Electone is the trademark used for electronic organs produced by Yamaha. With the exception of the top end performance models, most Electones are based on the design on the spinet electronic organ. Current models are completely digital and contain a variety of sounds, effects, and accompaniments, on top of the ability to store programming data onto memory devices.
After Hammond pioneered the electronic organ in the 1930s, other manufacturers began to market their own versions of the instrument. By the end of the 1950s, familiar brand names of home organs in addition to Hammond included Conn, Kimball, Lowrey, and others, while companies such as Allen and Rodgers manufactured large electronic organs designed for church and other public settings.
The Yamaha Electone series debuted in 1959 with the D-1, a home instrument. By 1980, with the market waning sharply, and some manufacturers ceasing production, the Electone line embraced digital technology. This allowed Electone’s survival as the traditional home electronic organ market dried up.
By the 1980s, many of the most famous names had ceased home production, but the Electone successfully transitioned to the modern world of digital synthesizers, now competing with such new electronic products as Moog Music, Wersi, and later Kurzweil. Electones were to be found not only in homes, especially in Japan and elsewhere in the East Asia, but also in bands and other solo and group public performances.
Notable former modelsYamaha began exporting Electones to the United States, starting with the D-2B in 1967.
; 1968 — EX-21 prototype : Different from prior Electones, it was expressly designed for stage performances. ; 1970 — EX-42 : This became Yamaha's first commercially available stage model Electone. It was also the first to use integrated circuits, although it was still based on analogue technology. ; 1974 — Designing of Electones around synthesisers, instead of organs ; 1974 — CSY-1 : Based on the SY-1 synthesizer. ; 1975 — GX-1 (a.k.a. GX-707) : The first polyphonic synthesizer in Electone form, bridging the gap between synthesizer and organ. It used velocity-sensitive keyboards and the solo keyboard was even after-touch sensitive. Some notable users of the GX-1 include Richard D. James, Stevie Wonder, Keith Emerson, John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, and Benny Andersson of ABBA. ; 1977 — E-70 : One of the first home based organs to feature Yamaha's PASS (Pulse Analog Synthesis System) in a console cabinet. ; 1983 to 1986 — FC/FE/FS/FX series : Featured FM (Frequency Modulation) tone generators and the FX series featured the company's first digitally sampled sounds for the onboard percussion/rhythm units. The F series Electones were the first to allow users to digitally save registrations via pistons and then save them to RAM packs or an external disk drive unit: MDR-1. ; 1987 — HS/HX series : Electones became more digital here. It used more integrated circuit technology to make components smaller, and hence allowed for a sleeker design. The HX/HS series was the first to use AWM (Advance Wave Memory) "sampling" technology for both voices and rhythms, and also featured 16-operator FM voices. AWM Voice expansion is also possible via sound packs. ; 1991 — EL series : This series included an attached Music Disk Recorder which enabled players to record their registrations and performances, thus eliminating the need for extensive programming before each performance. The EL series introduced new synthesisers, filtering, and expression technologies that made instrument voices on the Electone even more realistic. Voice technology continued to be based on AWM and FM technologies. ; 1996 — AR series : The AR100, and its junior model the AR80 (released in 1997), were designed for the US and European market, and reverted to the more traditional cabinet design. Using purely AWM voices, the most distinctive feature of the series is its 384 preset registrations. A huge increase compared to only 5 presets on the EL series. ; 1998 — EL900 : Visually similar to the EL90 model from 1991, but with more voices, rhythms and effects, the most significant change of this model is the inclusion of VA (Virtual Acoustic) voices. These voices, or preset sounds, do not use sampling technology but is instead based on modeling. Thus providing a different level of authenticity.
Glossary of common Electone terms
; ABC : Auto Bass Chord. Auto accompaniment function, in the form of backing chords and effects, activated when the lower keyboard is held while rhythms are playing. ; Advanced Wave Memory : Yamaha's sound sampling technology introduced in the 90s. As of 2014, AWM has evolved to generation two and is usually termed AWM2 or AWMII. ; Frequency Modulation : Yamaha's sound modeling technology used in Electones from the 70s to 90s. The final model to feature FM technology is the EL900 and all its variants. ; Keyboard Percussion : Drums and percussion sounds that can be assigned to both keyboards and the pedalboard. Also used to create custom drum rhythms. ; Lead Voice : The solo voice typically used for the melody line. Lead voices are monophonic on all Electone models. ; Lower Keyboard Voice : General term referring to sounds selected and assigned to the lower keyboard. Polyphonic by preset. ; Music Data Recorder (MDR, before Electone Stagea named Music Disc Recorder) : Memory storage device installed to, or part of Electone models from the HS series onwards. Allows storage and quick call up of complex sound and rhythm settings. ; Melody On Chord (MOC) : Harmonizing effect activated on the lower keyboard based on note played on the upper keyboard. ; Pedal Voice : General term referring to sounds selected and assigned to the pedalboard. Monophonic by preset except on the latest ELS-02 series. ; Registration : Electone term referring to sounds selected for each keyboard and the pedal board. Includes also rhythm pattern selected. Also refers to user memory slots available on the Electone itself. ; Rhythm : Drum patterns available on the Electone. Comes with different accompaniments. ; Rhythm Sequence Program (RSP) : Sequencing function used to string different rhythm patterns together. When activated, the entire sequence plays by itself regardless of sound or memory changes on the Electone, thus allowing the player to concentrate on performance. Also allows for auto changing of registrations. ; Rhythm Pattern Program (RPP) : Programming function for designing custom drum patterns and accompaniments. ; Upper Keyboard Voice : General term referring to sounds selected and assigned to the upper keyboard. Polyphonic by preset. ; Virtual Acoustic : Yamaha's sound modeling technology introduced with the EL900 in 1998. Features higher realism compared to Frequency Modulation. Continues to be available in top end models as of 2014. ; Voices : General term referring to sounds on the Electone.
STAGEA seriesIn 2004, Yamaha launched the STAGEA series. This series uses all AWM (Advanced Wave Memory) voices and features over 180 digital effects, built-in registration menus, VA (Virtual Acoustic) voices, and a Style-File compatible expanded rhythm and accompaniment section. AWM is the proprietary sound sampling technology of Yamaha.
Models in this series are:
ELS-01: The standard model
ELS-01C: The custom model, carrying the ability to use the VA voices, Pitch and Tempo Bends, After touch on the pedal keyboard, horizontal touch and after pitch, along with other features, and lastly,
ELS-01X: The professional model - taking the ELS-01C, it adds 61-note keyboards, a 25-note pedal board and XLR external audio jacks.
The STAGEA ELS-01 series was officially distributed only in Asian countries.In 2006, Yamaha added the ELB-01 model to the lineup. This is a students' model, with 245 AWM voices and 133 accompaniment rhythms, but without voice or rhythm editing capabilities.
In 2008, Yamaha added The D-Deck (DDK-7 in some markets), which is the portable version of the ELS-01 with a more compact body, 61 keys on the lower keyboard and an optional pedalboard. The D-Deck comes with all the features of the ELS-01, with the additions also of Organ Flute voices and a second expression pedal.
In 2009, the STAGEA typeU series was launched, with only hardware differences between them and their original counterparts. The typeU version omitted the floppy drive UD-FD01 and the Smart-Media card slot.
In April 2014, Yamaha launched the STAGEA ELS-02 series. This series features Super Articulation voices, on top of over 900 AWM sounds, 96 VA voices, pedalboard polyphony, effects, and 566 accompaniment rhythms. The ELS-01, ELS-01C and ELS-01X can also be upgraded to the current series by the use of a "Vitalize" unit.
The STAGEA ELS-02 series currently has three models:
ELS-02: The standard model, with 506 AWM voices including Super Articulation voices, 506 accompaniment rhythms, and hundreds of audio effects.
ELS-02C: The custom model. Other than all the features of the ELS-02, it has an additional 60 AWM voices, VA voices, Organ Flutes voices (with digital drawbars), a second expression pedal, horizontal keyboard touch, and pedal board aftertouch.
ELS-02X: The professional model, which contains all the features of the ELS-02C but with both keyboards expanded to 61 keys and the pedalboard expanded to 25 full pedals.
Unlike the first STAGEA series, the STAGEA ELS-02 series is distributed in both Asia and Mexico.
In May 2016, the ELB-02 model was launched as a revamp of the ELB-01 model with more voices and rhythms added as well as the "after touch" feature on the upper and lower keyboards.
ELC-02: In 2016, Yamaha launched the STAGEA ELC-02. This model is a replacement for the STAGEA D-Deck (DDK-7), this model contains most of the features of the ELS-02 such as Super Articulation voices. Unlike the previous D-Deck model, the ELC-02 does not contain a 61 note lower keyboard instead a standard 49 note keyboard resides in its place. Existing owners of the D-Deck can upgrade the main unit to the ELC-02 and use their current stand, expression pedals and speakers as is.
In 2018, the Electone STAGEA series was discontinued in Mexico.
International Electone Festival / International Electone Concours
The International Electone Festival (IEF) / International Electone Concours (IEC) was a worldwide Electone Organ competition organized by Yamaha back in the early 1970s. The competition featured both the performer and the Electone instrument itself. The IEF finals from its early concept were held in Japan every year until 1984 when it was held in Los Angeles. Afterwards Yamaha began holding subsequent IEF finals in other cities around the world including Hamburg, Toronto, Paris, Hong Kong, Mexico and Singapore before returning to its home in Japan.
Notable musicians who were invited to be part of the adjudication panel included film composer Jerry Goldsmith and Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Participants in the IEF finals had to be at least 16 years of age and competed for medal awards and cash prizes. On almost every occasion, there was one "Grand Prize" recipient who would receive a gold medal and cash prize which in its last years totalled $10,000US. Before 1982, a selection of participants were also presented with special Winner's prizes and the number of recipients of this award varied from year to year. After 1982, "Most Outstanding Performance" awards were presented to two (or in some instances three or four) participants who would receive a silver medal and cash prize, and "Outstanding Performance" awards were usually presented to three participants who would receive a bronze medal and cash prize. On rare occasions at IEF finals, a special President's award may also have been presented to one performer. Known as the "Kawakami Prize" it was named after renowned Yamaha Music Corporation President Genichi Kawakami and consisted of a special bronze medal and cash prize very similar to the "Outstanding Performance" award. In the early 1990s Yamaha ceased to sponsor the event. It became too expensive to produce and electronic organ sales declined.
International Electone Festival/Concours Finals: