The word “electronic keyboard” refers to any instrument which produces sound by the pressing or striking of keys, and uses electricity, in some way, to facilitate the roll-out of that sound. The use of a digital keyboard to generate music follows an inevitable evolutionary line from the first musical keyboard instruments, the pipe organ, clavichord, and harpsichord. The pipe organ is the oldest of these, initially developed by the Romans in the 3rd century B.C., and referred to as hydraulis. The hydraulis produced sound by forcing air through reed pipes, and was powered by means of a manual water pump or a natural water source like a waterfall.
From it’s first manifestation in ancient Rome until the 14th century, the organ remained the only keyboard instrument. It often did not come with a keyboard at all, instead utilizing large levers or buttons that have been operated using the whole hand.
The subsequent appearance of the clavichord and harpsichord within the 1300’s was accelerated from the standardization from the 12-tone keyboard of white natural keys and black sharp/flat keys seen in all keyboard instruments of today. The buzz from the clavichord and harpsichord was eventually eclipsed by the development and widespread adoption of the piano inside the 18th century. The More Bonuses was a revolutionary advancement in acoustic musical keyboards since a pianist could vary the amount (or dynamics) of the sound the instrument created by varying the force with which each key was struck.
The emergence of electronic sound technology in the 18th century was the following essential part of the development of the present day electronic keyboard. The very first electrified musical instrument was thought to be the Denis d’or (built by Vaclav Prokop Dovis), dating from about 1753. This was shortly accompanied by the “clavecin electrique” introduced by Jean Baptiste Thillaie de Laborde around 1760. The first kind instrument was comprised of over 700 strings temporarily electrified to enhance their sonic qualities. The later had been a keyboard instrument featuring plectra, or picks, that have been activated electrically.
While being electrified, neither the Denis d’or or even the clavecin used electricity as being a sound source. In 1876, Elisha Gray invented this kind of instrument known as the “musical telegraph.,” which was, essentially, the very first analog electronic synthesizer. Gray discovered that he could control sound from a self-vibrating electromagnetic circuit, and thus invented a fundamental single note oscillator. His musical telegraph created sounds from the electromagnetic oscillation of steel reeds and transmitted them more than a telephone line. Grey continued to include a simple loudspeaker into his later models which was made up of a diaphragm vibrating in a magnetic field, making the tone oscillator audible.
Lee De Forrest, the self-styled “Father Of Radio,” was the following major cause of the development of the electronic keyboard. In 1906 he invented the triode electronic valve or “audion valve.” The audion valve was the initial thermionic valve or “vacuum tube,” and De Forrest built the initial vacuum tube instrument, the their explanation in 1915. The vacuum tube became an important part of electronic instruments for the upcoming fifty years until the emergence and widespread adoption of transistor technology.
The decade in the 1920’s brought an abundance of new electronic instruments onto the scene including the Theremin, the Ondes Martenot, as well as the Trautonium.
Another major breakthrough in the history of electronic keyboards arrived in 1935 with the introduction of the Hammond Organ. The Hammond was the first electronic instrument able to producing polyphonic sounds, and remained so up until the invention in the Chamberlin Music Maker, as well as the Mellotron inside the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. The Chamberlin as well as the Mellotron were the first ever sample-playback keyboards intended for making music.
The electronic piano made it’s first appearance inside the 1940’s with all the “Pre-Piano” by Rhodes (later Fender Rhodes). This is a 3 as well as a half octave instrument produced from 1946 until 1948 that came built with self-amplification. In 1955 the Wurlitzer Company debuted their first electric piano, “The 100.”
The rise of music synthesizers in the 1960’s gave an effective push to the evolution of the electronic musical keyboards we have today. The initial synthesizers were extremely large, unwieldy machines used only in recording studios. The technological advancements and proliferation of miniaturized solid state components soon allowed the creation of synthesizers which were self-contained, portable instruments capable of used in live performances.
This began in 1964 when Bob Moog produced his “Moog Synthesizer.” Lacking a keyboard, the Moog Synthesizer had not been truly an electronic keyboard. Then, in 1970, Moog debuted his “Minimoog,” a non-modular synthesizer using a built in keyboard, which instrument further standardized the style of electronic musical keyboards.
Most early analog synthesizers, such as the Minimoog and the Roland SH-100, were monophonic, capable of producing just one single tone at the same time. A few, such as the EML 101, ARP Odyssey, as well as the Moog Sonic Six, could produce two different tones simultaneously when two keys were pressed. True polyphony (producing multiple simultaneous tones which allow for your playing of chords) qhscvn only obtainable, at first, using electronic organ designs. There was numerous electronic keyboards produced which combined organ circuits with synthesizer processing. These included Moog’s Polymoog, Opus 3, and the ARP Omni.
By 1976, additional design advancements had allowed the appearance of polyphonic synthesizers such as the Oberheim Four-Voice, as well as the Yamaha series CS-50, CS-60, and CS-80. The very first truly practical polyphonic synth, introduced in 1977, was the Sequential Circuits Prophet-5. This instrument was the first one to use a microprocessor as a controller, and also allowed all knob settings to become saved in computer memory and recalled by just pushing a button. The Prophet-5’s design soon had become the new standard within the electronic keyboards industry.
The adoption of Musical Instrumental Digital Interface (MIDI) since the standard for digital code transmission (allowing electronic keyboards to be connected into computers along with other devices for input and programming), and the ongoing digital technological revolution have produced tremendous advancements in all facets of digital piano weighted keys, construction, function, quality of sound, and cost. Today’s manufactures, including Casio, Yamaha, Korg, Rolland, and Kurzweil, are actually producing an abundance of well-built, lightweight, versatile, great sounding, and affordable electronic keyboard musical instruments and can continue to accomplish this well to the near future.