Monday, December 4, 2017

Moog Song Producer, Keyboard 1985


Moog Song Producer 1/6-page black and white advertisement from page 108 in the November 1985 issue of Keyboard Magazine.

"Pivot" - you hear that word a lot now'er days.

For example, Your FarmVille-app wanna-be isn't panning out? Pivot to become an online Organic Farm location service.

In the case of Moog Music, it looks like one such pivot started around 1983 when the company was sold to management. But in order to see it more clearly, we need to back up a bit.

What looks to be prior to the sale, Moog had shown up at 1983's Summer NAMM with Keith Emerson's Modular System, a few MIDI-equipped Memorymoogs and, according to the September 1983 issue of Keyboard Magazine...
SL-8 photo from Keyboard Magazine
September 1983
"Hidden away up in a hotel suite was a prototype of the SL-8, an eight-voice synthesizer that generates its colors digitally. The keyboard can be split and layered. Projected list price was somewhere in the neighbourhood of $2,495.00. No final plans have been made as to when it will come out."
Without getting too far off my original point, I kinda went down a rabbit hole looking for info on the SL-8 and came upon a great little story.

A September 2015 Reddit post of a photo of the SL-8 submitted by "theofferings" (who looks to be David Harrison, the Technical Director of the Audities Foundation most likely) included some info about the synth's appearance at that NAMM 1983 show mentioned in Keyboard Magazine:
"The story goes, Moog brought this to NAMM 83 as an 8 voice polyphonic synth, a follow up to the Memory Moog (which btw has the fattest Osc's I might have ever heard). They brought the cards for the SL8 to NAMM in a "cardboard box" and this was placed below the SL8 for performance during NAMM. After NAMM the cardboard box containing the cards was lost or misplaced and all the remains is the body."
Another reader followed up with some information from "a friend" about this SL-8 prototype appearing later on at a London trade show in 1984, including how the synth got it's name and why it may not have made it into production.
"I'm very familiar with the SL-8, I was the person who got it working in London at the Music trade show in 1984. The boards were in a card cage underneath the prototype behind a curtain with big ribbon cables running up inside to the control panels. When it arrived in London from Buffalo it was DOA. I took the ferry over from our service center in Rotterdam to the UK and fixed it on the opening morning of the show. We took over 700 orders for it that weekend ($1995 Retail). When I got back to the plant, Marge Beltz (Our accounting genius) killed it. Ray Dennison and I are old friends and he ended up leaving Moog over that decision after spending a year of his life designing it. It was the first polyphonic Moog with a 16 bit Micro. The name comes from Split/Layered 8 Voice synth (SL-8). It had really gritty digitally controlled analog oscillators with a harmonic multiplier knob. " 
Great stuff!

But anyways, back to the point... what was the point again...?

Oh yeah! The "pivot".

It looks to be around the time of the buyout - and a name change from Moog Music to Moog Electronics - that the company began its pivot. For example, according to the Moog Archives web site, Moog had begun to put a new emphasis on contract manufacturing, such as in the production of the SSK Concertmate synthesizer for Tandy Corp (Radio Shack). And the company also began producing non-music related products, like the Telesys 3, later know as the Operator (view the advertisement on the Moog Archives site), and the Phone Controller (photos from the awesome MATRIXSYNTH). Hence why they couldn't keep on using the word "Music" in their company name, I'd guess.

But that doesn't mean they weren't gonna keep a few eggs in their own Moog products basket. The company continued to sell the Memorymoog  for a while, with advertisements running until the summer of 1984, and as we just read on Reddit, they were still showing off the SL-8 prototype into 1984.

And there was one other musical product that seemed to survive the pivot - The Moog Song Producer hardware and software set-up for the Commodore 64.

Now, I'm a big fan of the C-64 and hang out in the Facebook groups devoted to the computer. So, I can tell you that when someone posts *this* photo (see right) of the Moog Song Producer, a lot of discussion ensues. 5 (thank you again, MATRIXSYNTH).

Most MIDI cartridges for the C-64 look and act very similar. They all have MIDI in and and out or two, and a few will get a little bit more exciting with a clock and/or tape sync in/out. A few like the Sequential Circuits Model 64 and C-Lab Supertrack-ROM will even have the sequencing software on the cartridge to save you from having to load a program on from a floppy drive.

BUT, the Moog Song Producer was a different beast altogether. It was a large rectangular box almost as wide as a C-64 itself. And, as this ad will tell you, it included *a lot* more than just a MIDI in and one or two MIDI outs.
Hardware:
- 4 MIDI OUTS channelize OMNI synths and speed throughput.
- 8 gate outputs drive non-MIDI drums.
- Footswitch inputs free your hands.
- Clock IN/OUT and clock Disable IN/OUT provided for non-MIDI clock(s) control.
Wowza. 

The software wasn't just a simple sequencer either:
Software:
- MIDI COMMAND splits/layers/transposes and controls MIDI PROGREAM Numbers for 4 instruments independently.
- SONGSTEPPER composition program displays realtime  entry and stepmode. Keyboard skills not required. Compose drums and music using one system.
- SYNC COMMAND has 9 synchronous clocks with Master Tempo to get your gear together.
- Dr. T's Music software now available for the Song Producer interface.
Best of all, we also get some retail prices!

$395 U.S. for the software and hardware. And $15 for the 250 page manual owners manual that includes 12 color photos of the software screens. Now, I'm not a big fan of paying for an owners manual, but this one was 250 pages, and it was written by Tom Rhea. So, I'll let that go. 

The ad itself isn't much to look at - but after doing some digging I found there's a lot more to say about Moog's Song Producer.

But I've rambled on enough.

So I'm gonna save that for the next Song Producer advert blog post. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Moog Retail Price List, June 28, 1980


Moog 2-page fold out Retail Price List from June 28, 1980.

What isn't to love about this price sheet?

A list of awesome Moog synths? Check!  Retail prices for those synth history buffs like me? Yup!  And last but definitely not least, Tom Schuman from Spyro Gyra. No wonder he is smiling, by the time this price list came out, the guy was still barely into his twenties and already had three albums under his belt.

AND he's playing a Moog Liberation keytar. That would definitely make me smile too.

click image for more info
If this photo of Tom appears familiar, it probably means you are old.

Or a fan of vintage synth ads.

Or both.

Because a full colour version appeared in a July 1980 Moog Liberation advertisement, around the same time this price list did. As mentioned in the blog post for that ad, 1980 really was the year that the Keytar broke out.

Which makes it a good year indeed.

As mentioned above, as a synth history buff, I love to see prices listed. Most ads don't include prices and its like a puzzle missing one of the most important pieces.  I've posted a few other Moog price lists (with more to come!) and its fun (and a little terrifying) to watch inflation unfold.
click image for more info

For example, The July 1, 1974 Moog Retail Price List contains some of the same products, and I've included a few of those below for comparison. 

Minimoog:
1974 - $1,595.00
1980 - $1,995.00

Percussion Controller:
1974 - $249.00 
1980 - $350.00

Ribbon Controller:
1974 - $295.00
1980 - $$395.00

click image for more info
Also, the March 1, 1976 Moog Professional Systems Price List gives us a good comparison for their modular systems.

System 15:
1976 - $3,845.00
1980 - $4,960.00

System 35:
1976 - $5,935
1980 - $7,980

System 55:
1976 - $9,675
1980 - $12,000

Time to look for more Keytar ads.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Moog Multimoog synthesizer reference sheet, 1980




Moog Multimoog synthesizer reference sheet from 1980.

I  reference info. The more data the better. And this, and the other reference sheets deliver. Gorgeous photo on one side. Gorgeous info on the other. Yum.

While recently flipping through old blog posts I noticed I never finished off my 1980 Moog reference sheet family. Well, time to fix that!

For someone who gets distracted as easily as I do, I'm surprised I had already managed to get five of them up there, including, in no particular order (click on the images to go to their respective blog posts):

  
  

The Multimoog is probably the Moog synthesizer I'm least familiar with. And at first glance, I had mistaken it for its baby brother - the Micromoog. Looking at the two reference sheets its easy to see why.

And those similarities are not just cosmetic - as noted in the November 1978 Spec Sheet write-up for the Multimoog:
"Moog synthesizer: The Multimoog features two audio oscillators, an LFO, fully variable waveshaping, a 3.5 octave keyboard, switchable single or multiple triggering, a pitchbend ribbon and a modulation wheel. The keyboard also has a force sensor in it, the output of which can be used to control pitch, LFO speed, volume, etc. The Multimoog is basically an expanded version of the Micromoog and features many more open-system features not included on the Micro, such as glide output voltage on-off, ribbon control voltage routing, and keyboard triggering control. Norlin Music. 7373 N. Cicero Ave., Lincolnwood, IL. 60646."
I have to say, I love the variable waveshaping on the Micromoog (waveform control knob that moves gradually from saw through square through narrow pulse waveforms rather than clicking to each individual waveform), and its looks like its implemented the same on the Multi.  Sweet.

One other feature mentioned in the spec sheet got my attention: the "... more open-system features...". A few Google searches later and I'm on Muff Wigglers reading:
"Multimoogs can be chained together. The back panel has a generous I/O system which lets a synth be a master or a slave unit."
Whaaaaaat? Chaining Multimoogs? That's awesome. The back page of the reference sheet does list the jaw-dropping number of in's and out's the Multimoog ha, but unfortunately I couldn't find any videos of two Multimoog's joined together. Dang.

But I think anyone who has been hanging around vintage Moog forums and Web sites will agree its most outstanding feature is it's "force-sensitive" keyboard, now more commonly known as pressure sensitivity. A nice - and rare - feature for a late 1970s synthesizer.

As such, the Multimoog's pressure sensitivity played prominently in the Multimoog's advertising campaigns. Chick Corea called it "a very expressive addition". And the


There are a number of Multimoog video demos on Youtube that show off it's pressure sensitivity nicely. I'll end the blog post with this one. What a lovely growl that Moog filter creates...



Yum!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Sequential Circuits "Choice of the month" ad, International Musician and Recording World, 1982



Sequential Circuits "Choice of the month" centrefold colour advertisement featuring the Prophet-10, Prophet-5 and Pro-One from page 42 and 43 in the May 1982 issue of International Musician and Recording World.

Wow. Just wow.

I was doing a bit of research in back issues of some magazines for a lawyer last night and while casually flipping through one of those mags, this suddenly appeared before my eyes.

I've never seen it before. Ever. Time for a quick blog post!

In my defense, it's not in the advertising index of this magazine - a technique I use to quickly reference and log some synth ads. Another SCI full page colour ad that appears on page 36 *is* in that index. But not this one. There also doesn't seem to be a reference elsewhere in the magazine as to why SCI became the "Choice of the month" for the magazine. There was a "Special Focus: Keyboards" article this month. So, I'm guessing it was supposed to be related to that.

It actually looks more like a poster image that's been re-used for this "Choice of the Month"  image. There is no ad-title or text. And the image itself doesn't stretch to the far right and far left of the pages - there is white space at both ends. I've left the white in the scan to make the point.

But its a poster or image I've never run across. I haven't seen it in other magazines and I haven't seen it hanging on the wall in the background of any of the Dave Smith demo videos.

The main image of a hand playing a Prophet-5 keyboard is very reminiscent of SCI's Poly-Sequencer advertisement that appeared a few times in Keyboard Magazine from 1981 to 1983 (a long shelf life for any ad!). The hand in this ad and the one in the centrefold illustration are even playing the same chord. It was definitely an inspiration for Nicholson, the artist who's name appears vertically near the top right of the image (just underneath the also-vertical Prophet-5).

The rest of this wonderful illustration consists of a Prophet-10, Prophet-5 and Pro-One used to frame the main image.

While comparing the Poly-Sequencer ad and the centrefold, I noticed something. Did you notice it too?

The fingers are playing the exact same notes, but in the illustration, there is a lot more space between the thumb and index finger. It took me a few seconds for my brain to figure it out. In order to even out the fingers in the illustration, Nicholson took a bit of liberty (and warped reality) by adding AN EXTRA KEY into the octave.

That takes balls. And makes this illustration even more unique to me.

But it may be why the image hasn't been seen elsewhere.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Roland D-50 "A new technology is creating a powerful storm...", Keyboard 1987


Roland D-50 "A new technology is creating a powerful storm in the world of sound synthesis" four page colour introductory advertisement from pages 89 to 92 in the June 1987 issue of Keyboard Magazine.

Happy 9/09 day!

I had a lovely 909-related post ready to rock and then... BOOM! Roland announces their new D-05 Boutique module based off their 1980's best selling D-50 synthesizer. Luckily I had been saving this draft of the D-50 four-page introductory advertisement for a special occasion. And I can't think of a better one right now.

(And bonus! I have a 909-related post ready to go for the next 9/09 day!).

Roland introduced Keyboard readers to the their new D-50 synthesizer in the June 1987 issue with this four-page ad. Its not often you get to see a four-page advertisement in Keyboard magazine. And its definitely not often you see it run for four months in row. That's a lot of advertising dollars. And then Roland just pared it down to a two-page ad and continued to run it.

Although Roland began advertising it in June 1987, its possible the first time that readers of Keyboard were introduced to its existence was two months earlier in Ted Greenwald's winter NAMM article that appeared in the April issue. The D-50 received top billing!
"For a couple of years it took small American companies such as Sequential and Ensoniq to prove to synthesizer players that there is, indeed, life after the DX-7. So it was a surprise to see the big boys grab the spotlight this time around with some exciting new instruments."
Ted goes on to write about Roland,
"The indefatigable Roland led the way with the D-50 Digital Synthesizer, the obvious highlight of their prolific new offerings, and possibly of the entire show". 
Side note: I'm not sure if "indefatigable" is a word, but it definitely described Roland's push of new gear both during that time period, and now with the announcement of so many Boutiques.  :)

The D-50 really did take the synth world by storm in 1987. Ted Greenwald drew the lucky straw and also got to write the Keyboard Report that appeared in the September 1987 issue.

Ted opening paragraph really packages history up nicely and is one of the reasons I love reading through old synth mags. He points out that MIDI was invented to do patch layering and talks about the "sonic richness that could be obtained by combining two" separate synthesizers. He goes on to write:
"While Sequential and Oberhaim addressed the problem by designing polytimbral instruments (the Six-trak and the Xpander), and Roland and Yamaha started packaging two synthesizers in one case (DX-5 and the JX-10), New England Digital gave the Synclavier the ability to layer four sounds, either synthesized or sampled, under one key."
What he was saying is that Roland's D-50 allowed synthesists to add a little sparkle of "Synclavier" into their productions at a fraction of the cost.

The three-and-a-half page Keyboard report gets into all the aspects of the synth including the basics of linear arithmetic synthesis, how the samples are incorporated into the synth, the effects (reverb and delay in a synth?!?!), and the front panel interface. On that last topic, its noted that programming can get complicated with all the menu diving, but luckily Roland decided to keep the tradition of pairing programmers with their synthesizers and offered up the PG-1000 programmer right out of the gate.

Ted concludes his review with some pretty good predictions...
"LA synthesis is a success, and we expect that the D-50 will be as well, even if some corners were cut to get it into such a competitive price range. ... An instrument this capable for under $2,000 would be a strong contender for Keyboard Of The Year even if it didn't include reverb, delay, chorus and EQ effects. In the coming months, we're expecting some of the factory patches to become as ubiquitous as that blasted DX-7 Rhodes sound. Keep your ears open".  
He definitely got that right.

And with the D-05 Boutique I'm expecting and looking forward to a resurgence in those patches! I was a resurgence in Enya cover bands using that Pizzagogo patch. And yes, I'm evening looking forward to hearing how the Digital Native Dance patch is going to be incorporated into synthwave.

Now time to enjoy my 9/09 day!