My Life in Keyboards

I have written about My Life in Jobs and My Life in Cars, so I think it’s time to post about my life in keyboards. More than my jobs and cars, I believe that keyboards have been the central assets in my life, and music has taken me to some spectacular places, and into some incredible circumstances.

Yamaha PSS-450

Ahhh, my very first keyboard. It wasn’t velocity sensitive, and the sounds were pretty bad. But I made due. I was probably around 12 years old, and I had a keyboard. I had played only piano until I got this, so having the ability to play along with an arranged section was very new and cool to me. I left this keyboard at a home for troubled girls in Kentucky. They seemed to enjoy it and I didn’t have a use for it at the time.
A relative recently gave my daughter an old keyboard in like-new condition. I picked it up, and was amazed that it was the PSS-450.

Yamaha PSR-47

I was 16 years old, and had been looking at new synths ever since I got a chance to play one (I think it was a Yamaha DX-7, or possibly a Korg DW6000) in a music lab at my high school. I was jealous of the very cool sounds that could be made, and even enamored with just the presets. I found this at my local music store – it had so many patches and rhythms, and drum pads. I fell in love, and it was a lot cheaper than the others. I used this board on my first recordings, and in my first band. I traded it for something even better.

I do remember my 11th grade Honors English class – we had to memorize the prologue to Canterbury Tales and speak it in front of the class. I wrote it as a rap, and recorded it, just for fun. I gave it to my teacher, who listened to it, and gave me an A for the project, and I never had to actually memorize the thing. I still know it, though.

Casio SK-1

My first sampler! I bought this from a friend for $20. I can still remember how powerful it felt to be able to record a voice, or my piano, or the toilet flushing, and play it back in different pitches. This board stopped working for me.

Back then, the speed of the sound was also affected by the pitch, so the lower notes took longer than the higher notes. At the time I didn’t consider this to be problematic – it was cool.

Yamaha PSR-500

This thing was a badass. I was able to record entire chord structures of songs and then play along with them. The memory wasn’t great, so I think I had to erase a song if I wanted to start a new one – but this just made me better at using the board. My first multi-pad loops, intros, endings, registration memory (to access my favorite settings with a single push of a button) all really great stuff. I just turned 18, had no will power, and went to the music store and applied for credit, and I was accepted. I found this to be absolutely amazing. My parents were pissed. I did pay it off though. I traded this later for a Yamaha MT-50 4-track cassette tape recorder, soon after I bought my PSR-600.

Yamaha PSR-600

As soon as the PSR-500 was paid off, I went and got this thing. It was nearly identical, except that it had a floppy disc drive in the front. I could now save my work, and keep working. It was totally worth it. This was also the keyboard I had when I joined my first “real” band, a band with paying gigs. By then, music started making me enough money to start looking at some professional equipment. I traded this keyboard for an alto sax on eBay in the early 2000s.

Next post – the Pro Equipment and more.

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