Founder Silvio Scandalli
|Founded 1946 (1946)|
Headquarters Osimo, Italy
|Fate Music division purchased by Bontempi|
Products Intercom system Historical products: Electronics: Radio receivers, Television sets Musical instruments: Electronic organs, Combo organs, Synthesizers, Accordions
Farfisa is a manufacturer of electronics based in Osimo, Italy.
- Compact Series 1964 1969
- Mini compact
- Early COMPACT COMBO COMPACT
- Late COMPACT COMBO COMPACT I
- Compact deluxe
- Compact duo
- FAST Series 1968 1971
- Fast 3
- Fast 4
- Fast 5
- Professional Series 1968 1975
- VIP Series
- Bravo and Commander
The Farfisa brand name is commonly associated with a series of compact electronic organs, and later, a series of multi-timbral synthesizers. At the height of its production, Farfisa operated three factories to produce instruments, in Camerano in the Marche region of Italy. Farfisa also made radios, televisions, and other electronic items.
Today the Farfisa brand mainly produces intercom systems with the company Aci Farfisa which makes and distributes systems for video intercoms, access control, video surveillance and home automation.
The Bontempi group owns the keyboard division Farfisa brand name.
The Farfisa brand name is an acronym for "FAbbriche Riunite di FISArmoniche", which translates to "united factories of accordions".
Farfisa first started manufacturing electric organs in 1964. Distribution in the U.S. was handled by the Chicago Musical Instrument Co, which also owned Gibson, and the instruments were originally known as CMI organs when first introduced there. Unlike other combo organs, such as the Vox Continental, Farfisa organs have integrated legs, which can be folded up and stored inside its base. The first models to be produced were the Compact series of organs between 1964 and 1968. The range of FAST (Farfisa All-Silicon Transistorized) organs was launched at the 1968 NAMM show, and production of the Professional series appeared around the same time. Production of combo organs ended in the late 1970s after synthesizers had become more commonplace.
One of the first rock organists to play and spotlight the Farfisa was Domingo Samudio, better known as "Sam the Sham", who with his group The Pharaohs had their first hit "Wooly Bully" in the summer of 1965. In 1966, a Farfisa was prominently heard in "Double Shot (Of My Baby's Love)" as recorded by the South Carolina-based group The Swingin' Medallions.
Spooner Oldham, the house organist of Alabama recording studio Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, can be heard playing the Farfisa on numerous southern soul recordings from the 1960s, notably "When a Man Loves a Woman" by Percy Sledge, among many others.
The 1967 release of "Second Best" by The Household Sponge features a Farfisa Compact, played by Geoff Wright.
Richard Wright's use of the Farfisa Compact Duo was integral to the sound of Pink Floyd's early albums, such as The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and Ummagumma. By 1970, he had started to use a Hammond Organ onstage and alternated between that and the Farfisa, depending on the song. The Farfisa was last used on "Time" from Dark Side of the Moon, but Wright reintroduced it to his keyboard setup on David Gilmour's 2006 tour, featured notably on the Pink Floyd song "Echoes".
Sly Stone from Sly and the Family Stone played a Farfisa Professional, as documented at their 1969 Woodstock Festival performance.
Hugh Banton from Van der Graaf Generator originally used Farfisa organs, most notably the Professional, applying his knowledge of electronics and contacts as a former BBC engineer to customise it with a variety of additional effects pedals, including distortion and phasing. The Professional is the only organ used on The Aerosol Grey Machine and The Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other, after which he also started using Hammonds. It was retired after the group's 1972 split.
John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin used a Farfisa on "Dancing Days" from Houses of the Holy, as well as occasionally using a VIP-255 or a Professional model on stage. Another famous recording is the 1970 A Tribute to Jack Johnson by Miles Davis, where Herbie Hancock plays spontaneous licks on a broken Farfisa.
With the advent of synthesizers, organs such as the classic Farfisa seemed to be headed for obsolescence, but time proved otherwise. In the late 1970s, with older models becoming cheaper, numerous punk rock and New Wave bands (especially those influenced by 1960s garage rock and psychedelia), such as Blondie, The B-52s, Suicide, Squeeze, Human Switchboard and Talking Heads embraced Farfisas as substitutes for more sophisticated keyboards and synthesizers. Their classic sound, in turn, became a staple on multitimbral instruments, first synthesized, then sampled from the originals. The Farfisa has also been used by rock bands, including Green Day in the song "Misery".
"Crocodile Rock" by Elton John features a Farfisa organ, played by John in a honky-tonk rhythm with carnival-style riffs.
The introduction of the Farfisa into West Africa, during the 1960s and 1970s, played an important role in evolution of Highlife, Mbalax, and later Afro-rock. This can be heard in the work of seminal acts like K. Frimpong and Monomono.
The Farfisa sound is today used to impart a stereotypical 1960s-retro essence to music. It was a key ingredient to the sound of bands such as Inspiral Carpets and has appeared recently on many albums by contemporary artists. The Farfisa brand name, meanwhile, continues to appear on contemporary MIDI keyboards.
A Farfisa compact was used on The Moons song "Double Vision Love", in a small section of the song. The Moons also used Paul Weller's Farfisa on the song "It's Takin' Over"
The Italian keyboardist/artist Joey Mauro used various Farfisas (Syntorchestra, Professional, Compact, Deluxe, and VIP) to create sound in his Italo disco songs.
One of Farfisa's most distinctive and expensive organs was the Farfisa Pergamon, presented to the public in 1981. Due to its weight of over 200 kilograms (440 lb), the Pergamon didn't have a portable version.
Compact Series (1964 - 1969)
The Compact series had four models. On the Compact Duo dual manual organs, tone and volume were regulated by controls on the F/AR combination preamp, reverb and power supply unit. On most other models the tone controls and a bass section volume were located on an indented panel on the rear of the keyboard. Underneath the keyboards, a knee-high lever could be actuated for the tone boost feature, turned on by rocker levers on the console. All models had reverb except for the mini-compact. Optional feature: 13-note bass pedals (not for the mini-compact).
The Mini-Compact is the smallest of the Compact Series. It has only four octaves, with no bass on the early models. The later version had a selector switch to choose bass or acute sound in the lowest octave; these models had grey naturals with white sharps in the bass octave. Some of these extended bass models have only 3 voices, while the later models had 6 voices.
The model was used by Mike Mills (R.E.M.), Kate Radley of Spiritualized and by Steve Reich in his piece Four Organs.
Early COMPACT (COMBO COMPACT)
Late COMPACT (COMBO COMPACT I)
Most renowned of the Compact Series, having been used by Stereolab, Al Kooper (Blues Project), Michael MacNeil (Simple Minds), Rick Wright (Pink Floyd), Keith Emerson (both in The Nice, which in the ELP) and Clint Boon (The Inspiral Carpets).
FAST Series (1968 - 1971)
The FAST (Farfisa All Silicon Transistor) Series models had a metal cabinet covered with a washable skin plate and plastic edges, chrome folding legs, retractable carrying handles, and a removable music rack. This model of Farfisa was used by Philip Glass on some of his early recordings. This series had the combo organs (FAST 2,3,4,5,Console), and the Professional (Original, Duo, and Pianos)
Features, same as FAST 4, plus:
Professional Series (1968 - 1975)
Notable Artists: Candida Doyle (Pulp), The Ventures (seen on Hawaii Five-O clip), Irmin Schmidt (Can)
These are the top of the line models made by Farfisa - In 1972 Leir Siegler and started producing VIP models, and custom models.
During this same time period, Farfisa also produced a line of effect pedals: the Repeat/Volume pedal (in orange), the WahWah/Volume pedal (in green), and the Sferasound pedal (in blue). There was also a high-end amplifier called the 80 or S-80, which came with speaker cabinets, either the Twin-80, or the BR-80.
The Farfisa Matador was produced in the early to mid-1970s. It is a compact organ with a built-in speaker and amplifier. Several models of Matador were produced.
In the mid-1970s Farfisa produced the "Stereo Syntorchestra", with a three octave keyboard, and "mono" and "poli" tone generator sections. The "poli" section has four timbres: Trombone, Trumpet, Piano, and Viola. The mono section is the "synth" part of the machine. It has nine timbres: Tuba, Trombone, Trumpet, Bari Sax, Alto Sax, Bass Flute, Flute, Piccolo, and Violin. This section is monophonic, with a highest note priority. The mono section can be modified by two envelope controls and a wah-wah; there is also a variable portamento. Only one timbre from each section can be used at a time. Each section has a brilliance control, which adds more top end to the sound, and a variable speed vibrato, which has a delay function, for delayed vibrato effects. The Syntorchestra also has separate outputs for each of its two sections. Farfisa also produced two very large organs which incorporated the Syntorchestra at this time, the 259r and 6290r "Maharani" organs.
Some examples of recordings including the Farfisa Syntorchestra are New Age of Earth by Ashra (Manuel Göttsching) and Moondawn by Klaus Schulze (especially the first half of the B-side, "Mindphaser").
The Syntorchestra was produced at a similar period in the mid-1970s to the more basic String Orchestra, which included piano and string sections. The Soundmaker was Farfisa's next non-organ instrument, with a further development of the synthesizer approach, incorporating string, brass and monosynth sections.
The "Polychrome", built at the end of the 1970s, was Farfisa's largest and most well-featured non-organ instrument, as an analog synthesizer featuring vocal, brass, string, and percussion sections, and including a built in chorus, phaser and modulation as well as aftertouch sensitivity.
The "Transicord" was a transistor accordion. Essentially, it was not a true accordion; an "accordion-shaped combo organ" would have been perhaps a more fitting name. There were no reeds; it was purely electronic. It was designed to be used in conjunction with Farfisa's Amplifiers, and had a multi-pin cable that connected the controls of the accordion, with the controls of the amplifier, or the F/AR Reverb preamp power supply unit.
The Transicord came in two models, a "standard" and a "DeLuxe." The standard has one row of stop-tabs similar to those found on a Combo Compact organ, and is reported to have a similar sound. The color scheme was grey with light blue and green. The DeLuxe has two rows of stop-tabs and is black in color.
Opening and closing the bellows reportedly engage an effect similar to the "tone boost" knee lever on Combo Compact model organs. The Transicord can also be equipped with the same volume pedal used for many other Farfisa organs.
Bravo and Commander
Among the very last combo organs made by Farfisa were the Bravo and Commander, produced at the end of the 1970s. The Commander reprised part of the design of the VIP 205 in updated form, while the lightweight and simple Bravo's sound was a move to reflect the changing tastes of the time.