A brief (but not brief enough) survey of ELECTRONIC pianos
for those who feel they need to know.

WARNING!

The instruments in this section are often described as "electric pianos". THEY ARE NOT. In every case, their sound is produced not electromechanically but using solid-state electronic circuitry (transistors, integrated circuits or microprocessors). These are pianos that (apart from the RMI and Yamahas) have litte (if any) claim to "classic" status. If you see these at auction or for sale, they are NOT a substitute for a Rhodes or a Wurly, and unless you specifically want them, not worth even looking at.

Remember that "old" doesn't necessarily equal "classic".


Name
Comments
Quality
Classic status?

RMI ElectraPiano, Rock-Si-Chord etc.

The first and best of an otherwise mediocre bunch. Many models from 1968 to late seventies. Harpsichord and "lute" sounds were best, but straight piano sound was also punchy and distinctive. No touch sensitivity. "Organ" mode extended decay time. Used by Rick Wakeman, Sparks, Genesis, Ray Manzarek (possibly) and many others.
***
***
Multivox, Univox(?)American importers' brand names applied mostly to Italian-made Crumar instruments (see Crumar)
**
*

Crumar Compac, Compac II,
Roadrunner,
Roadracer,
Roady etc.

The archetypal early '70s to early '80s electronic pianos. Budget-priced, very portable (George Duke used one as a strap-on, as did Edgar Winter) but with bland, unmemorable sounds. Usually had three sounds, vibrato and tuning control. Roady had additional vibes sound; Roadracer was only model with touch sensitivity. Legend has it that the Beatles used a Crumar for the intro of "Lucy In the Sky...". They didn't. THAT was a Lowrey organ, and besides, electronic pianos didn't exist then. Late models were marketed in the UK as "Chase" rather than Crumar.
**
*

Hohner International
(HI-Piano)

Not even distantly related to Hohner's famous Clavinet, Pianet and Electra-Piano models, these are typical Italian pianos (possibly made by Crumar) but housed in very heavy, road-worthy (German-made?) Clavinet E7-style cases. Some models have additional string and synth sounds.
***
*
Armon (Selmer-Armon)These were among the cheapest, nastiest instruments ever made. I speak as someone who had to struggle with one of these turkeys at school in the late 70s. Bent aluminium cases, flimsy keyboards, noisy electronics, wobbly stands and fizzy sounds, plus lack of a tuning control on the model I used were some of the many reasons to avoid this one. Oh, and the fact that it burst into flames during a rehearsal.
*
*
CordovoxSuspiciously similar to the Selmer-Armon in having sliders for the 3 equally dismal sounds. Some were mounted in Cordovox's famous "White Elephant" plastic cases; others in ordinary wood-grain boxes. Moog may have been partly responsible for the fabled CDX organ; I very much doubt whether they even KNEW about this thing.
*
*
ARP 4-Voice,
16-Voice
Among the most acoustic-sounding electronic pianos. These were made just before the ill-fated takeover by CBS/Fender/Rhodes which resulted in the eventual demise of ARP. The 4-Voice (the name referred to available sounds, not polyphony) is a good work-horse, while the 16-Voice has a lot of "clever-clever" preset effects (trills, arpeggios etc.), but not much more that's actually usable. Touch-sensitive, weighted keyboards.
***
**
Rhodes Electronic PianoWhen CBS bought the ARP synthesiser company in the early 80s, ARP had just produced its first two electronic pianos, the "4-Voice" and the "16-voice". The Rhodes Electronic Piano was a similar design, including a touch-sensitive weighted keyboard. However, a Rhodes worthy of its name it was not.
***
**
Kustom 88Does exactly what it says on the tin. Actually, this was a pretty good one-sound piano with a nice 88-note weighted touch-sensitive keyboard and a sound not dissimilar to that of the old RMI. At the time (early '80s) it would have been a good cheap alternative to a Yamaha electric grand. Today a Casio will give a better acoustic piano sound.
***
*

Yamaha CP-20 CP-30,
CP-25,
CP-35

Despite their names, these were in no way related to Yamaha's classic CP-70 electric grand and its successors. However, they WERE better-than-average electronic pianos, if you wanted something that didn't sound like an electric or an acoustic. All featured selectable waveforms and adjustable decay for a wide range of possible sounds. The CP-30 and CP-35 also featured tuneable independent dual output channels. The CP-25 and CP-35 were later models with extra waveforms and effects. The CP range were among the first electronic pianos to feature weighted touch-sensitive keyboards. Good but VERY heavy. Used by Elton John, Christine McVie, Dr John and others.
***
***

Yamaha pf-10,
pf-15,
pf-70,

pf-80

These were Yamaha's last electronic (rather than digital) pianos, although they did in fact use digital FM synthesis (like the DX series synthesisers). The sounds aren't bad, in a DX-7-ish way, and all but the pf-10 have weighted keyboards and built-in speakers. Very "1980s" instruments, but here in the UK jazz musicians seem to like them (or perhaps they can't afford anything better?) The pf-70 and pf-80 have more sounds, plus MIDI. Later pf-85 is digital.
***
**

Quality:
Classic Status?:
***=
Good
*** =
Classic
** =
Average
** =
Workhorse
* =
Useless
* =
Dodo

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