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No need for a polyphonic synthesizer

A short interview with Jon Lord, focussing on his gear. It was originally published in Sounds issue from December 4, 1976:


JON LORD has been playing electronic keyboards professionally for 12 years, starting with the Hammond C3, which is still a favourite instrument. But like most keyboard players, he has explored synthesisers as a means of expanding the range of sounds he can create.
“Synthesisers themselves have limitations,” he says, “and that’s why, when I use them, I use ARP models. They’re more stable than others I’ve had. I’ve got two ARP Odysseys, one Pro Soloist and one String Ensemble. I particularly like the combination of String Ensemble and Hammond because you can get a really good theatre organ sound that way.
“But the secret is to use them sparingly otherwise it gets very boring. I think for that reason that there isn’t really any need for a polyphonic synthesiser.”

Continue reading in My Things – Music history for those who are able to read.

16 Comments to “No need for a polyphonic synthesizer”:

  1. 1
    MacGregor says:

    Good article with Jon Lord. He never really got into those synths per se & that was a good thing. Didn’t Rick Wakeman go with certain polyphonic synths in the late 70’s & throughout the 80’s? His choice of keyboards was diabolical for a while. Cheers.

  2. 2
    timmi bottoms says:


  3. 3
    Uwe Hornung says:

    He used them sparingly, but I always liked Jon’s ARP sounds. Love that synth solo here at 01:59, especially that long draaaaaawn out note at 02:40:


    Jon sounds as good here as Manfred Mann, who’s generally regarded as an ace synth player.


    Of course, the crown for the best-LOOKING synth player has to go to Gregg Giuffria (himself a Jon Lord fan, and Angel were probably the only band in the mid-70ies that would still expressly ask for their first two albums to be produced by no one other than Derek Lawrence who had produced DP Mk I of which Angel were fans)!


  4. 4
    sidroman says:

    As far as syths, was never really a big fan of them. I liked how the Who used them on Won’t Get Fooled Again, Baba O Riley, Who Are You, and Sister Disco.

  5. 5
    Gregster says:


    Yes, a good article that’s “short ‘n sweet”, & too-the-point.

    Reliability is the likely cause of the lack of a synths use & success in the early days. And Jon more than hints at the other reason, size…

    Without doubt, Pete Townshend cemented their need in music, with the hand-full of tunes on “Who’s Next” that featured some synth parts displaying melody, rhythm, & counterpoint, which is the whole darn tune lol. ( Teenage wasteland & Won’t be fooled again ). And the rest of the album had the usual subtle use of the synth.

    If anyone cares to check-out the “Who’s Next” Classic Albums feature, you’ll also see how in the early days, synthesizers were like Lego’s building blocks, but with no instructions lol ! Pete explains its operation reasonably well too…

    But by the 1990’s MIDI & the digital-world streamlined any further success of the big-synths of yesteryear…


    And check-out the size of this Yamaha package in operation in icy cold conditions, & it’s cool sounds too…( You’ll be glad you did ).


    Peace !

  6. 6
    janbl says:

    I first heard a synth live at the DP concert in december 1973 in KB-Hallen (my first DP concert and my first concert ever). I sat (stood) first row and the sound was extremly loud especially the moog.


    (I did this recording and took the picture but someone else did a good job cleaning it up (the sound)).


  7. 7
    MacGregor says:

    The Who & ELP, say no more. Keith Emerson was out there with new technology for keyboards at that time, awesome. It looks cold there indeed & that is a great clip, it always has been. Pete Townshend indeed with Who’s Next, wonderful & what an album & how clever he was, in all aspects. Great songs from all involved, the key to keeping it relevant, as it always will be. Brilliant. Cheers.

  8. 8
    MacGregor says:

    @ 6 – lucky you indeed. I had just turned 14 at that time & was dreaming about those sort of things. Well done recording it etc. Interesting that they are playing my favourite song from the Burn album as an encore, ha ha ha. The only song I don’t like on that otherwise excellent album. Thanks very much for the link. Cheers.

  9. 9
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Wow Janbl, given the circumstances and the equipment available then, the recording quality is impressive! Historic gig and little Janbl was there!

  10. 10
    Gregster says:


    Cool photo, & the gig must have been a ripper ! Thanks for sharing.

    Peace !

  11. 11
    janbl says:

    I was 16 then with my new cassette recorder, not a very small one, a mike with a stop/start button (wich I accidentially pressed a couple of times) and just one tape so I did not get the encores (I still got the tape).
    I also had my dad’s camera.
    (Tucky Buzzard was support).


  12. 12
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Janbl, a gif says more than a thousand words …


  13. 13
    sidroman says:

    Also didn’t mention it in my earlier post but Quadrophenia had a lot of synths on it, and Townshend’s solo work. I love the synth on Uniforms from All the Best Cowboys Have Chineses Eyes.

  14. 14
    MacGregor says:

    @ 13 – Yes indeed Quadrophenia has many gems on it with synths & keyboards & Chinese Eyes is a favourite of mine, easily Townshend’s best solo album closely followed by Empty Glass. @ 11 – I can picture you doing that with a top loader portable Panasonic perhaps. At least that is what we had at that time. A friend of mine from Sydney has many ‘live’ recordings from the 1970’s & that is what he used. Also a cut off broom handle with the mike attached at the end which he hid under his jumper & just had the mike exposed at the top trying not to look conspicuous. He has many quite good recordings, Status Quo, Rainbow, Robin Trower & Jethro Tull are a few that I am remembering hearing decades ago. To think that it has gone from that to mobile phones being readily accepted at most concerts these days. Comical really. Cheers.

  15. 15
    Rob says:

    I first noticed synth solo on WDWTWA album, Rat Bat Blue back in the day.

  16. 16
    Uwe Hornung says:

    “I first noticed synth solo on WDWTWA album, Rat Bat Blue back in the day.”

    Yup, electronically speeded up too and actually unplayable in real life. I atually think good Jon took inspiration from Wendy/Walter Carlos’ revolutionary Clockwork Orange Moog synth soundtrack/score for that …


    [YouTube being somewhat prude, they’ve blocked the original scene where Alex hi-speed-bangs (‘the old in & out’) the two ‘devotchkas’ he met licking phallic lollipops at the record store before. I do miss Stanley Kubrick’s genius …]

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