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 @ 7:33 PM
yeah pretty sure it was early 96', SMG was quick to pick up the rouse, the first show we played with them was at the Metro in Chicago, the only lines going to the Mat-12 were power and midi ,the "lord of all gayness" severed the midi cord and he just kept going like he was Keith Emerson on crack, trust CR and myself the silliness from that band was a long way from it's apogee.

CR have you seen his studio in STL? I would link it but I'm lazy.


Jun.22.2006 @ 8:22 PM
huh, off on a tangent...

I was just wondering the other day about what happened to Rich. I'll have to check out your stuff now that I know.


Jun.22.2006 @ 10:37 PM
Joe, I'm flattered my own mother doesn't even care what's happened to me.

Jun.24.2006 @ 6:36 AM
Solipsist Nation

So when John Vanderslice was touring a few months ago, I saw him 2 days in a row. The first day, in Boston, he'd bought a Wurlitzer from somebody for the sake of taking the tines out to replace the tines in their touring Wurly. The second day, in Northhampton, my girlfriend was running merchandise, so I ended up hanging out while that all got sorted out and got to watch them fix said Wurly, including extracting the tines from the dead one from Boston (it was already not exactly recoverable when they bought it) and installing them in their good one and tuning them...

Interesting to watch (and they're friendly guys and by now I'm on a good enough basis with the band that they didn't mind me peering over their shoulders as they worked on it). Turns out they'd also bought some kind of third-party tines that had been breaking, which is why they needed to dig up an actual Wurlitzer from which to extract the real tines.

They were also having problems with the battery in their Moog Source-- cursed keyboards all around that tour, I guess. I'll have to see what they bring next time around.


Jun.24.2006 @ 10:59 AM
Chris Randall
Yeah. While I'd love to have a 200A and a Mini on my next tour, I'll _actually_ have a laptop running a soft-EP, and an MEK or L'il Fatty. I'd rather have a trouble-free show than authenticity. Any fucking day of the week, and twice on Sunday.



Jun.25.2006 @ 1:59 AM
Suit & Tie Guy
i can't speak for the wurli (my opinion of their robustness is very low) a properly-rebuilt Mini should stand up for a tour just fine.

but presets are handy, aren't they?

i'm actually toying with the idea of replacing my ass-kicking Hammond C-2 with an Hammond-Suzuki XK System (XK-3 with lower manual, stand, and pedalboard) because there are some things (MIDI transmission, safe generator recalibration with storage, effects loop) which would be harder to do on the real Hammond (but cheaper) and its ability to be transported up stairs more easily which i want. i think it would also help me blur the lines between my electronic and jazz things more effectively.

now reading that i said _that_ makes _me_ feel dirty. maybe i should only play it through my pair of 30 watt class A Leslie 31Hs from 1948 with the EM woofers to keep me from feeling like a complete asshole.


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