Keyboards

I remember there being a piano at my parents house for a while when I was a kid but I lost interest as soon as the novelty wore off. In fact it wasn't until the synthesizer burst onto the mainstream music in 1979 courtesy of Gary Numan's "Are Friends Electric?" that I developed any real interest in making music. This pages lists the various keyboards I have owned... and in one case: still own.

Transcendent 2000 (monosynth)

I built my first synth, a Transcendent 2000, in 1981. Back then synths were seriously expensive, as they were new technology; so there was no such thing as second hand market either. The Transcendent 2000 was sold as a kit of electronics components by Powertran Electronics and, using money that my parents gave me when I passed my O-level exams, I just about managed to afford one.

Although it saw very little use after I began to use midi equipped instruments, I hung onto it, mainly for sentimental reasons until 2014.

Casio VL-1 (keyboard)

The VL-Tone came onto the market in 1981 and one of my mates in sixth form got one for Christmas. The sounds it made were laughable compared to what I could get out of the Transcendent 2000, but the VL-1 did have the advantage of having a programmable sequencer.

I used the proceeds from a Saturday job at Marks & Spencers to acquire one and was then able to program simple patterns into it while I played along on the Transcendent.

Casio 1000P (keyboard)

This was my first polyphonic keyboard but I think it's fair to say that is was the built in arpeggiator that really got my attention. The bottom couple of octaves of the keyboard could be switched into arpeggio mode and then any keys pressed were played across a number of octaves, in a pre-selected pattern, for as long as they were held down. Moving from one chord to another provided a much more interesting 'backing' than I had been able to produce previously.

By today's standards it isn't particularly impressive but at the time it was state of the art for a 'budget' keyboard and it took several months worth of my salary as a Bank Clerk to pay for it.

Roland Juno 60 (polysynth)

Roland Juno 60Having obtained polyphony courtesy of the 1000P I had a desire to have it with the same kind of sounds that I could produce on the Transcendent.

It was my main and favourite instrument for many years and indeed I kept it until 2014 when, after a significant period of not being used, I decided it was time to put it into the hands of somebody who would make use of it rather than it sitting in a flight case.

Roland SH-101 (monosynth)

I bought this when I was working with my mate Alan. MIDI was only just beginning to appear and we couldn't afford to get involved in it even though I already had a Roland TR-909 drum machine (see [page=15|percussion page]) and Alan had a Crumar Trilogy (see below). Most of the time we synced the SH-101 to the TR-909 and found that we could quickly program a couple of bars worth of a bass line into it to use as backing.

Crumar Trilogy (polysynth)

This originally belonging to my mate Alan and I bought it from him after we stopped working together as it had MIDI sockets on it and I used it as my main keyboard for a while as I started converting my set to MIDI. I eventually parted with it because I needed to reduce the amount of space my gear was taking up.

Cheetah MK5V (controller keyboard)

This replaced the Trilogy as my main keyboard after I sold it during a space saving exercise... but I was never really happy with the MK5V. I'd never used a velocity sensitive keyboard before and couldn't get to grips with it. I eventually sold it after buying a Rhodes MK-80, upon which the keyboard is also weighted (which makes a huge difference).

Roland Rhodes MK-80 (stage piano)

Roland Rhodes MK-80

In 1996 I was in a good job and decided that it was about time I shelled out some dosh on a decent weighted keyboard. I like the feel of the MK-80 keyboard but, having actually got used to it, I came to realise that kind of electronic music I like to play doesn't need a touch sensitive keyboard. There are a few tricks for which you can use it but for the most part you just don't need it.

It's also the case that I never really liked the sounds on the MK80. The Rhodes sounds are supposed to be pretty good but they are not my cup of tea. There are a couple of acoustic piano sounds that I quite liked at first but having gained familiarity with a real acoustic piano (see below), and the way the tonal quality and dynamics of the sound change across the range of the keyboard, I became dissatisfied with the sound of the MK80.

It's also very heavy and the length it means that it won't fit into the back of most cars.

Upright Piano by Alfred Eccles of Leeds

Upright Piano by Alfred Eccles of LeedsDespite already having the electric piano I fancied having an acoustic piano and searched for months before finding this one. Finished in walnut, overstrung and underdamped, it looks pretty and has a delightful tone.

I REALLY liked the fact that I could sit down, lift the lid, and start playing. I love the electronic stuff but you can't play it for a couple of minutes while you wait for the kettle to boil, as you can with an acoustic.

Alas the down side with an acoustic is that you have to live somewhere that can accommodates it, and it spent about half of the twenty years that I owned it being "stored" at my dad's because it simply wasn't feasible to get it into the buildings I lived in. On the occasions that it was moved it cost a packet, and of course there was the regular tuning by a professional.

I sold it in 2015 after a period of being in "storage" at my dad's and upon my realisation that the kind of places I like to live, generally in flats above ground level, were not really appropriate to owning an acoustic piano.

Roland AX-7 Controller

This was a chance find at a car boot sale in 2015. The guy selling it, who had acquired it as part of a job lot, was asking 30 quid as it didn't make any sounds. I explain why it didn't and suggested he look on eBay as I suspected that it was worth quite a but more than 30 quid. He said he couldn't be bothered and would rather have the money, so I took a chance (obviously I couldn't test it).

It worked perfectly and I dabbled with it for a couple of months. However it was really surplus to requirements and as I was short of funds at the time, I sold it on eBay for 300. Sometimes you win. ;-)