Keytars Past And Present

ORPHICA Invented by Karl Leopold Röllig, this portable piano was small enough to be held and played like a guitar.
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1795

1_Orphica450

ORPHICA Invented by Karl Leopold Röllig, this portable piano was small enough to be held and played like a guitar.

1977

2_powell_w_probe450

ROGER POWELL’S PROBE Custom designed by the groundbreaking synthesist for his live shows with Todd Rundgren and Utopia.

1980

3_Syntar_Redcase450

PERFORMANCE MUSIC SYSTEMS SYNTAR The neck of George Mattson’s self-contained synth had nine springy wooden buttons to send variable voltages for performance control. A favorite of Jean Michel Jarre.

1981

4_Jarre_Liberation450

MOOG LIBERATION Here’s Jarre with the first mass-produced strap synth, essentially a Prodigy with a Polymoog-like pitch ribbon on the neck.

1983

5_Yamaha_KX1450

YAMAHA KX1 Along with its minikeyed sibling the KX5, it was a staple of the ’80s—and got a big visibility boost from Chick Corea.

1985

6_Roland_Axis450

ROLAND AXIS We tend to remember the AX-1 and AX-7 more, but unlike those, the first of Roland’s wearable MIDI controllers had aftertouch.

1986

7_casio_Az1450

CASIO AZ-1 Popularized by Thomas Dolby, the AZ-1 also took stand-up playing seriously enough to include aftertouch, not just velocity.

1988

8_Lync_LN4450

LYNC LN-4 Played by Jan Hammer, this premium remote boasted aftertouch, multi-zoning, wireless MIDI, and a four-MIDIoutput rack box. Highly sought after.

2005

9_williams_keytar450

WILLIAMS KEYTAR Ironically, the only company to trademark the word “keytar” didn’t produce a synth—this was a string instrument with keys in place of frets.

2007

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ZEN RIFFER Jordan Rudess endorses Charles Tentindo’s handcrafted controller, which doubles as a gladiatorial weapon in Klingon rites of passage.

2009

11_AX-Synth_angl450

ROLAND AX-SYNTH Waking the industry from a long keytar hibernation, Roland’s new baby features built-in sounds. We reviewed it in May of this year.

2010

12_RockBand3_Keytar450

ROCK BAND 3 Keys joining the addictive video party is only half the story—the game keyboard is also a real MIDI controller.