The $30,000 Synth and the Virtual Girl


Hatsune Miku, the not-real pop star

The music world is gearing up for the annual music equipment trade show NAMM in Anaheim, California, which opens later today. There are more synthesiser manufacturers exhibiting this year than there have been for many years, reinforcing the rise in popularity among electronic music, particularly made with hardware synths. And Yamaha, in the their 40th year of synth production (the company started in 1897, making pianos and organs), are pulling some rank by taking a room to exhibit some classics from their back catalogue, including the SY1, the CS30 and the monster DX1.


The Yamaha SY1, hmmm, organy…

Yamaha’s first synth was the SY1, launched in 1974. You got a whole stack of presets and the ability to tweak a little, but essentially it was intended to play solo lines for organ players. We doubt they had any inkling back then that 20 years later Yamaha would put out the VP1, the ultra-rare (three made?) acoustic modelling synth which cost an absolute mint – that’ll be 30,000 1994 dollars to you guv’nor. And only 10 years later Yamaha came up with Vocaloid, the singing synthesiser, which would result in the world’s first virtual pop star, Hatsune Miku, which uses the Vocaloid software to create her voice, and allows fans to write material for her, which many do, and share on YouTube and even submit to the company who invented her in the hope that she will perform the songs at one of her many slightly terrifying concerts.

yamaha vp1

$30,000 to you, sir.

Along the way Yamaha also briefly owned a majority share of Korg (51% between 1987 and 1993) and also bought Sequential Circuits in 1988.

What have they got in the blocks for 2015, we wonder?

Below is Hatsune Miku performing on the David Letterman Show late last year, so you can experience the full dizzying weirdness for yourself.