Nordic Notes

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Nordic Notes


The Red Machine

I’ve heard it described as the Marshall stack of keyboards before, and for that reason, along with many others, I am putting the Nord range of synths and stage pianos up there as the prominent figure on most stages around the world when you are talking keys. This may be partly due to the fact that it is so recognisable in the bold red casing that each model adorns, or there could be something more to it. Sure, it is easy for a keyboard, any keyboard, to just blend in with the hardware on stage and go unnoticed. Especially when so many are in similarly sized black housings with only a simple logo printed next to the outputs as a means of denoting its presence.


Often this logo ends up covered in the ubiquitous black gaffer tape anyway, so you only have the voice of the keyboard to tell you what it is. This can often be difficult too, as so many keyboard and synthesizer manufacturers strive to achieve a similar sound set that often does not have the instrument making its presence known
in the mix. It’s rather sad, but often the sounds in so many keyboards are chasing the same tone and never try to actually stand apart and deliver something original. Well, there are a few exceptions. So, when you can’t hear a difference, and the logo is covered up, one way to know you’re listening to a Nord is simple – the thing is big and it is red, so you’ll know before the band even comes on stage what you’re in for as far as the sounds go!


A Tone Of Their Own

It’s not just a colourful case that makes the Nord keyboards stand out. Although this is a good trick – we can all agree on that – the different models in the range have all delivered certain tones that we have come to know and love.


The Nord Lead synthesizer is a real beast that delivers in a number of ways. Now several generations in from the original development, the Lead also has an analogue modelling counterpart in the Lead A1 that brings a different flavour 
to the synth driven mayhem this unit is known for. Screeching lead tones, luscious pads and complex bass droning all make up the Lead’s special character.


The Nord Piano is a model that is often overlooked as it doesn’t necessarily have the versatility of some other models, but it is still popular for those who want a simple stage piano that delivers in character and options. Many argue that it perhaps doesn’t stack up against competitors like Yamaha or Kawai for the actual piano sounds on offer, but it does seem to appeal to a more modern generation of keyboard players looking to move away from the traditional path. The Stage 2 EX is the king of them all, featuring a synth engine taken from the Lead and a piano section taken for the Piano too. This is your all-in-one workhorse that delivers in impressive size and sound. What ties these two elements together in the Stage 2 EX is the third engine that is taken from possibly the coolest, funkiest and most in-demand Nord ever – the Nord Electro.


The Electro is now in its fifth generation and continues to capture the imagination of organ and electric piano players for both its touch and feel as well as its sound. 
I think it is easy to say that it was the Electro that got Nord onto so many stages around the world to begin with. This is 
a keyboard that offered something quite unlike so many other competitors’ models and did it well too. For keyboard players looking for emulations of classic electro-mechanical organs and keyboards, this is the beast. It offers physical drawbars for organ emulations that sound as good as the real thing as well as a piano section with some classic and clunky sounding keys in there too. If you like your Rhodes sounds, Hammond tones or any sort of suitcase piano, this is the red machine
 for you. Funk and soul players will fall in love with the tones and the way the keys respond and it means you don’t have to lug around all of the heavy, tired old monsters that may not sound their best any more. When you think of stage presence from a keyboard, the Nord red is the key. When you think of electro keyboard tones, Nord is that sound these days.