Time Machine: Electro-Acoustic Stage Pianos

“If you’re the type of artist that won’t settle for anything less than the sound and feel of an acoustic grand piano, then you probably consider an electric piano to be strictly a ‘color’ instrument.”
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The Yamaha CP70B’s characteristic metallic sheen became the chorus-soaked sound of countless pop hits, including the Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star” and Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes.”

Yamaha_CP70B

“If you’re the type of artist that won’t settle for anything less than the sound and feel of an acoustic grand piano, then you probably consider an electric piano to be strictly a ‘color’ instrument.” So began the brochure for Yamaha’s CP70B electric grand, from which we scanned the photo above. This slap at the Rhodes and Wurly was valid—both are great sounds in their own right, but neither sounded anything like a real piano. Electro-acoustic pianos were real pianos, albeit with shorter bass strings, and pickups (think electric guitar) instead of a heavy wooden soundboard. None of the three here lays claim to being the first electro-acoustic; that distinction belongs to a beautiful piece of art deco furniture called the RCA Storytone, which debuted in 1939. All three, though, were serious solutions for getting real piano sound onstage, were used professionally well into the ’80s, and if in good condition, fetch healthy prices on the vintage market today.

Ads for the Kawai EP-308 in Keyboard featured fusion pioneer Jeff Lorber. Shown here is the EP-308S, which included a three-octave string synth.

Kawai_EP308S

The most sought-after vintage electro-acoustic is probably the Helpinstill Roadmaster, which came in 64 or 88 keys, and could ingeniously fold up, becoming its own road case.

Helpinstill