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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

Allison A. Alcorn

(b Elgin, IL, Dec 12, 1899; d Downey, CA, June 7, 1968). American guitar maker and inventor, known as the father of the electric solid-body guitar. Before World War I he was a patternmaker at a machine shop in Los Angeles. After the war he became a motorcycle racer known as ‘P.A.’, a nickname that carried into later life. During World War II, Bigsby designed parts for US Navy ships. As a guitarist, Bigsby played with an amateur country and western band, and in 1944, dissatisfied with commercially available guitars, he set out to make a better one. He brought his prototype lap steel guitar to Earl ‘Joaquin’ Murphy, who liked it so much that Bigsby built for Murphy his first Bigsby D-8, a double-eight-string lap steel guitar (i.e. an instrument with two necks having eight strings each). The T-8, a triple-eight-string console steel guitar (having three necks, each with eight strings) that Bigsby built for Murphy 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

Arian Sheets

An electric sostenente piano developed by Melvin L. Severy (1863–1951), an inventor and author, in Boston, and produced by the Choralcelo Manufacturing Company, founded by Severy and his brother-in-law George B. Sinclair in 1901. The choralcelo employed direct current, in which regular pulses were created with a rheotome, to excite piano strings and other resonating bodies by means of electromagnets. The current was routed to the electromagnets through complicated switching mechanisms operated from a piano keyboard or organ console with rocker switches and pedals. The earliest versions of the instrument resembled large upright pianos. Later versions employed numerous additional groups of resonating bodies, including those made from ferrous bars, ferrous ribbons, wood and aluminum bars with ferrous weights, and additional strings. Electric pulses with a harmonic relationship to the fundamental pitch of a resonating body could be employed to obtain additional tone colors.

The Musical Age reported in ...

Article

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

Thomas Brett

[electronic drum, drum machine, rhythm machine]

An electronic percussion instrument whose sound is synthesized or that stores and reproduces the sounds of sampled percussion instruments. It may be played on non-acoustic controllers that resemble conventional percussion instruments and are equipped with a touch-sensitive trigger that detects and converts mechanical energy into electrical signals. Alternatively, it may be controlled by an electronic rhythm machine, or played through virtual drum machine software. The earliest electronic percussion instrument was the Rhythmicon (1931) made by Russian inventor Leon Theremin on a commission by American composer Henry Cowell. The Rhythmicon allowed multiple rhythmic patterns to be played simultaneously by pressing keys on a conventional keyboard. The Rhythmate, invented by Harry Chamberlin (1949), used tape loops of acoustic drumming playing various rhythm patterns. This machine was a forerunner of the sample-based units that would later appear in the early 1980s.

Electronic percussion was developed significantly beginning in the late 1950s and 60s in the form of the stand-alone “rhythm box” or as an addition to some models of home electronic organs. These units generated rhythms electronically and their sounds were not very realistic. The earliest commercial electronic drum machine was the Sideman (...

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

(b Luxembourg, Aug 16, 1884; d New York, Aug 19, 1967). American writer, publisher, and inventor. In 1904 he emigrated to America, where in 1908 he founded the first of a series of radio magazines (including Radio-Craft) which he wrote for and edited. He later turned to science fiction magazines (from ...

Article

Laurence Libin

(b Cincinnati, OH, Sept 20, 1953). American artist, musician, and self-taught experimental instrument builder, active in Cincinnati. He has been called the ‘father of circuit bending’, a process he discovered and named in 1966 or 1967 when a toy 9-volt transistor amplifier shorted out in his desk drawer, emitting a strange electronic sound. Ghazala derived the noun ‘circuit bending’ from ‘mind bending’, a popular 1960s locution. The process of circuit bending arose from his observation of the original amplifier’s accidental transformation into an oscillator; aleatoric processes remain central to his work in other media as well (e.g. mobiles and dye-migration photography). He also coined the term ‘BEAsape’, or ‘BioElectronicAudiosapien’, reflecting the use of a human body as a variable resistor within a circuit. In most of his bent instruments the sonic output is unpredictable, but he has also designed original circuits following standard protocols, as for his Photon Clarinet and various insect- and human-voice synthesizers; not all produce random sounds....

Article

Hugh Davies

(M.Y. de P. )

(b Rheims, France, 1899; d La Varenne St-Hilaire, St-Maur-des-Fossés, France, Nov 9, 1963). French engineer and physicist. He was one of the pioneers of electronic instruments and especially of the electronic organ in the 1920s and early 1930s; some of his instruments were constructed in collaboration with the organ builder Edouard Eloi Coupleux. In 1917 or 1918, while working in the radio laboratory at the Eiffel Tower in Paris (at the same time as Maurice Martenot and Joseph Béthenod), Givelet first conceived the idea of electronic instruments based on the pitches that could be produced and varied by placing one’s hand near or on certain components in a radio receiver. His idea for a dial-operated instrument (similar to the later Dynaphone and Ondium Péchadre) was not followed up until the mid-1920s, when he returned to studying the possibilities of electronic instruments.

Givelet’s first completed electronic instrument, the monophonic keyboard ...

Article

Hugh Davies

(d France, 1927). French researcher into electronic sound systems and inventor of an early electronic organ, the photoelectric Hugoniot organ. From the end of World War I Hugoniot systematically explored and improved on all the electronic sound-generating and -recording methods known at the time, starting in 1919 with the rotating electromagnetic tone-wheels pioneered in the Telharmonium and known in France from Cahill’s patents, and continuing with electromagnetic steel discs. He also tried out audio and beat-frequency oscillators. The only instrument that he appears to have completed was a photoelectric organ (1921), in which rotating tone-wheels with concentric rings of radial slits interrupted beams of light (there were presumably 12 discs, each producing all the octave registers of a single note); behind the wheels were shaped timbre masks that modified the light beams before they reached photoelectric cells.

Through his patents Hugoniot influenced the design of several electronic instruments developed in France in the late 1920s, including the ondes martenot (...

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

Sarah Deters Richardson

(b Queens, NY, 1948). American manufacturer of digital synthesizers, computer scientist, author, and inventor. In 1965, he built a computer that composed original melodies using pattern recognition; it analyzed patterns in musical compositions and then created original melodies based on these patterns. This invention won him First Prize at the International Science Fair and national attention. He founded Kurzweil Computer Products in 1974. The company created the first omni-font (any font) Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology, the first CCD flat-bed scanner, and the first full text-to-speech synthesizer. The three technologies were combined to create the Kurzweil Reading Machine, which was announced on 13 January 1976. This led to a collaboration with the musician Stevie Wonder, who purchased the first production unit. On 1 July 1982, Kurzweil founded Kurzweil Music Systems, with Wonder as musical advisor. The company set out to invent electronic instruments that could capture and recreate the true sounds and musical responses of acoustic musical instruments. Kurzweil created the K250 keyboard synthesizer (originally designed in late ...

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

Hugh Davies

(b Cropsey, IL, Jan 9, 1886; d Chicago, IL, Sept 14, 1943). American musician and pioneer in the development of the electric guitar. He studied music at Oberlin College and for several years performed professionally on string instruments under management of the Chicago Musical Bureau. From 1911, while performing and composing for the Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Manufacturing Co. of Kalamazoo, Michigan, he developed ideas for improving and diversifying mandolin construction. After post-World War I musical studies in Paris he returned to Chicago, where he resumed work for Gibson (as a designer and acoustical engineer from 1919) and in 1921 received a master’s degree in theory and composition from the American Conservatory of Music. Later, Loar taught acoustics at Northwestern University for 13 years and published a number of method books and musical arrangements.

Having failed to convince Gibson of the potential success of an electric guitar based on an electrostatic pickup that he had developed 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

Hugh Davies

( 1910–95). French radio engineer and designer of electronic instruments. In Versailles in 1932 he began the research that culminated in 1943 with his first electronic organ, exploring nearly ten methods of sound production. In 1936, in collaboration with the harmonium manufacturer P. Petitqueux, he developed the Mutatone, an electro-acoustic harmonium that used electrostatic pickups to amplify the vibrations of the free reeds; it was demonstrated at St Odile, Paris, in 1939. In 1937 he produced an electric carillon.

After World War II a range of small one- and two-manual electronic organs was manufactured under licence from Martin as ‘Orgues Constant Martin’ (1945–9), including the popular Organium, which has a single splittable manual (the point at which the split occurs can be varied by a selector switch within the range of a minor 3rd). As with all of Martin’s instruments, the sounds are generated by an oscillator for each note. About ...