Elbow’s Keyboard and Organ Sounds…The Korg SV-1
It’s time for another look at the tools that the 2011 Mercury Prize nominees use to create their signature sounds. And as this week is ‘Manchester Loves You’ week, courtesy of Manchester City Council, it seems only fitting that the band to be examined this time should be Elbow.
Formed in 1990 in Bury, Greater Manchester (originally under the guise Mr. Soft), Elbow’s journey has been something of a rollercoaster. Record label problems, including being dropped from Island records before their debut was released, lack of promotion despite every release being met with huge critical acclaim, and many more obstacles have hindered the band. When the band won the Mercury Prize in 2008 (the second time the band had been nominated), the ‘against-all-odds’ euphoria was palpable, and provided recognition of the band’s ample talents. That they are now nominated again for current (critically acclaimed, of course) album ‘Build a Rocket, Boys!’ comes as no surprise. It is another truly great album.
So how could you define Elbow’s sound? It isn’t something that is easily summarised. At once epic and intimate, expansive and focussed, Elbow are experimentalists who embrace their influences to their own ends. Singer, Guy Garvey one famously, and appropriately described the bands direction as ‘prog without the solos’. An aspect of the band’s sound that does, perhaps, set them apart from their contemporaries is their extensive use of organ, electric piano, synth and indeed, any keyboard based sounds. Provided by Keys player, and producer of both The Seldom Seen kid and Build a Rocket, Boys! Craig Potter, they play a huge part, providing the ‘epic-ness’ of the band’s sound.
The Keyboard that Craig has recently adopted as his ‘tool of choice’, both in the studio and live, is the Korg SV-1, sometimes referred to as the ‘Stage Vintage’. Designed primarily to provide classic, vintage electric piano, and organ sounds, this instrument also features acoustic piano sounds, strings and a selection of synth sounds, making it a superb one-stop solution for many players. The sounds the unit provides are universally stunning, with authentically vintage sounding Rhodes and Wurlitzer pianos, Hammond style organs and Clavs married to appropriately chosen effects. The built-in valve preamp allows for real, tube grit to be added to taste, and innumerable modulation effects provide huge scope for sound creation. And if detailed editing is required, this can be done with the included editor/ librarian software, and by connecting the unit to a computer with a USB cable.
And, unlike many instruments of this type, the Korg SV-1 does not feature baffling arrays of menus and ‘shift’ buttons. Every function is accessible via a dedicated control on the front panel, which is styled in a manner befitting the ‘retro’ nature of the SV-1, such that a complete novice can navigate their way around the machine in seconds. Two versions of the Korg SV-1 are available, each with Korg’s RH3 graded piano key action; a 73 note version (£1499.99) and an 88 note version (£1599.00). The 73-note is short enough to fit across the back seat of most cars, which makes it the ideal gigging instrument for many players.
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