Tag Archive for Electric Piano

Wurlitzer 110 Manual and Schematic

–Gotta love that 1950’s space-age Wurlitzer atomic logo!

Here is a rare look at the original Wurlitzer manual for the near-prototype 110! Until now we were only aware of the 112 service manual and assumed that the 110 probably didn’t have a manual since it was only produced for such a limited lifespan. We’re happy to have it in our collection of original artifacts and we would like to share a copy of the .pdf with anyone else who will benefit from having it. A copy of the 110 schematic is also available as a .jpeg.

Click the cover image below to open a .pdf copy of the manual.

Wurlitzer 110_Service manual Cover

Click image to open the .pdf of the manual.

Wurlitzer Model 110 Amplifier Schematic

Clavinet Schematic Updated

Clavinet E7 and D6 Wiring Translated by The Chicago Electric Piano Company

Over the years we grew tired of attempting to remember the English translations for the German Clavinet schematics. Here are updated schematic files with English translations which are also the only publicly available schematic to show the proper pickup switching for the A/B and C/B pickup switches. I hope that you will find these translations and notations helpful.

For more information about the Clavinet Tone Controls please visit our previous post “Understanding the Clavinet Tone Controls”.

Clavinet D6 Schematic

Clavinet E7 Schematic

 

 

Note: There are slight variations on some Clavinets’ preamplifiers from what is noted in these schematics. The most common is finding 15nF capacitors in place of 10uF capacitors as noted by the schematic. The difference is subtle but the 15uF will establish a lower cutoff filter frequency.

A Rare Breed Indeed: The Helpinstill Roadmaster

Another rare gem makes its way into The Chicago Electric Piano Company’s workshop! Here’s a look at a Helpinstill Roadmaster:

(Before)

The Helpinstill Roadmaster was designed to be a gig-worthy acoustic piano that incorporated a true acoustic piano’s soundboard with an electormagnetic pickup and a custom designed foldable key bed. Helpinstill also designed the custom pickup that was incorporated into the piano and the Roadmaster pianos were built by Kimball to Helpinstill’s specifications using his unique pickup design.

In short, the Roadmaster is a Kimball piano soundboard installed into a road case with a foldable key bed and action assembly. The piano was available in 88 and 64 keys which collapsed into a road case with caster wheels that made it easier to move around.

This Roadmaster features 64 keys and had brass tacks installed on the hammer tips to give it an acoustically honky-tonk vibe and more attack through the electromagnet pickup.

Helpinstill Road Case

Here’s a look at the foldable action assembly:

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This piano came in with a lot of ‘miles’ on it! Here’s a glimpse at the crooked keys before we rebuilt the keybed:

Helpinstill Crooked Keys

In Chicago Electric Piano Company fashion we got to work first by rebuilding the key bed from the ground up, then restoring the action for the ideal expressive touch. Along the way a few stings needed to be replaced…

Helpinstill Keybed

Helpinstill Soundboard

Although the piano was designed for transportation, three of us were breaking sweat lifting this into the van on a hot Chicago afternoon! –We look forward to hearing back from this rare beast again soon!

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…This very piano has already been part of some very well known recording–chances are good that you have heard from this very piano before!

Jay Bennett Nametag copy

You can track this electric piano on your next record at Pieholden Studios, located in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village. Visit their web page for more information about their rare vintage gear collection.

How to Determine the Value and Condition of a Rhodes

How to Value a Rhodes Piano Part 2: How to Determine the Condition of a Rhodes

As mentioned in the first half of this post, unserviced Rhodes and in summary pianos in comparable condition around the Chicago regional market vary from $300-1,000 on average. Other pianos that have been partially repaired can range are valued from $800-1,200+ but are only worth the additional investment if they include a good invested labor and maintenance that keeps them in top condition. Fully restored pianos from our workshop start at around $2,000 and range up to $4,000+ and are rebuilt from the key bed up with 15-25 hours of specialized restoration work. Unfortunately for the buyer, this range of pricing from $300-4,000+ can leave many confused about the wide range in prices. In order to make sure that the Rhodes is worth the asking price, it’s important to know what to look, feel, and listen for.

Here are the parts to look for in a Fender Rhodes:

The main reason that you find such a wide range of prices for Rhodes pianos being sold is that people don’t understand how to spot deteriorating parts or even worse that the vintage parts were replaced with new parts of poor quality. Most of the parts insstrument will be easily accessible by lifting the vinyl lid and all of them will be accessible if you have a phillips screwdriver handy for removing the four screws that hold the wood harp bracket to its side supports.

The Keys & Action:

The action of the instrument is more than just the feel of the instrument and will also impact the harmonics and dynamic levels of the Rhodes. You’re not going to get the most out of your Rhodes in terms of tone if the keys and hammers are not playing properly. First play notes in various octaves softly and make sure that there are good dynamics in the bass and mid sections. Next, play it with some forte and make sure that it has the proper setup to achieve the classic Rhodes bark. When playing with forte the notes should still be pronounced and there shouldn’t be any interference in the attack of the note. From there, make sure that the volume of the notes across the keyboard are even when played with varying dynamics.

It is critical that the keys are as level as possible and that they have the proper amount of key dip. This is a quick way to judge the condition of the piano’s action. In ideal condition the keys will feel stable from left to right movement and feel buttery smooth when depressed. The textbook level of key dip should be 3/8-13/32″ deep for all keys. Unless the Rhodes was professionally setup, however, it is likely to be well outside of those margins which can cause the action to feel slow, stiff, loose or sluggish.

Bushing felts are the felts in the center of the piano key and help guide the piano key as it is depressed. If you move the piano key gently from left to right there should be little movement. When there is a loose feeling in the key and there is a lot of lateral movement in the key then the bushings should be replaced to restore the proper feel of the keys. The feeling of a key being depressed should be snug but not tight as the key is depressed.

Simple action adjustments may only take a few hours but our full key bed setup can take more than 8 hours of service to achieve ideal action levels.

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Leveled Keys

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13/32″ Key Dip Block

Tines:

The tines are what makes a Rhodes a Rhodes. These are the vibrating pieces of metal that are amplified by the electromagnetic pickups (analogous to the relationship between the strings and pickups of an electric guitar). When tines go bad in the low register their pitch will usually shift and in the upper register they will lose sustain (however, both of these problems could also be due other issues with the setup of the instrument). Most importantly tines should be completely free of rust.

Tines were contracted by different companies throughout Rhodes production so when replacing tines they should be replaced with a piano of the proper production period. Many pianos which are being sold today will have replaced tines from improper periods which causes notes to have the wrong harmonic, attack, or sustain characteristics from other pianos. At The Chicago Electric Piano Company all of our tines are separated by the production period in order to make sure that the restorations performed are period-correct.

Replacing tines can cost around $15-25 each for most pianos.

Acceptable Clean Tines

Rusty Tines

Heavily Rusted Tines

 

Tone Bars:

Together with the tine the to like a tuning fork and the tone bar is mostly there to provide mass for the sustain of the tine. The tone bars are a great way to get a quick indication of the overall condition of a Rhodes. Corroded tone bars should not have a dramatic impact on tone but could be an indication that the Rhodes has been exposed to elements that have negatively affected other aspects of the instrument.

Re-plating the zinc finish on tone bars is possible for those who want a shiny new finish.

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Healthy Tone Bars

Grommets: 

At this point in a Rhodes’ lifespan the grommets should be replaced to insure that the piano can be setup properly. Grommets are the small pieces of rubber in the center of the tone bar and suspend the tone bar so that a note can sustain and hold a consistent voice. When grommets start to age they harden and become loose in their sockets. Often their shape will hold the “memory” from years of pressure which can complicate the voicing process and can cause the voice to drift over time even after it has been setup. Grommets that look warped–especially ones that are pancaked under the washer–or grommets that are loose will definitely need to be replaced.

In the upper and lower registers, gently rock the tone bars from left to right to see if they are loose. These registers are the most prone to show the negative symptoms of bad grommets. When moving tone bars gently the tone bars should feel snug within the grommets.

There is a big difference in the tonality of a Rhodes with different grommets. We have experienced many Rhodes pianos with poor reproduction grommets that leave the pianos sounding nasally or thin often with oscillating notes because of improper tooling or density of the grommet. If you are planning on replacing the grommets yourself please make sure that you are using the highest quality components.

Grommet replacement requires completely re-voicing the Rhodes note-by-note and  falls under our “the works” services.

Warped Grommets

Warped Grommets

Healthy (New) Grommets

Healthy Grommets (New from our friends at Retro Linear)

Hammer Tips: 

Either with a flashlight or by unscrewing the harp bracket (two screws on either end of the tone bars), check the hammer tips for grooves created from striking the tine. There should be no groove at all on the wood core tips in the uppermost register or it will be nearly impossible to voice well. Like the grommets. the rubber hammer tips should have been replaced at this point in a Rhodes’ lifetime. If you see cube shaped hammer tips sometimes with yellow and red paint on the hammer tips they are the originals and are likely to need replacement.

In early Rhodes Mark I production the hammer tips were square cubes which gave the early Mark I it’s signature attack. Pianos from this period will not sound period-correct for an early Mark I piano without using cubed hammer tips. We offer either hand selected vintage hammer tips or new cubed hammer tips for these models (circa 1971-mid 1976).

For later model Rhodes the hammer tips were tapered. This presents challenges for the setup of the instrument because the changes in the height changes the strike line of the hammers with the tines across the piano. Rather than having a linear strike line of the cubed hammers the strike line is tapered because of the changes in hammer tip height. This was used in Rhodes production after mid 1976 and is also the signature shape of most reproduction hammer tips available before recently.

Look out for Early Mark I pianos with tapered hammer tips as they will most likely either have improper strike line or damper issues. When the height of the hammer tips is cut in half by using tapered hammer tips in an early Rhodes it requires that you reposition and service aspects of the Rhodes’ damper assembly, the strike line of the harp, and the height or escapement of the harp. In our opinion performing all of these adjustments for a sound that is not period-correct is too invasive and in most cases the adjustments are not even made in DIY repairs.

Hammer tips can be replaced on an as-needed basis but replacing them in full sets is the only way to get perfectly even voicing throughout the instrument.

Original (early cube) Hammers with Gooves

Wood Core Hammer Tips (Upper Register) with Grooves

Healthy (New) Hammer Tips

 

Sustain Pedal and Damper Felts:

If the owner has the sustain pedal, make sure you test it to make sure that it fits snugly within the instrument and properly pulls the damper felts down sustaining any notes evenly. The damper felts only have one function: to dampen the note after the key is released. Pay close attention to their ability to dampen the bass notes with ease. Once again, grooves should be avoided but as long as all of the notes are dampened then they are functioning perfectly fine. Still, it is important to make sure that they aren’t completely warn down.

Notes that don’t dampen can be eliminated within a typical standard tuneup but if there are many faulty notes there may be other more critical issues with the Rhodes.

Bad Damper Felts

Bad Fraying Damper Felts

 

Cosmetic Condition:

This is the factor where the originality of the parts has the most impact on the value of the instrument. Vintage instruments should be all original cosmetically or restored professionally to the original specs to hold their value over time. Small tears in the tolex covering the instrument may give it a Rhode-worn vintage look, but larger tears will decrease the value of the instrument. Likewise, check the logos and scripts to see if they have broken off or have been scratched or broken.

Scratched Logo

Tears in Tolex

 

Original Accessories:

The Rhodes Stage models should have four accessories to look for. Here’s the checklist: 1) four legs, 2) sustain pedal, 3) cross bars and knob, and 4) the case. All of these parts are critical to the instrument and can be very hard to replace.

Finding replacement parts can take time and costs can add up. Replacement case tops need to be custom fit to the Rhodes since cases vary up to 3/4″ in some instances.

Original Rhodes Case Accessories

Original Rhodes Accessories Including Legs Pouch and “Case Candy”

Side Note: “Case Candy” refers to any additional parts or memorabilia that originally came within an vintage instrument’s case and can significantly increase the value of the instrument for a collector. Originally, the Rhodes came with an owners manual and replacement tines that can increase the instrument’s value.

Ask Good Questions

Before shaking hands on a deal, or placing an offer or bid online, it’s important to learn as much as you can about the instrument and most importantly its upkeep over the years. Make sure that you have learned everything that you need to know about the instrument before shaking hands on a deal. Here are some good questions to get started:

  • “How long have you owned this Rhodes?”
  • “What issues have you had with it since you owned it?”
  • “When was the last time it was professionally serviced?” 
  • “Have any of the parts been replaced? Has anything been modified or updated?”

Beware of sellers that claim “it was stored for the past ten years” as these pianos are just as likely to need service as pianos that were played for the past ten years. If a Rhodes has not been serviced in the past ten years it is more than likely that the works’ is needed to get it back up to par. At this point in a Rhodes lifetime, there should be at least some restoration work in order to guarantee that it is playing at peak performance. Regular standard tuneups every one to four years can help prolong the instrument’s health and help the instrument maintain its value over time.

A Rare Breed Indeed: The Wurlitzer 214A

Forgive us for the shameless self promotion but we are currently selling one of our favorite Wurlitzers that has come through our shop in some time. It’s not too often that you come across the Wurlitzer 214A and perhaps it could use a re-introduction. Here she is, the Wurlitzer 214A, a rare breed indeed:

Main Shot

 

The Wurlitzer 214A is one of the flagship pianos of the 200A family. Like other members of the 200 family it has an action assembly that can be setup and maintained to perform like a sports car. There’s no excuse for poor action in a Wurli!

Like the Student Model 206A the 214A was marketed to a classroom setting and likely has not seen the abuse that many 200A’s have experienced ‘living the rock and roll dream.’ For decades, many of the 203, 206, 207, and 214 pianos have been preserving themselves as time capsules in rehearsal rooms and classrooms for future generations to bring back to life. This makes them some of the most valuable instruments to pick up used.

The distinguishing characteristic to the 206A would be that it has four 8″ speakers, rather than two, and the 214 also has the signature Wurlitzer vibrato circuitry. On the 214A there are two sets of 8″ speakers are mounted on each side similar to the Rhodes suitcase piano which gives it a rich, full sound within the room. Another added feature from the 206 is the casters that allow you to easily transport the piano.

And this one in no exception! As always, we promise you she sounds even better than she looks!

Wurlitzer 214

back2

Knobs

leveled keys

white key dip copy

Black key heigh

black key dip

Outputs2

As always, we have rebuilt this Wurlitzer from the key bed up for most expressive action possible. It comes with our 2 year parts warranty (under reasonable use) and a free tuneup within two years. –You won’t find a better 214A or service like ours anywhere else in the world! 

What is the difference between a Wurlitzer 200 and 200A?

Is my Wurlitzer a 200 or a 200A?

Because of their identical cosmetic design, it is common for people to mistake a 200 for a 200A and vise versa. Even when taking a close look under the hood, you will find that their action assemblies and the reeds that produce their sound are perfectly identical, leaving only a few distinguishing characteristics to look and listen for.

Side Note: Actually, the cosmetics of each instrument can be differentiated from one another in some cases. There were a few color options that were only available on the 200 (red, forest green, and beige) that were not available on the 200A. Another distinguishing cosmetic note is that the Wurlitzer emblem on the back of the keyboard from the player was only on the last few years of the 200A.

When the 200 was first introduced in 1968 its amplifier was an early transistor circuit with a straightforward design. Over the next four years, the amplifier would be redesigned a few times with a couple of minor improvements that marginally improved both the power amp and the clarity of the preamp. These four years are also characterize by the 200’s 4×8″ speakers driven by alnico magnets that were mounted on the amplifier rail inside of the instrument.

200 Amplifier

200 Amplifier

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200A Amplifier

Wurlitzer discontinued the 200 in 1972 when they began the production of the 200A. The new 200A was nearly perfectly identical to the 200 with the exceptions of a newly designed amplifier additional shielding against interference that subtly improved the Wurlitzer Electric Piano. After a year or so of 200A production the alnico driven speakers were now driven by ceramic magnets and were mounted directly on the vinyl lid of the Wurlitzer rather than the amplifier. The mounting pins on the lid of the Wurlitzer are one of the fastest ways to identify most 200A’s.

 

Mounting Pins of the 200A

Mounting Pins for the 200A’s Speakers

The most notable improvement of the 200A is that it is naturally less susceptible to noise and interference the former 200 amplifier due to three new factors. First, the distance between the preamp and the amplifier reduced much of the noise caused by the amplifier’s electromagnetic field. Next, Wurlitzer added an additional pickup shield that helped protect the pickups from picking up radio frequencies and other external interference. Last, the AC wiring from the power source to the transformer was placed within a strip aluminum tubing that shielded the amplifier from the electromagnetic field produced by the AC current running to the power transformer behind the amplifier. (We can’t figure out why they didn’t just simply put the AC receptical on the other side of the instrument and avoid this design flaw all together!)

Aside from the noise reducing measures made by the 200A, the differences between the two amplifiers are negligible. Both have a vibrato (–tremolo) circuit, and a static equalizer curve set by their amplifier’s design that limits the players control over the tone of the instrument without additional external amplification. In the end, both incorporate one of the best action assemblies of any electric piano and deliver that classic Wurlitzer tone that we just can’t get enough of.

…It is also common that players will complain about their amplifier being “muddy” or “dull” when in fact the amplifier is perfectly fine. This is due to the fact that most Wurlitzers have not been regulated properly over the years and therefore their hammers do not produce the proper strike of the instrument. Bring your Wurlitzer in for a free estimate and we can show you how to instantly get more clarity and dynamics from your instrument!