Fairlight CMI IIx

Keyboard

The Fairlight CMI is a digital workstation used by Prince in the mid-1980s. It was one of the first workstations, combining synthesis, sampling and sequencing into a single unit. Although the Fairlight had many sampling and sequencing capabilities, Prince mostly stuck to the presets, using it as a keyboard and drum machine. 

Prince first used a IIx model on the Parade album. The first four songs on the album, "Christoper Tracy's Parade", "New Position", "I Wonder U" and "Under The Cherry Moon", all feature woodwind, orchestral, vocal and handclap samples from the Fairlight.[1]  The outtakes "Others Here With Us" and "Tibet" are also made predominantly from Fairlight samples.

The Fairlight became Prince's primary keyboard on the Sign O The Times album. It appears on most of the songs on the album, and appears on many of the outtakes from this period. Some songs, like "Sign O The Times" and "It"[2]  feature Fairlight drum sounds. Wendy and Lisa also used the Fairlight to record the song "Strange Relationship", with sitar and wood flute sounds coming from the instrument.

Prince owned two IIx models. Prince also took the Fairlight on tour, with Lisa using a Fairlight on the Parade tour and Dr Fink using one on the Sign O The Times and Lovesexy tours. The Fairlight proved difficult to use live, so Dr Fink sampled Prince's favourite sounds into an E-mu Emax.[3] Prince continued using this sample set into the early 1990s. In 1996, Prince had his Fairlights repaired and its possible that they appear on Emancipation and New Power Soul.[4] The two Fairlights remain in the collection at Paisley Park.

  1. ^Ronin, Ro Prince: Inside The Music And The Masks
  2. ^Ronin, Ro Prince: Inside The Music And The Masks
  3. ^Keyboard (1990) Court keyboardists Rosie Gaines & Matt Fink Speak for Themselves
  4. ^For The Love Of Fairlight Tag: Prince
Prince got into the Fairlight, which was a synthesizer and a sampler all in one. It was basically a dedicated computer with big nine-inch floppy drives that you could load up your sounds. It was a great studio tool, but on the road they were very clunky and took forever to load. I went to Prince and said, ‘Hey, let’s get some of these [E-mu Emax]. I had all the Fairlight library transferred onto way smaller floppy discs, and then put them on hard drives inside those Emax rack models. That’s how we got away from bringing those Fairlights out on the road.