Show 193 – That 70’s keyboard show

This week we have Nick Peck and Randy Coppinger chatting with us about classic electro-mechanical keyboards (Hammond organ, Clavinet, Fender Rhodes piano, and Wurlitzer).

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30 thoughts on “Show 193 – That 70’s keyboard show

  1. Thanks for answering the question on pan laws. That made sense. I wanted to share something that I recently learnt while programming drums. I can’t stand the Rockband/Guitar Hero stuff but what I learnt is that you can actually use the drum kit that comes with these sets and use it just like electronic drums. So i got myself a used Rockband drum kit for $20 on craigslist. I hooked it up to my computer and played some midi drums in reaper. It’s also velocity sensitive so it works out well. The below link has step by step instructions on how to get it to work. I also purchased an extra set of cymbals to go with it. Even though I am a guitar player and can’t really play much drums but this has helped me to practice drums without spending $500 on an acoustic/electronic drum kit. And instead of programming drum parts, I play a basic rhythm using this and then add fills manually. Makes it sound more realistic and also has improved my drumming skills. Helps me think more like a drummer, as well. Just wanted to share this info in case it’s useful to anyone. Here’s the link:

    • Puneet,

      Sounds pretty cool and something I might try. I’m restricted in my apartment to use real drums and I’m too broke to afford an actual electric kit. My question is whether or not I should look for a specific console type (PS3, XBOX etc) Rockband kit or if any will do. Also, how are you connecting it to your computer/DAW? I’m using ProTools 8 or Reaper 4.31 on a Windows machine. Thanks.


      • Dave,

        I have a PS3 so I know for sure that it works. Also I have heard that PS3 works out better because you get the USB dongle with the Rockband drums which lets you connect it to the computer wirelessly. I am not sure but I have heard that the Xbox one doesn’t come with a USB dongle (just how the design is) but I could be totally wrong.

        Once the USB dongle is connected to the computer (I have a PC), it will show up as an input for the rb2midi software.

        Hope this helps! Let me know if you have more questions.


  2. GSAA. Loved the cool 70s keyboards feature. What it showed as much as anything is to get those instruments to shine you really have to be able to play! You can’t sit for 3 hours trying to get 8 miserable bars of piano to sound OK in your midi sequencer with them. As Rick said, those guys were amazing players as well as having cool gear. His album sounded cool and I’ll be investigating it further.
    PS KUTGW = Keep up the good work!

  3. Hi guys,

    One more thought on pan law usage – that’s mostly in use during tv and film mixing since you’re *always* panning things around in the stereo field. The protools default is actually -2.5 if I remember correctly.

    The reason a mixer’s pan law exists in the first place is so that you can make a move from left to right without hearing the signal rise in level. If the pan law is set to zero and you pan something from hard left to hard right, it’ll show up as a volume ramp up from zero at far left to +3db at the center point, then back to zero at far right. The pan law compensate for that.

    I think with regards to the old analog desks the norm for API and Neve consoles is -3dB down at center, SSL is -4.5 dB down at center.

  4. GSAA,
    Cool show with very cool music ! Everyone who loves the sound of this great keyboards of the 70s should check out his site.
    As far as plugins are concerned i can recomend the native-Instruments vintage keys containing a Rhodes, a Wurlitzer and a Hohner Clavinet, sampled very well with nice dynamics and additional effects. If you want to customize your sound than the Lounge Lizard , or if you are an ableton user “Electric” is good choice. With These plugins you can build your own electric piano based on virtual modelling synthesis.
    If you want a free clavinet than “ticky clav” can be a good starting point.
    The autopsy shows were awesome ! So Jon, do you wear a sorcerers hat when yo do a magic mix ? Or do you mix in underwear as Ryan said ?

    Be nice to the chicken !

  5. Excellent show. I’d be interested in hearing what you guys do when you have keyboards in a mix, because they can occupy the same sonic space as bass, guitars, and vocals. I like to roll off some bass so that the left hand on a piano part can be heard but doesn’t step on the bass. Your thoughts?

    PS – Your show has really inspired me to do more home recording. I recently purchased a new set of AKG headphones and a new Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 and I love them both. So thanks for doing what you do. One question – I love the remixes Jon has done. Would you guys ever consider doing a review of a listener’s mix? It would be great to hear what you liked and didn’t like in a mix. You wouldn’t need to play the whole song in the podcast, just enough to get the idea.

  6. GSAA

    Pan law!? WTF… When i heard this i got that sinking feeling in my stomach like when your old lady says “we need to talk”. I thought, ‘this sounds like some important stuff that i am completely oblivious to’. Luckily it has not been an issue so far but i am glad to be a little more knowledgeable about it. 🙂

    The segment on the key boards was great. When i was studying sound synthesis using max/msp one of the things i covered was instrument emulation so i really dig knowing about the electro-mechanical aspects which are the roots of the different keyboard types.

    Imma go all martha stewart on yall for a sec here… Have you guys done anything cute or interesting with captured sounds your children make? I have some cool tracks of the feta heart beat monitor and have been tracking some of the adorable coos etc. I am looking to put these into some sort of format aside from just being a sound file on my computer.

    my vote for best line in the segment: “where has all the soul gone….Its been quantized”


  7. Hey Guys. Great show as always. A friend of mine is in a 17 piece ukulele band and has asked me to record them live at a local venue. I do live recordings of my band and have a learned a lot in the process. That being said I still have tons of learning and have never recorded something like this. I am doing this for free so they are not expecting the greatest but of course I want to my best. Can you guys provide me any tips that will help me get a good live recording of this ensemble. I am working with logic, and mackie onyx. Thanks for a great show.

  8. Well guys this Home Studio stuff for me might be coming to an end unless yall have a different idea or perspective. I may have to find another hobby (even though I have been a professional military musician for 20 years) Why you ask? : ) Im sick of the upgrade-itis that these companies have. No matter what you buy its obsolete within 2 years. Its a never ending stream of outgoing money. Its not only the DAW companies that hock software that marginally works (they dont care because they will sale you on the upgrade) its the OS manufactures as well.. I started in this game back in 2001. I have watched the good and bad of it and bought all kinds of things, just to see them not work as promoted, or, have to wait for the upgrades that cost even more money (Protools) So my question is.. Is there a way to record and put out music in a way that can keep you “relatively” safe from upgrade traps? Maybe harddisk recorders? or even renting software? Any ideas?

    • sorry, before the diatribe sound man dong swinging party below starts I would like to add one thing about Motorized faders. No the Presonus does not have motorized faders (MF). Yes, MFs are cool but they can also be a nightmare. I work on mostly Yamaha consoles. I started with the 02r96 and have moved through all of them over the years. I am currently using the PM5D, M7CL on a daily basis. MANY times I have hit that damn recall button just to be confronted with feedback or some weird ass anomaly like a mix didnt return to its positions ect. One thing to keep in mind is that when recalling its not recalling head amp gain and it NEVER recalls the guitar amps setting or placement and as much as I have tried to make it do this. I tried to recall the vocalist that actually sang into the mic (someday) I have gotten to the point where I dont dare recall a scene unless I just made it and its the same show.
      The studiolive got around this . It presents you with an led and you move the fader until you meet that LED.. it takes literally 15 seconds to recall those faders to a scene (granted, it doesnt save head amp setting either). the cool thing is, you dont get the feedback. How long does it take to recall a scene realize somethings messed up go back through and figure it out. (I have been running sound for many years and the 2 things that you can guarantee is that 1. shit changes, and 2. You will forget something. anyway word up you guys rock out with your clocks out… were bitches ok now read the comment below and I will get my tissue and small violin

  9. Guys, I have made it a habit of not bothering to point it out for the most part when you let your rather thin skin and perhaps lack of sufficient prep time (more on that later…) cloud your comprehension so much you have once again not only missed my point, you have completely and even falsely misrepresented my comments and my actions.
    Instead of making errant character assassination based on your highly distorted interpretation of my comments, perhaps you should have though about them BEFORE you responded. I mean how foolish does it make you look when you make such ridiculous and completely erroneous statements like I disagree with you guys every time, I never agree with you, I hate what you do, and I was the only one that made any comments like mine when:
    1. in the very beginning I stated I agreed with the mix you did the last time.
    2. I stated I agreed with your initial assessment of regniG’s mix.
    3. Not only did several people say they also liked his version, the very next comment after you read mine and made your petty and again mostly errant ad hominem attack against me, the guy not only agreed with some of my comments, he also agreed there was a point to the whole mixing vs. production thing, which was one of my primary dislikes of Jon’s mix and should have been clear. I never said it was a bad mix, just that I didn’t like the overtly metal nature of the mix. And I didn’t say that regniG’s version was “finished” either. But I also would have mixed it differently, and definitely less metal. That is, as I made clear, my “opinion”.

    Now, as to the vocals, I never said that I thought the were “finished” in the first version or that yours were somehow “wrong”. What I said was the newer lyrics you used, whether the way they were sung and/or recorded, are most determinately not as clearly intelligible as the original version. Each word is very clear and it takes no listening effort to understand them. In Jon’s version, there are huge effects, distance, and distortions that while may they may add “vitality” or whatever, they end up masking the intelligibility of at least some of the lyrics to the point one has to strain at times to hear them correctly. Again, not saying that is wrong or bad, many artists have done similar things and over many decades. Again, I just thought it was too radical a change from the initial “mood” and feel of the song and made it more difficult to understand what are really nice lyrics.

    As to the rest, I agree with you far more than I disagree but generally when I write I am adding something else to the discussion, not critiquing or arguing one way or another. Unfortunately you have rather thin skin for guys who put there stuff on the web for any and all to comment and that has resulted in you frequently completely missing my point and/or misunderstanding my comments resulting in some rather petty and childish responses from you at times. But I certainly don’t hate everything you do or have done and have never made such statements and/or made statements that would lead to that conclusion. Nor is that always the case. Quit taking things so personally!
    Oh, and if I were going to make a more “anal” comment, it would be more like perhaps if you took time to read and think about the comments before YOU READ THEM, not only would you not mispronounce and/or misunderstand as many words, and, you would know where they were going so you didn’t offer a knee jerk response to something before you finished the writers point. And I am not just talking abut my comments, but many you read. After all, if nothing else it is more professional…..

  10. Hi guys. Loving the shows. I’m hoping you can answer a simple question that’s been bugging me.

    Some compressors have controls of Threshold, Ratio, Attack, Release, and Knee.
    Other compressors (especially DBX) have controls of Drive and Density.

    What’s the difference? Is there a sonic difference, or is it simply a different way to do the same thing?


    Ride the turkey! (‘Tis the season.)

    • Drive = is the amount of gain that the DBX is going to ram into the front end of the gain circuitry. The more gain you SHOVE in the face of the dbx the more it will engage the compression. (this is what they call mix into the compressor.

      Density = Release time.. how long do I hold on to this sound that I just told to shut the hell up and how slowly or quickly do I release it.

      Manufactures love to rename things to make their product look cooler then it is. Drive, I guess has its purpose but I cant think of a time that I correlated a sound that I need to turn up (in to the front end) and a compressor. Usually you are slapping compression onto something to tell it to shut the hell up. Maybe a really quiet vocal in a big fat mix i guess.. anyway werd up

  11. Hey guys,
    I have number of mic stands that were given to me years ago and some of them have seen better days. I am looking for some high quality stands that will last for years and I wondered if you guys had any recommendations, or favorite brands when it comes to stands that hold up and function better than others.
    I am a big believer of, If you pay too much for something you may have lost a little of your money, but if you pay too little for something you may have lost all of your money, and typically look at items like this as an investment.


  12. GLFOTA. Great segment on vintage keys! I use MIDI controller keyboards and cannot find a good way to get these sounds in my arsenal. The B3, D6 and Rhodes are exactly the keyboards I struggle with the most using Reason and various VST instruments from my DAW. The organic quality of the originals is completely lost in plugins! I used to have Native Instruments B4, which IMO was the tits, but it is no longer available and I have switched to Mac since then so my Windows version is useless. Since I can’t afford a Nord yet, do you guys recommend any plugins that come close to capturing the right vibe of these classics? I especially can’t find a usable Clavinet to save my life.

  13. I’ve heard quite a few questions over the past few months regarding DI’s and reamp boxes: hopefully this helps clear up some misunderstandings.

    In short, D.I.’s make guitar outputs look like microphone outputs. Guitars are high impedance unbalanced sources, and microphones are balanced low impedance sources. The impedance conversion can be done electronically or via a transformer.
    A typical microphone input on a preamp has in input impedance of around 1Kohms, which would clobber the hell out of a guitar pickup (which likes to see input impedances on the order of 1Mohm, like a tube amp input). The D.I. does the conversion so the gain staging works out.

    Reamp boxes make line level outputs look like guitar outputs. They take a balanced low impedance signal, and convert it to an unbalanced high impedance signal (typically via a transformer, but there are other ways as well). The rub with reamp boxes is that many modern audio interfaces can spit out +4dBu (or north of 3V peak-to-peak), which is too hot for many guitar inputs. So many reamp boxes throw some gain away using various methods (like a step-down transformer).

    So in essence the two boxes are logical inverses of one another.

  14. Cool show! I’m not real big into the keyboard side of things, but there was a lot of good info in this episode.

    On another note, I just started demos and preproduction with a new band last weekend. They are a four piece metal band that sounds a bit too much like a modern goth Metallica. Very basement sounding… I brought my mobile rig and set up 6 mics (two overheads, one kick, one guitar, one bass, and one vocal.) I didn’t even try to make it sound good, let alone worry about phase issues and other technical stuff. I hit record and let them run through 7 or 8 songs. Once all was said and done with the recording, I played some of it back to them. The immediate response was, “Sounds great! How much will it be?” Apparently they didn’t understand that I was just doing demos. Good news for me though, because if they were impressed with that crap, the real recordings will sound golden! Nothing like a good ego boosting, right?

    P.S. Jon, is there any way you can work your Canadian charm and get Master Tracks to do another season? I haven’t found any other shows like it other than Shaking Through, and I could use some recording nerd entertainment!

    Thanks again for a great show!

  15. Hey guys, I’m in the lucky position of having about $1,500 bones to spend on some recording equipment. I’ve got a fairly decent home setup going (good sounding room, good interface, decent instruments), so I can actually use the cash on something fun, like a new mic, or piece of outboard gear. I have my eyes set on the Royer 121 right now (my mic collection is missing a ribbon), but before I pull the trigger, I figured I’d run it by the show to see if there are any ideas worth considering. Thanks!

    • GSAA guys,

      If you really want a ribbon you may considering diy.

      Artur Fisher sells ribbon motors and handwound transformers. I bought mine as a kit (artur had a batch of mic cases that were slightly off and sold them reaaaally cheap together with his ribbon motor and an edcor transformer). Maybe he will do that again some day. If not you might have to go into metalwork to build a case. Still, great mic. worth the effort. My go-to mic for guitar amps (besides SM7). You can find more info here:

      PS: The solderwork is super easy. IIRC it was five solder joints. that’s it. done.

    • Hi Marco,
      IMHO I think it may be time for you to consider what many of the pros are doing and look seriously at a ‘Lunchbox’. The API 500-series chassis costs ~$400 and gives you 6 slots to fill, and if you ask nicely, any dealer will give you 5 blank covers for free. I own several 500-series pre-amps, including Neve 1073LB, API 512c, Millennia HV-35 and Shadow Hills Mono GAMA. Again IMHO I would suggest starting with a Mono GAMA (~$750), as it is like getting 3 preamps for the price of 1. Using discrete mode it is very much like the Millennia, using Nickel output transformer it is very much like the Neve, and although I rarely use the steel output transformer I know some folks like it for hard rock and metal. With the balance of my $1,500 I would look at a mic or 2 from Advanced Audio Microphones in Canada. Dave Thomas designs and imports relatively inexpensive ‘clones’ and ‘hybrids’ of famous vintage mics, and in some cases, his mics sound as good as or better than new versions by the original manufacturers. The CM-47 FET and 87 FET are amazing value. Good recording to you!

  16. Cool show, kids!

    One quick question/segment request: An examination of the theory and decision making process for adding/writing keyboard parts.

    It seems easier (for me) to write a keyboard-heavy song than it would be to write a non-keyboard-heavy song with keyboard parts added. I’ve made a couple efforts to write songs that were guitar/drum/vocals based with keyboard parts as texture/background. The songs always seem to end up being keyboard/drum/vocals songs with guitar textures.

    It would be interesting to see/hear someone talk about the different mental processes they’re going through as they’re deciding how to play a keyboard part (background texture vs. main chording/lead instrument) and the tonal/instrument timbre choices they’re making.

    Great show, y’all (this one and all of ’em)! Thanks for all the time and effort you put in. Thanks to Jon for all the long hours of editing the show. I’ll listen to your asses next week.

    Non-comprehensive list of things to ride more often: input gain on soft clipping plugins and compressors.

    Comprehensive list of things to never ride again: poultry.


  17. Hey guys, longtime fan and listener of the show, and I have really enjoyed the mix dissections – I will try,with my meager talents, to implement as many as possible in the future. For the moment, though, I have an issue. For the most part, when I record, I use MIDI drums (I’ve recently discovered EZDrummer – where have you been all my life, EZDrummer??), but I’m waiting for some new Christmas tone before I get busy recording with them. Anyway, some time last year I wanted to re-record an old song I’d written with an old band 20-odd years ago back in New York. The drummer was an animal, and there was lots of weird-time shit going on and trying to program the MIDI made my head hurt, in much the same way as when I try to work with Unix.
    I reached out to that drummer over Facebook, and he said he had a recording setup, and he’d lay down the track for me once he re-learned it. Well, he did, and he had a nice multi-mic setup on the kit, but he sent me all he was capable of, which was a two track stereo mix of “the drums.”
    How the hell can I make this sound decent without getting an even worse headache? The best I was able to do with my limited patience and knowledge still sounds awash in reverb, even though I don’t think I actually used any. Here’s the track for reference, with the best mix I was capable of at the time:

    Any tips for remixing this to make the drums sound decent? The whole mix (which I admit is neither good nor creative) suffers because of it. I’ve never heard of you guys tackling something this odd, and I wonder how you’d go about it. Thank you!

    Rudolph the red-nosed chicken had a very shiny nose. Must be all the booze.


  18. Ryan,

    Many shows ago you described using an old casette player as a fuzz box, or was it a fizz box? I just came across one of those dinosaurs and want to try to make my own. Can you describe or post a photo of what you soldered to where to make a 1/4″ input?

    For a more advanced and unholy mating of instrument and obsolete technology, check out this frankensteiniean creation:

    Thanks a mill!


  19. Great show on keyboards guys. Here are some links & opinions about keys. Nothing beats the real thing. If you haven’t played the real thing, find one in good condition and get to it. I also believe in the future I will just be using a vst at the beginning of my chain then going out to real guitar effects, pre amps, etc. If you know of a great “in the box” signal chain for keys please let me know. Example that needs to be stated; some people are quick to select a keyboard preset with phaser or whatever and just go, instead of messing with the knobs on a real phaser and mess with the eq to see what you can get. Nord keyboards sound great, but if you don’t have the change look in to the following virtual Synths and keys.

    Rhodes & Wurlitzer -Neo-Soul Keys 3X It comes as a vst/au plugin, kontakt samples, Reason 6 Combinator Refills, or samples for Yamaha motifs.

    Organ- GSI VB3 not saying it’s the best, just another option.

    Keyboard Effects – Vintage Keyboard FX Suite by Over Loud

    Keyboard bass for those who dare Spectrasonics Trilian

    Favorite midi controller company – Studiologic. First time I played on one a few years back, I was sold. Two pieces of gear I don’t hear that much about, The Numa piano and Numa organ.

    Let me stop before I start to list more gear. If you look on YouTube you can find info or samples of all the software and hardware listed.
    Love the show, keep up the good work.

  20. Great show as always! Love the retro keys!

    I agree that there is, and never will be, anything like the original instruments, but there is a trade off.

    I actually own a 1950’s Hammond C2. I “rescued” it from a nursing home that was trying to figure out how to get it in the dumpster. It’s no B3 with a leslie of course but it is still a huge and heavy vintage Hammond that works well and has the foot pedals and original speaker cabinet. The speakers were not cutting it so my brother in law and I fabricated an 1/4″ output with a volume pot out of an Altoid container. Now we run this vintage organ into a Marshall tube amp and can use any number of guitar effects to contour or distort the sound in any way we please. It’s no Leslie but hey, it cost next to nothing.

    This being said, I’m not a strong keys player, I’m a guitarist that is into recording and mixing. It’s unfortunate and I want to be better but I, like most project studio musicians, wish i could do everything but understand time is not on my side.

    So I turn to “in the box” solutions that are easier for a guy like me to manipulate. I’m a DP8 user with MachFive 3 and I find the UVI Mach79 emulation of the classic suitcase Rhodes to sound and play amazing! If you haven’t tried this one yet I highly recommend giving it a listen. I also rewire the Mellotron from the Abby Road Refill for Reason into Digital Performer and have fun using those samples.

    Are these as good as owning the originals, no. But for a one man show, who’s only real interest is creating his own audio art in his limited time they are wonderful and help me open my mind to what I wish to create rather than lamenting about how technology is removing soul from the medium.

  21. Hey guys, just catching up on some older episodes. Episode 193 is ‘Old Home Week’ for me. I started with a Fender Rhodes and later added a Clav D6 and a couple of Roland synths (as I recall, a SH-3A and String Ensemble) After a few years of road work, I replaced the Rhodes and Clav with pristine new ones that I still own. Long after my road days I eventually got a B3 and Leslie that a church had in storage. Owned a Wurly briefly. Never owned a Mellow-Tron 😉 but I don’t think many of us did.
    As a keyboard player, finding those perfect samples or models is the ‘Holy Grail’. None are perfect, and what you get is entirely dependent on approaching the virtual instrument the same way you would approach the original. Yes, input equals output, so having experience on the originals is a wonderful thing, even if it is frequently not practical to use them in studio recording and never practical to use them on live gigs. The virtual vintage keyboards in Kontact player are very good (and do include the Hammond organs), and even the ones that come as part of Logic Audio are perfectly useable in most settings. I frequently ‘re-amp’ them through a transformer or tube preamp (1073 or LA-610) for vibe. From an interface standpoint, I agree with Nick that the Nord have the best keyboard surface and B3 sounds, but for all-around versatility and a huge sound palette I chose the Kurzweil PC3, which is also a killer live board (I have a K8 [88-key weighted] and K7 [76-key semi-weighted]). Cheers!

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