7 (61, 73, 88) in Stage, Active and Active plus MIDI models
- 1985, 2009 - present
menu: Invented in 1950s by music
teacher, songwriter and inventor Harold Rhodes (1910 -2000). Also earlier
Pre-Piano (electric and acoustic models), educational
instrument, 3 octaves, marketed in late 1940s by Rhodes himself; 1959;
2 1/2--octave Piano Bass was first model produced (and the only pre-CBS
Fender Rhodes instrument). Early models have controls
mounted directly on front of lid; later ones have separate panel. Some early
models covered in beige
"Fender tweed" instead of black Tolex. Top available in in sparkle
silver or gold, or Fender "Fiesta Red". Celeste was 3- or
4-octave "treble" version. 1965;Suitcase Piano introduced
, amplifier/speaker cabinet with built-in sustain pedal doubled as stand for keyboard;
73 notes, 61-note model announced but never put into production; curved top available
in various colours as Piano Bass above, some cases covered in "Fender
tweed" as above. Later models had stereo tremolo. 1971;88-note
Suitcase Piano introduced; same amp/speaker/stand as 73. All tops and cases
now available in black only. Mk I Stage Piano introduced at this time;
73 or 88 notes, no amp/speakers; four steel tube legs, sustain pedal attached
via metal rod. 1978; Suitcase has revised controls, amp and speakers 1979;Mk II Stage and "Flat-top" Suitcase models;
All models now have flat ridged top and improved action. 1980;54-note Mk II Stage Piano introduced; flat top, slider controls. 1982;
short-lived Mk III EK-10 combined electromechanical Rhodes mechanism with
electronic oscillators and filters. 1984; The Mk V* was the
last electromechanical Rhodes instrument for over 15 years, and 3 examples were
equipped with MIDI outputs. Completely new case design made from lightweight
plastic. Despite the Rhodes name being bought by Roland, who built a range
of Rhodes-branded digital pianos, organs and synths during the 1990s, no new electromechanical
Rhodes pianos were built until: 2001; A few months after the death
of Harold Rhodes, Major Key (a company dedicated to the upgrading and maintenance
of Rhodes pianos) exhibited a brand-new 54-note Stage Piano at the winter NAMM
show, made using over 60% new parts and featuring an active preamp, beige Tolex
covering and silver sparkle flat top. This appears to have been a one-off instrument;
a promised limited-production model never appeared. 2009; After a gap
of nearly 25 years, a completely new Rhodes
Music Corporation began commercial production of the newly-designed Mk
7, first seen in prototype form at the 2007 Winter NAMM show.
7 range features an improved Mk V-style action, a lightweight fibreglass case
and an overall improved build quality compared to vintage models. 88-, 73- and
(for the first time commercially) 61-note models are advertised, along with optional
"speaker platforms" similar to the old Suitcase base. All three sizes
are available in three options; "S" (passive, equivalent to the
old Stage model), A (active preamp with stereo tremolo, similar to the
old Suitcase keyboard unit but usable without a dedicated amp and speakers, and
"AM", as model A but with full MIDI controller capabilities including
polyphonic aftertouch, split zones, pitch and modulation wheels. Initially, three
standard colours are available; black, white and red, all available in gloss automotive
paint or a rubberised "RoadTouch" matt finish. According to a Keyboard
Magazine video, custom colours may become available in future.
Notes: Little is known about the Student Piano; mid 1960s - early 1970s; A
late 60s model looks virtually identical to the 1969 "Home Piano" described
below, but with no volume pedal and with the controls mounted under the keyboard.
There were at least two earlier models - the single pedestal "fishtail"
version and a "double pedestal" design. Built-in metronome. Controls
mounted on pod under keyboard. Colours included avocado green and mustard yellow!
(this information was told to me in 1980 by Harold Rhodes at the Fender
factory in California). The Home Piano is even rarer. Three different
designs are known. In 1969 there was a Home Piano, with wood-grain panelled sides,
black curved top, a music rack and a built-in cassette recorder. This model featured
a unique spring-action volume pedal. In the late 70s a new model was produced,
with a completely wooden cabinet and again a cassette recorder. In the early 1980s
I saw a completely different Home Piano in London. This was a UK-built black piano-style
cabinet housing the mechanism of a Suitcase Piano.
* The reason
that the model numbers appear to jump from Mk III to Mk V is that
the "missing" Mk IV was a new design concept which never made
it to production. Around this time there was also an ELECTRONIC
piano made under the Rhodes name by ARP.
Vntage Vibe Tine Piano (USA)
Struck tuning forks, simplified piano action,
VV44 VV64 VV73
Jump menu: A new design from vintage
keyboard renovation experts Vintage
Vibe, using newly-designed action parts in a lightweight wood-and-fibreglass
case similar to that of a Wurlitzer 200. 64- and 73-key models were introduced
at the Winter 2011 NAMM show, in passive, active and active stereo versions. The
fibreglass top is available in a wide range of plain and sparkle colours to order.
Vntage Vibe Vibanet (USA)
Clavichord action; strings struck by hard rubber
tangents; electromagnetic pickups
Jump menu: Another new design from
Vibe, this is the first new Clavinet-type instrument since Hohner
stopped producing the E7 in the early 1980s. The Vibanet features onboard
active EQ and auto-wah, plus improved tuning and damping mechanisms.
Designed by Gibson Guitar's
chief R&D engineer Lloyd Loar for his own short-lived Vivi-Tone
company, which also produced electric guitars, basses, mandolins and fiddles.
An earlier Loar design using sticky pads and electrostatic pickups was
later adapted by Hohner for the Pianet.
Hohner Pianet (West
Plucked reeds, sticky pads; electrostatic
pickups, later electromagnetic
Jump menu: Based on 1920s patent by
Lloyd Loar, ex Gibson Guitars (see Vivi-Tone). No sustain
pedal. May have been introduced as more touch-responsive successor to Cembalet. N had tremolo; M had phaser and speakers. Models L, C,N
and Combo Pianet used electrostatic pickups; reeds were plucked by leather
and foam pads impregnated with a permanently sticky compound and these doubled
as dampers when a key was released. It would appear, however that SOME Pianet
Ns were fitted with the same plectrum and damper mechanisms used by the Cembalet
(see below).This may have been a strategy to use leftover Cembalet parts
when the Pianet was introduced. T and M were last of series;
used electromagnetic pickups, silicone rubber sticky pads and more mellow-sounding
reeds. All except T had wood-veneered cases; L was simple rectangular
case, no lid, mounted on metal rod legs, built-in speaker, no tremolo. N
was classic 1960s electric piano with folding lid/music rack and "boomerang"
inverted-V-shaped legs. Optional amplifier fitted underneath. C was similar
to N but mounted on "coffee-table" legs. Combo Pianet was stage
model without folding lid; no tremolo or speakers. M was domestic console
model from 1970s with fabric-covered speakers above keyboard ends and flat-topped
"piano-style" black keys.T had black leather-cloth covering and
rubber-padded end-blocks. Early examples may also have been available in orange!
See also Clavinet Pianet Duo.
Jump menu: Cembalet N visually
similar to Pianet N, but different keyboard range (C-C as opposed to F-F
or F-E) )and brighter tone. Mechanism comprised rubber plectrum and separate damper.
Optional amplifier fitted underneath. Cembalet II is console model with
vibrato, valve amp and speakers and built-in volume pedal.
Selmer Pianotron (UK,
Original version; Struck strings;
traditional piano action with soundboard (?); electrostatic pickups
version as Weltmeister Claviset
a) 1938 - ?
b) Early - mid 1960s
menu: Two unrelated instruments
sharing the same name.
Original British-made instrument as depicted in
1939 UK patent is conventional upright piano fitted with electrostatic pickups.
1960s instrument appears to be imported and re-branded Weltmeister
Claviset (see below)
2-keyboard version with "Matador" combo organ
on top keyboard.
1963? - ?
menu: Made by long-established
accordion and harmonica manufacturer in Klingenthal, formerly East Germany. Appears
to be an approximate copy of the Hohner Cembalet, and is the only known
Eastern European electric piano. Unlike Hohner instruments of the time, uses electromagnetic
pickups. Later models somehow acquired a sustain pedal! Also a 2-keyboard
version with "Matador" combo organ on top keyboard. The piano-and-organ
version has no known equivalent in Hohner's range. There was also an electromechanical
strap-on bass keyboard, called the Basset, closer in principle to the Rhodes
Piano Bass than Hohner's electronic bass keyboard of the same name. There
is also a (later) Claviset with a range of tabs for different sounds and 2 pedals
action; strings struck by hard rubber tangents; electromagnetic pickups
Jump menu: Invented by Ernst Zacharias.
Essentially an electric clavichord. A unique early prototype
exists with 54-note keyboard, traditional clavichord action and four filter controls;
now in Keyboard Museum, Austria Clavinets I and II were domestic
models with tone switches (II), rectangular veneered case, wooden legs
and speaker (I). Clavinet L had reverse-coloured keys, "triangular"
case, speaker and three "coffee-table" legs. Clavinet C was the
late-60s "Stevie Wonder" model - red and white case, mechanically identical
to Clavinet II. Clavinet D6 was classic wood-veneered 1970s model.
D6 and later E7 had two pickups and various tone switches,
plus variable damper. Duo combined Clavinet and Pianet actions
in one keyboard. E7 was like D6 in a more roadworthy case. First
E7s were actually labelled D6. Later E7s had angled damper
Jump menu: Similar mechanism to
Fender Rhodes design. 72-note keyboard. Console model has wooden upright-piano-style
case with 4 speakers and 20-watt solid-state amplifier. Sustain and soft pedals
fitted; soft pedal is actually electronic attenuator. Electra-Piano T
is late-70s "stage" model; looks like somewhat home-made copy of Fender
Rhodes with white top; folding legs; no "soft" pedal, amp or speakers
(although matching amp was available). Different mechanism from console model.
Jump menu: At least two models; portable
"stage" model similar to Rhodes or Wurlitzer 200 and domestic model
in lightweight wooden console case; looks like small upright piano. Similar mechanical
design to Wurlitzer. 61 notes, sustain pedal, no tremolo. Elepian
name still used for Denon's digital pianos.
(USA, West Germany)
metal reeds, traditional piano action, electrostatic pickups.
100 series (1954 - 1968)
200 series, most popular EP-200/200A
(1969 - early 1980s)
1954 - 1982?
menu: Designed by Ben Miessner.
Early models had valve pre-amps; later ones had tremolo circuit. All had built-in
speakers except battery-powered EP-200B. 100 series (up to late
'60s) had painted wood or fibreboard cases; 140B was first solid-state
onwards had plastic cases. 700 series were wooden-cased console models.
300 appears to have been a wooden-cased console model built around a 200,
and made in Germany for the local market. Except as noted, all models had 64 keys.
EP-200 available in various colours.
EP-200A only available in black. In addition to various educational
models based on the EP-200, there is also a very rare 44-note music lab model
(Model 106-P) available in beige or orange, which came as a set of eight (Model
106) in a portable folding frame, almost like a fairground ride! ("Roll
up, roll up for the thrills and spills of the Mighty Wurlitzer!") Baby
Butterfly Grand was NOT electric grand but same mechanism as model 200 in
semi-circular wooden cabinet with twin angled lids above upwards-facing speakers.
(Wurlitzer had made acoustic pianos in this style since the 1920s).
celesta action; hammers striking metal plates; electrostatic pickups (?)
Designed by orchestral percussionist
and composer Clair Omar Musser (1900 - 1998) and manufactured by his own company.
61-note keyboard. Has controls for bass, treble and tremolo - Musser was a vibraphone
strings; modified piano action; electromagnetic pickups
menu: Designed by Prussian Nobel
Laureate Professor Nernst, in conjunction with Bechstein and Siemens.
An early electric grand. I don't know how many were made or who they were aimed
at, but at least one survives in the Deutsches Museum in Munich, Germany.
Struck strings; traditional
piano action; piezoelectric pickups
menu: An electric upright piano,
originally developed (like the Rhodes and Wurlitzer) for school
and college piano labs but, unlike them, rarely seen beyond that environment,
largely due to weight and tuning needs. However, in the early 1970s, a portable
and roadworthy stage model, the ElectroPro was produced. I believe that
an electric grand was also made.
Jump menu: The world's first and only
solid-body electric harpsichord, with an extruded aluminium frame/body, bright
red dummy "soundboard", and clear perspex lid and music rack. Looks
like something out of the Jetsons, but was used on dozens of TV and movie scores,
the Beatles used one ("Because" on Abbey Road) and the
Beach Boys even took one on tour (along with a professional tuner).
Struck strings; traditional piano action; piezo-electric
Jump menu: Small (73-note) electric
upright; tubular steel frame, folding keyboard. Built by Lindner in Shannon,
Ireland under license from Dutch manufacturer Rippen. The Lawrence was
built alongside Lindner-branded acoustics using the same novel lightweight construction
The piano's action is mostly made from plastic, making damaged
instruments difficult to repair. Nonetheless, Stevie Wonder recorded with one
and appeared in advertising.
traditional piano action; electromagnetic pickups