Author Topic: My homemade electric piano  (Read 2155 times)

Offline bourniplus

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My homemade electric piano
« on: March 28, 2017, 03:48:01 PM »
Hey guys,
I've been working on this project for a few weeks. At first I intended to make an electric clavichord, but in the meantime I got myself a real clavinet, so I decided to make a piano instead. It still has a long way to go before being gig-worthy, but anyhow, I just uploaded a little video, I thought I'd share this with the EP community.
Best regards,
Martin
https://youtu.be/CrXiU48pr8U
Mark I - Mark V
Clavinet model C
My electric square piano prototype

Offline Tim Hodges

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Re: My homemade electric piano
« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2017, 03:23:06 AM »
That is amazing, thanks for sharing.
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Offline rhodesjuzz

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Re: My homemade electric piano
« Reply #2 on: March 29, 2017, 04:05:15 AM »
Very cool and a nice variaty of sounds with the effects. Are you planning to apply tolex on the case?
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Offline Tim Hodges

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Re: My homemade electric piano
« Reply #3 on: March 29, 2017, 04:12:58 AM »
The current case design reminds me of a Clavinet I.
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Offline bourniplus

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Re: My homemade electric piano
« Reply #4 on: March 29, 2017, 05:33:46 AM »
Are you planning to apply tolex on the case?

I don't have any experience with tolex and read it's kind of expensive and not that easy to install properly, so I was thinking about a hardwood veneer to cover all the exterior sides of the plywood and the edges. But I'm open to suggestions!
Mark I - Mark V
Clavinet model C
My electric square piano prototype

Offline Fred

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Re: My homemade electric piano
« Reply #5 on: March 29, 2017, 06:58:23 AM »
Sounds beautiful!
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Offline pianotuner steveo

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Re: My homemade electric piano
« Reply #6 on: March 29, 2017, 08:39:35 AM »
It's really amazing. It sounds different than any other keyboard - you really may have something special here!
 What did you use for strings? Clavinet strings? Guitar strings? How many strings are there per note?

« Last Edit: March 29, 2017, 06:44:54 PM by pianotuner steveo »
1960 Wurlitzer model 700 EP
1968 Gibson G101 Combo organ
1975 Rhodes Piano Bass
1979 Wurlitzer 206A EP
1980 Wurlitzer 200A EP
1980 Wurlitzer 270 Butterfly Grand
2000 Yamaha acoustic piano
2004 Hammond XK3
2009 73A Rhodes Mark 7
2009 Korg SV-1 73
....and a few guitars...

Offline bourniplus

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Re: My homemade electric piano
« Reply #7 on: March 29, 2017, 09:04:05 AM »
Thanks guys. The strings are regular electric guitar strings, 49 of them, one per note. The basic design is very close to the square pianos of the late 18th century. No escapement, no backcheck. I realise that with bare wood hammers, the attack is very snappy, a bit on the clavinet side. If I want to make it more rhodes-y / CP80-ish, I'd have to cover the hammers with felt or leather. Maybe for the next prototype :)
Mark I - Mark V
Clavinet model C
My electric square piano prototype

Offline Student Rhodes

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Re: My homemade electric piano
« Reply #8 on: May 18, 2017, 10:51:07 PM »
That thing looks cool.  Can you post more pictures or videos of the mechanics?   I'd love to see the action and the harp.
Awesome job.
Ray

Offline bourniplus

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Re: My homemade electric piano
« Reply #9 on: May 22, 2017, 09:05:44 AM »
Thanks Ray,
I've tried to attach pictures directly in the post but can't find how...
https://1drv.ms/i/s!Am7UqYdhEMpY0DdW-2g678tDc01_
https://1drv.ms/i/s!Am7UqYdhEMpY0Do8WIe20ZHQ7iA0
https://1drv.ms/i/s!Am7UqYdhEMpY0DmVslL42daf78n9
These are all the pictures I took. Someday I'll get a decent camera.
« Last Edit: May 22, 2017, 09:09:59 AM by bourniplus »
Mark I - Mark V
Clavinet model C
My electric square piano prototype

Offline bourniplus

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Re: My homemade electric piano
« Reply #10 on: October 05, 2017, 11:19:54 PM »
Hey guys, I thought I'd share how this project is going.
The sound hasn't changed much, except that I put new pickups and wired them in series instead of parallel. I've covered the exterior with a mahogany veneer, I've yet to apply a finish. As you can see I made some "levers" to activate the mute and the sustain. I still have to make some kind of front panel and a keyslip.
The instrument had its first car ride today and should be used on a gig tomorrow!
« Last Edit: October 05, 2017, 11:41:19 PM by bourniplus »
Mark I - Mark V
Clavinet model C
My electric square piano prototype

Offline sean

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Re: My homemade electric piano
« Reply #11 on: October 06, 2017, 01:11:37 AM »

Awesome.  Really just awesome!

I love the pitch-bend by lifting the corner of the piano.   

Sean

Offline pianotuner steveo

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Re: My homemade electric piano
« Reply #12 on: October 14, 2017, 07:44:32 AM »
The cabinet is awesome too! Did you use parts from an old grand piano? The keyboard looks like a grand keyboard too. The hammers look like modified upright hammers. Really cool...
1960 Wurlitzer model 700 EP
1968 Gibson G101 Combo organ
1975 Rhodes Piano Bass
1979 Wurlitzer 206A EP
1980 Wurlitzer 200A EP
1980 Wurlitzer 270 Butterfly Grand
2000 Yamaha acoustic piano
2004 Hammond XK3
2009 73A Rhodes Mark 7
2009 Korg SV-1 73
....and a few guitars...

Offline bourniplus

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Re: My homemade electric piano
« Reply #13 on: October 14, 2017, 07:30:20 PM »
Thanks Steve. All the action parts come from an old upright. (As does the rounded part of the case.)

The hammers are now in the place of where the catchers used to be. It may not look like it, but I actually spent a lot of time deciding how the hammers would be positioned relative to the capstans. In the last few weeks, I ended up repinning most of the hammers, which had become very sluggish because of the autumn humidity. I learned that with such a simple action, there's a fine line between sluggish and double-strike!

The dampers were cut in half to accomodate their new location.

I drilled new mortises for the balance pins closer to the front of the keys (and made a new balance rail).

The case veneer was glued with hide glue, I still have a few "bubbles" that I'm not sure how to correct before I finally dye and varnish the thing. I also bought some metal corners but then I figured I'd have to route the sides for them to fit, so I don't think I'll use them.
Mark I - Mark V
Clavinet model C
My electric square piano prototype

Offline bourniplus

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Re: My homemade electric piano
« Reply #14 on: December 22, 2017, 07:34:03 AM »
Hey guys, now that the piano is more or less complete, I put two more videos. I think they show well the sounds that can be had with the different settings of dampers and mute. One is through a Fender Princeton reverb: https://youtu.be/2YZEZucByUM
And the other is through a Roland JC-77:
https://youtu.be/Y3auwdh9dH8
Happy holidays to all!
Martin
Mark I - Mark V
Clavinet model C
My electric square piano prototype

Offline sean

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Re: My homemade electric piano
« Reply #15 on: December 22, 2017, 12:23:20 PM »


Really nice. Awesome work.


I like the keyed fiddle too!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOaOKJKwAWA


Sean

Offline bourniplus

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Re: My homemade electric piano
« Reply #16 on: January 07, 2018, 06:57:01 PM »
Thanks Sean.

And here's a picture of the front! (or back, depends where you are...)

Mark I - Mark V
Clavinet model C
My electric square piano prototype

Offline bourniplus

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Re: My homemade electric pianos
« Reply #17 on: February 03, 2018, 08:49:05 AM »
Hey guys,
I'm in the early stage of working on a new prototype, this time with an upright action and real piano wire instead of guitar strings. Here's a little video: https://youtu.be/-4SaMtgZ4DY
Martin
Mark I - Mark V
Clavinet model C
My electric square piano prototype

Offline Silvestre

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Re: My homemade electric piano
« Reply #18 on: February 03, 2018, 12:59:00 PM »
Great. You've got my respect and admiration... healthy envy too.

Could you tell us whether you are using just one string per note or keeping two (or three) strings per note as in regular acoustic pianos?

I also would like to know what is the solution you took for the arp. It looks like you have substituted the soundboard for solid wood, and inserted the tuning pins in that new thicker boards of wood... is it something like that?

Offline Silvestre

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Re: My homemade electric piano
« Reply #19 on: February 03, 2018, 01:02:44 PM »
the first seconds of the video reply most of my questions... single strunged... isn't it?

Offline bourniplus

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Re: My homemade electric piano
« Reply #20 on: February 03, 2018, 01:14:47 PM »
Hi Silvestre,
Yep, only one string per note.

Indeed the harp is solid wood, it's some kind of softwood. Amazingly it holds the tuning pins at pitch, though not as tight as a laminated hardwood pinblock. Even when unplugged there's a certain volume, I'd say it's a bit louder than an unplugged Rhodes.
Mark I - Mark V
Clavinet model C
My electric square piano prototype

Offline Silvestre

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Re: My homemade electric piano
« Reply #21 on: February 03, 2018, 02:26:37 PM »
Thank you for your quick answer.

I have an old piano (aprox. 1880) without metal harp, and almost all loose tuning pins... broken soundboard, too...

I was dreaming of trying something like this new project of yours... at least to have it working while I'm not repairing the soundboard and pinblock. So, it's really nice to find that the instrument can sound that good with one string per note.

Congratulations, again... awesome job

Offline bourniplus

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Re: My homemade electric piano
« Reply #22 on: April 13, 2018, 06:47:40 AM »
Greetings everyone,
I got a better camera and a small tripod so I made a video that shows how my square piano is tuned and how the hand stops work, I hope some of you will find this interesting: https://youtu.be/xOyIdTliMb0  (please turn close-caption on).
Martin
Mark I - Mark V
Clavinet model C
My electric square piano prototype

Offline pianotuner steveo

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Re: My homemade electric piano
« Reply #23 on: July 18, 2018, 06:25:30 AM »
That upright sounds cool, but be careful! Acoustic pianos need a cast iron plate to keep them from imploding.There are thousands of pounds of tension in a tuned piano. Also the pin block needs to be made from laminated plys- like plywood, but maple, not pine. A single block of wood will fail after a few seasons, the pins will get looser. (And the board will likely crack in the Winter- right in line with some tuning pins) What did you make your pinblock from? A current modern pinblock is 32 thin plies of cross grained maple. (1 ply vertical, 1 ply horizontal, then repeat over and over)  Really OLD pianos used 3-5 boards glued together and that was not enough. This is one reason why most modern pianos are built better than antique pianos. Also for better tuning stability, you should tighten up the coils on the tuning pins.

Don't get me wrong, this is a cool idea,and it sounds cool. I had the same idea in 1975 but my piano tuner's son talked me out if it. (I started working on pianos the following year)
I'm only pointing out that this may be unsafe when all the strings are installed if you are using genuine piano strings. Square grands from the 1800's did not have iron plates because they used thinner gauge (and shorter) wire. It's when you add heavy bass strings is when you will encounter issues with the structure not holding up. The other issue is that single strings will slice into the hammer felts which is why Rhodes dumped the felt and switched to neoprene.
« Last Edit: July 23, 2018, 08:55:10 AM by pianotuner steveo »
1960 Wurlitzer model 700 EP
1968 Gibson G101 Combo organ
1975 Rhodes Piano Bass
1979 Wurlitzer 206A EP
1980 Wurlitzer 200A EP
1980 Wurlitzer 270 Butterfly Grand
2000 Yamaha acoustic piano
2004 Hammond XK3
2009 73A Rhodes Mark 7
2009 Korg SV-1 73
....and a few guitars...

Offline bourniplus

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Re: My homemade electric piano
« Reply #24 on: July 23, 2018, 12:12:20 PM »
Hi Steve and thanks for the warning, but I'm pretty confident that I'm well within the safe limits of what this wooden structure can hold. Please note that the strings are in the same direction as the wood fiber. I know that true pinblock material would be better to hold the pins on the long-term, but then I would indeed need a metal frame to hold it together with the rest of the structure. Before starting to build this, I did many tests with 2x4's and piano wire. Many of these are still sitting in my workshop after many months with the strings close to the same pitch, and no sign of cracks in the wood. My upright electric is holding pretty well after a few months too. I'm not too concerned about the long-term durability, this is all only for my personal enjoyment. ;)
Mark I - Mark V
Clavinet model C
My electric square piano prototype

Offline pianotuner steveo

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Re: My homemade electric piano
« Reply #25 on: July 25, 2018, 06:47:05 AM »
I understand what you are saying,and I applaud you for trying this. I'm just saying that someday, something can go wrong and if it does, it can be extremely dangerous to you. If a tuning pin under tension pulls out of the block, it can act like a bullet (with limited distance due to the string)
Another thing that can happen is if you add the rest of the strings, the wooden frame can fail and also possibly hurt you. It can take years for the "pinblock" to fail, not just a few months.
Even cast iron plates sometimes fail. My sister's old grand piano plate exploded when they were away on vacation once partly from humidity building up in the house.
Try to keep the humidity pretty stable in the room the piano(s) are in. Too dry, the tuning pins can get loose. Too humid, the pitch will raise on its own putting extra stress on the frame.

How many keys is the upright?

What are you using for bridges?
1960 Wurlitzer model 700 EP
1968 Gibson G101 Combo organ
1975 Rhodes Piano Bass
1979 Wurlitzer 206A EP
1980 Wurlitzer 200A EP
1980 Wurlitzer 270 Butterfly Grand
2000 Yamaha acoustic piano
2004 Hammond XK3
2009 73A Rhodes Mark 7
2009 Korg SV-1 73
....and a few guitars...