If you have been considering buying an electric piano, you may have wondered about the quality of your choice. The difference between an acoustic piano and an electric piano is probably far easier to identify than the nuances that distinguish the several types of non-acoustic pianos. This article will take a look at the history of the electric piano in hopes of providing you with a better appreciation of the influence this instrument has had on piano technology and popular music.
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Electric Piano Basics
The term electric piano applies to an instrument that works mechanically like an acoustic piano. You hit a key and moving mechanical parts inside the body of the piano respond. The primary difference between the electric piano and the acoustic piano is the sound on an electric piano is converted to electrical signals, whereas the sound on the acoustic piano rings.
The History Of The Electric Piano
Beginning in the early part of the 20th century, electric pianos went into widespread production. Still, it took several decades for the instrument to catch on. By 1955, the electric piano had found its way into popular music of the time, showing up on the Indiaalbum by Duke Ellington and Sun Ra. By the end of the decade, the instrument was edging toward the height of its popularity. It wasn't until the 1970s that the draw of the electric piano began to wane as the popularity of the electronic piano (also called a synthesizer) grew.
The Hey Day of the Electric Piano
Between the mid-1950s and the late 1980s, the electric piano has had a constant, distinguishable presence in popular music. From its start in Jazz standards with greats like Duke Ellington, the electric piano went on to infiltrate several musical genres including Boogie Woogie, Soul and Rock. The electric piano was featured on chart-topping tunes such as:
What'd I Sayby Ray Charles
Louie Louie by The Kingsmen
L.A. Womanby The Doors
Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin
Just the Way Your Areby Billy Joel
Chameleonby Herbie Hancock
In Your Eyesby Peter Gabriel
A Groovy Kind of Loveby Phil Collins
The Electric Piano Versus A Synthesizer
Contrary to popular belief, the electric piano and the synthesizer are not interchangeable. A synthesizer is an electronic instrument, whereas the electric piano is an electro-mechanical instrument. There are no mechanical parts to the synthesizer. It works by emitting voices, meaning there are no moving mechanical parts to strike strings. Just an electronic response triggered by the depression of keys and buttons. You have to take note of the features of electric piano.
It is hard to make a decision on what you want when you are not quite sure what you are getting. Since going into widespread production nearly 100 years ago, the electric piano has carved out for itself and nice little corner in popular music history. At least now, if you are in the market for an electric piano, you will have a better idea of the contributions this instrument has made.
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