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Hardware For Hire

Computer synth rental

Do you feel left out in a world of expensive 'mega-synths'? Why not hire one — Mark Jenkins elaborates

The world of electronic music is increasingly dominated by 'The Big Boys', the polyphonic and digital synthesisers which have done so much to change the face of modern music composition. It's not that you have to use one to make any impression — there's no substitute for imagination and, above all, talent. But if you've got your heart set on a PPG Wave 2.2, a Synclavier, a Fairlight or an Emulator, and you're a few pounds (or even a few thousands pounds) short of the readies, there's only one solution — hire it!

Only a few companies have got their act together in the field of digital synthesiser hire. One notable example has a colourful history in piano tuning, harpsichord hire and even computer renting! Operating from a small but efficient office/storehouse in North-East London, they go under the name of Keyboard Hire. Formed by Alexander Skeaping on the basis of his classical instrument hire service, it began with some of the first Prophets in the UK, after working through Fender Rhodes pianos and Hammond organs. At the moment they have several Prophets on hire to the Cats theatre show, and a vast list of satisfied customers including Pink Floyd, Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Human League, Gary Numan, John Foxx, Depeche Mode, Thomas Dolby and Jezz Woodroffe. Over the last couple of years it has become obvious that the only sure area of development is at the top of the market, an area which needs specialists just as the classical harpsichord world does. Accordingly, specialists were taken on — Adrian Cook for the PPG, Keith Miller for the Synclavier and Gary Moberley for the Fairlight (all the way from his home country Australia!)

Sampled Comments

"The Synclavier, for instance, is a digital Prophet really, although it can do a lot more if you want it to. For instance, you can replace the job of a music copyist (although not for some professional requirements) using the printing option. But the new Yamaha DX7 does many of the same FM sounds, and the Synclavier sounds will never fool you into thinking they're real." Adrian Cook adds, "The Wave is even better than the Synclavier if you're interested in live work, and it's got a responsiveness that only a couple of instruments like the Chroma can match. It's easier to use than the Fairlight for instance, although you haven't got the compositional scope and the eight analogue outputs. Most people are mainly interested in just the basic sounds of the Fairlight rather than the MCL or even the sampling facilites though."

Gary Moberley: "The Fairlight comes with about 200 sounds on disk. Most people ask for brass and strings much of the time, which means they'd be better off hiring an orchestra as far as I'm concerned. It's much more interesting when you find somebody who wants to experiment with the sounds of different brass sections, for instance — I merged a sample of a trumpet and one of three saxes to make a very useful general purpose brass sound for example. Nobody's yet asked to use the MCL, and only one or two for the Rhythm Page R, which seems incredible to me because it means people just aren't using the instrument to its full capability. With the new Syco Conductor unit you can use the Fairlight to drive any other instrument, so if you had a LinnDrum programmer and a musician you particularly liked using they could work on opposite sides of London and only meet when it was time to go into the studio. The new conversion for the Fairlight which lets it reproduce up to 18k will improve the quality of brass, cymbal and piano sounds enormously. To learn the whole instrument is quite a long process, but to call up new sounds off disk is easy enough, so the machine can go out without an operator. At the moment we're making up our own samples which will include a lot of different styles of playing brass instruments, for instance, and hopefully create a lot of customers in different areas of music and help pay the damn thing off!"

Synth Service

Keyboard Hire offer the Waveterm system with the PPG Wave 2.2, a slightly more economical method of providing polyphonic playback of sampled sounds which can then be modified by the analogue filters of the 2.2 itself. In combination with the keyboard's own digital sounds and sequencer it's a formidable music system. The Emulator, however, offers the easiest access to sampling at the moment — a split keyboard instrument which holds two samples on a disk and can replay them in polyphonic sequences. For the slightly more conventionally inclined Keyboard Hire can offer the Oberheim OB8, Prophet 5 and 10, Jupiter 8, Juno 60, Korg Polysix and a selection of monophonic synths, sequencers and drum machines. Also covered are amps, guitars, electric pianos, effects devices, tape recorders, percussion and a very comprehensive hire, delivery and tuning service for harpsichords and spinets. As a result of installing a business computer the company has started to hire out Osbornes and other systems, and of course can supply (at standard Musicians' Union rates) the ultimate synth accessory — experienced operators for the Fairlight, Synclavier and Wave 2.2!

Alex Skeaping comments: "this is a funny little premises, but it's at the centre of technical innovation and we believe in standards just as much as we did when we were renting out harpsichords for the Edinburgh Festival — which we still do." Finally, an idea of some prices. Weekly rates are four times the daily rates given, which are exclusive of delivery and VAT.

Fairlight CMI, Analogue Interface and Page R software £250.00
Synclavier, Script and XPL software £200.00
PPG Wave 2.2 £60.00
PPG Wave 2.2 with Waveterm £125.00
Emulator £100.00
Prophet 10 £60.00
Prophet 5 £50.00
Jupiter 8 £50.00
Pro-One/MiniMoog £20.00
LinnDrum £60.00
TR808 £15.00

Contact Keyboard Hire at (Contact Details) for details of new acquisitions and long-term deals.

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Electronic Soundmaker & Computer Music - Copyright: Cover Publications Ltd, Northern & Shell Ltd.


Electronic Soundmaker - Nov 1983

Donated & scanned by: Mike Gorman

Feature by Mark Jenkins

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