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Microphone Month

ARP String Ensemble

Any music-loving baby boomer will remember hearing the sweet sound of the ARP String Ensemble on the 1975 Gary Wright hit, “Dream Weaver.” For those who are not dangerously close to collecting social security, the song was more recently used in the original 1992 Wayne’s World movie in the scene where Wayne (Mike Myers) first lays eyes on Cassandra (Tia Carrera). In fact, the ARP String Ensemble was actually made in Europe from 1974 to 1981 by a company called Solina, but once it was imported into the U.S., ARP put its logo on it. With a 49-note keyboard, the basic instrument was a fully polyphonic synthesizer with a simple Attack and Release envelope (creatively labeled “Crescendo” and “Sustain“) and four preset sounds: violin, viola, trumpet, and horn – although the brass was not at all convincing. There were also two low-string sounds on the lower end of the keyboard called Contrabass and Cello. If you wanted the best of the synth strings and couldn’t afford a Mellotron back then, you paid about $1,000 for the ARP. And plenty of high-profile performers were quick to add the ARP String Ensemble to their album credits, as if it were something far loftier and more mysterious than a polyphonic synth with a sawtooth wave and a killer chorus effect. The list included The Eagles, Pink Floyd, Elton John, Fleetwood Mac, Styx, and a lot more.

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