Casio VL-1

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casio vl toneThe VL-1 was the first instrument of Casio's VL-Tone product line, and is sometimes referred to as the VL-Tone. It combined a calculator, synthesizer, and sequencer.[1] Released in 1980[2] and selling for around $150,[1] the VL-1 is notable for its kitsch value among electronic musicians, due to its cheap construction and its unrealistic, uniquely low-fidelity sounds. The VL-1 was followed by the VL-10, basically the same machine in a smaller unit, and the VL-5, a polyphonic version, capable of playing four notes simultaneously.[1]

Its sounds were mostly composed of filtered squarewaves with varied pulse-widths. Its piano, violin, flute and guitar timbres were nearly unrecognizable abstractions of real instruments. It also featured a "fantasy" voice, and a programmable synthesizer which provided for choice of both oscillator waveform and ADSR envelope. The synthesizer was programmed by entering a number into the calculator section's memory, then switching back to keyboard mode. It had a range of two and a half octaves.

The VL-1 featured a small LCD display capable of displaying 8 characters. This was primarily used for the calculator function, but also displayed notes played. As well as this, the VL-1 also had changeable tone and balance, basic tempo settings and a real-time monophonic music sequencer, which could play back up to 99 notes. There were also 10 pre-loaded rhythms which utilized just three basic drum sounds.

Voices

* Piano
* Fantasy
* Violin
* Flute
* Guitar
* ADSR

Notable uses and appearances

* The VL-1 acquired enduring notability when the German band Trio used it in one of their songs, the "faux-Kraftwerk tune" "Da Da Da".[3] They used the Rock-1 rhythm preset and the Piano voice.
* A similar rhythm preset, Rock-2, features in the first half of The Man Whose Head Expanded by The Fall, only to be cut short by Mark E. Smith's command to "turn that bloody blimey space invader off".
* Industrial artist Monte Cazazza uses the VL-1's drum patterns on both sides of the Stairway to Hell / Sex Is No Emergency single (1982).
* The music video for Thomas Dolby's hit "She Blinded Me With Science" shows a group of schoolchildren holding VL-1s during a dream sequence.
* The Human League used the VL-1 for "Get Carter," a song on their album Dare.[4]
* Le Casio, the final track on the album Vehicles and Animals by Athlete prominently features the VL-1's 'Fantasy' voice.
* The VL-1 is used by death industrial act Brighter Death Now.
* The Rock-1 and Rock-2 rhythms are heard on the track Stop/Start by The Assembly.
* In 1995, "parsimonous" French singer/songwriter Dominique A used a minimum of instruments, including the VL-1 (called the "VL Tone" in the French press).[5][6]
* The progressive electronica band Yip-Yip often uses the VL-1's distinctive beats.
* Fergie's "Clumsy" also uses one of VL-1's beats.
* On older Sakata (Australian rice cracker company) advertisements, the Rock-1 rhythm is used as a backing beat.
* In one Homestar Runner cartoon, Strong Bad creates a "crazy cartoon" called "Sweet Cuppin' Cakes", in which he appears as a character, but with a VL-1 as a head.
* The Rock-2 rhythm is used in the track "Who was That" by Deee-Lite.
* 2-D, from the band Gorillaz, says that his first keyboard was a Custom VL-1.
* Canadian musician and sound designer David Kristian's "The Mariana Trench" album was made entirely using a VL-1 through various guitar effect pedals and loopers.
* In Ecuador, the demo song of the VL-1 is played in a news program that broadcast in Radio Cristal Guayaquil called "desayúnese con las noticias"; the song is played daily on 7 30 AM.
* British bubblegum-pop duo Mogul used the VL-Tone extensively throughout their early recordings, including a female vocal-led version of 'Roll With It'.

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