Stage craft— Global


As the summer festival season approaches we visited the factories of three musical instrument makers who are world leaders for their attention to craft and superior sound quality.

Allen & Heath, Gibson v. Fender, Technics, Vari-Lite, Yamaha, Zildjian

In the last 10 years, live music – from ­supergroups rocking world-famous festivals to kids thrashing it out in dive bar basements – has grown to replace the CD as the dominant force in making money from melodies.

Besides the headliners what do you see at your Sonar, your Fuji Rock? An array of familiar but foreign names on guitars, keyboards and drum kits that aren’t the same names that make your stereo, TV or laptop but must be huge in their field. And what about the horn ­section and the lights and mics? Monocle investigates the multi-million…

  1. Yamaha The launch pad of musical mega-corporation Yamaha back in 1887 (when the son of a Samurai warrior, Torakusu Yamaha, was called in to repair a school’s reed organ), the Japanese giant is unsurprisingly still a major player in the keyboard market. Major competitors include Roland, Korg and Casio.

  2. Vari-Lite Automated multicoloured lighting and retina-scorching laser displays are now as much a part of live concerts as the music itself, and pioneer Vari-Lite was developed with investment from the British rock band Genesis in the early 1980s.

  3. Allen & Heath No mixer comes in higher esteem than Allen & Heath, which started out in a tiny London factory hand-making machines for the likes of Pink Floyd in the 1970s. Other brand names worth knowing include Mackie, Midas, Phonic and Peavey.

  4. Technics Technics may be the first name you reach for when you think of decks, with the now discontinued Technics 1200s becoming a nightclub stable, but there are plenty of big producers still making decks including Pro-Ject, Sony, Newark and Denon.

  5. Gibson v. Fender The big playoff in the world of electric guitars is fought between Gibson and Fender. Although often pitted against the iconic Fender Stratocaster, Gibson’s Les Paul is the electric guitar’s longest-made production model.

  6. Fender Designed in 1951– the same year as the prototype for the solid-body Telecaster electric guitar – Leo Fender’s Precision Bass transformed live bass music.

  7. Shure Shure is a dominant name in the live mic market – wiring up everyone from Frank Sinatra through to JFK’s presidential podium and police radio systems. Other leading live mics include AKG, Audio Technica and Beyerdynamic.

  8. Marshall Somewhat synonymous with legendary rock performances of the sixties, British-based Marshall Amps is a national treasure, having received the Queens Award for Export Achievement in 1984.

  9. Pearl Drums & Zildjian Emerging from the ashes of post-war Japan, Pearl Drums was founded in Tokyo in 1946 to provide affordable instruments to a new generation of musicians influenced by American jazz music from across the Pacific. Beginning with two employees, it now rubs shoulders with competitors such as Zildjian, Sabian and Paiste.

  10. Conn-Selmer Based in Indiana but with roots back to 18th-century France, Conn-Selmer is one of the market leaders in brass instruments. Founded in 2002 after the merger of the Selmer Company and C.G. Conn, its main competitor is Japanese conglomerate Yamaha.


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