Yamaha GS-1 FM synthesizer 1981

Yamaha GS-1 1981

Yamaha GS-1 1981

Way back in the mists of time, I owned a brand new Yamaha DX-7IId synth (the sequel to the infamous DX-7). The 80s were the glory years for keyboard players — every band needed one.

A little known precursor to both boards was the GS-1, of which only one hundred were built. It’s a full-length 88-key machine with weighted hammer action.

Most striking of course is the real wooden cabinet, complete with legs and three foot pedals. It’s obviously meant to mimic the look of a stunted grand piano, and the effect is gorgeous.

It was in fact Yamaha’s very first digital FM synthesiser and was created pre-MIDI protocol (which wasn’t standardised until 1983). It weighs about 90kg, has 16-note polyphony, after-touch, and a manual tuning knob at the back.

There is also a built-in vibrato, tremolo, and chorus — controlled by the third foot pedal (which I think is a great concept). A lot of the patches will be very familiar to DX-7 junkies — not to mention fans of 80s pop music.

The patches came as plastic cards with a magnetic strip stored in a leather wallet. You look up the index card, choose a patch number, take out the plastic card (about the size of a lollipop stick), insert it in the card slot (is it side A or B…?) where an electric motor sucks it in and sets the operators accordingly.

Now you’re ready to play that ‘Steel Drum’ sound!

Yamaha GS-1 (inside)

Yamaha GS-1 (inside)