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Article

Laurence Libin

(Delmetia )

(b Coleman County, TX, March 18, 1899; d at sea nr Los Angeles, CA, March 30, 1941). American inventor of musical instruments. He was co-founder of the National Stringed Instrument Corporation and the Rickenbacker guitar company. He played the violin and the lap steel (‘Hawaiian’) guitar in vaudeville before settling in Los Angeles, where he worked with John and Rudy Dopyera to develop an acoustically amplified guitar, probably inspired by Stroh models. An early model with a Victrola horn failed, but trials using conical aluminium resonators within a metal guitar body (a prototype of the three-cone Dobro guitar) proved successful and attracted investors. Production of metal-body guitars under the name National soon involved Adolph Rickenbacker’s nearby tool and die shop.

From the mid-1920s Beauchamp also experimented with electrical amplification of guitars (including lap steel and bass guitars) and violins of unconventional shape, without normal resonators but using simple phonograph pickups. After his collaboration with the Dopyeras ended, in ...

Article

Carvin  

Matthew Hill

Firm of musical instrument manufacturers and distributors, primarily of electric guitars, amplifiers and sound-reinforcement equipment. The company was founded in 1946 in Los Angeles, California by Hawaiian guitarist Lowell C. Kiesel (b Eustis, NE, 22 Feb 1915; d San Diego, 28 Dec 2009) as the L.C. Kiesel Company. In the late 1940s the company relocated to Gothenburg, Nebraska. In 1949, Kiesel moved back to the Los Angeles area and renamed the company “Carvin,” after his two eldest sons Carson and Gavin. The company has relocated and expanded several times during its existence; to Baldwin Park in the early 1950s, Covina in 1956, Escondido in 1975, and to San Diego in 1995.

The company began by marketing electric guitar pickups of Kiesel’s design, but soon expanded to selling complete instruments (mostly Hawaiian guitars), and amplifiers. In 1954, the company began extensive mail-order sales, featuring Spanish and Hawaiian electric guitars, double-neck instruments, electric guitar kits, electronic components for musical instruments, and even accordions. At various times in the 1950s and 60s, catalogs featured not only the company’s own offerings, but instruments and accessories made by Fender, Martin, Bigsby, and DeArmond. In addition to consumer sales, Carvin also made electric guitar pickups for other manufacturers, notably those found in early Mosrite instruments....

Article

Kyle Devine

American manufacturer of electronic keyboards and drum machines. The company was founded in Upland, California, by Harry Chamberlin in the late 1940s. Instead of the electronic circuits and digital processors used to generate sound in most synthesizers, Chamberlins replay the sounds of existing instruments and effects recorded to electromagnetic tape. In using prerecorded sound, Chamberlins are considered forerunners of digital sampling techniques and technologies.

Harry Chamberlin’s first device, the Rhythmate (considered one of the first drum machines) used a series of dials and switches to play back fourteen looped drum patterns. Later designs, such as the Model 200 (1950s) and the M1 (1970s), used a conventional keyboard to activate the tape mechanism. Instead of tape loops, these keyboard models used tape strips that played for several seconds before automatically rewinding. Using tape strips allowed the initial attack of the instrument to be heard.

Sales were sizeable but never enormous: several hundred Chamberlins were produced during the company’s lifespan (...

Article

British firm of Synthesizer and electronic instrument manufacturers. It was founded in Putney, London, by Peter Zinovieff in 1969, and subsequently owned by Datanomics of Wareham, Dorset (from 1979), the composer Edward Williams (from 1982), and Robin Wood (from 1995). Since the 1980s it has been based near Truro, Cornwall. The company’s best-known product is the Putney or VCS-3. ...

Article

Laurence Libin

American manufacturer and brand of acoustic and electric guitars, other plucked string instruments, and electric guitar accessories. The company originated in 1873 in Smyrna, Turkey, where the Greek immigrant Kostantinos Stathopoulo opened a store selling and repairing string instruments. His son Anastasios opened an independent workshop about 1890. In 1903 Anastasios emigrated with his family to New York, where on 25 March 1909 he patented a bowl-back mandolin named the Orpheum Lyra. Two sons, Epaminondas (‘Epi’, b 1893) and Orpheus, joined him in the business, and when Anastasios died, in 1915, Epi took control and later patented a banjo tone ring and rim. Assuming ownership upon his mother’s death, in 1923, he introduced the Recording line of banjos. As business expanded, the family acquired the Farovan instrument plant in Long Island and in 1928 the incorporated firm became The Epiphone Banjo Corp. By that time Epiphone was making banjos for Selmer/Conn. To compete with their rival Gibson, Epiphone introduced their Recording series of acoustic guitars, both archtop and flat top, followed in ...

Article

Farfisa  

Hugh Davies

revised by Brandon Smith

Italian company of instrument makers. It was founded about 1870 in Ancona to manufacture free-reed instruments, including piano accordions and reed organs. The modern Farfisa company (from FAbbriche Riunite di FISArmoniche, ‘United Accordion Factories’) of Castelfidardo/Camerano was founded in 1946 by Silvio Scandalli, Settimio Soprani (brother of Paolo Soprani), and the Frontalini Accordion Co. of Chicago. Farfisa revolutionized the mass production of accordions by replacing assembly lines with specialized departments producing components that were then assembled into completed instruments. In 1951 Farfisa developed the ‘Super 6’ accordion, considered by many to be the best in the world. Later, Farfisa began producing electronic keyboard instruments ranging in style from piano accordions to synthesizers. From about 1960 its range of electronic piano accordions included the 41-note Cordovox and Transicord (from ‘transistor’ and ‘accordion’), and in 1970 it manufactured an early electronic percussion unit; one Transicord model included an electronic rhythm section.

The company’s success led to a take-over in ...

Article

Korg  

Hugh Davies

Japanese firm of electronic instrument manufacturers. It was founded in Tokyo in 1963 by Tsutomu Katoh and the accordion player Tadashi Osanai as Keio Geijutsu Kenkyujo. From 1968 the firm became known as Keio Electronic Laboratories; although they used the brand-name Korg (‘Katoh-Osanai organ’) on the products, this became the company's official name only in the mid-1980s. Keio began by constructing rhythm units for Yamaha's Electone electronic organs, then produced its own separate units, the Doncamatic rhythm machine followed by the MiniPops series. Korg soon became one of the most successful Japanese manufacturers of electronic instruments, and produced the first Japanese synthesizer in 1968. In 1986 Yamaha bought a 40% stake in Korg.

The range of Korg instruments has included monophonic and polyphonic synthesizers (such as the Polysix), synthesizer modules, electronic organs and pianos (many digital models), string synthesizers, home keyboards, electronic percussion units, guitar synthesizers, samplers, electronic tuners and a vocoder. Its most successful product has been the M1 work station (...

Article

Lipp  

Hugh Davies

revised by William Jurgenson and Anne Beetem Acker

German firm of keyboard instrument makers. It was founded in Stuttgart in 1831 by Richard Lipp (1805–74), who had apprenticed with Haug and thereafter was a journeyman for other Stuttgart builders. At some point the firm became known as Richard Lipp & Sohn, when presumably a son came into partnership who continued the business after his father’s death, but documentation is lacking. Two 6½-octave rosewood square pianos were exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London. Surviving 19th-century Lipp grand pianos are very well regarded, with their design at the forefront of piano developments. Piano manufacture constituted the majority of the firm’s business from 1895 to 1965. From 1985 to 1992 pianos under the brand name Lipp were manufactured by the Bentley Co. Ltd and then from 1993 by Whelpdale, Maxwell, & Codd Ltd until that company ceased piano production in 2003. In 2005 the trademark for R. Lipp & Sohn was registered by Neville Charles Oreo of Australia. Three models of grands and four sizes of uprights produced in China were available in ...

Article

Tony Bacon

British amplifier manufacturer. After requests from British rock guitarists and bass players who needed an affordable amplifier capable of high sound levels, the drum teacher and music shop owner Jim Marshall teamed up with his service engineer Ken Bran in 1962 to produce a British-made musical instrument amplifier based on the Californian-made Fender Bassman. Marshall and Bran’s amplifiers were soon developed into the famous ‘Marshall stack’, consisting of an amplifier head containing the valves, circuitry and controls sitting on top of two ‘four-by-twelve’ cabinets, each containing four Celestion 12-inch (30·48 cm) loudspeakers. Delivering 50 watts RMS and frequently more, the ‘stacks’ provided exactly the sort of high power demanded by emerging players such as Pete Townshend of The Who and Jimi Hendrix. Players such as these were playing electric guitars through Marshall amplifiers at increasingly extreme volume levels in the late 1960s as venues became larger and outdoor festivals more popular. Marshall also produced ‘combo’ amplifiers which combined the amplifier and loudspeakers within one cabinet. Building on the fame of their early innovations, Marshall has become a leading supplier of equipment wherever high quality and high volume amplification is required....

Article

Laurence Libin

[Theodore M. ]

(b Somerset, KY, 1910; d Twin Falls, ID, April 1, 2001). American guitar company executive and pioneer in the development of electric guitars. An engineering graduate of the University of Cincinnati (1933), he worked for the Rudolph Wurlitzer Co., first as an accountant and eventually as director of purchasing for the retail division. During World War II he was an army engineer. He became general manager of the Gibson Guitar Corporation in 1948, vice president in 1949, and was its president from 1950 to 1966. During this period he secured several patents and profitably advanced Gibson’s manufacture of electric guitars, notably in the early 1950s the warm-toned solid-body Les Paul models that later formed the core of Gibson’s reputation. McCarty promoted the design of innovative models (e.g. the three-pickup ES-5, the classic ES-175 ‘jazz box’, and the classic semi-hollow ES-335) and various improvements such as Gibson’s Tune-o-matic bridge system, humbucking pickup (designed by Seth Lover), and the futuristic Explorer, Flying V, Moderne (these three designed by the automobile designer Ray Dietrich), SG, and Firebird lines. During McCarty’s tenure Gibson’s output grew to more than 100,000 instruments annually. He left Gibson to become part-owner and president of the Kalamazoo-based Bigsby Company, specializing in guitar vibrato systems and accessories; he retired in ...

Article

Modcan  

Anne Beetem Acker

Modular synthesizer company established by Bruce Duncan (b Toronto, ON, 30 April 1958) in 1995 in Toronto. The name comes from ‘modular Canada’. Duncan first worked with string instruments, apprenticing with the lute maker Michael Schreiner in Toronto and Stephen Gottlieb in the UK. A Canada Arts Council grant enabled him to set up his own workshop for historical string instruments. In 1985 he took a course in piano tuning and worked briefly as a piano tuner, then switched to architectural model making. He also freelanced making prototypes for industrial designers, developing skills in working with plastics and teaching himself electronics and programming.

Inspired by the score for the film A Clockwork Orange (1971) and by the synthesized recordings of Bach by Walter Carlos, Duncan played the synthesizer for local bands in the late 1970s and later started collecting vintage synthesizers. Modcan, begun as a hobby, grew into Duncan’s full-time occupation from ...

Article

Roland  

Hugh Davies

Japanese company of electronic instrument manufacturers. It was founded in Osaka in 1972 by the electronics designer Ikutaro Kakehashi (who had co-founded Ace Electronic Industries in Osaka in 1955, marketing rhythm machines and Ace Tone electronic organs); it was named after the legendary medieval French hero. Expansion was rapid, and by the early 1980s the company employed over 500 people in Osaka alone. During the period 1988–90 Roland bought three foreign electronic keyboard manufacturers: Siel, Rodgers and Rhodes.

The range of Roland instruments has included monophonic and polyphonic synthesizers, synthesizer modules, remote keyboard controllers, electronic organs and pianos (many digital models), a digital harpsichord, home keyboards, guitar synthesizers, samplers, vocoders, sequencers and many electronic percussion devices and effects units, some under the names of Roland’s offshoots, Boss and Amdek. The company also manufactures a variety of sound equipment as well as a teaching system designed for use with Roland electronic keyboard instruments....

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

South Korean manufacturer of acoustic and digital instruments. The name Samick (‘three benefits’) refers to benefits to the company, its customers, and the national economy. Founded in 1958 by Hyo Ick Lee (d 1990) as a Baldwin piano distributor, the Samick Piano Co. began building uprights from imported parts under the name Horugel in 1960. In 1964 Samick became the first exporter of Korean pianos and in 1970 manufactured the first Korean grand. Guitar production began in 1965, eventually expanding to acoustic and electric guitars, bass guitars, banjos, and mandolins under the names Samick, Abilene, Silvertone, and the Greg Bennett Signature series. In 1973 the company was incorporated as Samick Musical Instruments Co., Ltd. In 1983 Samick engaged the German piano designer Klaus Fenner. Fenner introduced European-style scale designs and three-ply ‘surface tension’ soundboards, which are claimed not to crack or lose their crown and to suffer only a slight tonal disadvantage compared with solid spruce soundboards....

Article

Cynthia Adams Hoover, Roslyn Rensch and Hugh Davies

American firm of instrument makers and dealers of German origin.

Cynthia Adams Hoover

(Franz) Rudolph Wurlitzer (b Schöneck, Saxony, 31 Jan 1831; d Cincinnati, 14 Jan 1914) came to the USA in 1853; he settled in Cincinnati and began dealing in musical instruments in addition to working in a local bank. It is likely that he was one of a long line of Saxon instrument makers, beginning with Heinrich Wurlitzer (1595–1656), a lute maker. By 1860 he had a thriving trade and is said to have been a leading supplier of military wind instruments and drums during the Civil War. In 1865 he opened a branch in Chicago and in 1872 joined his brother Anton to form the partnership of Rudolph Wurlitzer & Bro. On 25 March 1890 the firm was incorporated as the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company. Rudolph served as president of the corporation from 1890 to 1912...