Nigel Hopkins My Space

 

 

Keyboards Use and owned at some point in my career

Bentley upright piano

Jen Commander Organ
My parents bought this for me as I wanted to get into bands, at the age of 13. I was so impressed to learn Keith Emerson used to rock his Hammond L100 and make the reverb springs rattle by dropping it down on its base. I tried it myself with the Jen commander. Unfortunately my mum caught me in the act whilst holding it up on one corner…..GROUNDED

Hohner Pianet T

My very first Electric piano. It used suckers to pluck the strings for each key. The beauty of having your own gear is that you can gig and play just about anywhere, if you have transport that is! Because it has pick ups (not unlike a guitar) I used to take the top off it and crank up the amp, turn the pianet towards the amp and hey! presto….FEEDBACK….
It was limited because of the lack of sustain pedal.

Elka Rhapsody 410 string machine

It was brutally, unashamedly the most awful sounding string machine there could have been….But I loved it and coupled with an Electro harmonix small stone phaser, it was instant 80’s. I sprayed it purple and had a button fitted to remove the chorus/vibrato. Shame It didn’t remove the keyboard altogether.

Multivox Synthesiser

Multivox were a company subsidiary to SOLOVOX I think. This was a joy to use live as it was preset and had 2 oscillators. It was based on the Roland SH2000, but had the great facility of filter cut off and resonance. It had an accident at one point and lost some of the presets buttons therefore rendering it useless. and fit for the skip. Surprisingly, that’s where it ended up.

ARP Omni mkII strings synthersiser

ARP Omni 2 Image
This was a leap forward with my gear. I dreamed of owning an ARP. I couldn’t afford the Yamaha CS60 so this was the best I could do. It was the closest thing to real strings you could get at the time. Also, it had a very basic 1 oscillator per voice polyphonic synthesiser section. It was so basic, it was thinner than you can imagine. It’s potential flaws were the fact that it had protruding keys which when bashed would fly off in various directions and also the triggers for each key were small wires, similar size to that of solder….They broke with such regularity that at one point, I didn’t have any E’s or B’s on the whole 4 octave keyboard. Just to say that can be a bonus if the sound of the keyboard is appalling. It was given the boot when I couldn’t get it serviced because ARP didn’t have anyone in the UK to repair their equipment.

Moog Multi moog synthesiser

Multimoog Image
This was it, my very first Moog. Moog were taken over by Norlin and Bob had nothing to do with this keyboard. I didn’t know at the time. To be honest, this machine was a fantastic sounding keyboard. 2 Oscillators and a Sub octave coupled with the best Cross modulation made it a desirable offering.  It broke down continually though as its heat sensors would pack in, the machine would overheat resulting in Oscillator 1 dying through the temperatures it soared to. It had aftertouch which was very much a bonus for mono synths. Its ribbon pitch control was great too. Sadly I let it go very cheaply and its last appearance was on a live show with Bonnie Tyler. It was used for the Big Crash in “Total eclipse of the heart”.

Moog Mini moog Model D circa 1978
Minimoog Image

There isn’t much that can’t be said about the Minimoogs. Mine was aquired after a much deliberated financial battle in a music shop. One thing that was wrong with it was that every now and then, as you played, it threw a wobbly and would send the pitch of the note towards the heavens and back down again, in the space of 2 seconds.
I had an unfortunate event with mine though. I though I could tune it, just before a gig AND without the proper charts and directions. Needless to say, it took hours to get anywhere close to its original tuning. I loved it, but it didn’t like me as much. There is no substitute for this
beast and when you cranked it up through the PA system, it sang like a bird……albeit a rather unpredictable one.

Fender Rhodes Stage Piano 73 markII


Everyone who was into Fusion and Jazz rock has dreamed of owning a Fender Rhodes. It was a great day for me buying this Rhodes, but I was dubious about purchasing the MkI because it was rounded top and I lost my Multivox synthesiser at a gig when I borrowed a friends mkI. It meant getting the mkII with the flat top. It was used with a few different chorus/phaser pedals including an Electro harmonix Big stone phaser, a Boss Chorus pedal and a Roland Dimension D. It sounded better amped than DI’d and had a lovely action. Only some years later did I realise the MkI’s sounded better and I eventually let it go to a good home.

 

Moog Polymoog Keyboard
Moog Polymoog Keyboard

This was with me very briefly and I had to part with it because of its ability to shut down during a gig.
It wasn’t the polymoog synthesiser and therefore not that greater flexibility. The presets were poor. The Brass sounded marginally better than the Omni and yet the strings weren’t as lush.
It had a flat top though!- to put another keyboard on.

Korg Polysix Synthesiser
Korg PolySix Image

The First real programmable keyboard for me. 32 Patches and the ability to have my sounds at the touch of a button. Previously you had to get your Moog sounds by changing the knobs and buttons during the gaps in the songs. The Polysix was my friend for many years to come. It had a lovely warm sound. In theory, this was a poor mans Prophet 5, but it had one more voice…..6 note polyphony in total…..
These days, that would be sniffed at. It was and still is quite a good polysynth.

Solina String Ensemble

Well I hated this machine. Everytime it was placed on top of my Fender Rhodes, it managed to create a hum which could only be removed by placing blocks about 3 inches high ontop of the Rhodes to sit the Solina on. I remember seeing Don Airey use one with Coliseum II and I thought it was cool. Cold more like. It’s only plus point was that it was solidly built and had a nice wood finish.

Yamaha DX7 FM Synthesiser and TX416

These were confusing machines to program. Algorithms, Tables, Structures?
But as soon as I got hold of the DX, I was programming like crazy. I managed to change every single preset as I had factory presets. The DX’s became the main electric piano sound of most of the mid 80’s tracks. The poor Fender Rhodes was being sold in droves and you couldn’t give one away. Sadly as with all keyboards, the DX’s and TX’s were forced out by the new collection of workstations and can be bought for next to nothing. Yamaha tried to revive the DX with the FS1r and Native instruments have the FM8 plugin. I still have my TX416 which is 4 DX’s in a rack.

Yamaha QX1 8 track 80,000 note sequencer

I was totally opposed to sampling and sequencing. REAL PLAYERS DO NOT SEQUENCE.
Unfortunately our bass player decided to leave us a month before Christmas and that meant we had to find someone else. As I knew the bass parts, our drummer suggested either we got the sequencer and a module for the bass parts OR we simply didn’t work over Christmas. It was a tough choice….do I stick to my guns and deny the band members of money for Christmas.? I chose the QX1 and a Yamaha DX21. The QX1 was reduced to £2000. That was a lot of money for any machine, let alone one that put musicians out of work.
I still have it, along with another one that I bought for £25!!! Yes, I kid you not…..It’s worth sweet FA now.

Akai S900 Sampler

This was possibly the most ground breaking machine I ever had owned up to that point. 11 seconds of 12 bit mono sampling.…..but you could sample your voice, a drum, farts, burps…..just about anything you heard.
I spent hours with friends swapping samples and tales of how to get better quality and more samples into the machine. I remember using it live. Having to load samples in during the gaps in the songs. All samples were stored on 3 ½ inch floppies which always seem to get damaged. It is still with me, still working and still looking great.

Yamaha KX88 Controller

I love this machine. It doesn’t make a sound, but it plays beautifully. I took it on tour with Chris de Burgh in Autumn ’06. It was used to control all the strings on midi channel 1 and choirs and Brass on midi channel 2. Chris managed to break quite a few keys one night whilst ending the show. He goes around everyone’s instruments and plays them. He brought his elbows down on the KX and the following day I noticed certain keys were broken. It’s my favourite controller. Sadly its action and scanning is getting a little wrecked. After all it is 21 years old…the keys to the door-of my rig.

Korg M1 Workstation

Korg M1 Image

 

This was such a beast of a machine. It had the best piano sound I’d heard-ever, real brass, choirs, strings were a bit iffy, the panpipe? Ah! Yes, that ridiculous panpipe patch. It also had a sequencer and it was amazing in a live situation. Just press the button and off you go. I still have it at home (actually in my attic) and yet! It has got such a stigma attached to it. I guess because like the DX7, this keyboard was over used. Every bloody dance tune had a compressed M1 piano and the acoustic guitar sound was used just as much. I don’t think Korg ever really got their act together after this one.

Roland U220 Module

This was my first brush with Roland products and the start of a gleaming relationship which continues to this day. I bought it because I wanted better strings, brass and pianos. It gave me much more. For a start it was easier to dial up a great string sound with this than any other machine I had and it helped me get my head around orchestrating tracks. I bought the French Horn and Timpani card along with the saxophones. The Horns sounded superb. I think I overdone it a bit for a while with them.

Roland JD800 Synthesiser

Roland JD-800 Image
Well to be honest, this baby is still my first love of Roland gear and will always be. I saw ELP at the Royal Albert Hall and Emerson had two JD800s. I wanted just the one. I bought it and then started programming. I loved the fact it sounded big, and yet! You could get the smallest pads out of it. Its lead sounds cut through the mix and if you wanted synth brass, this was your machine. It is a favourite in my keyboard rig and everybody loves this beautiful 90’s creation.

 

EMU Vintage Keys module

This had Hammonds, Mellotrons, Clavinets, Rhodes, Wurlitzer’s, CP80s and many more vintage instruments coming out of its 1unit rack module. I loved its sound. I let it go in the end because I had too many synths that copied this. Besides, I bought into the EMU E6400 samplers later which provided all the sounds on CDrom.

Roland JV1080 Module

Roland JV-1080 Image
This was the first time I had a machine that I could do a whole album with and I think at some point, I did almost that. I bought 4 SRJV boards to go in it (Orchestral, Bass and Drums, World and Pianos). This enabled me to experiment with orchestral instruments. It is still in my rack today and comes out on tour with me. Probably the singularly most impressive machine Roland built for all genres of music. I think it must have been its biggest seller.

EMU 6400 Sampler

I bought this and it changed everything for me. I upgraded to 128mb memory, bought the planet phatt board to go inside (which gives you loads of dance sounds), a CD Rom drive, an Iomega zip 250 drive and hoards of CD roms. This Sampler had great filters and it was capable of top quality sampling. I put a SCSI drive in it and it has become a permanent member of my rack. So much so, that I bought another 4 E6400 Ultras and they form an important part of my keyboard rig.

Roland JP8000 analog modelling synthesiser

Roland JP-8000 Image

I had the first one in the country on loan from Roland UK and was asked to put some demos together for this baby along with some presets. At the time it instantly became the first choice for synth bass and LFO pads and sequences. I love it to bits. I used to take it on the road all the time, but for the Chris de Burgh tour, it stayed at home to keep the rest of the gear company. I spent a lot of time programming it to recreate Moog synth sounds. It got close, but once you put it alongside a Moog, you realise how far away you are from it.

Roland XV5080 Module

Roland XV-5080 Image
This lovely module became the most important rack unit of my setup. I bought the SRX piano board along with the Symphonic strings, Dance and session boards. This machine is amazing and I prefer it over any module I have. It sits TOP place in my rack and if I need any one unit to take out, this will be it every time.
I can honestly say, it was the best thing Roland brought to the table in years. It superseded the 1080/2080 and spurned a whole load of Roland modules…..5080, 3080, 5050………….a true giant among modules.

Novation Supernova IIr

This was bought because I loved its raw edge sounds. Once again, an analog modelling machine that had a great bunch of features including an arpeggiator, vocoder and some nifty effects. Also with the audio input, you could treat loops, guitars, vocals with the effects and filters.

Novation KS5 Keyboard

This is a keyboard that I rate highly for hands on programming. It’s great for pop, rock, prog, dance, but lacks strings (if that’s what you want from a synth).
I use it with Chris de Burgh to run sequences and also recreate the old Synclavier and keyboard sounds of his 80’s period.

Wurlitzer EP200a electric piano

I bought this from EMBRACE. They had lost their deal and were selling off gear. I bought it off Mick as he’d advertised on ebay. It’s a gorgeous machine and I think it has its own sound that can’t be sampled or recreated on anything. It hums and buzzes, squeaks and farts, but it’s unique. I recently met Roger Hodgson from Supertramp and we spent an hour in Berlin airport discussing the EP200a and how they got their sound by putting it through a Roland JC120. They used to blow them up after every tour. How crazy is that

Moog Voyager Anniversary Model

  

I decided to get another Moog. I’d tried the Voyager in Turnkey in London and told Tony, my best mate that I was going to get one. I flew into Asheville, North Carolina to the Moog factory to pick it up. I wanted one that I could actually see being built and with the Moog logo on it. If you bought it in the UK, it would be without the Moog logo as there was a name patent issue between Moog and a Welsh company that bought the name years ago. So when I was there, Bob came into work and I asked him for a photo and to sign my new voyager. He was wonderful and very humble. By visiting Mike Adams (the President of Moog), I forged a great relationship with the company and am now a Moog artist. I program and advise on various projects for the company.

Roland Fantom X8

This is a great workstation and is capable of fantastic sounds. I spent a day programming loads of pads for it and found that coupled with the aftertouch, D beam and controllers, you could be so animated with the sounds. The pianos are really cool and if you spend a little time with this machine, you can achieve some amazing  results. It’s the main part of my set up and it has a great action.

 

Moog Little Phatty


I decided to get one because I’d been on the team of advisors for the design and testing of the LP.
It’s not the greatest name, but it’s an amazing little machine. It has 100 presets and is full of Moog goodness. The bass patches are simply earth shattering. I managed to get number 300 of the tribute edition.
If Bob was alive today, he would have been proud of the team’s creation.

Moog Voyager Select Series Voyager

I decided to go back to Asheville to buy another Voyager. This time, I wanted the backlighting to be in the colours of the Welsh Flag. It’s a one off and it has taken its place in my studio alongside its big and little brothers. Whilst there, Amos Gaynes who is a technician at Moog modified both my Anniversary and select models so that they now have filter glide. The Moog team have become friends as well as colleagues.
I guess I am now looking at Voyager 3, but I need more space in the studio.

 

Other synths and keyboards

Korg Lambda
Fender Rhodes stage 73 mk1
Roland A30 controller
Yamaha DX21 FM Synthesiser
Yamaha TX81Z module
Roland SH32
Roland RD600
Yamaha RM50 Drum module
Hammond M102
Hammond C3
Novation Supernova IIr
Moog Etherwave Theremin
Another Yamaha KX88 controller
Stylophone (yes! I still have it)