8Bit Keys: About

When I created 8Bit Keys I had three goals in mind:

  1. To explore older music from the 1980’s, especially game music.  I wanted a format where I could break the music down and actually let people see what makes up the music on all of the different voices.  I think people often concentrate on the melody and they forget there are all of these complex layers to music.  One neat way to let people see the different layers of a song is to make an interesting video where they can watch you put all of the pieces together.
  2. To show people that you do not need a fancy thousand-Dollar synthesizer to make great music. By using old keyboards I buy for sometimes as little as $20, people will be able to see what is possible with just about any synthesizer, even if it is a toy.
  3. To educate people about the different toy and semi-professional keyboards of the 1980’s.  Some of them are great, fun keyboards to work with. While others are terrible.  Rather than somebody having to buy all of them to find out for themselves which ones are good, they can watch my reviews and performances.

I also happen to like the sound of an FM synthesizer.  I grew up in the 1980’s listening to the SID chip of my Commodore 64, and later my Ad-Lib card on my PC.  Granted, I eventually got an Amiga and thought sampled sound was the greatest thing ever.  But in retrospect, it is the FM music that I still prefer. Technically the SID chip is not FM, but I often lump it in with FM in order to distinguish it from sampled music.

I often have people suggest to me to circuit bend one of my keyboards.  My answer is NO.  I certainly have the technical skill to do it.  But honestly, I just can’t see the benefit.  I’ve watched hundreds of YouTube videos where people have circuit bent these vintage keyboards and they always sound horrible and distorted.  It would be different if you were adding some sort of feature that wasn’t there before, like a sustain pedal, a line-level output, etc.  I’m all for mods like that.  But I just can’t for the life of my figure out what is so cool about destroying one of these vintage synthesizers and making it sound terrible.

As for my opinion on professional synthesizers.  I’m not interested.  I’ve owned my share of Roland, Korg, and Ensoniq keyboards.  They were all great keyboards.  They were expensive, of course.  But they were just too darned complicated.  My last Korg I owned had about a thousand menus on the LCD screen and I never learned what more than about 10% of it actually did.  I often found it frustrating when I’d accidentally go into some mode that I didn’t understand or know how to get out of.  I didn’t want to spend hours reading the instruction manual just to play some music.  Vintage and toy keyboards don’t have that problem. You just turn them on, select an instrument and play.  It is nice to add a few buttons for things like sustain or portamento, but they are easy to turn on and off . No menus to go through.  I have since sold all of those keyboards.  And the newest and most advanced thing I own is now the Yamaha PSR-300, which was made in 1990.

So if you like exploring vintage hardware, or like hearing vintage game or computer music, then you’ve come to the right place.