Friday, December 15, 2017

Twelve Tone Systems' Cakewalk "IBM Sequencer" advertisement, Electronic Musician 1988

Twelve Tone Systems' Cakewalk "IBM Sequencer" 1/3-page colour advertisement from the bottom right corner of page 13 in the March 1988 issue of Electronic Musician.

Note: This is Twelve Tone Systems' third advertisement. I've blogged about their first ad and second ad as well. Not essential reading to follow along, but part of the fun ride.

This third Cakewalk ad ended up running in the January, March, April and May 1988 issues of Electronic Musician.

The only colour in this ad is the word "Cakewalk" itself - and even then, the ad only got the colour treatment in the March issue. In all the other issues, the ad is fully black & white. Looking at the rest of the page of that March issue, there are red sub-headings for the "letters to the editor" article that appears there, so I guess Twelve Tone had the option to include some colour in their ad and they took the opportunity when presented.

Considering this is the first time the logo has appeared in advertising material, I found it interesting that they chose the word "Cakewalk" to be red. One thought is that it could have been easier to colourize the word Cakewalk as its just text. Also, from that earlier interview with Twelve Tone Systems' founder that I referenced in the blog post for their first ad, it was clear that people were already referring to the company as Cakewalk  (and why they later changed the name of the company to Cakewalk).

But we do finally get to see the logo in the ad though. That makes me happy.  :)

The ad-copy in this third ad takes a different approach than their previous two. In the first two ads, the company focused on relaying Cakewalk's main features to the reader - 256 tracks, ease of use, editing power and low price. But this time, they quickly got their speaking points out in bold lettering in the first paragraph, and then used the majority of the ad space to promote themselves through quotes from recent product reviews conducted by relatively well-known authors - Matt Isaacson from Music Technology Magazine and the one and only Jim Aikin from Keyboard.

Letting the industry professionals do the talking is always a good strategy, as long as there is no disconnect between the statements made in the ad and those found in those VERY recent reviews. You never want to be called out for taking a someone's words out of context to benefit your product.

Well, you can guess what happened next - time to hunt down those original reviews.

Up first was the Cakewalk review in the November 1987 issue of Music Technology. An awesome issue that also includes great interviews with Kitaro and fellow Canadian Daniel Lanois. But, I resisted the urge to let myself get distracted and start flipping through the magazine. I went straight to page 75 to read the review.

It was clear right from the start that reviewer Matt Isaacson was a fan and that the review was no doubt going to be a positive affair. Right out of the gate the introduction begins with:
"For every problem technology solves, it creates another. The main problem which Cakewalk poses for me is how to do it justice in the limited space allotted for the review." 
It continues to spell out the specs of the software and what is required to run it. Looking back at reviews thrity years later is great because you read it from a totally different perspective. According to the review, it supports colour monitors and Microsoft Mouse, but is quite usable in the absence of both.

What? You could use a mouse with Microsoft DOS? I don't recall this *at all*.

Anyways, the three and half page review continues on, first with a basic "Getting Around" section. This includes among other things explanations on the pull-down menu, keyboard short cuts, and online help. The next section, an extension of the first really is "Looking Around", describing the main window itself.

With those basics out of the way, Matt then digs in deep with a section called the "The Sequence View Window", where he describes the Track, Measures and Event views. Most if not all the work is done on one of these three screens.

The last two sections of the review are "Recording" and, quite easily the largest section "Editing".

Before we get to the conclusion, there is a sticky little section called "Problems". Matt basically came up with four issues. The first was that playback timing of some tracks became "askew" after recording. The second and third issue were basically software bugs - one that could affect event editing and another that affected the MIDI start command under certain conditions. Not too shabby for version 1.1 software of anything. The final problem Matt identified was the software's total disregard for system exclusive messages.

His conclusion more than made up for pointing out these faults in the software, with Matt calling Cakewalk "one hell of a sequencer", who's "editing capabilities are too good to ignore". Nothing taken out of context here.

I next looked up Jim Aiken's review in the December 1987 issue of Keyboard. At only two pages, it might seem that its not as in-depth as the previous review, but Keyboard's small font size and single line spacing probably more than makes up for this difference.

Jim's review starts even more positively than Matt's.
"Standards in sequencer design are pretty high these days, but software newcomer Twelve Tone Systems scores quite well with Cakewalk, a full-functional sequencer program for the IBM PC."
And, just like Matt, he too points out in his introduction that you can use Cakewalk easily with or without a mouse.  Interestingly, unlike the review in MT that leaves the messy list of issues and bugs until the end, Jim likes to point these out within the sections themselves. For example, in the introduction he point out one of Cakewalk's faults right at the get-go - no automated punch-in. Two different review styles - both legit. Although I prefer the first so all the problems are featured in one place.

Like Music Technology's review, after the introduction we get an in-depth overview of the software and its main screens - navigation and the Track, Measure and Events view. While the MT review didn't seem to mind the Measures view, Jim described it as looking "vaguely like the main screen on the Roland MPS/Mesa sequencer, and is probably just about as useless...".

The next section of the review focused on editing, detailing some of the more complicated (in a good way!) aspects of the software. He does point out they found a serious bug in the event filter that would crash Cakewalk, but also offered up a work-around.

The final section before the conclusion is called "Utilities", which points out some of the "miscellaneous goodies in Cakewalk", which included storing of tempo settings, the ability to run a second program without dumping Cakewalk from memory, some of Cakewalk's save features including it's autosave, and the filtering of incoming MIDI data. One feature he called "unusual" and "could be real lifesaver" was that incoming data that was on separate channels could be kept separated on different tracks in Cakewalk.

Dang! The things we take for granted now. 

Jim's conclusion shouldn't surprise you...
"Greg Hendershott appears to have done a thorough and effective job, and we can recommend Cakewalk with complete confidence. There are several good IBM sequencers around, but if you're shopping for one, we'd definitely suggest that you get an in-store demo of Cakewalk so you can make an informed decision". 
So, as you can see, within the space of eight months Twelve Tone Systems' had managed to launch a product in April 1987, advertise effectively and get two very positive reviews in at least two large and influential industry magazines by the Christmas season.

Not too shabby.

Hey, did I mention how happy I am to see a Twelve Tone Systems' logo?   :)

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Twelve Tone Systems' Cakewalk "IBM PC/XT/AT OWNERS!!!" advertisement, Electronic Musician 1987

Twelve Tone Systems' Cakewalk sequencer software "IBM PC/XT/AT OWNERS!!!" 1/4-page black and white advertisement from the top-right corner of page 13 in the August 1987 issue of Electronic Musician.

Hey there! This is blog post #2 of my walk down Cakewalk memory lane. If you haven't read the first one... you may want to do that now. Or don't.

If you recall from my previous post, Twelve Tone Systems' first advertisement (right) had run from April through June 1987. If you had picked up that July issue and noticed it missing, you might have thought that was the end of Cakewalk.

But, as you are no doubt aware, it definitely wasn't. And after a brief one month hiatus, this second Cakewalk ad appeared in the August issue and continued to run for four consecutive months through to November 1987.

From that first small advertisement's humble beginnings, Twelve Tone Systems began picking up users a few at a time. But that costs money and a new product can always use a bit of earned media (in other words, free) to help get their legs running in the right direction.

Electronic Musician included a small write-up in its June 1987 What's New section:
"Cakewalk ($150.00), a MIDI recorder/editor for the IBM PC/XT/AT (256K memory and Roland MPU-401 required), features 256 tracks of unlimited length, a pull-down menu interface, a detailed Event View for editing MIDI parameters, and extensive global editing commands. Edit regions can be marked by ear and further refined using Event Filter criteria. A demo disk is available for $10. Twelve Tone Systems. PO Box 226, Watertown, MA, 02272 617/924-7937."
And although Keyboard magazine had yet to publish an ad for Cakewalk, they also gave their readers a taste of Cakewalk within their June 1987 Spec Sheet page:
"Cakewalk MIDI recorder/editor. Twelve Tone Systems' Cakewalk software features 256 tracks of unlimited length, a context-sensitive, on-line help system, and easy pull-down menu interface, a detailed Event View for editing MIDI parameters, and extensive global editing commands. Edit regions can be marked during playback and refined using Event Filter criteria. Cakewalk runs with an IBM compatible with at least 256K, a Roland MPU-104, and at least one MIDI instrument. $150.00. Twelve Tone Systems, Box 226, Watertown, MA 02272."
It's interesting to see just how similar these two little write-ups are. And I don't think that's a coincidence. I'm guessing someone at Cakewalk trotted out a small news release or product announcement. It's every marketing and PR person's dream that you will send out an announcement and the over-worked writers and editors will use your direct wording. Based on the fact these two write-ups are so identical, I'm guessing it worked for the most part. :)

One thing that I did notice was missing, both from this second ad and from these magazine product write-ups, is Twelve Tone Systems' buzzwords that was so boldly... er... bolded in their first ad:  "Aural Editing". They used it to describe how editing regions could be marked by ear during playback. Well, it looks like they decided to drop the term already (but not the feature).  Such is the life of buzzwords. Boooooo!

As for the second advertisement itself, Twelve Tone Systems decided to enlarge the ad space from 1/6-page to 1/4-page, and this was a good decision on their part. Most particularly because it allowed the fun, laid-back personality of the company to shine through.

Phrases like...
"This hot sequencing software gives you lots of power for not much coin." 
"You are guided through all this power by a nifty user-interface..." 
"Or dip into over 100 pages of the clearest documentation you've ever not had to read."  
"Cakewalk is all yours for just $150. Of course, if paying $500 for Cakewalk will make you feel better, we'll play along."
 That's just good branding. I'm reading it 30 years later and it still sounds like Cakewalk to me.

There is one thing I'm still missing. Although the company has now defined their personality, they are still in desperate need of a logo.  But they do have everyone's attention... and so its time for the next step.

Which I'll get to in the next blog post.

Update: The third blog post is now live!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Twelve Tone Systems Cakewalk sequencer "IBM Owners!!!" advertisement, Electronic Musician 1987

Twelve Tone Systems' Cakewalk sequencer "IBM Owners!!!" 1/6-page black and white advertisement from the top-right corner of page 57 the April 1987 issue of Electronic Musician.

Before I begin - full disclosure: I've been a Cakewalk user for a *long* time. Not since the beginning (my first sequencer was Master Tracks Pro for the Apple IIe), but my bestie began with Cakewalk for DOS and so I had witnessed it in action in some of its earliest incarnations.

Update: Cakewalk's second ad has been posted! And now the third ad!

Its hard to believe Cakewalk has been around for 30 years. And even harder to believe that the end may be near as Gibson announced on November 17, 2017 that it was "ceasing active development and production of Cakewalk branded products".

There's a lot of rumor and speculation surrounding this announcement, but I'm not gonna get into that here. What I wanted to do was take a little walk down memory lane and revisit some of Cakewalk's early days through a few blog posts. So, yup - this won't be the last you'll hear about Cakewalk.

Anyways, back to this ad in particular - because it doesn't get much earlier than this - what is probably one of the earliest, if not THE EARLIEST, advertisement for Cakewalk.

According to Wikipedia, the first version of Cakewalk appeared in 1987. To track down early ads I first looked through latter half of 1986 and the first half of 1987 issues of Keyboard Magazine. But couldn't find a thing. I then set my sights on roughly the same time period of Electronic Musician and sure enough found what I believe to be Cakewalk's very first advertisement in the April 1987 issue. The ad looks to have ran for three three consecutive months until June 1987.

Most new companies don't have a lot of advertising dollars to spend, so it kinda makes sense that if a start-up like Twelve Tone Systems had to choose between Keyboard and Electronic Musician, they would go with the magazine more focused on software.

The ad itself isn't much to look at - its only 1/6th of a page in size. But it says enough to peak the interest of any musician reading the mag that happened to have a Microsoft DOS machine around at the time. 256 tracks with global and event view editing was impressive software at the time. And almost as importantly, they included context-sensitive help for the many musicians that were just starting down that computer sequencer journey.

One other interesting piece of info from the ad that jumped out at me was: "Unique Aural Editing(TM) lets your ears get involved". After some brief research, I learned that what that was referring to was how edit regions could be marked by ear (I guess while the sequencer is running?) and then further refined using event filtering. I enjoy companies that come up with interesting buzzwords for things.

And of course, most importantly - we got the price! $150.00! That's about $325 in today's dollars. Not too shabby.

Some really good early history of Cakewalk is available in a 2007 CDM interview with Cakewalk founder Greg Hendershott by Peter Kirn. The interview marked the 20th anniversary for Cakewalk, and Peter Kirn was obviously a fan.  The interview gives us plenty of history on Cakewalk, parts of which I believe reference this advertisement in particular.

According to the article, Greg had written the initial program and made the decision to place a small ad to see if he could sell a few copies to other people.
"So I kind of procrastinated, and thought maybe I could try taking out a small ad and selling a few copies. And I did, and amazingly four or five people saw the ad and called up and ordered. And that was enough to pay for the ad and do another one."
In regards to the name Cakewalk, Greg ended up choosing a word that was simple to spell and suggested ease of use.
"Right before I placed the ad, literally two days before the deadline, I had picked another name for the program, and I found out it had been used by other software. I think it was something like Opus. So I had this little dictionary of music terms, and I saw Cakewalk." 
So dig finding advertising references like that. Great stuff.

The interview is filled with tons of great Cakewalk history - how he came about the name Twelve Tone Systems, why the company name was changed to Cakewalk, thoughts on early DOS sequencer competitors like Voyetra, and Greg's philosophy on making his software affordable and free of  copy-protection.

If you are a Cakewalk junkie and electronic music history buff... go read it. Now!

Happy reading!

Update: Cakewalk's second ad has been posted! The saga continues!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Moog Song Producer, Keyboard 1985

Moog Song Producer 1/6-page black and white advertisement from page 108 in the November 1985 issue of Keyboard Magazine.

"Pivot" - you hear that word a lot now'er days.

For example, Your FarmVille-app wanna-be isn't panning out? Pivot to become an online Organic Farm location service.

In the case of Moog Music, it looks like one such pivot started around 1983 when the company was sold to management. But in order to see it more clearly, we need to back up a bit.

What looks to be prior to the sale, Moog had shown up at 1983's Summer NAMM with Keith Emerson's Modular System, a few MIDI-equipped Memorymoogs and, according to the September 1983 issue of Keyboard Magazine...
SL-8 photo from Keyboard Magazine
September 1983
"Hidden away up in a hotel suite was a prototype of the SL-8, an eight-voice synthesizer that generates its colors digitally. The keyboard can be split and layered. Projected list price was somewhere in the neighbourhood of $2,495.00. No final plans have been made as to when it will come out."
Without getting too far off my original point, I kinda went down a rabbit hole looking for info on the SL-8 and came upon a great little story.

A September 2015 Reddit post of a photo of the SL-8 submitted by "theofferings" (who looks to be David Harrison, the Technical Director of the Audities Foundation most likely) included some info about the synth's appearance at that NAMM 1983 show mentioned in Keyboard Magazine:
"The story goes, Moog brought this to NAMM 83 as an 8 voice polyphonic synth, a follow up to the Memory Moog (which btw has the fattest Osc's I might have ever heard). They brought the cards for the SL8 to NAMM in a "cardboard box" and this was placed below the SL8 for performance during NAMM. After NAMM the cardboard box containing the cards was lost or misplaced and all the remains is the body."
Another reader followed up with some information from "a friend" about this SL-8 prototype appearing later on at a London trade show in 1984, including how the synth got it's name and why it may not have made it into production.
"I'm very familiar with the SL-8, I was the person who got it working in London at the Music trade show in 1984. The boards were in a card cage underneath the prototype behind a curtain with big ribbon cables running up inside to the control panels. When it arrived in London from Buffalo it was DOA. I took the ferry over from our service center in Rotterdam to the UK and fixed it on the opening morning of the show. We took over 700 orders for it that weekend ($1995 Retail). When I got back to the plant, Marge Beltz (Our accounting genius) killed it. Ray Dennison and I are old friends and he ended up leaving Moog over that decision after spending a year of his life designing it. It was the first polyphonic Moog with a 16 bit Micro. The name comes from Split/Layered 8 Voice synth (SL-8). It had really gritty digitally controlled analog oscillators with a harmonic multiplier knob. " 
Great stuff!

But anyways, back to the point... what was the point again...?

Oh yeah! The "pivot".

It looks to be around the time of the buyout - and a name change from Moog Music to Moog Electronics - that the company began its pivot. For example, according to the Moog Archives web site, Moog had begun to put a new emphasis on contract manufacturing, such as in the production of the SSK Concertmate synthesizer for Tandy Corp (Radio Shack). And the company also began producing non-music related products, like the Telesys 3, later know as the Operator (view the advertisement on the Moog Archives site), and the Phone Controller (photos from the awesome MATRIXSYNTH). Hence why they couldn't keep on using the word "Music" in their company name, I'd guess.

But that doesn't mean they weren't gonna keep a few eggs in their own Moog products basket. The company continued to sell the Memorymoog  for a while, with advertisements running until the summer of 1984, and as we just read on Reddit, they were still showing off the SL-8 prototype into 1984.

And there was one other musical product that seemed to survive the pivot - The Moog Song Producer hardware and software set-up for the Commodore 64.

Now, I'm a big fan of the C-64 and hang out in the Facebook groups devoted to the computer. So, I can tell you that when someone posts *this* photo (see right) of the Moog Song Producer, a lot of discussion ensues. 5 (thank you again, MATRIXSYNTH).

Most MIDI cartridges for the C-64 look and act very similar. They all have MIDI in and and out or two, and a few will get a little bit more exciting with a clock and/or tape sync in/out. A few like the Sequential Circuits Model 64 and C-Lab Supertrack-ROM will even have the sequencing software on the cartridge to save you from having to load a program on from a floppy drive.

BUT, the Moog Song Producer was a different beast altogether. It was a large rectangular box almost as wide as a C-64 itself. And, as this ad will tell you, it included *a lot* more than just a MIDI in and one or two MIDI outs.
- 4 MIDI OUTS channelize OMNI synths and speed throughput.
- 8 gate outputs drive non-MIDI drums.
- Footswitch inputs free your hands.
- Clock IN/OUT and clock Disable IN/OUT provided for non-MIDI clock(s) control.

The software wasn't just a simple sequencer either:
- MIDI COMMAND splits/layers/transposes and controls MIDI PROGREAM Numbers for 4 instruments independently.
- SONGSTEPPER composition program displays realtime  entry and stepmode. Keyboard skills not required. Compose drums and music using one system.
- SYNC COMMAND has 9 synchronous clocks with Master Tempo to get your gear together.
- Dr. T's Music software now available for the Song Producer interface.
Best of all, we also get some retail prices!

$395 U.S. for the software and hardware. And $15 for the 250 page manual owners manual that includes 12 color photos of the software screens. Now, I'm not a big fan of paying for an owners manual, but this one was 250 pages, and it was written by Tom Rhea. So, I'll let that go. 

The ad itself isn't much to look at - but after doing some digging I found there's a lot more to say about Moog's Song Producer.

But I've rambled on enough.

So I'm gonna save that for the next Song Producer advert blog post. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Moog Retail Price List, June 28, 1980

Moog 2-page fold out Retail Price List from June 28, 1980.

What isn't to love about this price sheet?

A list of awesome Moog synths? Check!  Retail prices for those synth history buffs like me? Yup!  And last but definitely not least, Tom Schuman from Spyro Gyra. No wonder he is smiling, by the time this price list came out, the guy was still barely into his twenties and already had three albums under his belt.

AND he's playing a Moog Liberation keytar. That would definitely make me smile too.

click image for more info
If this photo of Tom appears familiar, it probably means you are old.

Or a fan of vintage synth ads.

Or both.

Because a full colour version appeared in a July 1980 Moog Liberation advertisement, around the same time this price list did. As mentioned in the blog post for that ad, 1980 really was the year that the Keytar broke out.

Which makes it a good year indeed.

As mentioned above, as a synth history buff, I love to see prices listed. Most ads don't include prices and its like a puzzle missing one of the most important pieces.  I've posted a few other Moog price lists (with more to come!) and its fun (and a little terrifying) to watch inflation unfold.
click image for more info

For example, The July 1, 1974 Moog Retail Price List contains some of the same products, and I've included a few of those below for comparison. 

1974 - $1,595.00
1980 - $1,995.00

Percussion Controller:
1974 - $249.00 
1980 - $350.00

Ribbon Controller:
1974 - $295.00
1980 - $$395.00

click image for more info
Also, the March 1, 1976 Moog Professional Systems Price List gives us a good comparison for their modular systems.

System 15:
1976 - $3,845.00
1980 - $4,960.00

System 35:
1976 - $5,935
1980 - $7,980

System 55:
1976 - $9,675
1980 - $12,000

Time to look for more Keytar ads.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Moog Multimoog synthesizer reference sheet, 1980

Moog Multimoog synthesizer reference sheet from 1980.

I  reference info. The more data the better. And this, and the other reference sheets deliver. Gorgeous photo on one side. Gorgeous info on the other. Yum.

While recently flipping through old blog posts I noticed I never finished off my 1980 Moog reference sheet family. Well, time to fix that!

For someone who gets distracted as easily as I do, I'm surprised I had already managed to get five of them up there, including, in no particular order (click on the images to go to their respective blog posts):


The Multimoog is probably the Moog synthesizer I'm least familiar with. And at first glance, I had mistaken it for its baby brother - the Micromoog. Looking at the two reference sheets its easy to see why.

And those similarities are not just cosmetic - as noted in the November 1978 Spec Sheet write-up for the Multimoog:
"Moog synthesizer: The Multimoog features two audio oscillators, an LFO, fully variable waveshaping, a 3.5 octave keyboard, switchable single or multiple triggering, a pitchbend ribbon and a modulation wheel. The keyboard also has a force sensor in it, the output of which can be used to control pitch, LFO speed, volume, etc. The Multimoog is basically an expanded version of the Micromoog and features many more open-system features not included on the Micro, such as glide output voltage on-off, ribbon control voltage routing, and keyboard triggering control. Norlin Music. 7373 N. Cicero Ave., Lincolnwood, IL. 60646."
I have to say, I love the variable waveshaping on the Micromoog (waveform control knob that moves gradually from saw through square through narrow pulse waveforms rather than clicking to each individual waveform), and its looks like its implemented the same on the Multi.  Sweet.

One other feature mentioned in the spec sheet got my attention: the "... more open-system features...". A few Google searches later and I'm on Muff Wigglers reading:
"Multimoogs can be chained together. The back panel has a generous I/O system which lets a synth be a master or a slave unit."
Whaaaaaat? Chaining Multimoogs? That's awesome. The back page of the reference sheet does list the jaw-dropping number of in's and out's the Multimoog ha, but unfortunately I couldn't find any videos of two Multimoog's joined together. Dang.

But I think anyone who has been hanging around vintage Moog forums and Web sites will agree its most outstanding feature is it's "force-sensitive" keyboard, now more commonly known as pressure sensitivity. A nice - and rare - feature for a late 1970s synthesizer.

As such, the Multimoog's pressure sensitivity played prominently in the Multimoog's advertising campaigns. Chick Corea called it "a very expressive addition". And the

There are a number of Multimoog video demos on Youtube that show off it's pressure sensitivity nicely. I'll end the blog post with this one. What a lovely growl that Moog filter creates...


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Sequential Circuits "Choice of the month" ad, International Musician and Recording World, 1982

Sequential Circuits "Choice of the month" centrefold colour advertisement featuring the Prophet-10, Prophet-5 and Pro-One from page 42 and 43 in the May 1982 issue of International Musician and Recording World.

Wow. Just wow.

I was doing a bit of research in back issues of some magazines for a lawyer last night and while casually flipping through one of those mags, this suddenly appeared before my eyes.

I've never seen it before. Ever. Time for a quick blog post!

In my defense, it's not in the advertising index of this magazine - a technique I use to quickly reference and log some synth ads. Another SCI full page colour ad that appears on page 36 *is* in that index. But not this one. There also doesn't seem to be a reference elsewhere in the magazine as to why SCI became the "Choice of the month" for the magazine. There was a "Special Focus: Keyboards" article this month. So, I'm guessing it was supposed to be related to that.

It actually looks more like a poster image that's been re-used for this "Choice of the Month"  image. There is no ad-title or text. And the image itself doesn't stretch to the far right and far left of the pages - there is white space at both ends. I've left the white in the scan to make the point.

But its a poster or image I've never run across. I haven't seen it in other magazines and I haven't seen it hanging on the wall in the background of any of the Dave Smith demo videos.

The main image of a hand playing a Prophet-5 keyboard is very reminiscent of SCI's Poly-Sequencer advertisement that appeared a few times in Keyboard Magazine from 1981 to 1983 (a long shelf life for any ad!). The hand in this ad and the one in the centrefold illustration are even playing the same chord. It was definitely an inspiration for Nicholson, the artist who's name appears vertically near the top right of the image (just underneath the also-vertical Prophet-5).

The rest of this wonderful illustration consists of a Prophet-10, Prophet-5 and Pro-One used to frame the main image.

While comparing the Poly-Sequencer ad and the centrefold, I noticed something. Did you notice it too?

The fingers are playing the exact same notes, but in the illustration, there is a lot more space between the thumb and index finger. It took me a few seconds for my brain to figure it out. In order to even out the fingers in the illustration, Nicholson took a bit of liberty (and warped reality) by adding AN EXTRA KEY into the octave.

That takes balls. And makes this illustration even more unique to me.

But it may be why the image hasn't been seen elsewhere.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Roland D-50 "A new technology is creating a powerful storm...", Keyboard 1987

Roland D-50 "A new technology is creating a powerful storm in the world of sound synthesis" four page colour introductory advertisement from pages 89 to 92 in the June 1987 issue of Keyboard Magazine.

Happy 9/09 day!

I had a lovely 909-related post ready to rock and then... BOOM! Roland announces their new D-05 Boutique module based off their 1980's best selling D-50 synthesizer. Luckily I had been saving this draft of the D-50 four-page introductory advertisement for a special occasion. And I can't think of a better one right now.

(And bonus! I have a 909-related post ready to go for the next 9/09 day!).

Roland introduced Keyboard readers to the their new D-50 synthesizer in the June 1987 issue with this four-page ad. Its not often you get to see a four-page advertisement in Keyboard magazine. And its definitely not often you see it run for four months in row. That's a lot of advertising dollars. And then Roland just pared it down to a two-page ad and continued to run it.

Although Roland began advertising it in June 1987, its possible the first time that readers of Keyboard were introduced to its existence was two months earlier in Ted Greenwald's winter NAMM article that appeared in the April issue. The D-50 received top billing!
"For a couple of years it took small American companies such as Sequential and Ensoniq to prove to synthesizer players that there is, indeed, life after the DX-7. So it was a surprise to see the big boys grab the spotlight this time around with some exciting new instruments."
Ted goes on to write about Roland,
"The indefatigable Roland led the way with the D-50 Digital Synthesizer, the obvious highlight of their prolific new offerings, and possibly of the entire show". 
Side note: I'm not sure if "indefatigable" is a word, but it definitely described Roland's push of new gear both during that time period, and now with the announcement of so many Boutiques.  :)

The D-50 really did take the synth world by storm in 1987. Ted Greenwald drew the lucky straw and also got to write the Keyboard Report that appeared in the September 1987 issue.

Ted opening paragraph really packages history up nicely and is one of the reasons I love reading through old synth mags. He points out that MIDI was invented to do patch layering and talks about the "sonic richness that could be obtained by combining two" separate synthesizers. He goes on to write:
"While Sequential and Oberhaim addressed the problem by designing polytimbral instruments (the Six-trak and the Xpander), and Roland and Yamaha started packaging two synthesizers in one case (DX-5 and the JX-10), New England Digital gave the Synclavier the ability to layer four sounds, either synthesized or sampled, under one key."
What he was saying is that Roland's D-50 allowed synthesists to add a little sparkle of "Synclavier" into their productions at a fraction of the cost.

The three-and-a-half page Keyboard report gets into all the aspects of the synth including the basics of linear arithmetic synthesis, how the samples are incorporated into the synth, the effects (reverb and delay in a synth?!?!), and the front panel interface. On that last topic, its noted that programming can get complicated with all the menu diving, but luckily Roland decided to keep the tradition of pairing programmers with their synthesizers and offered up the PG-1000 programmer right out of the gate.

Ted concludes his review with some pretty good predictions...
"LA synthesis is a success, and we expect that the D-50 will be as well, even if some corners were cut to get it into such a competitive price range. ... An instrument this capable for under $2,000 would be a strong contender for Keyboard Of The Year even if it didn't include reverb, delay, chorus and EQ effects. In the coming months, we're expecting some of the factory patches to become as ubiquitous as that blasted DX-7 Rhodes sound. Keep your ears open".  
He definitely got that right.

And with the D-05 Boutique I'm expecting and looking forward to a resurgence in those patches! I was a resurgence in Enya cover bands using that Pizzagogo patch. And yes, I'm evening looking forward to hearing how the Digital Native Dance patch is going to be incorporated into synthwave.

Now time to enjoy my 9/09 day!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Roland Alphabetical Retail Price List, September 1978

Roland Alphabetical Retail Price List for September 1978.

I had recently come across this price list and thought it was interesting enough to share. Don't really have much to say so I'll just start typing and see what comes out.

Well, gotta say it's a great list of historic gear that includes price lists for Roland's early synthesizers, drum machines,effects units and a wack of other things.

One of the highlights for me is seeing the retail prices for the System 100 synthesizer:
  • S-100 Synthesizer System - $2,425
  • S-101 Synthesizer - $795
  • S-102 Expander Module - $650
  • S-103 Mixer - $360
  • S-104 Sequencer - $495
  • S-109 Monitor Speaker Set - 149.50
Also, seeing prices for the System 700 and in particular the Laboratory system is kinda cool.
  • S-700 System Synthesizer - $13,500
  • S-700L Laboratory System (Blocks 2 & 8) - $3,100
  • S-700M Main Console System (Blocks 1 & 2) - $4,995
The pricing for the individual S-700 blocks is also there, but because the list is in alpha order, I almost missed 'em because they are on other side of the page. 

Block 1 Main Console - $4,495
Block 2 Keyboard Controller - $650
Block 3 Sequencer - $1,695
Block 4 VCO Bank - $2,795
Block 5 VCF, VCA Bank - $1,995
Block 6 Interface/Mixer - $1,195
Block 7 Phase Shifter / Audio Delay - $1,150
Block 8 Lab Console - $2,565

Keep looking and you'll find pricing for the early TR drum machines and the SH- family of synthesizers. The RE-101, 201 and 301 Space Echos are also here. And those cute early Boss mixers.

And see those asterisk symbols by the TR-33, TR-55 and TR-700? Those indicate that the units were recently discontinued, giving us a fairly accurate date of when these early drum machines were taken off the market. Roland Canada's drum machine history page tells me these only came on the market in 1972, giving the three machines less than a two-year life span.

This list is pure gold.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Roland SVC-350 "Have a say in your sound" ad, International Musician and Recording World, 1980

Roland SVC-350 vocoder "Have a say in your sound" full colour advertisement from page 91 in the July 1980 issue of International Musician and Recording World.

No offense to my first love - Keyboard Magazine - but lately I've been spending a bit of free time flipping through some of my other magazine archives. That's how I came across that CR-68/78 ad I posted earlier in August.  And now I've got this lovely vocoder ad.

This ad doesn't have the same sense of humour as the previous one I posted, but I gotta say I find it just as interesting. Full disclosure - I own an SVC-350 and *love it*. So, you may wanna take my interest with a grain of salt.

So, one of the most interesting things about this ad is summed up in that ol' saying: "You can tell a lot about a person by the company they keep". In this ad, Roland has chosen a photo of the SVC-350 pulled out of a rack that includes some of their other rack gear - a guitar pre-amplifier, stereo flanger, pitch-to-voltage synthesizer, digital delay and Dimension D. Together, Roland has named these and a number of their other effects, the "Roland Rack" system. I hadn't heard this term used to officially describe their rack gear before.

The word "system" was a buzz word that appeared in many gear-related ads during the 70's and 80's. For example, Korg used it in their 1984 "The Korg MIDI System" ad that included their Poly 800 and EX800 synthesizers, RK 100 remote keyboard, KMS-30 synchronizer (a personal favourite) and computer software.

Oberheim used the term "The System" in a 1982 ad to describe the proprietary multi-pin technology used to get their OB-Xa/OB-SX/DMX/DSX gear to work together. They continued using it in 1983 when they swapped out the synths for their OB-8.

Even earlier sightings can be seen in a 1978 ad where the Oberheim SEM teamed up with 360 Systems' Slavedriver to create their own "The System". And it wasn't just in ads - just look at the name of some of Roland's early synthesizers like the System 100, 100m and 700. Or Moog's System I, II and III modulars.

One more thing I noticed. After reading the ad-copy over a few times, something was nagging at me and I couldn't figure it out for the longest time. Then it hit me. At no point does Roland mention the model number of their vocoder in the ad-copy. Its always just referred to as the Roland Vocoder.  It would be like calling your synthesizer "Roland Synthesizer" in the ad-copy of a JX-8p ad.

I checked the ad for the pre-amplifier that is part of the rack system which ran prior to this one, and its model name - SIP-300 -  is referred to multiple times. Maybe because there are other Roland preamps but only one vocoder?

Curious. Probably just to me. :)

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Roland CR-68/CR-78 "No more waiting for Louie" ad, International Musician and Recording World, 1979

Roland CR-68/CR-78 drum machine "No more waiting for Louie" full page colour advertisement from page 115 in the November 1979 issue of International Musician and Recording World magazine.

How time flies! Happy 8/08 day!

And what has now become kind of a tradition, I've uploaded this lovely 808... er.... wait a tick!   Actually, I've uploaded a scan of an advertisement for the predecessors of the TR-808 - the CR-68 and CR-78 drum machines. I haven't seen this ad online, so if it hasn't been available there, I'm happy to get it onto the record (pun intended).

Where to start? Well, for one, the ad-copy is very well done.

Read it... I'll wait...

I say its well done because Roland strays a little bit away from their usual no-nonsense "We design the future" text to poke a little fun at those drummers reading International Musician. A perhaps risky move since at the time synthesizers and drum machines were viewed by more than a few "real musicians' as just boxes of job-stealing tubes and wires.

But Roland handles this topic well by not suggesting that the rest of the band kick Louie the drummer to the curb for being late all the time, but instead to use this waiting time wisely by plugging in one of their drum machines so they can keep on practicing. To make sure they stay firmly on the fence, they conclude the ad copy with:
"The Compu-Rhythms may not replace the drummers of the world, but they're going to make it a lot easier to live with their little inconsistencies". 
Well played, Roland... well played. Especially since these drum machines ended up on many hit records anyway including ‘Heart of Glass’ by Blondie and ‘In the Air Tonight’ by Phil Collins.

As mentioned above, the CR-series directly preceded the TR-808 drum machine, coming out in 1978 according to Roland's own "Roland Drum Machine History 1964-2016". A great treat for anyone who hasn't scrolled through it yet.

And, also according to the Web site, The CR-78 in particular is a unique milestone for Roland in that it "was the first of its kind to use integrated circuits - an important development in the history of drum machines." In other words, it included memory so that users could program their own patterns and store them for later use. Which you already knew because you made me wait while you read the ad-copy. Right? :)

I'm a little sad that the photo of the drum machines are so small in the ad. I love the look of these machines. The wood-grain sides. The dials. The buttons. And also the colours - some of which went on to appear within the TR-808 colour scheme.

One thing suspiciously missing from the ad is the CR-800 - a third CR- drum machine that also came out in 1978. This was kind of a mash-up between the CR-68 and 78, built within a large floor speaker. Jon Dent's blog goes into some great detail (with large photos!) on the similarities and differences between all three of these drum machines in a Feb 2015. Definitely check it out.

Time to go enjoy the rest of my 8/08 day!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

1985 Roland New Product News for NAMM show, 1985

1985 Roland New Product News for NAMM show 16 page black and white brochure from June 1985.

Another big XOX day! This time celebrating all that is awesome about the TR-727. Heck, who doesn't love the Agogo and Whistle sounds from Phuture's Acid Tracks!

Quite by accident, I just looked on Twitter and Roland tweeted out a Boss Summer NAMM highlights video. Honestly, a total fluke that I'm posting a Roland NAMM brochure from 32 years early.

And if you haven't guessed, Roland features the TR-727 in this "new products" brochure that they handed out at Summer NAMM 1985. And it had good company - so many great products are including in this document. And they all have one thing in common (besides the obvious) - SPECIFICATIONS. As far as the eyes can see. Damn I love specs.

Each summary write-up does a great job including various other Roland gear that would be compatible. For example, the summary for the TR-727 pulls in the Pad-8 MIDI pad controller and the MKB-200 MIDI keyboard - both also featured in the brochure.

The Pad-8 Octapad was a piece of gear I had always wanted but never managed to pick up. I so wanted to stand on stage and summon my inner Depeche Mode a la Construction Time Again.

Another great highlight are the two pages devoted to the MKS-7 - both the black and ivory versions! Every once in a while an ivory MKS-7 pops up around town but I always miss out on picking it up. Under the photo of the ivory rack are diagrams of typical and expanded set-ups featuring many of Roland's products. Yum.

One thing missing from today's market is something akin to Roland's CPM-120 compact power mixer. Eight channels including an effects send/return, all in a small box. I still use Boss's mini-mixers of the era and would snap up a CPM-120 if it was ever remade.

The back of the doc includes a table of contents as well as Roland's logo and tagline - "We design the future". Its hard not to think that Roland's current "The future redefined" tagline for many of their remakes isn't a nod back to this original tagline that featured many of the originals.

If I was gonna quibble, I'd say the only thing missing are suggested retail prices. But I ain't complaining. I love this brochure from cover to cover.