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A thread for the pianists, keyboard and synth players on PFM.

Discussion in 'off topic' started by Andrew C!, Jan 20, 2021.

  1. Seeker_UK

    Seeker_UK I had amnesia once or twice...

  2. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    Cool. They are great fun things to rediscover as they are really cheap/undervalued IMO:

    I’ve got one of these as the other guy in my naff teenage synth-pop band had one, and its quite interesting once you stick some FX on it, plus 8 voice poly.

    I’ve also got an absolutely mint one of these complete with its plastic hard case. I really like it. Play the string or organ sound in a certain drone way with a bit of spring reverb and delay and it is pure Klaus Schulze, the more plinky sounds have a Kraftwerk quality to them and being poly sound totally different in decay than similar sounds on a monosynth. It feels like a far more useful instrument now that it would have done back in 1980. Very analogue, quite like an Arp/Solina or whatever. The drum machine is fun, though I wish it was programmable. It has the great electronic blips and bonks that were around before all the naff PCM samples came along. It is only this generation of mini-keyboard that interest me, maybe I should get an FM Yam too, but the later PCM stuff doesn’t interest me in the slightest. Great fun for £30!
    hifinutt and Seeker_UK like this.
  3. Tumeni Notes

    Tumeni Notes pfm Member

    We should really insist on a piccie of the Zimmerman name on the fall board, not of the the supplier and parent co. branding ... if we could. Please.
  4. Andrew C!

    Andrew C! Been around a while....

    I can see it quite clearly on my original post photo - but I'll take one just for you!:D
  5. Andrew C!

    Andrew C! Been around a while....

    [​IMG]IMG_3250 by Andrew Clarke, on Flickr

    Zimmermann logo - the piece on display is an A Piece from the previous ABRSM Grade 8 book.

    [​IMG]57221005896__3C684C97-6568-4C07-B09A-1C61F15166AE by Andrew Clarke, on Flickr

    This is clearly an Ibach piano, at a guest house in Flore, Northants, that i use when teaching at Wootton Hall. The guest house owner is a former Harrods piano curator/sales manager.

    [​IMG]IMG_1566 by Andrew Clarke, on Flickr

    Main gigging rig, including the Ti. I prefer using the onboard sounds of both keys, with some changes, and use Mainstage for triggering backing tracks and effects via a Korg Nanopad.

    [​IMG]585ADDBF-3888-4771-9448-9921FA6A8241 by Andrew Clarke, on Flickr

    Gigging rig, showing Novation controller. The rack houses: Motu 828iii, Motu 8pre, DBX feedback destroyer, and a few other bits.
  6. AudioAl

    AudioAl pfm Member

    I had a brief encounter in 1984 , Wanted to try some sort of instrument and decided on a keyboard
    Managed to get the then wife willing to have a go as well
    Went to a local dealer who did lessons
    Teacher in between me and the wife and of we went
    Wife gave up almost instantly then child No 1 arrived and the rest as they say is history :(
    I have allways admired anyone who has the dedication to learn how to play :cool:
  7. Cesare

    Cesare pfm Member

    We have a Bosendorfer 170 in our front room. It's a model from the 1920s, so has square legs and the music stand is plain compared to many of the ornate options that were available. We've had it 10 years or so, and it had had little restoration work when we got it.

    [​IMG]XD6K7252 by Cesare Ferrari, on Flickr

    Instruments from that time had ivory keys, and these are easily damaged. Fortunately ours are in good condition, with a couple of obvious yellow marks but other other than they feel and play well. As it came to us, it had some cracks in the soundboard, but these weren't affecting the tone, the strings were old and a little tarnished, and the hammers were somewhat hard, it was great, but it could have been better... So, we spent some money on it, and our piano tech has restrung the instrument, re-crowned the soundboard, shimmed the cracks, and reworked the action to make it more even. The result isn't night and day better, but I think that's mainly because we undertook the work before things got so bad as to impact the playability.

    [​IMG]DSCF4073 by Cesare Ferrari, on Flickr

    [​IMG]DSCF4089 by Cesare Ferrari, on Flickr

    Due to COVID the instrument hasn't been tuned for a year, and it's sounding quite honky tonk at the moment. We've also got a couple of keys that are sticking a little (just not quite returning to centre when released), I imagine the bat pins need a tweak or some lubricant.

    Playing wise, i'm a fairly rubbish pianist. My wife is grade 8 though, and our son is rather musical although he isn't interested in grades and stuff like that. The harp in the first picture is his, along with various trumpets and cornets around the house (and a drum kit).

    My job involves music though, i write software for signal processing and work for an instrument manufacturer (ROLI) who make controllers and software instruments. I've got a fair number of other synths and controllers dotted around the house. Actually i've got a bunch of older ROLI Seaboard Grand instruments in the loft, along with a DX7 (of course!), Kawai K5000, and a good stack of synth modules.

    Oh, the wife also has a digital stage piano, and i've got a clavinova which is on loan to a friend, and we've got an upright piano at her mum's house. So I guess we've got 4 pianos, hopefully that's peak piano, but you never know.

    [​IMG]DSCF3881 by Cesare Ferrari, on Flickr
    hifinutt and AudioAl like this.
  8. Tumeni Notes

    Tumeni Notes pfm Member

    Thanks! I was looking for it to be more centred vertically, and thought it would be behind the music. I see it in the original now, must have just looked straight past it...
  9. Andrew C!

    Andrew C! Been around a while....

    My mate has a ROLI, and loves it. I've only had a go on it once, and it was initially strange to play. I'll have another go sometime, as i know he runs his sounds out of his Ipad, using the rOLI, when gigging, and get some fab sounds and effects from it. I reckon one would go well with my iPad pro.

    That Bosendorfer looks lovely. A certain piano player from one of my favourite bands swears by their pianos!;)
  10. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    The ROLI things look very odd. Are they hard to the touch or do they have ‘give’? I’m open to odd interface ideas, e.g. I’d likely prefer a Buchla keyboard to a real one!
  11. Copperjacket

    Copperjacket pfm Member

    I was fortunate to grow up with a Blüthner Grand Piano but daft enough not to take advantage of it...
  12. Cesare

    Cesare pfm Member

    The tech behind the seaboard is basically a set of strip pressure sensors, one per note, and then a rubberised surface which has the indentations to indicate where the notes are. If you remove this, and press directly onto the pressure sensors, the instrument still works, the rubber is to give some sort of feel to the playing experience. The rubber does indent, but certainly not as much as a normal keyboard, and it's tricky to get yourself aligned in the same way as you do on a piano keyboard. I find it particularly difficult as i tend to navigate by the pressure of the black keys on my fingertips on a piano, but on a seaboard, the keys are all raised from the keybed an equal amount, so it's a different feel. The weird thing is that the touch and vibrato feels very natural to me, and it seems to translate that way for keyboard players.

    The tech has advanced, the original Seaboard Grand supports movement left/right for pitch control, but up/down isn't recorded by the sensor. The later Seaboard Rise adds that up/down dimension, and this is continued with the Seaboard Block, which is dinky and really fun (my favourite of the three). The original Seaboard Grand does have one trick up it's sleeve though, as it's got a built in synthesis engine whilst the others are only controllers. The synth engine is running on embedded linux, and i've got a bit of a side project to hack and load other stuff onto the Grand, but i've not quite got there yet...

    The Bosendorfer is lovely - my wife tried lots of pianos before choosing this one, and I think her second favourite was a Yamaha C3 Silent (she feels the action is different and better than the normal C3). The other one we found was a one off Steinway Model O, but this had been significantly worked on with non-steinway parts, and the unmolested Bose ended up being the better option.

    I'd definitely suggest giving one a go if you get a chance. I think the tone suites home use better than Steinway, which can be a bit shouty (perfect for cutting through when playing with other musicians, but not necessary so useful in a home setting). Saying that, all instruments are different, and there is lots of variation which means generalisations aren't really that relevant at this level, more personal preference and finding what you fall in love with.

    Saying that, the standout instrument I heard when we were looking was a Bluthner model 6 with Aliquot strings. That was quite amazing, delicate, beautiful, but the bass was a bit weak (I think those old instruments are straight strung).
    Sue Pertwee-Tyr and Andrew C! like this.
  13. Cesare

    Cesare pfm Member

    There's give, but it's weird, and i'd not say it's the same as playing a normal keyboard.

    If you think in terms of midi messages, a normal keyboard sends note on when a key is depressed (with initial velocity if you have touch sensitive keys), and then a note off when you release (with release velocity potentially, but few if any keyboards support this).

    The Seaboard works differently, and tracks the key press across the keyboard, rather like how a touch screen tracks a finger. So, you press a note and it send note on (with initial velocity) but if you change pressure, it sends a controller message to indicate this, and if you shift left/right, it sends pitch bend data so that the note keeps at the target pitch (it's usually defined as a +/- 48 note range). So, the synth engine gets tracks for each finger on the keyboard on a separate midi channel, so it can track each finger, and determine pitch from the note on and pitch bend for that channel, and polyphonic pressure from the pressure message for each finger. It's very cool to play things like strings where changing the pressure on different fingers alters the tonality.

    Marco is a wizard on the Seaboard. Here's an example of him jamming with a guitarist with a guitar patch on Equator (a soft synth) from a Seaboard Grand. He's been involved from the early days, and does lots of stuff at trade shows for the instrument:

    Tony L likes this.
  14. Seeker_UK

    Seeker_UK I had amnesia once or twice...

    Not bad for £30 but sadly, it's not the bargain basement Syntorchestra you were bigging it up to be. Sigh, guess the hunt for one has to continue.
    stephen bennett likes this.
  15. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    That is a fantastic sounding thing! I’ve never seen one, let alone played one. I’d always assumed Schulze was playing multiple synths to get those sounds. I’m curious how it works as it’s clearly capable of some very layered sounds.

    PS I still maintain the humble PS3 through say a Boss chorus and spring reverb gets you surprisingly close to classic early/mid-70s ‘pre-polysynth’ sounds, i.e. that stuff that existed prior to the Prophet V, JP8 etc. It is very usable and I bet in a mix you’d assume it was a Solina String Ensemble or whatever. It is basically using the same technology.
  16. Seeker_UK

    Seeker_UK I had amnesia once or twice...

    It's the main sound you hear from his 74-77 period.

    Manuel Gottsching has one as well. 'New Age of Earth' is about 60-70% synthorchestra and no sequencers (honest).

    The only keyboard I have heard that comes close to the string sound is the old Korg Polyphonic Ensemble which Tim Blake has and is all over Hawkwind's 'Live 79' and 'Levitation' albums - it's a bit deeper and richer but close.
    stephen bennett likes this.
  17. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    I’ve not had a go on one of those either, but I’m prepared to bet a lot of that sound is around Korg’s chorus/ensemble FX circuitry, they really had something special there. I remember it from a very rare PS3100 modular polysynth I nearly bought to flip but never managed to finalise the deal, but thankfully got an hour or so to play about with, and the chorus/FX on the far more common Polysix was a nice fat thing and would get you most of the way there.

    PS I’ve got a Tim Blake album on vinyl I’ve had forever, Crystal Machine IIRC, I bought it at school!
  18. Seeker_UK

    Seeker_UK I had amnesia once or twice...

    Soundgas recently had a PS3100 that had belonged to Nils Frahm. No idea what it went for but you can pick up Rick Wakeman's PS3200 at a snip - £17.5k (

    Did Korg ever make the chorus / ensemble into any offboard units?

    Lovely things but notorious for going wrong and definitely not worth that sort of money (IMHO).

    A great album. Did you ever hear the single he released at about the same time? The sound of Summer. ;-)
  19. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    I don’t think so, which is a shame as they had their own very distinctive sound. Korg did make a chorus guitar FX:

    This sounds far more like say a Boss CE-2 (which are lovely, the classic guitar chorus), but my memory of the PS3100 and the Polysix was of something very much of its own thing. Korg also made a very, very good tape echo similar to a Roland Space Echo, but I don’t think it had a chorus feature.

    PS My time with the PS3100 was very short, barely long enough to get a feel of the features let alone the capabilities, but it left a heck of an impression. One of the best synths I’ve ever used for sure, just unique in sound, and in such a usable way. I’d take it in a heartbeat over the later generation of note asign polys (Prophet V, JP8 etc), there is just something amazing about it’s sound and layout.
    Seeker_UK likes this.
  20. hifinutt

    hifinutt hifinutt

    Huge fan of gert emmens, he has one album called metamorphosis where he uses all these old analog synth . Wonderful

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