Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Through the Past, Snarkily - a digest of my gear experiences, as told to

- a first - a cross-post between my two blogs. But on-topic for both...


Fender Rhodes Stage 88, 73 - both were frustrating, but both were magical when everything clicked. The Rhodes is the reason I got serious about playing. Still love my 73 (replaced the 88 in '79), but am fully cognizant of its flaws.

Krakauer upright - man, I wish I still had this. Very warm, round tone. Action was a bit sluggish, but I grew up on it, so I was used to it. Gave it away on one of our moves. It was actually my great-grandparents': circa 1890 or so. I have to stop talking about it, I'm bumming myself out.

Boston Grand, K Kawai Grand - love these! The Boston especially, beautiful sound. The Kawai and I have come to terms - it's my main board on my current church gig. A bit bright, but I keep the cover closed and play harder. Keep the humidifier filled, she keeps her tune. For a while. Wouldn't trade her for anything now, not even the Boston. The Boston was like the hot girlfriend that got away - The Kawai is like the wife. LOL.

Casavant pipe organs - I've played two regularly, they're both completely different, one neobaroque, one French romantic - but they are great! Sweet, sweet sounds. Need to spend more time with the one I still have access to (the French romantic). It's too good an instrument to just be sitting there.

Allen Digital Pipe Organ - this was a rental at my college, replaced with the Wilhelm tracker, listed (far) below, in 2004. Very sweet sounds, okay touch, fully AGO compliant, and lots of fun to play the alternate tunings and reverb settings. IIUC, it would have cost less that $20K to buy. It would have been a better investment than the Wilhelm, which cost 4-5x as much. Though there is something to be said for real pipes, and I think that was a big part of the decision. Point of pride for the department, yadda yadda yadda. Whatever. This Allen sounded better.

Hammond L100, A100, M3, D152 - Love all of these, but what a difference a Leslie makes! Only the L and A had Leslies - the A had 3 (!!!). And only the D is in my possession anymore. But one of these days, the D will have a Leslie. Maybe soon.

Clavinet D6 - loved the short throw, the rythmic sound. Big fun to play guitar parts on it, too. Only keyboard I ever had feed back, LOL. well, until I test drove the VP-550 the other day and had the mic too hot. The D6 was a fragile little thing, though.

Arp Solina SE-4 - magical string tones. Magical. Busted now, but I can't quit her...

Arp Axxe, Odyssey - Odyssey is a dream board, but I only picked it up a couple of years ago - on this board in fact. Love the sounds. The Axxe was what I used back in the day, that was great IF you had a phaser and an echo. I did. Mrs. Daf made me sell it for $65, 15+ years ago. I've never let her forget that.

Sequential Circuits Prophet 5 - ultra cool, but I paid way too much. If I had waited a year, I could have gotten a used one for $700 instead of the $3300 I paid new in '82. Hindsight. Still have it, though, in great condition. Still my go-to synth.

Yamaha KX-88 - the ultimate controller by which all others will forever be judged. Sadly in disrepair now, and repairs would cost more than buying a decent used one.

Yamaha TX-7 - I had a pair. Still do, somewhere. I loved these. Even had a cool EP sound that didn't sound at all like a DX EP. So many innovations - FM, breath control, midi. Well, it was my first midi setup anyhow (with the KX).

Ensoniq KT-88 - Church rig, I was the backup keyboardist. Killer sounds for an ensemble setting. I understand it hasn't gotten much use since I left the parish 9 years ago, so it's still alive & kicking. Last I heard. Wonder if my sequence is still in it? Best one I ever did...

Yamaha TQ-5, DX-11 - I know. Nobody else liked the TQ. But I loved the onboard fx, the multimbral sequencer, the ez-edit functions, THE ONBOARD CLOCK! Nobody else had a clock on their module ever! W00t! I still have a B3 patch on this that I love. And some cool pads as well. The Dx-11 is a recent acquisition, with the same sound engine. I bought it as a controller, and now am having some trouble with it. It will rise again, though.

Alesis QS-8, QS-8.1, QSR - best feeling board ever. EVER! Sounds are hit or miss, but when they're good, they're very very good (yes, you can finish the rhyme). The 8.0 got me through 5 years as music director at my little country parish I started at. The 8.1 is still holding forth at the center of my live rig. QSR is backup - I lost the amp section on the 8.1 3 times. Should be fixed now, though.

Novation K-Station - Does everything! Big fun! Wish it were sturdier. Wish it had more notes. Wish it had patch names. Still a great board.

Yamaha VL-70m - OMG, what amazing sounds! I love this thing, wish I had more time for it.

Kurzweil ME-1 - gorgeous sounds, limited interface, completely uneditable, organ sounds don't respond to mod wheel. But gorgeous sounds trump all. Price point is amazing.

Roland VK-8 - great organ sounds, and I love the implementation for a second board and pedals. Other sounds suck, but who cares?

CME UF-5 - love this controller! Drawbar mode is a really cool idea. Wish it had memory. Wish I could edit drawbar mode (VK-8 won't respond). Still, great feel, tons of controls - even a BC input! Yay!

Alesis Fusion 6HD - hoping and praying this one works out. I like it well enough to buy it. Any day now. Another excellent price point.

Roland VP-550 - Church will be buying one shortly if I can't work out the Vari-OS / VC-2 combination (see below). Test drove the VP a couple of days ago - exactly what I need for banging out choir parts and distributing via CD.


Conn home organ - had a leslie of sorts, had some fun stuff, but real limited in the sounds it could get. The flutes were pretty good, the rest was awful. Had some stupid rhythm stuff on it too. Mom gave it to a church when she sold the house.

Miller console piano - well it's family, was my Grandma's. Doesn't sound great, but useful for banging out parts, and a nice piece of furniture in my living room. The Krakauer would overwhelm the LR, so I guess it's a good thing.

Roland P-55 - not bad piano sounds, but not great. Tried to sell it in my Katrina sale last year, then realized I didn't know where it was anymore. Better APs and EPs than my TX's, so useful when I got it, but just barely.

Roland S-50 - my first church board - it was pretty dated when I got to it. Apparently my predecessors had some fun sampling sounds, but I only got to use it for playback, and 12-bit (or whatever it was) don't cut it. It got stolen after I was there about a year, and we replaced it with the KT-88 described above. I was dragging my own (equally dated) stuff in until then, that's how much I disliked playing the S-50. But it DID do sampling, and had a dedicated cpu screen. So some cool potential there, I just never got to do much with it.

Korg Wavestation, Yamaha TG33 - jury's still out on these two, but it doesn't look good - bought them a year or two ago. Haven't found much I liked yet.

Roland Vari-OS - just bought this, now can't find a VC-2 card, which was the only thing I bought it for. Hope I find something to like.

Classic Organ Works midi pedalboard - works well enough, but I can only use this with an AGO bench, and the pedalboard is heavy as hell. I was trying to set up something portable for the church, and it seems I've failed. Still, cool to have this - it's mine, not the church's. Not sure where I'll put it if I ever leave, though. It's HUGE!


Heathkit Vox Jaguar combo organ - ecch. All I could afford then, but ecch! What awful sounds!

Allen analog church organ, Lowrey Genie, Baldwin 500, Allen digital/pipe combo church organ - these were all awful. The digital / pipe idea is the worst! Pipes shift in pitch with the weather, digitals don't. Might have sounded better if it had an overhaul - I remember the other guy (YEARS ago) getting good sounds. But when I finally had a chance to use it, it had sat unmaintained for 5-6 years. The Allen analog was just bad - no good sounds, wobbly pitch, those awful little princess pedals, underpowered for the room (sanctuary only sat 200, but still underpowered!). And the Genie - our current practice room organ - may be the worst organ ever manufactured. With the Baldwin (at Mom's retirement village - I'd practice on it when I visited) a close second.

Yamaha P-50 - dedicated piano module on which EVERY SINGLE PIANO SOUND SUCKED. What I get for buying without trying. Icky-poo.

Roland XP-10 - some okay sounds, some not. Awful interface, totally non-editable. X-Y thing was dumb. Hated that it forgot everything when you powered down - 16 channels multitimbral: that's a lot of work to set back up every time. And having to reboot to go from GM to normal? Who makes up this stuff? Oh yeah, hate the Roland paddle too. Wheels good, paddle bad.

Kurzweil SP-88 - I liked the touch on this, hated the sounds. So it would be logical to use it as a controller, but I just could not get next to the ribbons in place of the mod and pitch wheels. Gone now. Don't miss it.

Roland U-220, Proteus 1, Kawai K-10 - Yeep. Who knows, maybe these were okay back in the day, but OMG. Bought them used and cheap (except the K, which was a church board), but nothing at all to like about these.

Wilhelm tracker pipe organ - a custom install (as are all Wilhelms) at my college, it has weird little wooden keys, flat pedalboard instead of radial, 30 pedals instead of 32, and is impossibly shrill at close range. And the player is always a close range because the pipes are right there. I really wanted to like this organ, but it's just stupid for an American university with an organ program to have its only organ fail to meet ANY of the AGO specs.

Roland A-30 - nice feel, horrible implementation. And I hate paddles.