I was delving through some old keyboard manuals posted online and came across the Yamaha MP-1 manual from the early ’80s. This is not to be confused with the Yamaha MP1 upright piano. There’s a big difference!
Remember electronics manuals from that decade? They weren’t the slick affairs you get now. This one in particular was printed in four columns (English, German, French and Italian). I’m not sure if someone at Yamaha scanned it in or if some of the pages were always printed wonky…
Anyway, what first caught my eye was the huge roll of ticker-tape coming out of the right hand side of the keyboard, pictured on the front cover. Is this some kind of till or adding machine as well?
I must admit, it didn’t cross my mind (until I read the second opening paragraph) that it was a music score printer. To be more accurate, it’s a music score plotter. If I hadn’t seen the photos and heard people testify to its existence (and operability) I’d almost have thought it was an April Fool joke.
Printers may have been fairly rudimentary in the early ’80s, but you can forget a mini dot matrix or daisywheel printer (can you imagine?) – this one you had to fit your own biro in!
Yamaha must have been pretty proud of their MP-1, though, because they described it as “an epoch-making keyboard instrument”. I think Yamaha may have been thinking too much, for that “moment in time chosen as the origin of a particular era” never (as far as I know) saw any other keyboards with built in score plotters/printers emerge. Maybe that’s because there wasn’t the demand, until such a time as (by the early ’90s) you could connect keyboards up to a personal computer and then print out music scores.
Way before the days of MIDI, you had to “think of a tune you’d like to play”, set a rhythm going, and then play along to it. This would help the keyboard work out what notes you were playing and of what duration. You could also use the one-finger chord accompaniment to print out left hand chords and right hand melody.
Using the “flat” and “sharp” buttons you could set the printer to draw out a different key signature. However, you could only have three flats or sharps at once, so presumably the likes of F sharp major were out.
Let’s take a look at all those juicy specifications:
Keyboard: 44 keys (F1 – C5)
Music Printer: Micrographic printer
Orchestra Section: 10 voices
Rhythm Section: 10 rhythms
Speaker: 7.7cm (3″)
Not even a mention of polyphony, though I reckon it can’t have been much more than 8 simultaneous voices.
If you want to read a lot more about the MP-1:
Download the manual (two parts):
Here are a few demo videos I’ve found on the PortaSound MP-1:
3+ minute demo of the PortaSound sound.
Yamaha RY30, MP-1, FX900 and Dave Smith Instruments Evolver