Thursday, December 30, 2010

Sequential Circuits "Happy Holiday Season" ad, Keyboard 1984

Sequential "Happy Holiday Season" quarter page advertisement from page 85 in Keyboard Magazine December 1984.

I've been yapping recently about how rare company 'holiday-themed' ads are. My last blog post was about an Oberheim holiday ad that still managed to keep their products front and centre, but this ad from Sequential is even more special to me. Because it doesn't even mention a product. And because I get to see Sequential's cool logo/font.

To be fair, during this time period, I believe Sequential had a number of product advertisements constantly running in Keyboard, but it is still quite startling for me to see a manufacturer's ad that doesn't mention their products at all.

Sure, it is only a quarter of a page in size, and in black and white, and in the back half of Keyboard. But heck, I appreciate the fact that Sequential put in the time, effort, and $s to create this classy message for Keyboard readers.

And I'm also appreciating the holiday time I'm taking right now. Although, for the record, I am at work. Gah!

I'd like to extend my own best wishes for a happy holiday season.

Happy new year everyone!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Oberheim holiday-themed family of products ad, Keyboard 1985

Oberheim holiday-themed family of products advertisement from the back-inside cover of Keyboard Magazine, December 1985.

I had mentioned at the end of a recent Keyboard magazine holiday gift subscription blog post, that these season-themed ads were "few and far between". But here is one good example.

Oberheim had pretty much taken over the back-inside cover of Keyboard Magazine starting in January 1984, and kept that advertising hot-spot well into 1988. Month after month, most of those ads had a very distinctive design- and this illustrated ad definitely didn't follow that style. In fact, that is one of the reasons it stands out so well.

Flipping through the December 1985 issue of Keyboard, I soon realized that it looked like this Oberheim advertisement was the only ad that referenced the holiday season. Keyboard Magazine itself had it's usual give-the-gift-of-Keyboard subscription-type ads and forms, but no other manufacturer or service seemed to try and jump on Santa's bandwagon sleigh.

But Oberheim goes full-on, splurging on a colourful illustrated back-inside cover ad that only seemed to have been used once that year. And they do it with a bit of humor too. Under the tag-line "Sounds of the Seasons", You've got cute Santa hands playing a... er... helicopter sounds?!?!

As the kids would say - LMFAO.

And, of course, cutest of all... the modified Oberheim logo with a Santa hat in the bottom left hand corner. Now, most branding experts will try and tell you to never mess with your logo. But, usually those Branding experts are referring to a full-on long-term logo/branding change (a la GAP fiasco). Short term changes such as the one above are harmless as far as I'm concerned. Especially if done with humor. Just look at the constantly changing Google logo on it's search home page. I doubt that has hurt their brand at all. Think of Oberheim as the Google of the synthesizer world at this point. So big that they didn't even have to include photos of their products in this ad. Everyone reading Keyboard knew what a Matrix 12 looked like. :o)

And with all those great Oberheim products available during the 1985 Christmas season, this is one family that I wouldn't mind visiting with during the holidays.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Subscription forms and associated material, Keyboard 1986

Subscription form/envelope from page 161 in Keyboard Magazine November 1986.

Folding instructions? Tape?

Yes, I know I'm milking this subscription form thing. But I really do find it interesting. Especially when you look back at subscription forms from 1975 and from 1976, and then jump a decade into the future and see just how much the style and design have changed, probably mostly due to advances in printing technology. And, what a difference a decade makes.

So, as I was saying... folding instructions?! You know you trust the capabilities of your readership when you including folding/taping instructions in your magazine subscription form. And, even crazier, the 'tear' design of the page rotates the folding lines off on an angle, making folding the page a tad confusing.

But, Keyboard was obviously aware of this potential issue, so on the back of the page, the business reply address label is deliberately printed on an angle as well so folding on the angled lines actually works for the most part. Nice save.

My only other concern is that I would think that the more work you make a potential subscriber do (fold and tape), the less chance they will take the time to do it. But then again, I'm lazy (or, as I prefer to call it, "efficient").

Looking at the design, I can't help but instantly be transported back to the 80s. The 'teared page' layout brings back the days of ripped jeans and turned-up collars, and the front cover images used on the page immediately had me humming "Don't You Forget About Me" by Simple Minds.

So, after figuring out the whole folding issue and then recalling how great the 80s were, I then realized, "Hey, this is the November issue? Why isn't this subscription form holiday-themed and why doesn't it include a gift subscription form like in the the decade before?

Well, actually, turns out these can be found in the mag. I just somehow missed it the first time I was flipping through it. The gift subscription form/envelope is attached between pages 82 and 83. And, on page 83 is the accompanying full-page subscription promo ad.

Just look at that pile of magazines with the Martha-Stewart-esque bow wrapped around 'em. And reading the ad-copy, I realized that the coolest thing is that along with the subscription form/envelope attachment, as seen below...

... Keyboard also includes a gift card/envelope attachment (see below) to send directly to the friend you generously gave the subscription to. That way they don't have to wait the 6-8 weeks to realize you weren't a cheap bastard. And thinking back, I actually recall receiving this envelope in the mail from MY MOM when she renewed my subscription one year, even when we lived in the same house. Seriously. How awesome is my mom!

Well, I'm seriously thinking about taking next week off. Recharge the brain, work on music, and all that fun stuff. And, I may be able to put the final touches on my latest project and get that launched. But, like I said earlier, I'm lazy efficient, so it may be a while longer before that stuff sees the light of day.

But I got at least another four days to figure all that out... Happy holidays everyone. :o)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Subscription forms and associated material, Contemporary Keyboard 1976

(more images below!)

Subscription forms in Contemporary Keyboard November/December 1976.

What a difference a year makes...

It seems like only yesterday that Contemporary Keyboard magazine subscription promos were all about "inspiration" and Michelangelo-like imagery. One year later, and CK decided to get a little more... er... contemporary... with their own advertisements. Because, really, that's what they are - advertisements for CK. In CK.

The magazine was still young and CK was still in that initial stage of increasing subscribership. And in the holiday season of 1976, they decided to take two different approaches - both mainly geared towards giving a subscription of CK as a gift.

As you flip through the magazine, the first subscription form stapled in between pages is geared directly towards a particular audience - music teachers. See the scanned images above. I have to say, that photo looks a little staged :o)

Interestingly, CK kept the "inspire" theme going from the original subscription forms I blogged about in my last post. Also, CK made sure not to exclude any teachers, by adding the line, "Give them the experience of classical masters and rock stars alike".

The form itself has room for two gift subscriptions that includes a space for a special CK greeting card content (excellent!), as well as space for the reader to start or renew their own subscription. That's three forms in one - good use of space.

I'm not sure if they had already received some marketing data indicating a high percentage of teachers as part of the their readership, or if it was just a hunch by someone working in the office. But, targeting a specific audience can backfire against any other groups that might also be interested in subscribing.

So, it's a good thing that further into the magazine readers come across this more generalized holiday gift promo.

Just look at that photo. That awesome Minimoog. That awesome hair. That awesome Odyessy Axxe. That awesome hair. And... that awesome hair. I'd "take a little bit" of that (the synths, not the hair. Ok... some of that hair...).

This full page advertisement provides for a lot more room for ad-copy, and it's a total hard-sell, pushing the magazine towards all audiences. Fellow band members, young musicians, favorite teacher, and electronics buff. Plus, they also give you a deal if you order more than one subscription - only $9 an issue. Excellent!

CK also announces that CK will start being published monthly starting January 1977. Up until then the magazine was being published every two months.

Attached to this full page ad is the envelope/form itself.

Again, we have room for multiple gift forms, and again a form for the gifter as well. Four in all. Because this full page ad and form was directed more towards a general audience, rather than just teachers, I would have liked to have seen the ratio of incoming forms. It would have provided some good data about the readership or whether the more directed form worked well. I'll probably just flip through some later issues at some point. If it worked, I'm sure I'll see more directed promos in future issues.

Interestingly, I took a quick look and holiday- themed ads are few and far between. One of the ones I can remember was SCI's holiday accessories/merchandise ad from 1982. But even it didn't really mention the holidays. Gah!

I'll dig through some more issues and try and find some.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Subscription form and associated material, Contemporary Keyboard 1975

More images below!

Subscription form attached between the front inside cover and page 3 in Contemporary Keyboard November/December 1975.

"I remember when I was a kid..."

Well, it is getting near the end of the year, and I thought I would scan something a little bit different. And this blast from the past shows me just how much I take the Internet for granted.

Now'r days, if you want to subscribe to a magazine, you just head over to their Web site, hit that big subscribe button, and charge the sucker to your credit card. I've done it with Keyboard Magazine, Computer Music and many others. But it wasn't always that easy.

Back in the day when Contemporary Keyboard was first getting started, they needed to get subscriptions up... and fast. But without the Internet around, they had to resort to (*gasp*) snail mail. So like most, if not all magazines, they included a subscription form.

This two-sided subscription form was attached between the front inside cover and page three of the mag. On the front was a nice big promo including details about the mag and the cost - six bucks for six issues (can't beat that!). And, to make sure it was visible, it was printed in a really bright red colour with some crazy imagery.

On the back was the actual form, with pricing and address info. You could even save a few bucks by subscribing in multiples of six's.

But, the problem was that this subscription form was only about 4 x 6.5 inches (10 x 16.5 cm). So, even in bright red, I guess CK thought it could easily get lost. So, to help everyone find this important piece of material, CK also included a big one page subscription ad only a page-flip away on page five, sending the reader back a page flip.

And it is on page five that we get a better idea on why this Michelangelo-like imagery was chosen. Just look at the tagline - "A Truly Inspiring Music Magazine".

So, now that the reader has found the form and filled out a check for the appropriate amount, Contemporary Keyboard again wanted to make sure it was as easy as possible to get that money back to them. So, at the bottom of the back page of the form, you will see the text "Detach this page, fold, and insert into envelope".

What envelope...?

Well, sure enough, I flipped to the back of the magazine and found that the other half of the form page was attached to a mail-in envelope. Address info already printed on the front, and postage paid. They even kept the 'inspiring' imagery going.

So, let me get this straight. A buck an issue. And postage paid?

Count me in!

But what a hassle from CK's end. All that design, print and other resources that had to go into this just-starting-out magazine.

CK kept this form and envelope going until October/November 1976 issue when they changed it to a more contemporary design to promote subscriptions as a holiday gift.

Soooooo, if anyone wants to get *me* a holiday gift...

hint... hint...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Moog Minimoog ad #2, Contemporary Keyboard 1979

Moog Minimoog synthesizer advertisement #2 from page 10 in Contemporary Keyboard September 1979.

Moog didn't advertise the Minimoog a lot in CK. Because they didn't have to. Everybody knew the Minimoog - it was a legend.

Then, for some reason in mid-1979, Moog decided they needed to up the Mini's profile. Maybe other manufacturers were beginning to get a little to close for comfort, and sales were starting to diminish. Who knows. But in the July and August issues of CK, Moog ran a unique and memorable black and white advertisement with the simple ad-title and ad-copy, "You know what this is - because you hear it everywhere".

That ad had no logo, no contact info, no anything. But everyone knew that silhouette.

After the ad's two-month run, someone at Moog must have though that they needed to turn the heat up another notch and came out with this baby of an ad. They spun that silhouette around, flipped on the lights, and added more than a dash of colour. But the one thing they didn't add was any more text. Again, they kept the title and ad-copy simple.

Readers of CK didn't have to skip a beat. The ad began to immediately run in September and October 1979, and then ran more sporadically in December and the following March.

Even with all these unique qualities, to me the most remarkable aspect of this ad is the colour. And in particular, that green. As much as I can recall, green wasn't too common in CK for ads. Blues and reds, sure. But green. Nerp.

But in this ad, that green really became instrumental in making that Mini pop. Especially those red and green switches. I even feel it helps pull out the wood grain of the Mini's case. But, now I'm probably just getting too dramatic.

Anyways, there isn't much I can say about the Minimoog that hasn't already been said. And, like it says in the ad - with that kind of sound, I don't have to talk about it so much.

And I'm not going to try.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Heet Sound Products E Bow, Synapse 1977

Heet Sound Products E Bow for guitar, from page 26 in Synapse Magazine May/June 1977.

This ad has *always* infatuated me. Ever since I first laid eyes on it in Synapse (as far as I know, it didn't appear in Keyboard - at least around this time period) I have wanted to try one. But there was always one big problem...

I don't play guitar.

I am into guitar pedals, and anything else that will create and/or modify sound. I eat up sites like Chris Carter's CCCL blog. And just like CCCL blog makes me want to buy more guitar pedals, this thing actually makes me want to buy a guitar.

Anyways, I thought it was cool that Heet had decided that '70's readers of Synapse magazine were experimental enough to really get into the E Bow. In fact, in the month previous to this ad showing up, it looks like Synapse made the first move by featuring the E Bow in the What's Happening section of the March/April 1977 issue.
"New for the progressive guitarists is a hand held string sustainer that works on an electromagnetic principle. The E BOW (Energy Bow) will sustain any steel string indefinitely with total control over attack, sustain and decay without any distortion, allowing further possibilities for guitar and synthesizer interface. The E BOW is available from Heet Sound Products."
The next month, the same month this ad began to appear, the E Bow was reviewed in Synapse in the "Equipment" section. The first paragraph describes it as "a perpetual sustain device for any steel string guitar, electric, or acoustic." It goes on to say that "at $125.00 list it's one of the most expensive distortion devices you can buy for a guitar. It's definitely priced for the professional market."

You can read the full E Bow review online at, where all the issues of Synapse have been scanned.

The coolest thing is that the E Bow is still around. According to their Web site, the concept was first 'inspired' in 1967, with a working model created in 1969. The E Bow was then introduced at NAMM in 1976 in Chicago, which means that these advertisements in Synapse were probably some of their first.

YouTube has a number of E Bow videos, and two in particular by MacDaddyMusicStore helped me to understand how the E Bow works and observe some live guitar playing.

I also did a bit of Googling to see if there was anything else out there that sounds like the E Bow - and I couldn't really find much, unless you think of yourself as a really talented guitarist and know your rig well. has a thread from 2003 with a couple of suggestions about how one might get a similar sound, and a more recent thread on from 2009 quickly turned into an discussion on experimental sound design. I'm kinda surprised at just how popular the sound is. I would never have guessed (again - I thought I should mention that I'm not a guitarist).

The E BOW Web site includes *a lot* of reference information, including sound clips from songs from famous bands like R.E.M., Smashing Pumpkins, and Pearl Jam, a long list of artists that have used the E Bow (Bill Nelson! Camouflage! Cocteau Twins! Flock of Sea Gulls!), quotes, YouTube videos, their own videos, and more. Definitely check it out if you even *think* about thinking of buying one of these devices.

End note: Awesome logo - but so small in the ad. But I could get a t-shirt with the logo for only $4.50 in 1977! I couldn't find any merch on their Web site - I would have bought one right away.

Monday, December 6, 2010

ARP Omni symphonic electronic keyboard ad #2, Contemporary Keyboard 1977

ARP Omni symphonic electronic keyboard advertisement #2 from page 29 in Contemporary Keyboard February 1977.

If you read my first Omni ad blog post, you may have noticed I didn't touch on one certain aspect of that ad - the demo sound sheet that was obviously attached to the centerfold between the two pages of the ad. Now I have no choice but to touch on it since ARP was smart enough to keep the demo record promo thing going for the next two months with this single-page advertisement - an ad that showcases a shiny close-up image of the sound sheet. Again - smart move ARP, one month of promotion just wouldn't have cut it. More on that promo record in a second.

In that first two-pager post, I really focused on one question - the manufacturing start date of the Omni. Most online resources, as well as Mark Vail's "Vintage Synthesizers" book have the manufacturing start date of the Omni beginning in 1975. But, based on a lot of evidence, including commentor Micke from my last blog post, I questioned when the Omni really started to be commercially available - and hinted at a much later date. Say, late 1976.

This ad piles on even more evidence to this theory. For one, the first sentence in the ad copy is:
"The ARP Omni is an incredible new electronic keyboard you have to hear to believe".
"new". That's pretty clear-cut. But there's more.

If you look at the small address form that readers could fill out, you will learn that for $1 you can send away "to receive your demonstration record and complete information on the ARP synthesizer line."

And if you look even more closely at the photo in that form, you will see that at the top of the pile of ARP information (*drool*) is the October 1976 issue of ARPeggio - ARP's newletter. You can barely make it out, but that issue has Less McCann on the front cover with the title "Less McCann 1st to Try New OMNI". And, if you had a copy of the newsletter, you could flip to page 7 and read the article titled "New ARP Omni: Completely Polyphonic". Content of both articles make references to the "new" ARP Omni. And this is the October 1976 issue! Granted - ARP newsletters weren't too frequent, but still... the evidence for a later manufacturing start date just keeps mounting.

You can view the full newsletter online - I scanned all the pages and blogged about it back in June.

Okay, now that I got that out of my system...

My second-hand copy Contemporary Keyboard didn't include the attached demo sound sheet, but over the years I've manage to pick up a few copies of what I believe is the same one. The Omni demo I have is performed by Tom Piggott, who worked at ARP and was one of the three ARP authors of the book "Learning Music with Synthesizers". It includes examples of all the sounds - violins, violas, string cello, bass, and synthesizer section, many of them played in combination. There is also a comparison of the instruments with the wave form enhancement, chorus/phaser, and stereo effects enabled so the listener can get a really good understanding of just what $2300 or so bucks gets ya. Split and footswitch capabilities are also showcased.

I found a copy of the mp3 online at's ARP Omni resource page. The "Sounds" section includes the link to this mp3, as well as a link to another Omni demo recording that unfortunately is broken (the link - not the record :o) That Omni site also includes some good tech and repair information, along with links to other ARP-related sites.

In my last blog post I linked to two other Web pages that included some other good Omni reference info - but here they are again - Wikipedia and Vintage Synth Explorer. Definitely check those two out if you want to learn more.

As I was surfing around looking for more good reference material, I also started to look at more and more photos of Omni's through Google's Image search, and my curiosity turned quickly to the "Waveform Enhancement" switch. Never heard of it before.

According to an ARP Omni page on, the switch "allowed selection of a square wave voice waveform vs. the default quasi-sawtooth waveform". An ARP Omni service manual (PDF) I found on Synthfool describes the feature as "altering waveforms produced by the Omni to a hollow like (square) sound".

There is a bit more detail on how the basic sound of the Omni is obtained, and how the Waveform Enhancement sound is eventually created, in section two of that service manual (theory of operation, page 5):
"The OMNI's tone generator circuitry consists of a master oscillator at 500 kHz., which drives a large scale integrated circuit top octave divider. The top octave divider produces the highest twelve tones in the instrument. Frequency dividers derive the remaining pitches from the top octave divider. The squarewave outputs of each divider are waveshaped to a sawtooth form (the waveform enhancement alters the waveshape to a differentiated squarewave)."
A few sources on the Web indicated that you can hear the Waveform Enhancement sound from the Omni in the lead line from Modern English's I Melt With You. I've included the YouTube video in this post so you can hear the sound yourself, see the Omni in action at around 1:52, and most importantly, to get "extra points" from my girlfriend, who loves this song. :o)

Happy viewing!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

ARP Omni symphonic electronic keyboard, Contemporary Keyboard 1977

ARP Omni symphonic electronic keyboard advertisement from page 28 and 29 in Contemporary Keyboard January 1977.

This was the first ARP Omni ad to appear in Contemporary Keyboard. A two-pager that only ran once as the centerfold in the January '77 issue. And I would have to say it is on par with other centerfolds I may have come across as a kid in 1977. Wink wink.

The ad sports a fantastically large photo spread across the full two page width. It also includes great ad-copy with good action items positioned as sub-titles. Lines like "Listen to the strings" and "First play the record, then play the Omni" are always pushing the reader towards the end goal - buying an Omni.

And that OMNI logo on the top of the instrument is to die for. Seriously.

When I became interested in the Omni and started doing some research, the keyboard was looking like some kind of ghost at first. You only have to look at the first sentence of the ad-copy to see why.
"On this five-minute demonstration record, you will hear some of the sounds you can create on the new ARP Omni".
New? In January 1977?

Most Web sites list the production start date of the Omni as 1975 (Vintage Synth Explorer, Wikipedia). Even the book "Vintage Synthesizers" by Mail Vail indicates that, "the company's all-time best-seller was the Omni, introduced in 1975." Was it just new to Contemporary Keyboard readers then?

Even more odd, just the previous year ARP ads were showing up monthly in CK magazine, including two "family of products" ads running in 1976 that featured a wide range of their products. For example, this ad from May/June 1976, and this one from March/April 1976. And NEITHER of those family ads included the Omni either.

Wussup? If ARP was cranking out this keyboard out as early as 1975, why wouldn't they include the Omni in any of those "family of products" ads? ARP's String Ensemble is in both of these advertisements, so it's not like those two ads were "synthesizer-only". And, I would think that the Omni would have had it's own series of ads much earlier than January 1977 if it was ARP's "all-time best-seller".

There is definitely some evidence that the Omni was available prior to this two-page introductory ad, but not anything near 1975.

A month before the advertisement came out, the Omni promo appeared in the Spec Sheet section of the November/December 1976 issue of Contemporary Keyboard. CK had only been publishing every second month for the last year or so, and at this early point in CK's life, it wasn't uncommon to promote synthesizers that had already been available to the public for quite some time. But even so, I would have expected to see this keyboard promoted much earlier considering it's popularity.
"ARP SYNTHESIZER: Capable of producing realistic string, brass, piano, harpsichord, and vibes effects, the Omni synthesizer features stereo outputs, waveform enhancement, built-in chorus phasers, and split keyboard. A VCF and an ADSR envelope generator are supplied, and the instrument's effects can be mixed together. For example, the musician can play the machine's violins and horns, and then add a separate string bass line on the left end of the keyboard. Its control panel includes computer-grade switches and LED status indicators. The unit weighs 33 lbs. Cannon XLR connectors are provided and interconnection to other ARP synthesizers is possible via systems interface jacks. List price is $2,250. ARP instrument, 320 Needham St., Newton, MA 02164."
A similarly small "Equipment Review" appeared in the November/December 1976 issue of Synapse magazine. And to me it suggests that the Omni is quite new, ready to drop-kick the aging String Ensemble off the map.
"The Omni employs the most modest approach to polyphonics and also has a modest price: $2395.

It is essentially two instruments played from one keyboard. The one half of the Omni is a string synthesizer possessing truly remarkable, lush sound. Undoubtedly, the Omni will soon replace ARP's own more ready-sounding String Ensemble.

The other half is the synthesizer itself, the part subject to timbre variation. As in the polymoog, all frequencies are generated by top-octave division, so the sound is a little thin. Another weak point is the single trigger for all keys; notes can not be individually gated or filter swept. But what do you want for $2395? There are some distinct touches, such as a foot pedal that controls envelope decay time, and a slider pot that mixes together the string and synthesizer timbres for some interesting effects. The Omni definitely can fill the "polyphonic need" of the budget minded synthesist."
The fact that the Omni appeared in the Spec Sheet section of CK and the Equipment Review section of Synapse in the same November/December period, together with this two-pager ad appeared only a month later in January, seems more than a coincidence. It is all good evidence that ARP was doing some kind of coordinated promotional effort for the Omni at this time. Together with the fact that the ad-copy states that the Omni is "new", it all makes me really interested to know when the first Omnis came off the assembly line.

And if it was truly 1975, ARP sure didn't seem too interested in promoting the instrument right away.