One of the most widely used musical instruments on classic pop, rock, funk and jazz recordings is the electric piano. The Wurlitzer EP200 electric piano was designed in the late 1950s and used to great effect by Ray Charles on his 1959 hit recording “What’d I Say”. Throughout the 60s and 70s it was featured on countless hits including Gladys Knight’s “Midnight Train to Georgia”. The Fender Rhodes Mk 1 electric piano came to prominence in the 60s and was notably featured on the Doors “Riders On The Storm”. The Mk II version appeared in the 70s and was featured by artists such as Stevie Wonder on his successful 70s albums such as “Talking Book” and “Innervisions”. Stevie Wonder also first brought the Hohner D6 Clavinet to the public’s attention – a different type of electric keyboard instrument that produces the incredibly funky sound you hear on Stevie’s hit song “Superstition”.
There have been previous attempts to provide versions of these classics as virtual instruments – most notably in the form of Emagic’s EVP88. Native Instruments’ Elektrik Piano is a new sample-based instrument that delivers the sounds of the Fender Rhodes MK1 and MK1I, Wurlitzer EP200 and Hohner E7 Clavinet (the successor to the D6) – each meticulously sampled for an authentic sound. Each comes with a range of tweakable presets.
Function keys F1 to F8 can be assigned as shortcuts to favourite presets so that you can change sounds on the fly during live performances. It is worth taking the trouble to set these up as it can take quite some time to load up the sounds unless you have the fastest computer and hard drive. I particularly liked the individual velocity curves that are provided to match the response of the Elektrik Piano to the range of MIDI velocities coming in from different MIDI keyboards. My DX7II, for example, won’t deliver the highest velocity values, so it doesn’t drive some virtual instruments properly.
The big questions for me were how authentic the sounds would be – and how useable they would be in their own right! As with Emagic’s EVP88, I can confirm that these sounds will work well in many contexts. As far as authenticity is concerned… well I own a Mk1 Rhodes, a Wurlitzer EP200 and a Hohner Clavinet D6 – and I have played many of the Rhodes Mk II keyboards in the past. The Native Instruments Elektrik Piano is the closest I have heard to the real thing so far – and it definitely wipes the floor with the EVP88.