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All hail the SK-1 !

I was cleaning out an old trunk when I unearthed my old Casio SK-1, a sampling keyboard (some would say "toy") from the late 80s. For about $90, you could sample a sound of about 1.5 seconds in glorious, grungy mono, then play it on the keyboard. It's ridiculously primitive by today's standards but for 1988 it was way cool.

There's a live version of "Feed Me" by Wire in their reunited incarnation where you can hear a characteristic metallic popping "ping" which was the SK-1's signal that it had finished sampling. Bruce Gilbert of Wire praised it in Option magazine as "quite cheap." (You can't argue with that.) Some songs like "A Forest" by the Cure have a rhythm pattern duration which is very close to the SK-1's sampling time, so they're easy to loop and use a background to something else. The built-in mic was adequate but results with an external or line input were actually pretty good. It also has instrument presets, some simple ways of modifying sounds, and an arppregiator/rhythm box, just in time for the 80s synthpop revival.

After unearthing the thing in question, I put in five new AA batteries, and it made a short, awful noise. Then random low-level noise. The power switch and function keys didn't seem to work. But after a minute or so, it quieted down and we could actually get the thing to sample something and play it back. It still doesn't seem to want to sample from the built-in mic about a third of the time, but it's almost completely back now otherwise. It would probably be a good idea to take it apart and vacuum it; that usually improves performance.

And S0 loves it; he's learned how to sample his own voice (usually a screech that the SK-1 gladly reproduces) and fell upon the "rhythm box" key. He wanted to take it in the car this morning but that's where we drew the line for our budding Trevor Horn.

Of course, it might be possible to love it too much.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 5th, 2002 07:13 pm (UTC)
I still have a Casio CZ-101 of roughly the same vintage ... a fun little digital synth that can be tweaked to produce a lot of unusual sounds. Plus, when I dug it up three years ago I discovered that the "electric organ" preset, run through an overdriven guitar amp, makes the perfect Stereolab fuzzed-out organ sound.
I still haven't done anything worthwhile with it, but it's fun to play with.
Mar. 5th, 2002 07:28 pm (UTC)
Ahh, the CZ-101
I had one of those, too, but it died irreparably. This was another Casio synth that punched above its weight, and was actually used by "real" musicians on big-budget recordings (although usually played with a better MIDI controller/keyboard than its own).

Maybe I'll really learn play when I'm 50 or something. Sigh...
May. 20th, 2003 12:58 pm (UTC)
Hey, I still have one of those. To this day I still pull it out occassionally, and try to get funky rhythms via playing a loop at different pitches simultaneously.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )


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