Hi! I’m Simon Beck, and this is my Blog.
Some of you may know me from Simon’s Hall of Electric Pianos or Vintage Keys E-Zine. Others will have come across my contributions to discussions about combo organs, clonewheels, vintage electric pianos, Stylophones and CIEPs (Cheap Italian Electronic Pianos). I suppose I’m a bit of a train-spotter in a keyboardy way. Ten years ago when I started the Hall of Electric Pianos website, I knew about perhaps a dozen electric pianos - Wurlitzer, Rhodes, Hohner Pianets and Clavinets, Yamahas, and a few more obscure ones like Baldwin and Kawai, but I never would have guessed that the list would grow to its present length. This is thanks largely to people who have shared their knowledge and resources with me over the years. It’s good to know I’m not alone!
The music industry has also acknowledged the continued popularity of vintage keyboard instruments. From a few pioneering instruments such as the Korg CX-3 and the original Clavia Nord Electro, there has developed a new type of keyboard; the “virtual vintage”. Some of these are very specialised; the Manikin Memotron and Mellotron’s own digital version are dedicated to emulating as closely as possible the unearthly tape-recorded tones of the Mellotron and Chamberlin. Others seek to cover a wide range of bases; the Nord Electro 3 and the Hammond SK1 both have tonewheel and transistor organ models on board as well as carefully-sampled vintage electric pianos. There are also pure software emulations available of everything from Wurlitzer pianos to Polymoogs and Hammonds.
One of the most exciting developments is the return of true electromechanical instruments to the market. Alongside the digital Mellotron, you can buy a genuine brand-new Mellotron with motors and tapes from either of two manufacturers. Similarly, tine-based electric pianos are now being made again by both a relaunched Rhodes Music Corporation and Vintage Vibe, a vintage keyboard specialist in New Jersey. Much further down-scale, you can even buy a new Stylophone for a fraction of the price of the ’70s version and incorporating a volume control and three different sounds!
In future instalments I’ll be looking at the past, present and future of vintage keyboards and how they have helped to shape popular music. Look out for interviews, reviews and a lot more.