Invented by Bill Bernardi (and co-engineered by Roger Noble and with the late Lyricon performer Chuck Greenberg), it was manufactured by Computone Inc. in Massachusetts. The Lyricon was available in two designs, the first being somewhat silver and resembling a soprano saxophone and the latter, black and resembling an alto clarinet. Using a form of additive synthesis, the player was allowed to change between types of overtones with a key switchable between fundamentals of G, Bb, C, Eb, and F (allowing the instrument to be used to play transposed parts written for saxophones, trumpets, etc.) and an octave range that could be switched between low, medium, or high. The instrument also had controls for glissando, portamento, and "timbre attack" (a type of chorusing). The Lyricon used a bass clarinet mouthpiece, with a sprung metal sensor on the (non-vibrating) reed that detected lip pressure. Wind pressure was detected by a diaphragm, which moved and changed the light output from an LED, which was in turn sensed by a photocell to give dynamic control.
Two additional re-modelled Lyricons were engineered later. First the "Wind Synthesizer Driver", which had control voltage outputs for lip pressure, wind pressure and pitch, to control the VCA and VCF and pitch of an external analog synthesizer. Then the "Lyricon II" was engineered, which included a two-oscillator synthesizer. All the Lyricons used the same saxophone style fingering system, with two octave keys above the left-hand thumb rest. The Wind Synthesizer Driver and the Lyricon II also had a transposition footswitch feature, where a foot pedal could be used to transpose the entire range up or down one octave. None of the Lyricons were engineered to use MIDI (which was invented after Computone went out of business in 1980), although external MIDIfication modules were produced by JL Cooper and STEIM.
The design of the Lyricon controller was later borrowed to form the basis for Yamaha's WX-series MIDI wind controllers.
- Ian Anderson
- Jay Beckenstein of Spyro Gyra
- Richard Elliot
- Kenny G
- Chuck Greenberg of Shadowfax
- Steve Jolliffe played Lyricon on Tangerine Dream's 1978 album Cyclone
- Roland Kirk
- Michał Urbaniak
- Yusef Lateef
- Andy Mackay of Roxy Music
- Bennie Maupin
- Dan Michaels of The Choir
- Lenny Pickett
- Jorrit Dijkstra
- Jonas Kullhammar
- Courtney Pine
- Raphael Ravenscroft plays a Lyricon solo in Gerry Rafferty's "Night Owl"
- David Roach
- Arranger and saxophonist Tom Scott played the Lyricon on Steely Dan's 1977 hit single "Peg" (later sampled by De La Soul in Eye Know) from Aja, and on "My Rival", from Gaucho, as well as on Captain and Tennille's chart-topper "Do That to Me One More Time". He has also released several solo albums where he plays the Lyricon, and played it on many sessions, including albums by Quincy Jones, The Grateful Dead's 1977 LP Terrapin Station, "Heart Hotels" on Dan Fogelberg's Phoenix album released in 1979, Blondie's Autoamerican Album released in 1980, Michael Jackson's hit song Billie Jean and on his theme for Starsky and Hutch. The Lyricon also figured prominently on his tour with Billy Cobham, Alphonso Johnson, Steve Khan and Mark Soskin for the Alivemutherforya album in 1978.
- James Senese
- Wayne Shorter of Weather Report plays Lyricon on "Three Clowns" from Black Market.
- Bruno Spoerri
- Brian Travers, saxophonist with UB40
- Pedro Eustache
- John L. Walters of Landscape and Zyklus
- Takeshi Itoh of The Square used a Lyricon from 1979 to 1987, before ultimately switching to the AKAI EWI in 1988.
- Charles "Prince Charles" Alexander of Prince Charles & The City Beat Band
- Greenberg (2006) p.34-40
- Ingham (1998) p.184
- Greenberg, Joy (2006) "A Pause in the Rain" ISBN 1-60145-018-4
- Ingham, Richard (1998) The Cambridge Companion to the Saxophone ISBN 0-521-59666-1
- ‘The Search For Expression’ by John L. Walters Sound on Sound magazine, September 1987
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