Why Does The World Need An Electric Piano?

The electric piano began to grow in popularity in the late 1960’s, with the advent of electric instruments and amplification systems. It was ideal for homes, schools, and performance halls, for several reasons:

  • Because it was smaller and lighter than an acoustic piano, it could be moved much more easily, and took up less space in the home or classroom.
  • Because its sound was generated electromechanically – that is, it did not need a sounding board and could be amplified electrically – it was easier to amplify the sound in a concert setting.
  • Also because of its electric nature, it could be used with headphones to teach an entire classroom of students on multiple instruments.

How It Works

The “pickup” is an important feature of most electric stringed instruments, such as the piano, guitar, bass, and violin). A pickup is a device that converts physical vibrations into electrical impulses, which may then be amplified to produce the instrument’s sound.

Pianos of this type produce their sounds in a number of different ways:

  • Some instruments – Yamaha, Baldwin, Helpinstill, and Kawai – actually have strings and hammers, but they use either pressure-sensitive pickups under the bridge (which supports the strings), or electromagnetic pickups on the frame of the piano.
  • Wurlitzer instruments had hammers that struck metal reeds, that vibrated next to metal plates, and it was the interaction of these plates which produced the sound.
  • The Fender Rhodes and Hohner Electra-Piano had hammers that struck two vibrating metal pieces, either a wire/bar or reed/bar combination.
  • The Hohner Pianet was an example of an instrument that plucked metal reeds with pads made of foam rubber and leather.

    Whatever the method of sound production, the electric piano has become an instrument in its own right, not just an electric replacement for the acoustic piano. It has a very distinctive sound that has been the basis of many popular songs throughout the last 40-50 years.

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