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Farfisa

Farfisa is a manufacturer of electronics based in Italy. The Farfisa brand name is commonly associated with a series of compact electronic organ, and later, a series of multi-timbral synthesizer. At the height of their production Farfisa operated 3 factories to produce instruments, in Ancona in the Marche region of Italy. Farfisa also made radios, televisions, and other electronic items. Today the Farfisa brand mainly produces intercom and video conference systems.

History

Early use in rock and roll

With several compact, easily portable and inexpensive models available, as well as their distinctive sound, Farfisa organs became popular among rock bands and other combo groups during the 1960s.

One of the first rock organists to play and spotlight the Farfisa, was Domingo Samudio, better known as "Sam the Sham," who with his group The Pharaohs, had their first hit "Wooly Bully" in the summer of 1965. In 1966, a Farfisa was prominently heard in "Double Shot (Of My Baby's Love)" as recorded by the South Carolina-based group The Swingin' Medallions.

Many prominent keyboard sounds commonly attributed to the Farfisa were actually from other combo organs such as the Vox Continental -- e.g. ? and the Mysterians on "96 Tears", their best-known work. Rod Argent of The Zombies was pictured using a Farfisa on stage during the band's later years (although it seems the Farfisa never made it onto any Zombies recordings). Likewise, Doug Rhodes of the Music Machine on the mid-60's "Talk Talk" recording by Sean Bonniwell and The Music Machine, is shown playing a Vox in early video, as is the case with the keyboard on "Incense and Peppermints" by Strawberry Alarm Clock. On the recording itself, the shrill high pitched tones towards the end of the song (accompanying the vocal "Sha-La-La" refrain) are more typical of Vox combo organs. The Vox organ sound on Iron Butterfly's "In-a-Gadda-da-Vida" is also sometimes mistakenly attributed to a Farfisa.

Farfisa organs were integral to the sound of Pink Floyd's early albums, from The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (almost all songs) through Dark Side of the Moon (example: Time). Until his death Rick Wright used this organ, for example on David Gilmour's 2006 tour.

John Paul Jones of the Jeff Beck Group and later Led Zeppelin used a Farfisa on "Dancing Days" from Houses of the Holy, as well as occasionally using a VIP-255 or a Professional model on stage. Another famous recording is the 1970 A Tribute to Jack Johnson by Miles Davis where Herbie Hancock plays spontaneous licks on a broken Farfisa.

Later use

With the advent of synthesizers, organs such as the classic Farfisa seemed to be headed for obsolescence, but time proved otherwise. In the late 1970s, with older models becoming cheaper, numerous punk rock and New Wave bands (especially those influenced by 1960's garage rock and psychedelia), such as Blondie, The B-52's, Suicide, Squeeze, Human Switchboard and Talking Heads embraced Farfisas as substitutes for more sophisticated keyboards and synthesizers. Their classic sound, in turn, became a staple on multitimbral instruments, first synthesized, then sampled from the originals.

Perhaps the most famous of all Top 40 hits that featured the Farfisa was "Crocodile Rock" by Elton John. "Crocodile Rock" is dominated by a Farfisa organ, played by John in a honky-tonk rhythm with carnival-style riffs.

The Farfisa sound is today used to impart a stereotypical 1960s-retro essence to music, and has appeared recently on albums by artists such as The Mummies, Dengue Fever, Electrelane, Green Day, Screeching Weasel, Krist Novoselic, Jonathan Fire*Eater, Death Cab for Cutie, The Blood Brothers, Smash Mouth, Apse, Stereolab, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, The American Analog Set, Cadallaca, Spiritualized Tom Waits, Yo La Tengo, The Defectors, Neptune Towers, and The Murder City Devils. Clint Boon of Manchester band Inspiral Carpets was also famous for using a Farfisa, giving the band its signature sound. The Farfisa brand name, meanwhile, continues to appear on contemporary MIDI keyboards.

Series

Compact Series (1965 - 1969)

The Compact series had four models. On the Compact Duo dual manual organs, tone and volume were regulated by controls on the F/AR combination preamp, reverb and power supply unit. On most other models the tone controls and a bass section volume were located on an indented panel on the rear of the keyboard. Underneath the keyboards, a knee-high lever could be actuated for the tone boost feature, turned on by rocker levers on the console. All models had reverb except for the mini-compact. Optional feature: 13-note bass pedals (not for the mini-compact).

MINI-COMPACT

The Mini-Compact is the smallest of the Compact Series. It has only four octaves, with no bass on the early models. The later version had a selector switch to choose bass or acute sound in the lowest octave; these models had grey naturals with white sharps in the bass octave. Some of these extended bass models have only 3 voices, while the later models had 6 voices.

  • Tan/Black Tolex
  • Early model (Mini Compact, Mini Deluxe Compact) Three tone switches: Dolce, Principale, Strings
  • Late model (Mini Deluxe I Compact): 16' Bass; 8' Flute, Oboe, String; 4' Flute and Strings
  • Three footages: 16', 8', 4'
  • Multi-tone Booster with knee trigger (also served as expression control).
  • 1/4" Headphone output
  • Swell (expression) pedal (optional)
  • Removable legs which stored inside bottom cover (all other models have folding/pivoting non-removable legs)
  • Solid State Preamp

The model was used by Mike Mills (REM), Kate Radley of Spiritualized and by Steve Reich in his piece Four Organs.

Early COMPACT (COMBO COMPACT)

Features:

  • Red/Black or Grey/Black Tolex
  • One octave of bass with inverse key colors.
  • 16' Bass, Strings
  • 8' Flute, Oboe, Trumpet, Strings
  • 4' Flute, Piccolo, Strings
  • 4 vibrato settings
  • 3 reverb settings
  • 3 rockers for bass volume
  • Multi-Tone Booster
  • Swell (expression) pedal
  • 1/4" Headphone Output
  • Tube preamp (2 12AX7s) and real spring reverb
  • 1/4" bass optional output
  • Independent Bass and Treble 1/4" outputs
  • Back panel adjustments for treble and bass tone as well as bass output volume.

Late COMPACT (COMBO COMPACT I)

Features:

  • Same as Early Combo Compact except:
  • Two inferior octaves (one black/white, one grey/white) on the left-hand side of the keyboard; one set of octaves were switch-controllable for choice of a bass or acute sound with bass note sustain and controllable bass percussion.
  • Volume balance control between bass and treble on the front panel (trim pot as opposed to rockers of the earlier version)
  • Sharp and Soft sound for the manual bass
  • Only backpanel adjustment is for bass output.

COMPACT DELUXE

Features:

  • Tan/Black tolex
  • Two inferior octaves (one black/white, one grey/white) on the left-hand side of the keyboard; one set of octaves were switch-controllable for choice of a bass or acute sound.
  • Bass note sustain and soft/sharp controls.
  • Independent controllable percussion for both bass and treble manuals.
  • 16' Bass, Strings
  • 8' Flute, Oboe, Trumpet, Strings
  • 4' Flute, Piccolo, Strings
  • 2-2/3' with independent brilliant tab
  • 4 vibrato settings
  • Tube preamp (2 12AX7s) and real spring reverb
  • 3 reverb settings
  • Multi-Tone Booster
  • Swell (expression) pedal + knee control for Multi-Tone Booster
  • Independent Bass and Treble 1/4" outputs
  • 1/4" Headphone Output
  • Late models (Combo Deluxe Compact I) also includes a Rhythm Section of Brush Cymbal and Drum

COMPACT DUO

Most renowned of the Compact Series, having been used by Al Kooper (Blues Project), Michael MacNeil (Simple Minds), Rick Wright of Pink Floyd and Clint Boon of the Inspiral Carpets.

Features:

  • Grey/Black Tolex
  • Four-octave upper keyboard with 9 selectors: 16' Bass, Strings; 8' Flute, Oboe, Trumpet, Strings; 4' Flute, Strings; 2-2/3' (Flute), Brilliance
  • Four-octave lower keyboard with three selectors: Dolce, Principale, Ottavo.
  • Two inferior octaves on the left-hand side of the lower keyboard; one set of octaves were switch-controllable for choice of a bass or acute sound.
  • 4 vibrato settings
  • 3 reverb settings
  • Multi-Tone Booster
  • Swell (expression) pedal + knee control for Multi-Tone Booster
  • Bass note volume control, sustain, sharp, and percussion.
  • 1/4" Bass output
  • Lower manual volume control
  • Brilliance control which only works with the 2-2/3 (Flute) Tab.
  • Later models also incorporate tremolo, percussion and repeat functions for both the upper and lower treble manuals independently.
  • Unlike other Compact series organs, the Compat Duo models require a separate power supply/solid-state preamp/real spring reverb unit (called the Farfisa F/AR) to operate. The organ connects to the F/AR via a multi-lead cable. The cable on the American version used a 7-pin Amphenol connector, while European models used a Preh multipin. Treble output is only available via the F/AR. The Compact Duos could also operate directly (without the F/AR) with Farfisa Amplifier Models BR80 or Twin 80, which accept the 7-pin connector and provide the organ with power. The organs reverb switches activate the reverb in these two amplifier models.

FAST Series (1968 - 1971)

The FAST (Farfisa All Silicon Transistor) Series models had a metal cabinet covered with a washable skin plate and plastic edges, chrome folding legs, retractable carrying handles, and a removable music rack. This model of Farfisa was used by Philip Glass on some of his early recordings. This series had the combo organs (FAST 2,3,4,5,Console), and the Professional (Original, Duo, and Pianos)

FAST 3

Features:

  • Keyboard: 49 notes (C to C)
  • Manual Bass: 12 notes (C to B)
  • Voice Stops (7): Bass, Clarinet, Flute (8"), Oboe, Trumpet, Strings, Flute (4")
  • Vibrato Stops: On/off, Fast/slow
  • Manual Bass Selector: Bass/treble, Piano/forte
  • Swell pedal: Optional

FAST 4

Features:

  • Keyboard: 61 notes
  • Voice Stops (8): Bass, Bass Clarinet, Flute (8"), Oboe, Trumpet, Flue, Oboe, Trumpet, Strings, Flute (4"), Piccolo
  • Mixture Stops (2)
  • Vibrato Stops (3): On/off, Slow/Fast, Light/Heavy
  • Percussion Stops (5): Manual bass on/off, Treble on/off, Long/short, Mixture on/off, Mixture soft/sharp
  • Manual Bass Selector: Bass/treble
  • Pedal and Manual Bass Sound: Soft/Sharp
  • FAST 4 has been used by Philip Glass

FAST 5

Features, same as FAST 4, plus:

  • Sustain Stops (3): Celesta, Clavicord, Kinura

Artists:

Professional Series (1968 - 1972)

Notable Artists: Candida Doyle (Pulp) The Ventures (seen on Hawai five-o clip) These are the top of the line and the last models made by Farfisa - In 1972 Leir Siegler and started producing VIP models, and custom models.

  • Professional (PP/222 and PP/221) - The original single keyboard organ with gray keys. There are two models - without and without foot pedals. Used by Sylvester Stewart of (Sly and the Family Stone). Also by Sun Ra, Tangerine Dream, Jean Michel Jarre, and Art Neville. This model later evolved to the VIP 345 and VIP 370.
  • Professional DUO - Double keyboard version with bass pedals and every known option (white keys). There are two models. This model later evolved to the VIP 400, VIP 500, and VIP 600.
  • Professional Piano - used by Ralf Hutter of (Kraftwerk). There are two models, and a Super Piano model in a console style with amp and speakers.

VIP Series

Matador

The Farfisa Matador was produced in the Early to mid 1970s. It is a Compact Organ with a built in speaker, and amplifier. Several models of Matador were produced.

Syntorchestra

  • In the mid seventies Farfisa produced the "Stereo Syntorchestra". It has a three octave keyboard, and a "Mono", and "Poli" tone generator section. The "poli" section has four timbres, "Trombone", "Trumpet", "Piano", and "Viola". The Mono section is the "synth" part of the machine. It has nine timbres, Tuba, Trombone, Trumpet, Bari Sax, Alto Sax, Bass Flute, Flute, Piccolo, and Violin. This section is monophonic, with a highest note priority. The mono section can be modified by two envelope controls, and a "Wha-Wha", there is also a variable portamento. Only one timbre, from each section, can be used at a time. each section has a "Brilliance" control, which adds more top end to the sound, and a variable speed Vibrato, which has a delay function, for delayed vibrato effects.

The Syntorchestra also has separate outputs for each of its two sections.

Transicord

  • The "Transicord" was a transistor accordion. Essentially, it was not a true accordion; an "accordion-shaped combo organ" would have been perhaps a more fitting name. There were no reeds; it was purely electronic. It was designed to be used in conjunction with Farfisa's Amplifiers, and had a multi-pin cable that connected the controls of the accordion, with the controls of the amplifier, or the F/AR Reverb preamp power supply unit.

The Transicord came in two models, a standard model and a "DeLuxe" model. The standard model has one row of stop-tabs similar to those found on a Combo Compact organ, and is reported to have a similar sound. The color scheme was grey with light blue and green. The DeLuxe model has two rows of stop-tabs and is black in color.

Opening and closing the bellows reportedly engages an effect similar to the "tone boost" knee lever on Combo Compact model organs. The Transicord can also be equipped with the same volume pedal used for many other Farfisa organs.

See also

External links

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