June 21, 2006

A Lemon? No problem...

by Chris Randall

Here's the code, should you need it:

if (life == lemons)


lemonade = lemons + elbow_grease;


This Wurlitzer 112 I bought from Mike Fisher, while fun for a minute, is basically useless. Since I got it in November, my rather aggressive playing style has resulted in me replacing 7 tines (at $40 a throw) and gluing those little felt pads back on at least two dozen times, never mind retubing the amp and tuning the fucking thing (a process that took the better part of a week.)

My opinion on this instrument is that, while good looking and of historical significance, it is basically unplayable, and useless on stage, which is where I need it. This is not necessarily true of all Wurli 112s, but it is definitely true for this one. I don't really want to sell it, because I'm not going to get what I put in to it (over $700 at this point; I could have got a 200A for that if I was patient) and I don't really want to inflict this albatross on anyone else. So, thinking cap time...

The goal is not necessarily to have a good recording instrument, since the 112 is singularly unsuited for that. Rather, the goal is to have an electric piano I can play on stage that doesn't weigh a metric fucktonne, and stays in tune, and doesn't buzz. So, I decided to take the keybed and sound-bar-tine-contraption out of the 112, replace it with a MIDI controller, and run a laptop with either a really good Wurli sample set or one of the various soft-Wurlis out there. After several days of experimentation, I found that running Logic's EVP88, with some extensive programming, directly in to the amp of the 112 produced a sound almost identical to that of the 112 coming out of the same speaker, with the added benefit that I can run guitar pedals in the signal chain.

Here's an image of the build "sticker" on the soundbar tine contraption. November 2nd, 1955. That's nice. I took out the entire keybed, and now I need to scare up a MIDI controller that can give itself to the cause. I'm thinking one of those white Roland jobbies would be the best. It definitely needs to be one with absolutely no bells and whistles. (And by bells and whistles I mean knobs and sliders.) The nice thing about this whole operation is that there is a lot of room inside the case, so I can put all the appropriate power, the audio and MIDI interface (a Presonus Firebox in this case), and the power supply for the laptop, which will sit on top of the unit. I can run the FW and power cables through one of the sound holes in the top, and the only cable will be the power. All the jacks and such on the side of the Wurli will still work, and in order to use guitar pedals, I'll just take the "Recording" output, and go back in to the amp input. If I don't have the pedals plugged in, sound will come out the speaker like normal.

This is gonna be nifty. Now to find a controller. The caveat here is that the original Wurli keybed has 62 keys, but all modern MIDI controllers have 61. So either a fake key at one end, or a little bit of overhang that will need to be covered with some carpentry. No matter.



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Jun.22.2006 @ 11:24 AM
D' MacKinnon
Sounds like a fun project and it'll be more convenient for live shows not lugging the extra weight around.

Jun.22.2006 @ 11:50 AM
penzoil washington
mojopie is ho's. you wouldn't do this, would ya, CR?
link [mojopie.ipbhost.co...]">link [mojopie.ipbhost.co...]

Jun.22.2006 @ 1:23 PM
I've always wanted to do it with a combo organ. I've got a beautiful non-working Howard ear-marked for it, but I've been too lazy to transplant a MIDI keyboard. I'm eager to see pictures of yours though, it might just inspire me to get off my ass and finally do it.

The aesthetics of these old keyboards are just so much cooler than the boring grey and whites. I think that if a manufacturer started making colorful MIDI controllers with lids and legs like combo organs, they would sell a truckload.


Jun.22.2006 @ 1:43 PM
Chris Randall
Another problem, aside from the asthetics, is that modern controllers are too fucking light. I play _really_ heavy and fast, and several times on my last tour I bounced the controller right off the stand. This is, in a word, annoying, never mind the din that comes out of the P.A. when 61 MIDI on messages get sent to whatever module I'm firing.

It's a gas.



Jun.22.2006 @ 2:12 PM
Suit & Tie Guy
just as long as you gut trashed pianos and don't pull a Gravity Kills: Eater Of Matrix-12s, that's cool.

what do you think of the Emu xBoards? they seem heavier than most and seem to have a great feel.


Jun.22.2006 @ 2:27 PM
Chris Randall
I don't like Emu products at all. Never have, and nothing has managed to change my mind in that regard.

This CME UF6 is pleasantly heavy. I think it would actually survive fine without bouncing off the stand. The sliders aren't the most durable things in the world, but I can live with that.

We did a tour with GK as openers, and had to put up with the Lord Of All Gayness (our term for their keyboard "stand") extensively. The great irony being that Doug (the keyboard player) mimed; it and the Matrix 12 sitting on it were strictly props.

That was annoying.



Jun.22.2006 @ 3:13 PM
I was curious as to what the stand you were talking about was, so I googled around and found this:

link [www.gravitykills.co...]">link [www.gravitykills.co...]

That's the most hideous thing I've ever seen, made worse only by the ridiculously stupid jumping. Wow.


Jun.22.2006 @ 4:10 PM
loading "the lord of all gayness" every night was an absolute blast , strange how no one from GK was ever around for that.

Jun.22.2006 @ 5:01 PM
Suit & Tie Guy
I spend a fair amount of time in the STL music scene, not much but more than most Saint Louisians or Peorians. At every opportunity I mention the crimes against chip-based superpolys they've committed with The Lord of All Gayness and their stupid horrible music. This window of opportunity is when some stupid fucker says "man STL hasn't had a good rock band come out of it since Gravity Kills" or something to that effect.

Now thanks to Chris Randall I know the true name of the keyboard stand, and the reality that the instrument wasn't even used at all.

which leads me to ask ... why did they leave a trail of Matrix 12s and cut-outs in their wake?

shouldn't there just have been a trail of cut-outs?


Jun.22.2006 @ 5:48 PM
Chris Randall
The keyboard has to be on for the smoke and mirrors to work. If the keyboard isn't on, Doug is just a clown jumping around.

Hey, wait...

Anyways, for the Matrix 12 to _look_ like it was working, it actually had to _be_ working. Like we said, the Lord Of All Gayness. (Full disclosure: we in SMG didn't actually come up with the name. The moniker was given to the stand about 5 shows in by their guitar tech. We... ummm... ran with it.)

When they started (when was that first tour, Rich? '96? Something like that) Matrix 12s were neither rare nor expensive. I think their rarity and value have been increased simply by the fact that GK has destroyed so many.



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