A Partial History of the String Machine

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe’ve been having some fun with ‘string machines’ here at EMEAPP. We recently received a pair of vintage Eminent organs that sparked a conversation about the origin of keyboards that focus on string ensemble-type sounds.

Our Eminent 310U Unique and its big sister, the Eminent 310T Theater were the leaders of the pack. They include a ‘Strings Ensemble’ section that spawned the creation of the ubiquitous stand-alone string keyboard. In addition to a believable string ensemble sound, these Eminent organs have a brilliant bucket-brigade chorus effect that has become a sonic flavor that most will recognize. In fact, the Eminent 310 Unique contained the first polyphonic string synthesizer on the market.

In 1972, Eminent organs brought the Unique to the public. It sold well to the home market, but they also spurred interest in the music production and studio world.  This unique string sound was noticed by composer/producer Jean-Michel Jarre, who used his 310s all over two of his critical releases, Oxygène and Équinoxe.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUpon realizing the potential of a stand-alone string synth, Eminent repackaged the string portion of the 310U into a single four-octave unit. They released this unit under their “Solina” brand name, and called it the “String Ensemble“.

In 1974, American synth maker, ARP, licensed the Solina and rebranded it under their badge. We have a unit with ARP stickers right over the Solina logo!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Eminent string sound was innovative, as were the electronics behind it. Its sound has become embedded in our musical souls and has graced huge hits in the disco, rock, jazz and prog world.

Keep your eyes open for an upcoming article that covers the ‘string machine’ derivatives from brands like Freeman, Roland, Crumar, Elka and many, many more.

Written by Drew Raison, photography by EMEAPP