We see the inside of a lot of studios and some musical instruments, studio gear and recording equipment can be found in every space we visit. Here we look at the ubiquitous musical instruments that have had the greatest influence on musical culture.
Gibson Les Paul
The sound of heavy Rock, the Gibson Les Paul is famed for its high quality flamboyant style in a simple package. Created in collaboration with the noted guitarist Les Paul, this heavy electric guitar has rivaled Fender’s Stratocaster since the 1950s. Featuring either P-90 or humbucker pickups, the guitar gives a warm and resonant sound while limiting feedback, allowing these guitars to be put to use in front of large and loudly amplified speakers. Used by Rock Gods like Keith Richards and Jimmy Page, the Les Paul is the sound of full on, no-holds-barred Rock’n’Roll.
You love the sound of the Roland TR-808 and you might not even know it. This much loved drum machine is an icon featured in everything from Hip Hop to EDM, R&B to House, and it’s provided the solid percussive rhythms to more Pop hits than you’d believe. Noted for its robotic sound, the drum machine that has come to be affectionately known simply as an ‘808’ has appeared on diverse hits like Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”, Afrika Bambaataa’s “Planet Rock”, and Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing”. Kanye West made an entire album using the sound titled ‘808s & Heartbreak’. The next time you hear a powerful low end with skittering snares and artificial claps there’s a high chance you’re listening to a Roland TR-808.
Moog Modular Synth
Developed in the 1960s, the Moog modular synthesizer was not the earliest of its type, nor was it an immediate hit on its release. Instead, an entire range of synthesizers by Moog Music have slowly permeated every corner of Rock, Pop and Electronic music over the course of fifty years in the hands of forward looking musical pioneers. Loved because of their futuristic yet organic sound, Moog synths have added spacey, psychedelic, and creepy moods to everything from 60s classics by The Doors and The Beatles to the soundtrack to movies like The Shining.
The most influential use of a Moog synth can be credited to the Donna Summer hit “I Feel Love” on which Giorgio Moroder created a completely synthesized backing track that has gone on to influence Pop, Techno, and almost every corner of EDM, most notably the career of Daft Punk.
Fender Rhodes Piano
The electric piano best known as the Fender Rhodes was originally devised by Harold Rhodes as a semi-portable instrument that could be used in music therapy for injured veterans. As an electro-acoustic piano, its sound is broad in range; capable of bass-heavy warmth as well as crisp, chiming treble. With the addition of effects chains more often associated to use with electric guitars, the Rhodes piano became an instrument for exploring new and novel textures and timbres in the hands of greats like Herbie Hancock, Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones, and Stevie Wonder. As importantly, the versatility of the Rhodes combined with its portable nature enabled independent touring musicians to travel with a piano, going on to make a mark on the music of Indie music and singer-songwriters from the 1960s onwards.
Technics SL-1200 MK2
Possibly the most influential musical instrument that isn’t commonly considered a musical instrument at all, the Technics SL-1200 turntable changed music culture as DJs started manipulating the records they played into new, creative sounds. As a workman-like turntable designed as a mid-range player, the SL-1200 MK2 was quickly picked up as the tool of choice for DJs thanks to its direct-drive mechanism that brings record to speed quicker and more accurately than belt-drive systems, and for its bomb-proof design. With accurate playback speed and virtually no slip from the motor, DJs could physically manipulate the playback speed of records time after time without damaging their equipment. The result is the classic two turntables and a mixer setup that has allowed DJs to mix, mash-up, and scratch records into Hip Hop, Disco, House, EDM, and more.