Does anything conjure more nostalgia than your favourite cartoon theme song? Here are two medley mashups that I’ve put together, performed in real-time on the Yamaha Electone ELX-1.
Here’s one that features cartoons that were popular in the 90’s
And another one featuring cartoons that were popular in the 80’s
Here’s how I put everything together:
- I collected a list of cartoons from each era. Most of the suggestions were provided by you!
- I looked up all the themes on YouTube and removed any that did not have melodies that could not be played on a keyboard (i.e. rapping, chanting) – I already knew most of them well enough that I could play them by ear, but some (especially from the 80’s) took a few repeat lessons
- I then thought about what order the themes should go in – this was probably the most difficult part, as I had to consider a lot of things: key (major/minor), tempo, putting the most iconic themes at the start and finish of each medley. I wanted the medley to flow well, so I couldn’t just slap them together in alphabetical order.
- Once I was reasonably happy with the order, I began sequencing the drum patterns. This involves playing and recording them in two-bar blocks). Almost everything was created from scratch, and re-created to sound like the original. Because of the limitations of the Electone and how many patterns it can store (it can only store 24 two-bar patterns), I had to use some preset patterns.
- Simultaneously, I arranged the instrumentation, selecting appropriate instruments for the right hand (melody), left hand (chords/harmony), and bass (played with the left foot). In many cases I had to decide on an instrument that would be a suitable replacement for a human voice. Each theme’s instrumentation is stored in a ‘registration’ – the Electone can hold up to 16 of these sound sets, which are triggered with a foot switch on the right pedal – which controls expression/volume.
- Practice, practice, practice! I rearranged themes that didn’t flow well, or removed some themes that didn’t fit or that I felt wouldn’t be recognizable enough.
- Once the medley was arranged and I could perform it well enough, I recorded it live to camera.
And there you have it! The whole process takes a few days and a lot of multitasking. On top of knowing what keys to press with my right hand, left hand, and left foot, I’m also tasked with programming drums and instrumentation, and knowing when to trigger changes throughout the entire song. I’d have to say that the hardest part was memorizing the order that the themes are played in.
The Electone is very powerful but still quite limited in its usability – understandable for an instrument that is over 20 years old. The ELX-1 doesn’t read MIDI files, so all programming has to be done on the Electone itself. That means no copying & pasting, and if you want to hear anything back, you’ve got to play it yourself!
Nonetheless, it’s a lot of fun once it’s all comes together and they don’t really make an instrument that looks and sounds as impressive as the ELX-1 – which at one point, retailed for over $50,000 (don’t worry, we only got one once they were well into extinction). I was a huge Electone nerd as a child, so it’s fun to put those years of music lessons to use, and show off once in a while.
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