Nord Stage 88
|Dates||2005–2008 (Nord Stage)
2008–2011 (Nord Stage EX)
2011–present (Nord Stage 2)
|Oscillator||Square, sawtooth, wavetable, FM modelling, sample|
|Synthesis type||Sample-based synthesis, Physical modeling synthesis, Analog modeling synthesis, FM modeling synthesis|
|Filter||High pass, Low pass 12/24, Notch, resonance|
|Effects||6 modulations, 6 effects, overdrive, rotary speaker, EQ, delay, compressor, reverb|
|Keyboard||88-key hammer action, 76-key hammer action or 73-key semi weighted|
|External control||Sustain pedal, control / swell, rotary speed|
The Nord Stage is a digital keyboard or stage piano, manufactured by Clavia Digital Music Instruments of Stockholm in Sweden. There have been three editions of the instrument as of 2012 – these are the original Nord Stage in 2005, the Nord Stage EX in 2008, and the Nord Stage 2 in 2011.
The Nord Stage follows the success of earlier keyboard instruments from Clavia, and contains similar emulations of vintage electromechanical keyboards such as the Hammond Organ and electric pianos as found on the Nord Electro 2, with additional functionality including a weighted piano-like keyboard on certain models, a synthesizer section based on the Nord Lead, a more versatile organ section and extended effects processing. Unlike the Electro, the Stage is multitimbral, which means it can play more than one sound at once, either by splitting the internal keyboard or connecting an external MIDI controller.
The Nord Stage 2 also has the ability to play samples, allowing it to reproduce the functionality of a Mellotron or Chamberlin. Individual samples can be downloaded from Clavia's website, and a community has developed that provides new instruments and sounds.
By 2005, Clavia had found commercial success with the Nord Lead synthesizer, which emulated analog synthesis, and the Nord Electro virtual electromechanical keyboard, which emulated the Hammond Organ and Rhodes and Wurlitzer electric pianos. The goal of the Nord Stage was to combine these two technologies together into a flagship instrument.
The Nord Stage was unveiled in April 2005 at the Musikmesse music instrument convention in Frankfurt, Germany. A full-range, 88 weighted key version, the Stage 88, began shipping in July 2005; a 76 weighted key version, the Stage 76, was announced at NAMM in January 2006, and a 73 semi-weighted key version, the Stage Compact, started shipping in August 2006.
An expanded version, the Nord Stage EX, was released in November 2008. It included an increased memory size. A revised edition, the Nord Stage 2 appeared in September 2011, containing an improved synthesizer model and sampler functionality, as seen in the Nord Wave. The three models of the Stage 2 are the HA-88, containing 88 fully weighted keys, the HA-76, containing 76 weighted keys, and the SW-73, containing 73 semi-weighted keys.
Like all other Nord keyboards, the Stage's metal panel is bright red, and the Stage also features similar wood panels to the Nord Electro, also in red.
The Nord Stage is divided into three sound groups, the Organ Section, the Piano Section, and the Synthesizer Section. Each section can be played independently or simultaneously, divided into specific key ranges (splitting), and blended with independent volume controls.
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The Nord Stage Organ Section provides physical models of three electric organs – the Hammond B3, the Vox Continental, and the Farfisa Compact. Instead of physical drawbars, the Organ section features "drawbuttons" with a set of red LED strips to indicate the position of each drawbar from 0 (fully in) to 8 (fully out). For the Hammond and Vox organ emulations, pressing the "down" button illuminates more LEDs to visually emulate a drawbar being pulled out, while pressing the "up" button does the reverse. Since a real Farfisa organ selects sounds via rocker tabs instead of drawbars, the drawbuttons behave as tabs when the Farfisa emulation is selected on the Stage. The standard set of Percussion, Chorus and Vibrato settings as found on each of the three organs are available, and a rotary speaker emulation (similar to a Leslie speaker), including speed selection and overdrive, is also available. The Organ section is fully polyphonic.
The Piano section uses samples of acoustic and electromechanical pianos. The Stage's 128 MB of internal memory  allow multiple sample sets to be installed. While additional sampled piano sets are available as free downloads from Clavia's website, the Stage ships with Yamaha C7 and Steinway Concert Model D grand pianos, Svenska Pianofabriken and Yamaha M5J upright pianos, Yamaha CP80 Electric grand piano, Rhodes Piano, Wurlitzer Electronic Piano, and Hohner Clavinet samples. The Clav EQ buttons allow users to adjust the sound of the Clavinet. Acoustic Piano sounds are stereo samples, which can be switched manually to "Mono Mode", and can be played at 40-note polyphony; electric piano samples are mono and can be played with 60-note polyphony.
The Stage Synthesizer combines wavetables with analog oscillators and FM operators. Featuring filter and envelope controls, the Synth Section's timbre knob allows users to move through different sound groups. A number of programs are available to store sounds under three categories – Synth, Pad or Bass. The Synth also includes a 2-band EQ, a glide (portamento) function, and a unison function which is used to thicken the sound. The Synth Section is 16-note polyphonic.
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The Nord Stage 2 introduced the additional capability to act as a sampler, playing back pre-recorded instrument sounds. Samples can be downloaded from both Clavia's and other third party websites, and installed using a software application running on a PC or a Mac. Amongst the samples included as standard with the Nord Stage 2 are those for the Mellotron and Chamberlin tape-based keyboards, which have been exclusively licenced to Clavia. Users can also create their own samples, and load them into the Stage 2 using the tools supplied.
This section, unlike the others, does not directly generate sound. Instead, it allows users to control other gear connected via MIDI. Common parameters such as zone, channel, and volume are controllable from the Stage.
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The Stage's Effects Section expands on the Electro's effects selection. Included are the Electro's modulation effects (tremolo, auto-pan, ring modulation, auto-wah, and 2 manual wah algorithms), "stomp box" effects (2 algorithms each of phaser (effect), flanger and chorus). The Stage adds a delay module, amplifier modeling (Wurlitzer speaker, Fender Twin Reverb and Roland Jazz Chorus), overdrive, and expands the Electro's 2-band EQ to 3-band. Piano, Organ, and Synth sections can be independently routed through these groups. Two Master Effects are included – a simple compressor, and a 5 algorithm reverb.
Sounds can be stored as Programs, which include the instrument source, effects types, and settings. There are 126 storage locations – 21 banks with 6 programs in each – all of which can be overwritten with user programs. There are 300 independent storage locations for Synth patches.
The Nord Stage is multitimbral – each of the Piano, Organ, and Synth sections can sound independently. There are two Panels – A and B – each of which provides a separate configuration of the three sections within a single Program. Panels can be played independently, with one of the panels being controlled via an external MIDI keyboard controller, or they can be layered together, allowing for a maximum of 6 part multitimbral. Most of the buttons and knobs on the Stage, such as volume, instrument selection, drawbar levels (for organ) or filter controls (for synthesizer) can also be adjusted by the external keyboard.
Controllers and Accessories
Many of the parameter knobs are simple potentiometers, however there are several 360-degree lighted rotary encoders. These rotary encoders control parameters that can be "morphed". Morph Grouping is Clavia's technology that allows users to assign multiple parameters to one control, such as the mod wheel, a control pedal, or aftertouch.
The connectors at the back of the Stage allow the connection of a sustain pedal, a swell pedal for organ, a footswitch to select the rotary speaker emulation speed, and a control pedal to modify effects such as wah-wah. A set of screw-in legs are an available option for the 88 and 76 note models and a custom designed soft case is also available from Clavia. A third party company, Ocean Beach Digital, has manufactured a set of MIDI controlled drawbars for the Nord Stage, for users who prefer to use real drawbars instead of the buttons provided as standard.
The Nord Stage 2 received a Platinum award from Future Music magazine (who described it as "A huge upgrade, cementing its status as the most authentic stage piano/organ/synth available"), and won the 2011 MIA Award for best hardware, and the 2011 MIPA Award for best Stage Piano.
Derek Sherinian, already well known for using Nord keyboards, started using the Nord Stage 2 in 2011. Other notable musicians who have used the Nord Stage include Little Feat's Bill Payne, Scott Kinsey, The Ark's Jens Andersson (who played a Nord Stage 2 on the band's final tour), Bryan Ferry and Elbow.
Sound on Sound criticised the pitch stick on the Nord Stage, noting its range is permanently fixed to two semitones and cannot be adjusted. Performing Musician magazine felt that the piano sound "is a little uneven in places", particularly towards the lower end, and were concerned it wouldn't work well as a music workstation, describing its External section as "useless in any real-world situation", though they did praise the quality of the organ sounds. Reviewing the Stage 2, Keyboard Magazine criticised the lack of MIDI thru and said "even with dedicated controls for most functions, it can be difficult to grasp at first. The few hardware buttons for changing programs are shared with Live settings." However, they also stated the acoustic pianos sounded "beautiful".
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Nord Stage.|
- Clavia DMI – Official Website
- American Music and Sound – North American Distributor
- Clavia Nord Stage Yahoo Group – Clavia Nord Stage Yahoo Group
- Nord User Forum – Unofficial Nord Stage User Forum