Electro Tools of the Trade – Korg ES-50

Korg ES-50

In the early 90s, I acquired a Korg ES-50 and a Rhodes piano for $50. Yes, fifty dollars. The Rhodes went into storage for a long time at my grandma’s house, and eventually had to be sold. It was just too large, and needed to0 much work. The ES-50, however, remained with me during the formative years of 4-track cassette recording during highschool and early college.

The ES-50 is a pre-MIDI analog synth. It’s on the large side, half of it looking more like a piece of furniture than an instrument. My unit was a bit strange because not all of the keys worked on all of the sounds. I also questioned the tuning on the oscillators, but that was part of what gave it character.

As I’ve gone back through my archives for material to play on Signals with Shivasongster, it is fun to see how the instrument was used, and compare it to how I do things today. One of my favorite techniques with the ES-50 was to run it through a Bass Crybaby. Listening to those sounds now, after all of the digital recording an sampling I’ve been exposed to, they still hold up. Just a sign that you do not need the latest gear, and you can do a lot with something simple. Perhaps one day I will remaster those old recordings for release. They are that good.

My ES-50 remained with me during a number of moves, and eventually ended up in storage (carefully enrobed in plastic shrink wrap) as my musical direction and studio space changed. Even after I acquired a schematic, I couldn’t find anyone to work on it. A few years ago I decided it just wasn’t worth holding onto because I had no room for it. I had also become spoiled with programs like Reason, which have thousands of sounds to explore. When I posted a picture on my website, someone from NY drove down to pick it up for dirt cheap. I didn’t even need to use eBay. I was just happy to see it get a home where it could be appreciated.

After digging up my old recordings, I do have a sense of nostalgia for those sounds. Being part of the electro community now, it would be fun to work with such a device again. So if anyone reading this knows where I can get a soft-synth or emulator, please contact me. I still don’t have the space, but ah… those sounds!!

Blast from the past!

By jjdeprisco

Sonic explorer, sound artist, guitarist in Fricknadorable, software designer.