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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

SV-1 Bass Rig (Part I)

About a year ago I purchased a Korg SV-1 for gig use.  Previously I had a Kurzweil SPX 88 which I had used for about five or six years.  The Kurzweil was a great keyboard - rugged, reliable - and had survived rain, cold and a large variety of misery over the years.  Sadly the power supply connections internally went flaky - it would not reliably turn on without an extensive power supply rain dance to get it going - not the sort of thing you want at an important gig.  Though I tried to fix it I could not isolate the problem.  It has since retired to Philadelphia.

As for the SV-1 - there aren't enough nice words for it.  It sounds good and its reliable.  The only problem is that it cannot be stored vertically.  If it is the keys stop working until it lays back down horizontally for a while...  A while being anywhere from 15 minutes to 1/2 hour.  Then the keys start to work again, one by one, until they are all okay.  Needless to say it now spends all of its time horizontal - without incident.

Until recently I just used the SV-1.  But lately I have begun to need a small, second keyboard for bass sounds for some weeknight gigs. The SV-1 keyboard cannot be split so that leaves a second keyboard as the only solution for adding bass.  Ideally this second keyboard would be located immediately above the left end of the keyboard while still leaving room to use the SV-1 keys and knobs.   While I have an X-stand I use for the Korg the options for adding a second tier to it are cumbersome, heavy, ugly and difficult to adjust.

First thing I tracked down a very inexpensive 25 key keyboard.  I chose the Alesis Q25 (see link) - for $79 USD you can't go wrong with this.  I've had Alesis keyboards in the past - the oldest is about 15 years old or so - and still in use (I gave it to a friend's daughter).  They are good quality though not usually the most feature packed or fancy.

This particular keyboard has exactly what I needed: one MIDI out, USB port (for power/computer connectivity), small footprint, and easy programming and setup.

The only problem is how to put the Q25 on top of the SV-1.  As you can see from the picture at the top of the post its not exactly conducive to having something set on it - far too much curvature.

After some head scratching I came up with an idea.  Looking at the curved back and the lipped front of the SV-1 control panel face (above the keys) I decided I could make a curved "hook" that would extend around the back to the bottom of the SV-1, lock into a platform for the Q25 and grab hold of the front face.  If the hook were a little springy and could grasp the curved back without sliding it seemed like a reasonable approach to getting a flat platform onto the SV-1.  I reasoned the tension between the springy clamps and the catch on the front face would keep things from moving.

I decided that the platform had to have a couple of key features:

- Quick and easy to attached and remove from the SV-1 (since I don't always need it).

- Simple, light weight, and easy to break down flat to fit in my single gig case.

- Solid so that it would not move around or rock back and forth while being used.

So the first step was to come up with some kind of "C"-shaped clamp to reach from the top of the front keyboard face around to the bottom of the keyboard.  Being interested in creating some new wood products to sell as well as use for other things I decided to create a laminated wood "C" that was matched to the back of the SV-1.

To do this I needed to capture the shape of the SV-1 back.  Given its curvy shape this was not an easy task to  do well.  I settled on what basically amounted to a piece of cardboard and a compass which I traced the back shape with.  The compass was not easy to keep oriented to exact tangent of the back so some fiddling with knives and tape was required to make the proper pattern.  After an hour or so I came up with this.

The face of the SV-1 (where the knobs are) is in the foreground.  The curved back is toward the rear.  Once this was completed I converted it into a plywood form to support the lamination.  Since I don't have a band saw I had to cut it by hand and manually shape it.
Because I would be wrapping glue-soaked strips of would around its edge it needed to be varnished to keep the glue from sticking.  Initially the right edge of the form was flat but, after some experimentation I decided that it needed a slight curve to get the "C" hooks formed properly.  The little notch on the left side is where the front face of the SV-1 meets the curved back.  I made the notch to ensure that I would be able to match the curvature and orientation of multiple "C"s.

The next step was to cut some 1/16" oak slats (you can also buy these but it was easier for me to make them).  I figured three per "C" would be strong yet flexible.  I had some handy 150 year old oak from our barn tear-down so I cut a number of these figuring it would take a few tries to get it right.

By themselves the strips are not flexible enough to bend around the form so I had to steam them.  The strips were small - only about 3/4" wide and about 18 inches or so long so I headed to the kitchen for the most efficient steamer I could find.  (I also tried soaking but the results were not as quick or as good as steaming).  The basic steaming setup looked like this.

(To be continued.)

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