- When did Kraftwerk start to use projected images at their concerts?
- What kind of 3D projection technology is used by Kraftwerk?
- Have Kraftwerk ever staged a whole concert replaced by robots or dummies?
- What sort of equipment is used by Kraftwerk?
- What instrument provided the choir sound on Radioactivity?
- What is a vocoder?
- What is a sequencer?
Kraftwerk started to use static slides on some of the concerts in 1975. In 1981 they first displayed videoclips during the concerts on four custom made screens by Sony. From the tour in 2002 they had replaced the four screens with one big backdrop with three videoprojections.
First time when Kraftwerk used 3D projetcion technology was on 25 of April, 2009, Wolfsburg, Germany. It was passive 3D projection by awater 3D.
From the year 2012, the screening technology is provided by 'dataton'.
With passive 3D stereo there are two projectors which project both the left and the right image at the same time. They deliver two different pictures to the two different eyes of the spectator using polarization technology. A polarization filter is put next to the lens of the projector showing the picture for the left eye and use the same polarization filter for the left eye in the special 3D glasses. In this way there can be projected two pictures with different polarizations onto the same screen at the same time with the 3D glasses only letting through the correct picture for the left and right eye, respectively. Obviously, it has to be ensured that the screen itself is non polarizing and reflects the maximum amount of light (because polarization has an impact on the brightness of the picture). For both reasons a silver screen is necessary.
You can read more about the 3D screening at http://www.awater3d.com and at http://www.dataton.com.
No. They did however started to have four dummies on stage during the performance of The Robots in 1981 but the four members also were on stage playing the instruments.
Then in 1991 when they had replaced the dummies with more robotlike moving dummies, the four members was not on stage during that song. This is how they still perform The Robots in the recent years, excluding the concerts in 2002 - 2003, when only the members were present without their robots (see as an example in 2003, Australia, Melbourne, Big Day Out festival).
A variety of equipment has been used by Kraftwerk over the years.
Here are some examples:
Some new equipment, softwares, technical systems used in concerts from the year 2002 included:
- NEC projectors
- Sony VAIO laptops
- Steinberg (Cubase SX)
- M Audio
- Native Instruments
- pmc monitors
- TC Electronic
- passive 3D projection
In recent years Ralf and Florian have established links with German manufacturers Doepfer (particularly in respect of their MAQ 16/3 Analog / MIDI sequencer and Quasimidi Quasar synthesiser found great favour with Kraftwerk).
Equipment for the 1998 world tour included:
- Nord Lead 2 synthesiser
- Studio Electronics SE1
- optical drives
- four Kawai K-5000 synthesisers
- Quasimidi QM-309 Rave-o-lution synthesiser
- Tascam DA-88 8-track digital audio recorder
- 4 Roland mixers
- Doepfer Regelwerk MIDI Fader Box / Sequencer
- 2 Doepfer MAQ 16/3 sequencers
- Doepfer Schaltwerk sequencer
- Doepfer A-100 modular synthesiser
- Doepfer MMR4/4
- miniature MIDI keyboard custom-made by Doepfer
- Doepfer LMK2 master keyboard (customised)
- Waldorf Microwave
- Boss SE50 effects processor (at least 4 of these)
- 4 Akai samplers
- Robovox (see 1990 entry below)
- laptop computer
- Eventide effects processor
- Sony disk drive
The concerts for The Mix used an Atari ST for graphics. By the time of the 1997 concert at Tribal Gathering, graphics were apparently supplied by a Toshiba PC with a magneto-optical drive. This concert featured quite a lot of audio equipment by Doepfer, including the Schaltwerk sequencer and the MMK2 miniature keyboard (used in the performance of 'Pocket Calculator'). There were also a couple of Akai samplers, mixers, patchbays and a CD player of the type used by DJs and radio stations.
Concerts in June 1992 in the UK featured an Akai DD1000 Digital Recorder.
In November 1990, Florian Schneider and colleagues patented a "system for and method of synthesizing singing in real time". This become known as the Robovox.
At some points during the 1980's, Kraftwerk used:
- NED Synclavier
- 1 Yamaha TX816 synthesiser
- 2 Atari ST computers
On the 1986 album Electric Cafe:
- a Linn LM-1 Drum Machine was used on album Electric Cafe but only on the first 2 tracks (Boing Boom Tschak, Tecno Pop) and then on the title track (Electric Cafe). Musique Non Stop was a Roland TR-808. (Tracks 1 and 2 were a mixture of the LM-1 (kick, detuned handclap, and pitched up LM-1 tambourine), the LinnDrum (snare #23, and the metallic clanky percussion was provided by the E-MU Emulator2. Electric Cafe has the LM-1 kick and LinnDrum snare #23. The Telephone Call is all LinnDrum.)
- an NED Synclavier provided resynthesized voices on the tracks Electric Cafe and Music Non Stop.
On the 1983 single Tour de France, a pre-production E-Mu Emulator sampler provided the Pentatonic Harp Glissando and Slap Bass sounds.
The 1981 Computer World tour included:
- a Sequential Circuits Prophet 5 synthesiser
- a Moog Minimoog synthesiser
- a Moog Polymoog synthesiser
- Texas Instruments Language Translator machine (for electronic voices, it has different language memory cards)
- Roland MC8 MicroComposer sequencer (although this was not used on any Kraftwerk records)
- Custom-built 32-step analogue sequencers by Matten & Wiechers
- Texas Instruments Pocket Translator
- Dubreq Stylophone (this is a small handheld 'synth' made in the 1960s, which operated via a stylus touching a metal keyboard, the original versions could not switch octaves; for the sounds of Pocket Calculator)
- Mattel Bee Gees mini keyboard
The calculator used to make sounds in the song Pocket Calculator was probably the Casio FX-501b. Some of the other sounds on this track were made using a
Mattel Bee Gees Rhythm Machine, a battery-powered keyboard released in 1978.
A Friendchip "Mr. Lab" unit (aka "Music and Rhythm Laboratory") was used on the 1981 album Computer World. This offered TR808-style rhythm programming and a TB303-style miniature keyboard that allowed the programming of sequencer patterns
Equipment used in the late 1970's included:
- 2 "Synthanorma" 16-step custom-built analogue sequencers built by Matten & Wiechers
- Farfisa electric piano
- custom-built electronic drum pads
- Moog Minimoog
- ARP Odyssey
- Orchestron (see the separate entry below)
On the 1978 album The Man-Machine, a Moog Micromoog synthesiser provides the bass sound on The Model. An Eventide Digital Delay was used on this album only.
On the 1977 album Trans-Europe Express, an Eventide FL-201 Instant Flanger was used.
On the 1976 album Radioactivity:
- Ralf Hütter sings through a Roland RE-201 Space Echo on the song Antenna
- A military speech synthesizer, based on creating phonemes, was used on the song Radioland
- An Orchestron provided choir sounds
On the 1974 album Autobahn, Kraftwerk used:
- Moog Minimoog
- ARP (white-faced) Odyssey
- customized Farfisa Rhythm Unit 10
- Vox Percussion King
- Farfisa Professional Piano
- EMS Synthi-A
- Schulte Compact Phasing A
- Mutron Biphase
- other outboard equipment in Conny Plank's studio
The back cover of the 1973 album Ralf & Florian shows a Moog Minimoog synthesiser, a Farfisa electric piano, an EMS Synthi A synthesiser, flutes and an eight-string guitar.
In an interview published in The Guardian (1st March 2001), former Kraftwerk member Karl Bartos says that "in the early days of Kraftwerk" Ralf Hütter "bought an immense and expensive Moog synthesiser". However, all other sources indicate that the only Moog in the early days was the Minimoog mentioned above (the Minimoog was expensive, but not immense like the Moog modular synthesisers).
The following vocoders have been used by Kraftwerk:
- Roland SVC-350
- Roland VP-330
- Sennheiser VSM-201
- EMS 2000/3000/5000 series
- Synton 221 (unconfirmed)
Other equipment used by the band over the years includes:
- Hammond L-100 organ
- Hammond B3 organ
- Farfisa organ
- Rotor Sound
- Dynacord Echocord
- Dynacord Echocord Mini
- Eminent Amplifier
- Echolette Panorama Mixer
- Echolette Echocord Super
(see more models at http://www.el-me-se.de)
- Schulte Compact Phasing A
- Mutron Biphase
- ARP 2600 semi modular synthesiser (unconfirmed)
- ARP 2500 modular synthesiser (unconfirmed)
- ARP Omni 1
- Oberheim SEM synthesiser (unconfirmed)
- Korg PS-3100 (used live by Karl Bartos)
- Korg PS-3200
- Korg PS-3300 (now owned by Karl Bartos)
- Texas Instruments TI-99a Computer with Speech Synthesizer cartridge
- Eventide H-910 Harmonizer
- Mattel Synsonics electronic drum
- Roland 100m modular synthesiser
- Simmons SDS-5 Drum Modules
- Triggersumme (a precursor of the Simmons SDS-6, a Matrix of 5x32 clocked switches which allowed Wolfgang Flür to program patterns of 2x16 or 1x32 steps, controlling either the Simmons SDS-5 or other rhythm units)
- Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer
- Doepfer A-100 modular synthesiser modules
- Doepfer MS-404
- Roland S-750 sampler
- Roland S-770 sampler
- Shure microphones
- guitars, flutes, a vibraphone and other acoustic instruments, in the early years of the group
Sources for the above information include:
- Synthesizerstudio Bonn and Matten + Wiechers
- Stephen/Wavecomputer360 (special thanks for lots of information)
- Karl Bartos interview, March 1998 issue of Sound on Sound magazine
- articles in Electronics and Music Maker magazine
- articles in Aktivität magazine
- Wolfgang Flür's autobiography
- many other articles over the years
- book from the Minimum Maximum Notebook
- Antenna Mailing list
- own sources
The choir sound on Radioactivity (from the 1975 album Radioactivity) was made not, as often believed, by a Mellotron (that famous instrument which incorporated tape recordings of choir and instrument sounds), but by an instrument called the Orchestron. This was an analogue sampling instrument which used optical disks to store the sounds of real voices and orchestral instruments. Kraftwerk were provided with one of these by the manufacturer well in advance of the instrument's official public release. Initially they owned a single-manual Orchestron, but later, they obtained another one with two keyboards; this one was used until the first half of their 1981 tour when it was replaced by a second Moog Polymoog synthesiser.
The Orchestron was used for choir and strings sounds on a number of other songs by Kraftwerk, for example Radioland, Franz Schubert and Showroom Dummies. You can read more about this instrument and its relatives at the Optigan.com website.
Many of the electronic voices in Kraftwerk's songs (e.g. Die Stimme der Energie, The Robots, Autobahn) are created through the use of a vocoder. This device does not synthesise the human voice, but is a method of imposing the spectral character of one sound upon another; the vocoder modulates the harmonic content and amplitude of a "carrier" signal to mirror that of the "exciter" signal. For example, suppose one wants to control the sound of a synthesiser tone with one's voice: this would create a "singing" synthesiser. In this case, the "exciter" signal is the sound of the singer's voice, fed into the vocoder via a microphone. The sound of the synthesiser would be fed into the vocoder's "carrier" input. One then sings or speaks into the microphone while the synthesiser sound is present. The vocoder analyses the loudness of various frequency bands in the exciter signal (in this example, the singer's voice) and adjusts the loudness of the corresponding frequency bands in the carrier signal (the synthesiser tone). The effect of singing is effectively "superimposed" on the synthesiser tone, whilst the sound remains totally electronic (the singer's voice is not present in the output of the vocoder; it is purely used to control the synthesiser's own sound).
In more detail
The vocoder was originally developed as an aid to intelligibility over telephone lines, but it is now far more widely in use as a musical instrument. In a "traditional" hardware-based vocoder, the analysis of the exciter signal is carried out by means of a bank of band-pass filters, each filter tuned to a different centre frequency. The more filters there are, the greater is the resolution of tracking the amplitude changes to the exciter signals' harmonic content. This means that (all other things being equal) we would expect the results of the above example to be far more intelligible using a vocoder with 24 bandpass filters than using one with only 10. Besides the bank of filters applied to the exciter signal, there is a corresponding bank of filters for the carrier signal.
In the bank of filters applied to the exciter signal, the output of each band-pass filter is fed to an envelope follower. This produces a voltage which varies in accordance with the loudness of the input signal, so as one band of frequencies gets louder then quieter, so the envelope follower produces a voltage which increases then decreases accordingly. This output voltage from each envelope follower is used to control the amplitude of the signal passing through the corresponding filter in the path of the carrier signal. So we have a situation in which the amplitude of bands of frequencies in the carrier signal are made to vary in accordance with the variation in amplitude of these frequency bands in the exciter signal.
A sequencer is a device (originally hardware, but now common as computer programs) which stores instructions from the musician and sends them, in a manner specified by the musician, to an electronic musical instrument for immediate performance. For example, instructions to play a set of musical notes can be stored, and then sent repeatedly to a synthesiser so that a repeating pattern ("sequence") of notes is heard.
It is important to note that a sequencer does not store the sound made by a musical instrument (although this may be available as an additional feature in modern packages marketed as "sequencers") but rather the data necessary to instruct the instrument to make that sound. So if a sequence is sent to an electronic piano, the notes heard will be as played on a piano, but if the same sequence is sent to a synthesiser which has been programmed to sound like a violin, a series of notes played on a synthetic violin will be heard!
Most modern sequencers are very sophisticated and, when connected to similarly sophisticated electronic musical instruments, can control them not just with note information, but with data specifying loudness, various aspects of timbre and many other parameters. Earlier sequencers, such as those used by Kraftwerk in the 1970s, were far more primitive, but their very limitations undoubtedly helped to shape the sound of Kraftwerk's music; the careful selection and manipulation of simple, repeating sequences is a defining aspect of Kraftwerk's often "mechanical" yet "soulful" sound.