I've been playing a fair bit of electric piano recently. Well, actually I've been playing a standard MIDI keyboard triggering electric piano sounds in Logic Pro, a Yamaha MU-128 module, and a Roland RD-700sx. It's been a long time since I've heard the sound of a real electric piano, so today I visited YouTube to remind myself of the good old days.
In my mind, the three electric pianos with the most distinctive sound are the Fender Rhodes, the Wurlitzer, and the Yamaha Electric Grand. Below we have a brief look at the world of electric pianos, then three videos each of these models. Sampled electric pianos (or in the old days the ones we programmed on Yamaha DX7s and Roland D50s) often sound very clean and clinical, and are never out of tune. That's a huge contrast to real electric pianos, which are dirty and grungy - and often out-of-tune. Compare the sounds below to the electronic versions you've been using.
1. About Electric Pianos
To begin with, here's an educational video about what's distinctive about electric pianos, with an emphasis on the Fender Rhodes - arguably the most important electric piano.
Rock and Roll Keyboard Lessons : The Fender 'Rhodes' Rock Keyboard
"Watch this free music theory video discussing the Fender 'Rhodes' and tips on how to play one."
2. The Fender Rhodes
The Fender Rhodes has to be my favorite electric piano sounds. I've never owned one, and have never played a real one regularly, but I love the range of sounds they can make, from percussive "Dyno-My-Piano" chirps to luscious sustained notes. I recently visited my local music store to discover that a new model - the Mark 7 - is now being sold new. Check it out in the third video. Will you be buying one?
Fender Rhodes 1970 Suitcase Piano by Vintage Vibe For Sale
"A 1970 Fender Rhodes suitcase piano completely restored by Vintage Vibe."
Fender Rhodes All I Do Funky Jam
Jamming out over changes to Steve Wonder "All I Do".
Rhodes Mark7 Demo
3. The Wurlitzer
I bought a Wurlitzer electric piano for my sister in 1982. She paid $500 for one second hand. She just got her first job, and wanted to start learning piano. She had it for years, and I'd play it for hours every time I visited. They have a more bell-like sound than the Rhodes. I wonder what happened to that old piano.
Rhodes Piano Stage 1972
"A vintage Rhodes 1972 being played."
Wurlitzer 200A Electric Piano
"Here is a sample of my friend playing my Wurlitzer Piano."
Wurlitzer Electric Piano 140B/200A Custom White
"A beautiful Wurlitzer 140B for sale, completely restored by Vintage Vibe."
4. The Yamaha Electric Grand
I owned and loved a Yamaha CP-70B in the eighties and early nineties. I bought it when I was a uni student, and paid for it buy cleaning a bank twice a week. They were designed as a "portable" replacement for real pianos before digitals were up to the task. As you'll see in the last video, they are essentially baby grands without a soundboard. They have a full piano harp with strings (though the bass strings are shorter than on a real piano), and every string has its own pickup. They have a more nasal tone than acoustic pianos, and I've never found an sampled version I was happy with. I miss my old piano, but I definitely don't miss breaking my back. Those things were heavy!
CP 80 Yamaha Electric Grand Piano Jam
"Jamming on an excellent CP 80 in Europe's biggest Keyboard museum in Klagenfurt Austria."
Yamaha CP70 Piano
Yamaha CP80 Unplugged
Do you enjoy the sound of an electric piano? Which type of piano do you prefer? Do you own a real electric piano? Which video did you enjoy most? Let us know in the comments.