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Electronic piano

Electronic piano

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An electronic piano is a keyboard instrument
Keyboard instrument
A keyboard instrument is a musical instrument which is played using a musical keyboard. The most common of these is the piano. Other widely used keyboard instruments include organs of various types as well as other mechanical, electromechanical and electronic instruments...

 designed to simulate the timbre
Timbre
In music, timbre is the quality of a musical note or sound or tone that distinguishes different types of sound production, such as voices and musical instruments, such as string instruments, wind instruments, and percussion instruments. The physical characteristics of sound that determine the...

 of a piano
Piano
The piano is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It is one of the most popular instruments in the world. Widely used in classical and jazz music for solo performances, ensemble use, chamber music and accompaniment, the piano is also very popular as an aid to composing and rehearsal...

 (and sometimes a harpsichord
Harpsichord
A harpsichord is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It produces sound by plucking a string when a key is pressed.In the narrow sense, "harpsichord" designates only the large wing-shaped instruments in which the strings are perpendicular to the keyboard...

 or an organ
Organ (music)
The organ , is a keyboard instrument of one or more divisions, each played with its own keyboard operated either with the hands or with the feet. The organ is a relatively old musical instrument in the Western musical tradition, dating from the time of Ctesibius of Alexandria who is credited with...

) using analog circuitry.

Electronic Piano was also the trade name used for Wurlitzer
Wurlitzer
The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company, usually referred to simply as Wurlitzer, was an American company that produced stringed instruments, woodwinds, brass instruments, theatre organs, band organs, orchestrions, electronic organs, electric pianos and jukeboxes....

's popular line of electric piano
Electric piano
An electric piano is an electric musical instrument.Electric pianos produce sounds mechanically and the sounds are turned into electrical signals by pickups. Unlike a synthesizer, the electric piano is not an electronic instrument, but electro-mechanical. The earliest electric pianos were invented...

s, which were produced from the 1950s to the 1980s, although this was not actually what is now commonly known as an electronic piano. Electronic pianos work similarly to analog synthesizer
Synthesizer
A synthesizer is an electronic instrument capable of producing sounds by generating electrical signals of different frequencies. These electrical signals are played through a loudspeaker or set of headphones...

s in that they generate their tones through oscillators
Electronic oscillator
An electronic oscillator is an electronic circuit that produces a repetitive electronic signal, often a sine wave or a square wave. They are widely used in innumerable electronic devices...

, whereas electric pianos are mechanical, their sound being electrified by a pickup.

The first electronic pianos date from the 1970s and were mostly made in Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 (Davies 2001), although similar models were made concurrently in Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

. An exception is the range of instruments made by RMI
Rocky Mount Instruments
Rocky Mount Instruments or RMI was a subsidiary of the Allen Organ Company, established in about 1966. It was based in Rocky Mount, North Carolina...

 in the USA from 1967 to approximately 1980, which was used by Genesis
Genesis (band)
Genesis are an English rock band that formed in 1967. The band currently comprises the longest-tenured members Tony Banks , Mike Rutherford and Phil Collins . Past members Peter Gabriel , Steve Hackett and Anthony Phillips , also played major roles in the band in its early years...

, Yes
Yes (band)
Yes are an English rock band who achieved worldwide success with their progressive, art, and symphonic style of rock music. Regarded as one of the pioneers of the progressive genre, Yes are known for their lengthy songs, mystical lyrics, elaborate album art, and live stage sets...

, Deep Purple
Deep Purple
Deep Purple are an English rock band formed in Hertford in 1968. Along with Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, they are considered to be among the pioneers of heavy metal and modern hard rock, although some band members believe that their music cannot be categorised as belonging to any one genre...

, Elton John
Elton John
Sir Elton Hercules John, CBE, Hon DMus is an English rock singer-songwriter, composer, pianist and occasional actor...

 and Rick Wakeman
Rick Wakeman
Richard Christopher Wakeman is an English keyboard player, composer and songwriter best known for being the former keyboardist in the progressive rock band Yes...

 (Reid, 2001). These early electronic pianos (including the RMI) are not velocity sensitive, in that they do not vary their volume based on how hard or soft the keys are played, like an organ
Organ (music)
The organ , is a keyboard instrument of one or more divisions, each played with its own keyboard operated either with the hands or with the feet. The organ is a relatively old musical instrument in the Western musical tradition, dating from the time of Ctesibius of Alexandria who is credited with...

. "The major drawback of the RMI was its total lack of touch sensitivity. I found this very restricting, especially since any bum-notes are played at full volume, no matter how lightly you brush against them" (Tony Banks
Tony Banks (musician)
This article is about the musician. For other people named Tony Banks, see Tony BanksAnthony George "Tony" Banks is a British composer, and multi-instrumentalist, who performs as a keyboardist and a guitarist...

, quoted in Reid 2001).

Electronic pianos became less popular in the 1980s when the digital piano
Digital piano
A digital piano is a modern electronic musical instrument, different from the electronic keyboard, designed to serve primarily as an alternative to a traditional piano, both in the way it feels to play and in the sound produced. It is meant to provide an accurate simulation of a real piano. Some...

 and polyphonic synthesizer
Synthesizer
A synthesizer is an electronic instrument capable of producing sounds by generating electrical signals of different frequencies. These electrical signals are played through a loudspeaker or set of headphones...

 became available and affordable enough for both professional and home use as an inexpensive, smaller and lighter alternative to an acoustic piano. The triumph of the synthesized piano first came in 1982, with the development of the Kurzweil K250
Kurzweil K250
The Kurzweil K250 a.k.a. "Kurzweil 250", "K250" or "K-250", manufactured by Kurzweil Music Systems was the first electronic musical instrument which produced sound derived from sampled sounds burned onto integrated circuits known as Read Only Memory without the requirement for any type of disk...

.

As of 2009, synthesized pianos have attained a remarkable level of realism, with the Yamaha AvantGrand
AvantGrand
AvantGrand is a brand of digital piano introduced by Yamaha in 2009. The product line consists of a baby grand piano size , an upright piano version and a cabinet version ....

reportedly indistinguishable from a real piano by 95% of pianists (Wilson 2009).

Further reading

  • Tünker, Helmuth. 1975. Electronic-Pianos und Synthesizer. Nach industriellen Gesichtspunkten entworfene, jedoch für den Selbstbau geeignete Schaltungen. Munich: Franzis.
  • Weyer, Rolf-Dieter. 1973. "Typical Sound Characteristics of Piano Sounds, Analysed on the Basis of Piano Sounds and Piano-Like Sounds". In Papers of the 44th Convention of the Audio Engineering Society, Central Europe Section (1973): Rotterdam, edited by O. H. Bjor. New York: Audio Engineering Society.