Seeds of an Obsession
When I was growing up, we had only one musical instrument in our house, at least until I started taking drum lessons around 1995. It was a truly tiny Casio keyboard, the PT-87. This keyboard, which my parents still have, is monophonic and really one of the least interesting keyboards Casio ever made.
In 2016 or 2017 at the thrift store I saw a vintage Casio for sale, and this was the first of many Casios I would buy over the next couple years. I found them all either on Kijiji or in Value Village, the local thriftshop.
As you see them in these photos, the boards look pretty clean and in excellent condition, which was sometimes true when I acquired them. Some were very grimy and have been duly cleaned.
We begin with the Casio-PT-10, a tiny and relatively primitive keyboard that fits in my back pocket. If memory serves, it cost me just $4 at the thrift store..
PT-100. No line output. Good sound. The keys stick.
The Realistic Concertmate-400 (a.k.a. Casio MT-35) has six dull sine wave tones, and not very many options otherwise. I purchased this one for $10 from a guy who said his mother, a church organist, had used it as her preferred instrument after her mobility became limited in her later years. (Her name and phone number are scratched into the bottom of the casing.) Though the sound is nothing to write home about, the form factor of this board is wonderful — very light, beautiful color contrasts, and very narrow. The mini-keys are also somewhat wider and more solid feeling than the mini-keys of other boards in the MT series.
The Casio MT-70 is an exceptional keyboard. It has analog sound, an excellent drum machine, and a wide variety of tones. It’s strikingly beautiful, too, if quite heavy. I bought it from a woman who said that her husband had bought it in 1980 or 1981 while in Japan and serving in the Royal Canadian Airforce, and that her children had learned to play on it before graduating to other types of instruments.
Grating drone. Casio MT-100. In many respects, very similar to the MT-70 above. But the MT-100 has an EQ. I’m not sure if this is digital or analog sound generation.
The Realistic Concertmate-750 (a.k.a. the Casio MT-140) was something I found when I was looking for a first substantial circuit-bending victim. I bent it using Reed Ghazala’s schematic in his book Circuit-Bending.
It must have been almost four years ago that I came upon this Casio MT-240 in my local thrift store. I still didn’t know jack about playing keyboards but I was drawn to this lovely looking object and the price seemed reasonable, or I at least had the $20 to spare. Around this time I was trying to teach myself to play on a different keyboard with one of the James Bastien Adult Beginner piano books that I had studied out of almost two decades before. I really like a lot of sounds on this, especially “strings,” “synth reed,” “chorus,” “jazz organ,” “funky clav.” There are also ten timbres that can be accessed only via MIDI program change, including “Strings 2,” “Fantasy” and “Miracle.” (I am almost certain “Fantasy” (or is it “Miracle”?) is heard on Beach House’s “Lemon Glow.”) Yes, that’s right, the MT-240 has MIDI, and three-part multitimbrality. I really like the sound and resonance of the built-in speakers and the form factor of this keyboard. It’s substantial but not heavy or bulky. Bonus: The demo song is fire.
Reed Ghazala provides a schematic for these modifications, which I followed to a T. I spray-painted the keys, obviously.
Casio SA-5 (a.k.a. Concertmate-380). Ghazala also provides a schematic for this, though I haven’t done anything to mine.
The Casio Rapmaster, a pretty happening board that includes a voice effector and some beats that aren’t all bad.
If you find this topic interesting, I recommend the two-part “History of Casio Keyboards: 1980-1988” that gen.error posted almost a decade ago: