Bringing It Back

A couple of months ago, I picked up a new keyboard at a thrift shop.  As the holidays were approaching, I only had a few moments to spend any time with it.  I did a quick cleaning and test of the device and found it was… weird.  Something was really odd sounding about the patches when I played them.  I don’t have perfect pitch, but I can hear well enough to know when something is out of key.  And that’s what the problem sounded like.

The phenomenon was very weird, because as I would play songs that are completely familiar to me, I would screw up while playing them.  Not because of any sloppiness or difference in the keyboard action, it was because my ears were hearing a different pitch than I was playing on the keyboard, so my fingers would try to compensate for that and stretch to the wrong next key.  Like I would play a C and know the next note is a D, but my ear hears a B and my fingers think I have to stretch over an extra key to get to the D.  Just a mess.

I did try some repair on the keyboard a little bit afterwards.  After opening it up, I found the pitch and mod wheel cable was disconnected, and it looked like something had been spilled inside.  I pulled the keys that looked like they’d been affected by the spill and cleaned them.  The contacts looked fine.  And then, right in the middle of that procedure, the holidays came back, so I had to close the keyboard all up and store it again.  Along the way, I found I had lost 4 springs for the keys I had cleaned.  Not lost, but they had fallen out.

The other night, I pulled the beast back out and set about some trial and error troubleshooting.  During a previous round of testing, I had discovered there really was a pitch problem and my primary suspect was the aftertouch ribbon.  So after I replaced the missing key springs, I did a quick test with the aftertouch cables disconnected.  Perfect sound!  I reconnected the pitch and mod wheel cable and it still worked fine.  Things are looking up!

I considered the restoration project a success.  I had a functional 88-key keyboard for $100.  Who could complain about that?  Well, maybe I could complain that I had nowhere to set the thing up.  And having this massive electronic device made me miss the even bigger electronic device I nearly gave away.  That one was a real monster:


Maybe one day I’ll write about the experience of trading this killer keyboard for a little tiny mixer.  Maybe it’ll include the confrontation with the sales guy at Guitar Center.

I have some desire to do some music.  To have all these devices and not make use of them is a shame.  And  ridiculously, I have some desire to recollect my original keyboards, maybe in rackmount form, so I can have my original inspiring sounds.

Things were different back then.  Things were more simple and also more difficult.  But the difficulty didn’t matter at the time because there wasn’t any other option.  You had to be daring and involved and willing to expend effort.  Now, expending the effort is rather a big deal.  I have a lot of software to set up, some hardware to configure, patches to configure, and eventually some audio routing will be needed.  These things aren’t conducive to creativity.

As I’ve been rebuilding my playing stamina and relearning some of my old compositions (which I’m very saddened to find I’ve forgotten a lot), I’ve been debating putting some of them online.  I actually have some old video of my playing from 2009 but I doubt it’s usable.  Production values have skyrocketed since then, so I’d probably need to record the video and audio separately, then mix them together to get the best quality.  More setup, more effort, less creativity.

Additionally, I’ve got yet another future audio project that is going to require the full recording setup effort, so maybe it’s happening sooner than I think.  Here’s to 2018 having a more diverse creative output.


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