Sunday, May 02, 2010

No More Tiers (Enough is Enough)

Well, here it is; in all its glory, my current keyboard rig. It could also be considered a tribute to Yamaha's technology over the past 25 years or more.

Starting from the top: My DX7, bought in the summer of 1984, when they had yet to completely consume the music industry with that ubiquitous '80s digital piano sound. I'd seen Yes at Wembley Arena on the "90125" tour a few weeks earlier, and although I have always preferred Yes with Rick Wakeman, what Tony Kaye did that night with a couple of DX7s was astonishing. I'd been given a bit of money following the death of my father that year and ended up blowing most of it on a DX7, flight case, amp and speaker. I'm sure there were some raised eyebrows at the time, but until then I'd played in bands using my home-made Maplin kit keyboard, a monophonic Davolisint and a borrowed Hohner Pianet, so this was going to be a quantum leap forward. The fact that the DX7 is still with me, and has been a part of my life longer than my Father was, is probably testament to my profound thinking at the time. Alas, it doesn't come out much these days - this was only the second time in about the last six years - but it still works perfectly, even if it's a bit bashed about. Clearly I'm never going to part with it, for sentimental as much as economic reasons - I'd be lucky to fetch £30 for it in its current condition - but I think it will be a long time before it emerges from its case again.

In the middle is the wonderful SY99 - bought new in 1992 when it was the flagship of the Yamaha synth range. I'd already acquired a Yamaha PF70 electronic piano (lovely touch, lousy sound and long-since gone), but I was really looking for something that had better master keyboard capabilities for controlling all my other equipment. The SY99 gave me this, together with a broad canvas of sound capabilities. It uniquely fused the FM synthesis technology of the DX7 era with the sampled sound playback that continues to dominate today, with the ability of the latter to modulate the former, producing weird and occasionally wonderful sonic textures. These are still highly regarded and sought after, with perhaps only half a dozen or so appearing on ebay each year, helping prices stay at around £500. I would dearly like to keep mine, but I fear that a lack of space may force me to sell it.

And finally, my latest pride and joy: a brand spanking new Yamaha S90XS; a full 88-note keyboard with a stunning S6 Grand Piano sample coupled with all the sound generation of the Motif XS synthesizer engine. I've only had it since Wednesday (it should have been Tuesday, but City Link managed to ship it to Portsmouth by accident), so I'm still finding my way around it, but it is...well I hate to use the over-blown adjective...awesome. If I have a criticism it is that you pay all this money and only get a pretty basic hard-copy user manual, with the full version coming on an accompanying CD. When I've got a week to spare I'll print it out, so that I can read it in bed, on the loo, during party political broadcasts and all those other idle moments.

I could go on, but we're off out to the annual Plaxtol village duck race. You may remember Emma won the under 5's decorated duck competition last year; she won't be winning anything this year - she's in the next age category and she insisted on using paper glue to try to stick sparklies to the plastic duck, with inevitably disappointing results.


Cyberkim said...

As a bass player I've always harboured a thin, green streak of jealousy for keyboard players who get to stand at an enormous battery of instruments.

The closest that I get to mastery of such a set-up is playing 'air-keyboard', and at my age that's not something that looks right.

...and you had a Davoli. The only time I can remember seeing one of those used in anger was on Caravan's "For girls who grow plump in the night"

Have you ever had a look at Jem Godfrey's "Frost* Reports" on YouTube. There's loads of entertaining stuff where he babbles on about keyboard set-ups etc. I don't think any of it is Yamaha gear, but it's pretty interesting nevertheless (if you can stand his remorseless enthusiasm!)

Jon Sandys said...

Ah, the Davolisint. I bought it off my old music teacher when I was 17 - I think I paid about £170 for it. At the time you would have to fork out the best part of a Grand before you would get any synth that was remotely good, so it was a steal. Unfortunately, not only was it not remotely good, it wasn't even remotely average - it lacked pretty much all the controls you would expect on a synth and made a very harsh sound.

I sold it after about three years for about £80. They now have a bit of a cult status in the vintage synth world, probably from a curiosity point of view, and are considered quite rare. One went on ebay about a year ago for £250 - about £240 too much if you ask me.

I just did a bit of searching and found that there is a free virtual version of the Davolisint - I may just download it for old time's sake.