Find a friendly leprechaun, and you might get a deal on a Roland AX-7 keytar like this, which is apparently now ridiculously hot. Just don’t go to your Guitar Center, because Roland thought you didn’t them any more. Photo: Bombardier, via Flickr.

I love you, Roland. I really do. But it has to be said:

You’re completely clueless when it comes to the coolest things you’ve ever made.

And if an ordinary keyboard with a silly guitar-style body and shoulder strap can be cool, I’m not sure I can even blame you. You just have to listen to the people.

People love their 303, their 808, even their 909. Yet when these a whole generation of kids desperately wanted you to just re-release these things — or your Jupiter, or Juno, any of your other fantastic keyboards and sound toys of yesteryear — you’ve responded with souped-up, “modernized” versions that mainly share only the name.

But most importantly, you killed the keytar (the awesome, infrared-equipped AX-7) just before everyone decided they really had to have one. So, every week, I hear from people wanting them, just because of I mentioned the keytar in a random post back in April 2005.

Ironically, then, I said, the Keytar Lives. And it does, more than ever — just not in your catalog.

In comments, people sound desperate, hungry — sometimes even poetic. (They sing to the keytar, in Spanish, “ESTOS INSTRUMRNTOS SON GENIALES…..YO TENGO UNO Y LO RECOMIENDO, EL NIVEL DE EXPRESIVIDAD EN VIVO CON ESTA JOYITA ES INCREIBLE….”) Pure poetry.

It’s driven the AX-7 prices sky-high on eBay, though some cheaper items remain of lesser-known and older models. The really lucky people get theirs for fifteen bucks at a yard sale from people who don’t know better.

But why not new units, if they’re this popular? Yamaha — I hope you’re listening, too. Korg? How about a nice, cheap CME version with motorized faders and some band dumping paint on it?

But Don’t Take My Word For It

Take the Times. No, not the New York Times or LA Times – the Times, as in London. The one that gave us Times New Roman.

Above: &y photographs the official keytard. Top right: jumping keytar by the excellent Pianisimo.

Commenter Kent Sandvik, at least, notes the irony and sends this link in:

Why the keytar’s the star again [Times Online]
Long dismissed as hopelessly naff, the keytar is enjoying a comeback. Our correspondent tunes in

YouTube trawlers are almost as keen on You be my Wife, a recent duet between the Croatian keytarist Belinda Bedekovic and, er, the comedy Kazakhstani Borat. That Sacha Baron Cohen chose the keytar for his leotard-clad, culturally wayward creation pretty much sums up the instrument’s irredeemably naff reputation.

It’s something of a surprise, then, to be attending the 1234 Festival in thoroughly hip Shoreditch, East London, and to discover a keytar in the hands of one of the headlining bands. Pete Cafarella, front-man of the New York dance duo Shychild, agrees to talk me through the instrument that is now being used by acts including Chromeo, Mutemath, Goldfrapp, Imogen Heap and Peaches . It also features in the video for the recent Beyoncé single Green Light.

I don’t even know what “naff” means (I’m using context clues to work it out), and I’m impressed at that comeback. They quote my editor at Keyboard, Ernie Rideout, as someone with his finger on the pulse on what’s hot in keyboards. (Okay, granted, the last conversation I had with Ernie was about slick new ways of miking pianos and what tuning options were on Roland’s digital harpsichord, but at least  pretend all of us are uberhipsters.)

Yes, it’s true. The keytar hasn’t been this hot since Jem featured The Misfits’ keytarist, Stormer.

Actually, you know, don’t listen to me. It’s probably discontinuing the keytar that gave it underground cred. Maybe those digital harpsichords will become really hot after they’re discontinued.

In the meantime, I say to my fellow keyboards, we’ll just have to find another solution. Keyboardists can be awesome without using any kind of strap on their shoulder. I swear. They’re easier to play just on a stand or whatever.

Erm, and … uh … Beyonce’s gotten one, so keytars have officially jumped the shark. So you can get out of the bidding war we’re stuck in at the moment on eBay, friends.

Don’t … touch … any eBay items.


PS — Yes, I realize a keytar is nothing but a keyboard with guitar envy. And since I love keyboards too much to envy guitars (or french horns, or lots of other instruments), that seems silly to me, too.

I still mean what I said to Roland. 😉