This is probably the final setup. All by Nord.
Clavia Nord is a Swedish company, renowned for intuitive and high quality instruments. The Electro was my first, convincing me the way they provided hands-on controls was the easiest way to master the art of keyboards.
There are basically three kinds of keys:
The original: Weighted piano keys, giving you the feel of the mechanics needed for fingers to transmit their intention to the piano strings.
Semi-weighted, as in organs like B3: Easier to play fast.
Synth keys: (Almost) no weight and immediate response.
After acquiring the Electro put the organ right in the middle, the next step was exchanging the microsynths for the Lead, which in turn was replaced with a Nord Wave, as I wished for the option of samples as well as making sounds from scratch. Financial concerns and modesty prevented me from getting the latest versions that would probably triple or quadruple the costs. These are not budget instruments.
The Piano 2 emerged on the Norwegian trade site finn.no and is one of the few purchases from that one. Conor the seller sent me some excellent examples of Mellotron and other sounds, and I scrambled for my payment options. Thanks, Conor!
So, here are all three. The foundation is the Nord Piano 2, featuring a serious grand piano, upright and electrics, and various piano-related instruments like Clavinet and harpsichord. Along with these there is a Sample Synth section that provides everything from single violin to full orchestra, including accordion, vibes and reeds along the way.
In the middle is the Nord Electro, which could be set to the Hammond B3 section and never changed. However, the Clavinet is too good to miss out on.
Top is the Nord Wave, giving classic synth sounds as well as sampled leads. Downloading is easy and is an ongoing process in search of great sounds.
The first attempts
Arturia MicroBrute and microKorg, above the Korg SP-200
Keyboard Two, 2021.
Top: Nord Lead
Middle: Nord Electro 2
Bottom: Korg SP200 with MicroBrute
microKorg synthesizer 2003 (2003-2022)
Digital synthesizer/vocoder with a variety of very tweakable and storable presets.
KORG (named after founders Kato and Osanai, with added RG from the word oRGan) has been in the innovation forefront since 1962. The microKorg was launched in 2002 and is still in production in 2020. It is very compact; bigger fingers would be a real challenge.
I did not want (or need) an eighties rhythm unit or flashing keys; I wanted to control sounds. A MiniMoog was out of reach, so I chanced ordering this by phone. The photo in the catalogue did not have any fingers shown for size comparison, so I was slightly surprised when I unwrapped the toy-sized contraption. But a toy, soundwise, it is not. From traditional organ to fuzzy synths, this thing can emulate. Played on a number of songs post-(42), but as the Erik Hofsten Band was in the making, I purchased a stage piano.
The microKorg has now departed for a new home.
Korg SP200 Stagepiano (2005)
88-key digital piano with banks of 30 sounds.
I liked the sounds from the microKorg, so the search for a piano with weighted keys combined with various organ, string and pad sounds, took me to a Norwegian web shop.
Played experimentally by me in the studio, and near professionally by Erling Laland with the EH Band/EH Trio. I still can’t get over the headline in local paper KV after the Trio gig at a local club in 2005, billed as the Erik Hofsten Trio, presenting Erik Hofsten’s handwritten music: «The mayor entertaining at Amadeus». So much for fame.
In spring 2022 an upgrade put the SP-200 up for sale. It left its first home in December; thanks for providing.
Arturia MicroBrute (2016)
Mixable sawtooth, pulse and triangle waveforms, sub-oscillator, multimode filter, a super-fast envelope, a syncable LFO, sequencer, and a patchable matrix.
Again, back to the analogue way of thinking and sounding. No presets here, just the basic way of monophonic sound synthesis from the tone generators and LFO to be tweaked and modified until (with closed eyes and without swollen fingers) you are quite close to Minimoog territory. Fascinating how the parameters affecting the sound become clear by twisting the dedicated knobs, and there is a lot to be learned about sound and effects that helps me understand the signal chain from guitar to board as well. I had this synth riff in my head, totally impossible to play, but the sequencer enabled me to play it slowly in a practical key (I am fluent in c minor pentatonic), save it and play it back in any key or any speed.
At the start of 2023 this one, too, has departed.
Nord Electro 2 Sixty-One (2021)
The simple description is organ and piano. The complex manual will exhaust your printer: Classic B3 sounds (including Leslie) from the virtual drawbars; various pianos and an amazing Clavinet to be pulled from the very logical controls to the right. The Wurlitzer, too, is very convincing. But the organ is what really draws me (pun on drawbars) to spend flowing ethereal amounts of time with this one.
Nord Lead 1996 (2021-2023)
Virtual analog synthesizer, it says. Comes with a number of presets, and also has the ability to create sounds from scratch.
Matching the Electro, the Lead provides great synth sounds with more finger-friendly keys than both the microKorg and the MicroBrute. Combining the basic synth modules from the Brute with the ability to store and the polyphony of the Korg, this is a natural step up.
Not long after I went yet another step up and replaced the Lead with the Wave.
The first instrument I started to learn was the piano. It’s time to proceed further:
Nord Piano 2 (2022)
88 fully weighted keys. Main features are Piano, and Sample Synth, allowing a choice between almost anything piano-based including electric in all variations on the whole keyboard, or sampled sounds ranging from boys’ voices to church organs on all eighty-eight, or a split keyboard featuring a full orchestra to the left while the right hand plays solo piano stuff. Or both at the same time, like having a harpsichord playing the melody with the woodwind section providing swells.
The Nord Libraries offer countless sounds available for download, and I spent a couple of pleasant evenings testing Mellotrons and Chamberlins, string quartets and female choirs, to put together a number of single or combined sound palettes. There is an intuitive feel to both the download options and the receiving workstation that makes the search for sound a pure joy. Making up for limitations in performing. Let’s practice!
I was quick to purchase the three pedal set; don’t skip that.
Nord Wave Synthesizer (2022)
49 keys. All the features from the Lead and then some in the subtraction synth section, and this one will also download sample sounds from the extensive Nord collection of sounds. They even own the rights to the famed Mellotron library. One, both, layer or morph; I’ll need more than a half day off to even understand the technicalities. And then I’ll start twisting knobs.
Off to the odd ones out at step 13.