine advertisement from back inside cover of Contemporary Keyboard February 1981.

Researching the KPR-77 for my last blog post got me increasingly interested in Korg's earlier drum machines, so I thought I would do a bit more digging into Korg's earlier ads and see what was up.

As I looked through back issues of CK, it seemed to me like the the KR-55 was the first Korg rhythm machine to be advertised in the magazine. I found this a little surprising because Korg released a number of drum machines previously, including the Mini Pops MP120 and MP35, as well as the SR120 back in 1976. But it turns out that Korg didn't start advertising in CK magazine until 1977.

That early on, they didn't advertise much either. During 1977, Korg only advertised once for the Korg Maxi-Korg K3 in the January 1977 issue, a product that was actually launched in 1975 (must have just taken a while to get across the pond). Then Korg went silent again until July 1977 when they advertised just once again for their Ensembles.

I'm thinking the KR-55 also took a while to get to the U.S., because this ad oddly describes the KR-55 as "new". Most sites and online references such as Vintage Synth Explorer give the launch date of the KR-55 as 1979, and for a second there I thought maybe Korg was just getting a jump on advertising for the KR-55B (launched in 1982). But the characteristic colouring of the case along with the rest of the ad-copy describing the 48 rhythm patterns and all that, tells me they were definitely referring to the original.

And, the ad-copy looks like it was written early on too. Referencing "up-to-date disco" beats as a reason to buy this drum machine in 1981 probably didn't go over too well with largely US-based readers. I don't need Wikipedia's Disco page to tell me Disco's popularity peaked in the middle to late 70's. But I linked to it anyways. :D

But, in true Global-Wikipedia fashion, I did have to be reminded about the July 1979 Disco Demolition Night riot where the "angry backlash against disco music and culture" peaked.

Boo on them. Boo to the angry people. And thank-you to the rest of the world where "the genre continued to be popular elsewhere during the 1980s". You guessed it. I'm a closet disco fan. Just never wore the tight pants.

Enough about Disco... According to Gordon Reid's "History of Korg - Part 1", written for Sound on Sound in October 2002, Korg was in need of "a bit of a breather" after two years of kick-ass gear releases that included the PS/MS/VC/SQ- range of keyboards, expanders, vocoders, and sequencers. So, their 1979 product launch list could be seen as a bit of a let-down to some:
  • CX3 organ
  • Delta paraphonic strings
  • Lambda polyphonic ensemble
  • Sigma monophonic synth
  • KR33 and KR55
Well, it may not have been their best year, but I wouldn't say it sucked bum either.

In that article, Gordon goes on to say that "it is the CX3 organ for which 1979 should be remembered", but he does comment that the KR-55, along with its younger sibling the KR-33, were also bringing in a few sales:
"More successful [than the Sigma] were the KR33 and KR55 rhythm units, which replaced the ageing Mini Pops series. These were more sophisticated than their predecessors, generating analogue sounds that were far more realistic than the noise-based thumps and hisses offered by the earlier DoncaMatics, Mini Pops, and units from competitors."
But I have to say there was one specific fact that I found on the Web that really peaked my interest in the KR-55. The KR-55 was used by Depeche Mode on "Speak and Spell". And with "snappy" being one of the most common adjectives to describe the KR-55 sounds, I'd believe it. But, there is some debate out there, and you can find a compressed version of the argument on Jaakko Suominen's "Depeche Mode Keyboards And Other Tech Stuff" Web page.

Most notable is this quote from Dael (and close to what I remember hearing about Depeche's early bass drum sounds) in the open questions section near the bottom of the page - sorry for the quotes, it seems Dael likes to yell:
"I SPOKE TO VINCE CLARKE A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO AND HE TOLD ME THE DRUM MACHINE USED ON SPEAK AND SPELL WAS A KORG KR55 PRESET MACHINE .THE BAND USED JUST THE SNARE AND HIGH HATS SOUNDS FROM. THE BASS DRUM WAS GENERATED FROM AN ARP 2600 SYNTH WHICH WAS SYNCHED TO THE MACHINE AND AN OLD ROLAND MC4 MICROCOMPOSER SEQUENCER. SO THERE THE ANSWER IS!THE SAME MACHINE WAS USED ON MOST OF THE EARLY DANIEL MILLER PRODUCED TRACKS INCLUDING THE FAD GADGET STUFF LIKE 'RICKYS HAND AND THE FABULOUS MEMORABILIA BY SOFT CELL!! PS .BOBBY ORLANDO ALSO USED ONE ON THOSE FANTASTIC TRASHY NY DISCO RECORDS BY DIVINE AND THE FLIRTS (PASSION ' NATIVE LOVE SHAKE IT UP ETC..)"
You can get a good indication of the sound of the KR-55 by viewing this demo I found on YouTube by Anjelicas Baby, providing almost 10 minutes of KR-55 analogue goodness. You can really hear the characteristic "snap" found in the KR-55 drum sounds:



End note: I have to admit, the first thing I did when I came across this ad was read carefully through the ad-copy to see if Korg referred to the KR-55 as a "rhythmer", like they did with the KPR-77. Nerp.

Did I mention I find the word "Rhythmer" a little creepy? :D

Monday, March 21, 2011

Korg KPR-77 Programmable Rhythmer, Keyboard 1983




Korg KPR-77 Programmable Rhythmer advertisement from page 9 in Keyboard Magazine January 1983.

When I first started getting interested in analog gear, I totally ignored this thing. I seriously never noticed it. Maybe it was always there, listed beside the 606 whenever the topic turned to small drum machines on Analogue Heaven or on Web site forums, but for some reason or another it was always in my blind spot.

And when I did start to take notice of it, I found that it was often referred to as the KPR-77 Rhythmer. And I couldn't figure out where the "Rhythmer" part came from. So, when I finally saw this ad, everything started to make sense.

Started to...

I originally thought the word "Rhythmer" was strictly some kind of Korg term because I usually saw it associated with the KPR-77, but every now and then I saw it pop up on other gear, like the Farfisa Melodic Rhythmer. And even though Korg calls it a "rhythmer" in the title of this ad, it's not called a rhythmer on the actual unit. So, maybe it's just another generic term to describe rhythm units in other parts of the world?

Anyways, I guess the point is that I think "Rhythmer" is one weird looking word. Make a good band name. Or at least an album title.

I do like this advertisement from a design point of view. It's nicely balanced, with "KPR-77" in big, bold, bright letters against a dark background. And the font the title is sporting is simply spectacular. It's one of those retro-fonts that has a modern feel to it. In fact, the ad as a whole is fairly modern looking.

The photo of the KPR-77 is nice and large too. I'm not sure I like the fact that there is a solid white line running vertically right through it. It doesn't really get in the way of any detail in the photo, but whoever the designer was had some big balls to get away with it.

Interestingly, Korg took the design style from this ad and used it for their SDD-3000 Programmable Digital Delay - font, glowing piece of gear, lots of ad-copy. But another big piece of Korg gear that appeared in 1983 - the Poly61 - didn't use this design at all.

The ad only seems to have appeared twice in 1983 - January and March - so it was a good thing that Korg included a fair bit of ad-copy for readers interested in learning more about the KPR-77. And in some ways, it has even more reference information than the delayed Spec Sheet write up that appeared in the May 1983 issue of Keyboard:
"Korg programmable Rhythm Unit. The KPR-77 Programmable Rhythmer stores up to 48 2-measure patterns, and six 256-measure chains tha can be combined to produce three 512-measure chains. Other features include the ability to program all instruments simultaneously in real time, a cassette interface for external storage of patterns, analog-sound generating circuitry, and AC or battery operation. Sounds include bass drum, snare, open and closed hi-hats, cymbal, high tom-tom, low tom-tom and hand claps. A 7-channel mixer is built-in, the clock can be interfaced to external synthesizers, sequencers, and other drum machines, and there is a stereo headphone out-put. Unicord, 89 Frost St., Westbury, NY 11590."
The most disappointing thing is that neither the ad nor the spec sheet copy mention exactly how this little machine syncs to other gear. DIN-sync! But before you get too excited like I did when I first found out, I quickly learned that it used Korg's 48 parts per quarter note (ppqn) sync, and not Roland's 24 ppqn. But I would just use my trusty Korg KMS-30 to sync it up. I love my Korg KMS-30. :o)

Most forum comments and sites such as Vintage Synth Explorer suggest that the KPR-77 was Korg's answer to Roland's TR-606. But, lucky for Korg, Roland's well-known TB-303/TR-606 ad had stopped running regularly in keyboard six months previously. But because Korg's ad only ran twice in early 1983, I don't think Korg really took advantage of this golden opportunity. And Roland did bring that 303/606 ad back for a one-month run for the holiday season in December 1983 - probably taking some holiday money away from Korg.

One of the coolest links I found online while researching this thing was a custom mod done on a KPR-77 at circuitbenders.co.uk. It included a face lift as seen in the first photo on the page as well as tons of functionality. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to hear some fantastic samples.

But don't get your hopes up that you can get your KPR-77 modded this way. The poster added this paragraph right above the sound examples:
"Unless you want to pay an outrageously obscene amount of money there is absolutely no way that we're doing this again! This was one of those occasions where an initial 'good idea' slowly snowballs into an avalanche of nervous breakdown inducing tweaking ;-)"
Time to buy a lottery ticket...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Yamaha E-70 ad #3, Contemporary Keyboard 1981



Yamaha E-70 organ advertisement #3, from page 41 in Contemporary Keyboard October 1981.

This final Yamaha E-70 ad appeared in CK with a clear purpose. It began running regularly through out the holiday months starting in October 1981, for five consecutive months. People are just more in the buying mood during the holidays, I guess. But, Yamaha just had to do things a bit different. So, for the first, third and fifth months, the ad appeared in colour, while during the second and fourth months, it appeared in black and white.

Looking closely at the two versions of the ads, other than the whole colour/not colour thing, they appear pretty much identical. Except for one little difference. The lens flare highlights in the black and white version have been intensified quite... er... intensively. Although the flares are still quite understated, I can't help but think of Photoshop whenever I see lens flares in photos now. It was like someone from the future went into the past to create this ad, just to torment me at some point in the future again... :o)

Like past E-70 ads, this one mentions Yamaha's "revolutionary" PASS, aka Pulse Analog Synthesis System. It also highlights many of the orchestra preset sounds that are available on the E-70. But, unlike previous ads, this ad really starts moving the E-70 into more "un-organ" territory.

Here's what I mean. In all past E-series ads, including those for just the E-70, the first sentence of the ad-copy has ALWAYS mentioned the E-70 in terms of being an organ.
  • "Yamaha's new Electone console organs deliver a variety of uncompromisingly-real, precisely-defined sounds."
  • "It's an organ! It's an orchestra!That's what you get with features like the Upper Orchestra section on the fabulous E-70 and E-50 Electone Organs. "
  • "Now that you've finally learned to play an organ, you owe it to yourself to play up to a Yamaha Electone E-70. "
But this ad switches it up slightly:
  • You know how to play keyboard. So now you can play an instrument that delivers every possible orchestra and organ sound.
And, in the photo, the pull out image of the newspaper personals/advert doesn't mention "organ" at all. It seems the marketing emphasis has switched from the E-70 being an organ that plays realistic sounds, to the E-70 being a keyboard that plays orchestra and organ sounds. It's subtle. But I think significant.

My guess is that Yamaha realized that keyboard players were looking more closely at the E-70 as a blues, rock or jazz keyboard. Not an organ in a stuffy little living room (as pictured in the last ad). Luckily, Yamaha also built one of the monsters of the synth industry at the time - the CS-80. I would think keyboard players at the time would have been comparing the two. And probably mostly the presets, since the E-70 focuses closely on those.

In my recent back-and-forth emails with FlameTopFred, he pointed out the fact that there were more preset buttons for each bank on the E-70 than on the CS-80.
"The CS-80 has 11 preset buttons for each bank (x 2 channels). The E-70 has 18 preset buttons for upper and 12 preset buttons for the lower manual - but the lower manual sounds can be coupled and blended with the upper manual sounds.

Plus the E-70 has an additional bank of 12 preset buttons of mono CS-80 type synth sounds - and some are very, very good bass sounds. Some of those can also be used for lead type sounds, but you would have to play on the lower keyboard."
And then FlameTopFred said something that, frankly, made me look at organs in a totally new light.
"The CS-80 is an amazing synthesizer. But the E-70 deserves a second look - especially by anyone that loves having a lot of very musical features in one box. Two 61-note manuals, arpeggiator, bass-line-arpeggiator, drum machine.

I find it strangely odd that those big home organs of 1977 had everything working cohesively - which MIDI then exploded out into separate components. It takes ages of time and lots of patience to make unrelated MIDI components work as flawlessly as a big E-70 running on all cylinders."
Organs did have a lot of tech working together - very cohesively. And MIDI must have affected organ evolution by allowing the components of organs to be sold separately. Suddenly you didn't need to buy one big piece of equipment. You could mix and match.

But, other technology also kept evolving along with MIDI, which led to the evolution of large workstation keyboards. And those workstations really just brought back together all the different components of the organ together again (along with a sequencer).

So, really, workstation keyboards are just another evolutionary branch of organs. Kinda. Not really. :o)

Monday, March 14, 2011

ARP Arpeggio newsletter, April 1977, Volume 6, #1


ARP Arpeggio newsletter from April 1977, Volume 6, #1.

I love these newsletters. I've scanned two others (you can view the Arpeggio Newsletter label to bring them all up on the screen), and although this newsletter doesn't contain as many pages as the last one, there is still so much historical information in it that it makes me want to puke (in a good way). Eight pages of juicy synth goodness.

Hmmm - now that I look at it, I wonder if maybe I'm missing a few pages since there doesn't seem to be a bulk postage/mail section where an address can go. But, then again, it would have been on the last page, which due to the folding process, is printed next to the first page. Which I do have. Also, the "Special Notice" at the bottom of page one may indicate that they changed their mailing practices as well. This newsletter may have been one of the free copies "distributed through authorized ARP Dealers throughout the United States and Canada".

Anyways, I've scanned the eight pages as images as well as packaged them up in a handy-dandy PDF.

For me, you just have to turn to page two and read through the ASK ARP section to start digging up great ARP historical reference info. For example, in the second answer, ARP teases readers with a now-well-known movie fact:
"ARP recently supplied a complete ARP 2500 system and a skilled operator to appear in the upcoming Columbia Pictures film, "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." The film deals with UFOs, and the ARP plays a significant role as a communications tool."
Does it ever.

And how about this for a great ARP/Stevie Wonder fact:
"Stevie first visited ARP in early 1972 and had his first 2600 outfitted with the control function descriptions written in braille. "
Flip to page four and we get a eyeful of their new PRO/DGX synth, along with a big helping of good ol' ARP name dropping at the end. And underneath that, an article called "The Captain & Tenille & ARP", with a photo of the Captain posing with his mostly-ARP gear. Did he really wear a captain's hat? Seriously? Seems a little too... I dunno... something or other.

Page five gives us another crazy movie/ARP fact that I had never heard about King Kong:
"Clark Spangler, Los Angeles' best known session synthesist and master of the ARP 2500 and 2600, interfaced both units to produce the sound of the big hairy gorilla's footsteps. He carefully mixed the heavy, resonant thud of the foot with the crackle-smash noise of vegetation being crushed, and, in some cases, people being crushed."
I think that ARP plug coming out of the back of the image of King Kong is supposed to be a tail. But, um... gorillas don't have long tails, do they? Looks a little creepy.

Page six has a great article on external audio processing, as well as one of my favorites - Patchworks! I dig that outline of a synth panel. Yum.

Wait here... I'm going to see if it sounds like a sax...

I'm back... Pretty good for an Odyssey. Although it sounds better as a tuba when you pitch it down an octave or two. :o)

But for me, the most exciting bit of info in this newsletter is on page seven in the reader contest section called "The Music Well". The prize is a free ARP belt buckle! I posted a few photos of my brass ARP belt buckle just a few weeks ago. It has a date of 1977 stamped onto the back - the same year as this newsletter - so I'm betting the contest prize has to be the same model. And this is the first time I've seen a reference to the ARP belt buckle in print.

Excellent!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Yamaha E-70 organ ad #2, Contemporary Keyboard 1981



Yamaha E-70 organ ad #2 from page 15 in Contemporary Keyboard Magazine March 1981.

This ad confuses me. And creeps me out a little. Okay- it creeps me out a lot. And not just because the dude looks like a project manager that I work with.

Luckily, like most of the E-series ads, this creepy one only ran a couple of times in the front half of 1981.

Looking through past Yamaha ads, they've always kind of hinted at a sense of humor, but it has always been really understated. A cute little catch phrase or tag line here and there, like this one about organs that do everything with music except dance. Queue the small chuckle.

But in my mind, the first two things that pop into my head when someone mentions "Yamaha", is "quality" and "sound". To me, that was, and still is, their brand. Yamaha will always be all about the serious musician in my mind.

With this in mind, I decided to see if I could find anything out about Yamaha's brand. The idea being that if Yamaha has been doing a good job of branding all these years, my "feelings" about Yamaha should come close to what they say their brand is.

One quick Google search later and I found the description of their three-tuning-fork logo:

"The three tuning forks of the Yamaha logo mark represent the cooperative relationship that links the three pillars of our business -- technology, production, and sales. They also evoke the robust vitality that has forged our reputation for sound and music the world over, a territory signified by the enclosing circle. The mark also symbolizes the three essential musical elements: melody, harmony, and rhythm."
Well, that's eerily similar. Good job, Yamaha!

So, then, what the heck is going on with this ad?

When I first looked at the ad, my eye was immediately drawn to the photo. A guy playing an E-70. But the image is just... not... right (is it just me?!?!?). My mind just couldn't process that weird image as a whole. So, I looked below the photo and started reading the rather serious ad-copy:
  • "You owe it to yourself..."
  • "Every sound is produced with the greatest authenticity...."
  • "Conduct a test.."
So then my mind needed to try and connect that weird photo back to the serious ad-copy, so I looked back at the photo and my eye was immediately drawn directly to that facial expression on the guy - which quite frankly borders on maniacal.

Then my eye started looking at the surrounding scenery in the photo. The wall paper. Curtains. Fake plant. Picture of fruit. Lamp. Not to mention the totally fake tree outside the window. All crammed into such a small space making this image look totally absurd on more than a few levels. Again - is it looking a little weird, or is this just me?!?!?

I showed it to someone else to see if I just wasn't "getting it". Luckily for me, that person agreed. In fact, the whole photo is so surreal that she said she "was expecting Chick Corea to peak through the window". She also said the guy in the photo's wife "was probably waiting for him to die so she can turn it back into a sewing room". Bazinga!

So - was the ad trying to be humorous? Or serious?

Three years earlier, CK had done a survey and found that the average age of it's readers was just over 25 years. They were also predominantly male. So, if you believe that Yamaha was trying to be totally humorous in the ad photo by showing an old guy rockin' out on an organ in his living room (and right now I'm leaning towards this point of view), then the ad may have "clicked" with this younger audience. Laughing at the older generation of organ players, etc... But, the serious ad-copy would not have reinforced the imagery, and in my mind, the ad may have failed in its purpose.

On the other hand, in the off-chance you think the photo wasn't supposed to be totally funny, then it also fails. Because I'm pretty sure no 25 year old wants to be this old guy playing an E-70.
They would much rather be this guy playing a Yamaha SY-2 (nice shoes):


Or even better, "the kids" would probably want to be like a famous musician... Avid E-70 user FlameTopFred tells me that Pete Townshend had both an E-70 and CS-80, and used an E-70 on Eminence Front and a few other Who songs. He directed me to a Web page on thewho.net for more reference info (do a search for e70).

It makes me wonder why Yamaha didn't just take a page out of ARP's name-dropping book and start listing influential musicians.

Like me name-dropping FlameTopFred all the time. Thanks again for the info! :o)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Yamaha E-70, E-50 and E-30 Electone organs ad #2, Contemporary Keyboard 1980



Yamaha E-70, E-50 and E-30 Electone organs ad #2 from page 9 in Contemporary Keyboard Magazine June 1980.

This rare advertisement only ran once or twice in Contemporary Keyboard in mid-1980. Which is common for Yamaha. After the initial ad for the E-series ran semi-regularly from November 1977 to July 1978, Yamaha didn't run ads for these organs too often. The second ad didn't start running until a year after that first one stopped, and then only ran four or five times over the next year and a half, with the last one appearing in January 1981.

Then, it was four months later that this ad finally showed up. Unlike the second ad, which had no reference-like ad-copy at all, this third ad finally provided readers with a few more details about what this beast was capable of. And it begins with a large font and very clear language. 1. It's an Organ! 2. It's an Orchestra!

The black and white close-up images that accompany these two tag lines highlight these two features of the organ nicely, and the ad-copy goes on to explain some of the more musical features of the presets. And one of the first things Yamaha tries to get across to readers is that when the orchestra presets are "combined with the Flute section, musical marriage takes place on the incredible Electone consoles".

Interestingly, friend of the blog and fearless E-70 organ enthusiast "FlameTopFred" (I'm going to lose the quotes around his name from now on), made a similar statement in a recent email exchange concerning comparisons between the E-70 and CS-80.
"When using the orchestral presets, a key feature is being able to bring in some of the flute sounds (Flute on Electone is really a Hammond clone type of drawbar sound). This gives you an additional bank of Hammond tones that can be quite useful. The CS-80 was great - but it was missing that bank of flute (Hammond) tones. "
I'm starting to think that maybe FlameTopFred wrote this ad... :o)

The one area that I feel Yamaha could have really made these ads punchier is by adding colour. The close-up photo of the E-70's orchestra buttons that you see in all their gray-shaded glory, are actually bright white, red, yellow and green in real life. Colour would have really made the ad pop.

In the E-70 manual I found online, it describes the colour-coding:

White: Flute. Red: Brass. Yellow: Stings. Green: Synthetic tones.

Looking at the orchestra buttons in the ad, it was all lining up nicely except the last two buttons. Rather than saying "synthetic" or "synth" on the preset buttons, Yamaha decided to go with "Funny 1" and "Funny 2". What...? Maybe this is why synthesizer enthusiasts have a history of not getting along with organ enthusiasts. :o)

And after seeing those "Funny 1" and "Funny 2" buttons, I was even more curious about the sounds of the E-70 and its comparison to the CS-80. The preset buttons certainly looked similar.

I turned to FlameTopFred for expertise in this matter. He has owned both, picking up his E-70 in part because he also thought those buttons looked mighty similar too. He bought his E-70 for $150 in 2008, and the more he played with it, the more he kept coming across sounds that resembled his CS-80 synthesizer.
"When people say the E-70 is not a CS-80 I remind them that most of the useful sounds on the CS-80 came from using the preset buttons and then using the panel controls for the resonance, the aftertouch and so on - - - you can do some of that on the E-70. No - they are not identical, but certainly very close and for $150 the E-70 is an inexpensive sound-alike for many musical applications. The E-70 is a remarkable instrument - and one that I think has been overlooked by synth aficionados.

Funny I and Funny II are very close to the Funky I and Funky 2 sounds [of the CS-80]. Violin on the E-70 was close to the Strings 1 sound on the CS-80. Trombone and Trumpet were close to the Brass sounds on the CS-80."
When asked specifically about the different presets and which sound most musical, FlameTopFred commented:
"For the wild filter sweep sound, it would be Funny I or Funny II, the two green buttons on the far right. From the red buttons, Trombone and Trumpet were very useful. Harpsichord and Banjo were good sound for bright, fast attack sounds. Clarinet was also quite good as a triangle or sine wave sound. Kinura at first listen was awful, but was one of the best for using the filter (Brilliance) control.

Just as on the CS-80, between the octave buttons and the filter (Brilliance) control, there is a range of useful sounds from each orchestral button. And because you can combine those together (by coupling the Lower Manual sounds to the Upper Manual) there are sometimes very useful and musical blends using sounds that might not normally work on their own.

The CS-80 was also like this - and people forget that. Most of the time on the CS-80 you're staring with one of the presets and working the other controls on the console. The Filter, the Resonance, and most especially with the aftertouch."
Of course, from my "analogue-synth" point of view, I was really interested in the Funny I and Funny II presets. When asked, FlameTopFred described the two "Funny" presets in more detail:
"They have a fast filter sweep - sweeping both the filter and the resonance, very quickly. Funny I has a gentler sweep, gentler resonance, Funny II has a rapid attack sweep, with a short filter decay to a nice sustain, with a little more resonance in the attack. You can almost blow your speakers on Funny II."
Thanks again to FlameTopFred for providing this useful information (and more for future blog posts!). He's done a fantastic job of bridging between the organ and synth communities.

Definitely check out his YouTube site if you haven't already. And, he credits a lot of his knowledge to other YouTube videos, Yamaha's manual library site, and the Electone museum Web site. FlameTopFred recommends that if you are planning to buy an Electone, definitely check out these sites.

I know I'm hanging out on kijiji.ca a lot more now. :o)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Korg Electronic Music Instruments General Catalog, 1984

Korg Electronic Music Instruments General Catalog from 1984.

We interrupt my ongoing fetish for everything that is "E-70 organ"-like for this special scan.

Somehow, back in the day, I chucked this Korg catalog sheet into a box with a wack of other papers, all of which then quickly became lost for the next decade or two.

Then, just a short time ago, I was digging through some old boxes with a friend to show off some Moog modular "patch" sheets that included handwritten instructions from Bob Moog, and remembered I had this.

Wow. What a great summary of Korg's electronic products - all beautifully laid out within two pages. That's one jam-packed time capsule.

What I find most fascinating is how it so clearly demonstrates the design transition the synth industry was going through in the early to mid-80s. From the dino-3200 to the futuristic Poly-800. From knobs and jacks to buttons and digital displays. Wood paneling to plastic.

And how about that PME-40x "modular" pedal board? How cool is that?!?!? To think all of this was available in 1984.

It's also nice to be able to see what wasn't available. In particular, I'm talking about one of my favorite pieces of gear - the KMS-30 MIDI syncronizer. It's the glue that ties together most of my 80's XOX gear to my 2005 computer :o)

But, alas, the KMS-30 wasn't available until later. Too bad - would have looked nice in this little catalogue.