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The A-Z of Analogue (Part 7)

This month: Farfisa to Fuller.


MT's exclusive guide to every analogue synth made. Included are keyboards, expanders/sound modules and the better known electronic pianos and organs. Not included are drum machines, standalone sequencers and effects units, vocoders and those guitar/wind synths which aren't regularly used as expanders in their own right.

Readers are invited to submit details of little-known instruments which may be of use in compiling the series and also to point out any mistakes and/or omissions if these occur. All contributions will be fully credited. Compiled by Peter Forrest

F


Farfisa



Italian organ manufacturers (and more recently synthesiser manufacturers) who produced the classic combo organ - the Compact, rivalled only by the Vox range in its day.

COMPACT

Came in a variety of guises. There were four basic models, but quite a number of permutations within them.
Users include (actual model unknown): Barry Andrews, Roma Baron/Laurie Anderson ('O Superman'), Rabbit Bundrick, J-M Jarre ('Oxygene'), John Lennon (in his home studio).

  • Bottom casing folds down to release legs, which are then attached to form a strong (if ugly) stand.
  • Rocker switches rather than tabs or drawbars.
  • Built-in spring reverb.
  • Knee lever (as in old harmoniums).


COMPACT

61-note single-manual combo organ. 1964 - c.1970.
Original price: c.£195
Target price: £50 - £200

  • Originally light grey/dark grey/black, then bright red.
  • Bottom octave reversed colour with grey 'white' keys and white 'black' keys.
  • Early models have valve pre-amp.
  • Later models have a tone boost switch so that you don't have to use your knee under the keyboard to move the lever. (While guitarists were getting their leg over, Farfisa organists had to be content with a knee under.)
  • Elaborate plastic music stand on all but the earliest models.
  • Very early models in the States were re-badged CMI - for Chicago Musical Instrument Co (not Fairlight's Computer Musical Instrument).
Interface:
VFM:
Sounds:
Character: ★★
Controls:
Collectability: ★★
Memories:
Ease of use: ★★★★


COMPACT DELUXE

61-note single-manual combo organ, c.1966. Basically a Compact with a few added features.
Original price: c.£235
Target price: £60 - £300

  • Optional second bass octave, with reverse keys - bottom octave black, next up grey.
  • Percussion and two 2/3' voices available.
  • Grey with a black stripe.
Interface:
VFM:
Sounds: ★★
Character: ★★★
Controls:
Collectability: ★★★
Memories:
Ease of use: ★★★★


COMPACT D110

dual 49-note double-manual combo organ, c.1965.
Original price: £310
Target price: £100 - £500
Users include: Clint Boon (Inspiral Carpets), The Christians, Jimmy Destri (Blondie), Geoff Downes, Philip Glass, Tim Hodgkinson, Simple Minds, Mike Oldfield (Hergest Ridge), Grace Slick, Rick Wright (put through Binson echo).

  • Vies with the Vox Continental as the classic combo organ.
  • Lower keyboard has two octaves reversed colour keys - bottom black, next octave grey.
  • Stereo output plus Brilliance control.
  • Percussion, repeat, better quality spring reverb.
  • Optional C-C 13-note pedalboard available for twenty guineas (£21).
  • See-through perspex music stand.
  • Conventionally, mellow chords and/or bass lines were played on lower keyboard, bright lead lines on the upper keyboard. (Clint Boon reverses this.)
Interface:
VFM:
Sounds: ★★★
Character: ★★★
Controls:
Collectability: ★★★★★
Memories:
Ease of use: ★★★★


COMPACT MINOR

49-note single-manual combo organ, c.1965 - c.1968. 'The ideal portable for the groups who have to travel a lot" - 1966 ad.
Original price: £156
Target price: £50 - £200

  • Originally a very slimmed-down Compact with no bass section at all; soon replaced by the much more common version with one octave of grey reversed keys for a separate bass section.
  • Only 11 rocker switches.
  • Called the Mini Compact in the USA.
Interface:
VFM:
Sounds:
Character: ★★
Controls:
Collectability: ★★
Memories:
Ease of use: ★★★★


POLYCHROME

61-note multi-instrument keyboard, c.1979.
Original price: Unknown
Target price: £100

  • Quite rare and interesting 'layers of sound' instrument.
  • Four sound sections: Percussive, Strings, Ensemble, and Vocal chorus.
  • Programmable split Separate out for Vocal chorus.
  • White noise, phaser and bender.
  • Touch sensitive with good control on all sections.
  • Weird little switches (to sides of expression pedal) control sustain and tremelo.


PROFESSIONAL D110

Dual 61-note double-manual combo organ, c.1970.
Original price: £1000
Target price: £200

SOUNDMAKER

Preset variable mono/poly 61-note keyboard. 1979 - c.1981.
Original price: £1100
Target price: £100-150

  • Steeply-raked back panel with 19 sliders plus 28 selector switches.
  • Monophonic presets with variable VCF, VCA, ADSR, LFO and portamento.
  • Polyphonic presets (three piano-type sounds, brass and strings) with a mix of controls including vibrato, sustain and brilliance.
  • Split keyboard facility: mono on top 32 notes, poly on bottom 29.
  • Aftertouch brings in vibrato (with variable depth and speed).


SYNTORCHESTRA

37-note piano/brass/string keyboard, c.1976.
Original price: £389
Target price: £40 - £100

  • Nicely chaotic control panel to left of the short keyboard with nine shiny sliders.
  • Row of stick-out tabs under keyboard for preset selection, etc
  • Very 70s styling.


SYNTORCHESTRA 4

49-note piano/brass/string keyboard, c.1979.
Original price: £506
Target price: £40 - £80

  • A completely updated instrument, with Korg/Prophet-type push buttons and LEDs for presets (still under the keyboard, though).
  • Nicely uncluttered set of 12 sliders to control poly and mono sections.
  • Unusual feature: MAR control cancels top note of polyphonic section and lets mono section play it rather than have the note automatically doubled by poly section.
  • Separate outs and combined out available.
  • Available in metal or wooden finish.




MT's favourite classic-keyboard pun: The Antique Rhodes Show


Fender



One of the great names in electric instrument manufacture. The Strat, the Tele, and the Precision are etched in rock history for all time; but not far behind comes the Fender Rhodes, which just shades the Wurlitzer out as the archetypal electric piano. It was the brainchild of Harold Rhodes, who started designing it in the '40s after experimenting during the war with aluminium tubing salvaged from airplanes. He met up with Leo Fender, and by 1955 had started making electric pianos.

In 1966, with backing from CBS, they set up the production line for the Suitcase 88 model. They also produced a few other keyboard instruments, which (except for the most recent products), are usually rare and highly collectable.

CELESTE

49-note electric celeste. Produced during the late '60s.
Original price: Unknown
Target price: £100 - £400

  • In a way, the Rhodes piano was already an offshoot of the original celeste, invented in the late 19th Century. The Fender Rhodes Celeste simply brings the process round full circle.
  • Cabinet almost identical to the styling on the Rhodes pianos of the time - except for an even steeper hump-back.
  • Just two controls - volume and passive tone control.
Interface:
VFM:
Sounds:
Character: ★★★★
Controls: ★★
Collectability: ★★★★
Memories:
Ease of use: ★★★★


CONTEMOPO

61-note single-manual electric organ, c.1966.
Original price: £262
Target price: £150 - £400

  • A great-looking instrument. Bright red top (in a curved pod shape), black bottom half.
  • 34 rocker switches closely packed along the top.
  • Beautiful tubular steel stand with swivel mechanism so that the keyboard can sit at the angle you want.
  • Bottom 17 notes act as bass section with reverse-colour keys.
  • Three rocker switches for each voice act together like in a binary addition system to produce seven levels - almost as many as Hammond drawbars.
Interface:
VFM:
Sounds:
Character: ★★★
Controls:
Collectability: ★★★★★
Memories:
Ease of use: ★★★★


RHODES

Classic touch-sensitive electric pianos. 1955 - '86 (first fully-fledged commercial model: Suitcase 88 in 1966).
Original price: (Suitcase 88) £430
Target price: £140 - £500 plus
Users include: Davy Jones (The Monkees), Ray Manzarek (The Doors), 808 State, Rod Argent, A Certain Ratio, Chick Corea (starting in 1968 with Miles Davis), Barbara Dickson, Thomas Dolby, Geoff Downes, Vic Emerson, The Enid, Roger Eno, Tommy Eyre, Donald Fagen (Steely Dan: 'Babylon Sisters'), Eric Drew Feldman (Captain Beefheart's Magic Band), Herbie Hancock, Paul Hardcastle, Tony Hymas, Elton John ('Daniel'), K-Creative, Kahal (Magma), Guy Khalifa, Chuck Leavell, Level 42, Earl Lindo (The Wailers), Lonnie Liston Smith, Stuart Mackillop, Nick Magnus (Steve Hackett), Manfred Mann (Earth Band: 'Blinded By The Light'), Roger Manning (Jellyfish), Patrick Moraz (73 and 88!), David Paich, Billy Preston, Andy Richards, Joe Sample, Bill Sharpe, Mick Talbot (Style Council), Tears For Fears, Richard Tee (Paul Simon: Still Crazy After All These Years), Vangelis, Stevie Wonder, Richard Wright (Pink Floyd), Joe Zawinul.

  • Ease of use depends on the instrument being well set up.
  • Although there were several different models through the years, the sound generation method of the classic Rhodes remained the same through three decades: each key causes a hammer to hit a tine - a small tuned metal strip; there is a sympathetic resonant bar for each note, which the tine's vibrations set off; and pickups amplify a mix of the sounds from the tine and the bar.
  • Provided you know what you're doing, there are several ways the sound can be changed: by altering the distance between pickup and tine (the closer it gets, the more attack the note has); by altering the angle and position of the tine and bar relative to the pickup (as with close-miking, different positions emphasise different harmonics); and overtones may be eliminated or accentuated by adjusting the spring-loaded screws that connect the bars to the chassis (this is why individual Rhodes can sound so different, some very mellow, some verging on a 'ring modulator' tone).
  • At some stage, the original Raymack tines, which were bright-sounding (but complicated to make and rather brittle) were replaced by Torrington tines, and for a time Fender/CBS forgot to do anything about re-positioning the pick-ups and hammer contact point to compensate for this. So there was a period when factory Rhodes pianos sounded very dull - but this was easily remedied in the workshop.
  • Another factor in tone production was the hardness of the rubber tips on the hammers; early models had up to five different types of tip on different octaves, while late models seem to have stuck with the harder variety throughout the octaves - a definite plus in the bass end, which, otherwise was rather muddy.
  • Several specialist firms set up to modify the instruments - the most well-known being Dyno-my-Piano, whose handiwork was sampled for E-mu's Vintage Keys along with a standard Rhodes.
  • Tuning is straightforward but fiddly: small sprung dampers at the end of the tines are moved to lengthen or shorten the effective resonant length and thus pitch.
  • The other major factor in sorting the good Rhodes from the bad (or even unplayable) is the action. Early models needed strong fingers, and made it almost impossible to play fast runs. People took to jamming cardboard under the wooden action rail; but later models feature an aluminium bottom rail which is easy to adjust for a faster action.
  • Until the Mark V came out briefly in 1984-'86, only the Suitcase models had amplifiers built in; the Stage models didn't even need mains.
  • The amps in the Suitcase models were 100W with four 12" speakers in the large cabinet that formed the bottom part of the keyboard. Two speakers face forward, with two more at the rear. Stereo panned vibrato is also provided - the celebrated effect which has become synonymous with Rhodes - as are active tone controls, bass and treble, and an effects send and return socket.
  • Stage models until the Mark V had only passive tone and volume controls. A stereo pre-amp was an optional extra (£90 in 1977).
  • Original models had the lovely but impractical curved top; this was replaced, in the Mark II, (c1979) with a flat top, so that you could stack another keyboard on it. You could even buy an add-on bit for your Mark I Rhodes which would do the same job.
  • Sustain pedal comes as standard (built-in to the Suitcase, free-standing on the Stage).
  • A MIDI version of the Mark V did make an appearance, but maybe never went into production. (No local off!)
  • Prices are difficult to establish. An old Suitcase 88 model that plays really well and is in immaculate condition (definitely not gigged!) might well be worth a lot of money - perhaps even £1000. By contrast, a battered Stage 73 in need of a complete overhaul may not sell for £120.
  • Mark Vs don't have the character, but they do play well, and are lighter and more practical. Mark IIs are a halfway house.


PIANO BASS

Bass keyboard, c.1968.
Original price: Unknown
Target price: £100 - £300
Users include: Davy Jones (The Monkees), Ray Manzarek (The Doors: 'When The Music's Over' etc).

  • A curious idea that would probably have faded into total obscurity but for the Doors' not having a regular bassist and Ray Manzarek not having dancing feet. Instead of using bass pedals, Manzarek perched the Piano Bass on top of his Vox Continental or Gibson Kalamazoo organ, and plunked away on it there.
Interface:
VFM:
Sounds:
Character: ★★★
Controls: ★★
Collectability: ★★★★★
Memories:
Ease of use: ★★★★


STAGE 54

54-note touch-sensitive electric piano. 1980 - c.1985.
Original price (1980): £735
Target price: £140 - £250

Interface:
VFM:
Sounds:
Character: ★★
Controls: ★★
Collectability: ★★★
Memories:
Ease of use: ★★★★


STAGE 73

73-note touch-sensitive electric piano. 1968 - c. 1986.
Original price (1977): £818
Target price: £150-£450

Interface: VFM:
Sounds:
Character: ★★★
Controls: ★★
Collectability: ★★★★
Memories:
Ease of use: ★★★★


STAGE 88

88-note touch-sensitive electric piano. 1968 - c. 1985.
Original price (1977): £981
Target price: £200 - £600

Interface: VFM:
Sounds:
Character: ★★★
Controls: ★★
Collectability: ★★★★
Memories:
Ease of use: ★★★★


SUITCASE 73

73-note touch-sensitive electric piano with built-in amplification, c.1966 - c.1981.
Original price (1977): £1255
Target price: £250 - £700

Interface:
VFM:
Sounds: ★★
Character: ★★★★
Controls: ★★★
Collectability: ★★★★
Memories:
Ease of use: ★★★★


The Rhodes Suitcase 88 - travelling light?


SUITCASE 88

88-note touch-sensitive electric piano with built-in amplification. 1965 - c.1981.
Original price (1977): £1420
Target price: £300 - £800

Interface:
VFM:
Sounds: ★★
Character: ★★★
Controls: ★★★
Collectability: ★★★★
Memories:
Ease of use: ★★★★★




Firstman



A collection of instruments imported into Britain by Chase Musicians in the early '80s.

BS999

13-note bass pedal synth. c.1981.
Original price: £299/£199
Target price: £30 - £70

  • Switchable octave, attack, hold, sustain, percussion, mute, tone controls.


FS4V

49-note polyphonic string synthesiser. c.1981.
Original price: £699/£599
Target price: £60 - £100

  • Strings with controls for 2', 4', 8', 16'.
  • Polysynth: seven presets with some variable controls, plus a totally variable setting.


SQ/01

Mono synth and sequencer, c.1981.
Original price: £299/£199
Target price: £40 - £80

  • Nine controls plus printed-on 13-note keyboard (like Wasp).
  • 1024-event 16-'channel' sequencer. Bar lengths of 2, 4, 8, 12 and 16 beats.




Formant



Range of modular and semi-modular synthesiser kits based on projects published in Elektor magazine during late '70s.
Original price: £263 (kit)
Target price: £100 - £180 (built)
Users include: Rudiger Lorenz



Freeman



FREEMAN STRING SYNTHESISER

61-note string synthesiser originally designed by Ken Freeman, to use with his own band Second City Sound. c.1966.
Original price: Unknown
Target price: £40 - £70

  • Probably the first string synthesiser ever.
  • Called String Symphoniser in the USA
  • Single/multiple triggering (the first ever?).
  • Reverb, vibrato, sustain length and keyboard balance controls.
  • Walnut case and black leatherette.
  • Amazing full-length music stand.




Fuller



PP2000

49-note simple polyphonic keyboard. c.1983.
Original price: £250
Target price: £30 - £60

  • One waveform, at 2', 4' and 8', and noise.
  • Pitchbend knob, filter, switchable low and band-pass (somehow).
  • VCA,LFO,ADSR.
  • Gate/trigger and CV in. Bizarre.


to be continued...


Series

Read the next part in this series:
The A-Z of Analogue (Part 8)



Previous Article in this issue

Power Dressing

Next article in this issue

Fantazia


Music Technology - Copyright: Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.

 

Music Technology - Feb 1994

Topic:

Vintage Instruments


Series:

The A-Z of Analogue

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 (Viewing) | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10


Feature by Peter Forrest

Previous article in this issue:

> Power Dressing

Next article in this issue:

> Fantazia


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