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Minimoog Notes 01: Keyboards

Sunday July 18, 2010

On obtaining a keyboard mechanism, I had three choices. One, cannibalize a synthesizer that wouldn't be missed. Two, buy a new Fatar keybed. Three, look for an a real Pratt-Read keybed.

Cannibalizing a keyboard implies that I would get something like a Fatar keybed or some Chinese abomination. There doesn't appear to be much in the way of 10-year-old and newer synths using 44-key keybeds except for a few mini-keyboards. Two of the other cloners I mentioned cannibalized 49-key keyboards and cut off half an octave from the left side. Last time I had my midi controller open, I didn't look very carefully at it from this perspective. I'd imagine it would make for some very interesting troubles in getting a decoder to work correctly.

Fatar makes 44 key keybeds and they can be obtained from Analogue Heaven. This way I could be assured that I didn't break anything in getting the keybed to fit into the frame. Furthermore, this is the keybed that Moog Music now uses in the Minimoog Voyager. Fatar keybeds are matrix-oriented, which means I'd need to come up with a circuit to scan the matrix and output the appropriate pitch voltage and a trigger to the synth itself. This would probably be of interest to Minimoog owners with unservicable keyboards.

The third solution is to somehow find an old 44-key Pratt-Read keybed. Cannibalizing another synthesizer to get one of these would be unacceptable. Fortunately these keybeds were commonly used in organs as well. The only maker I could conclusively identify as having a Pratt-Read keybed is Schober. These were sold as kits and are quite a bit rarer than the mass-market ones by Yamaha, Hammond, Baldwin, Wurlitzer, and others. Without knowing what organs to look for, I would have had to take a look inside the organ. I found a Hammond of some sort at a local thrift store with two 44-key manuals. The keys themselves looked about right, but I couldn't get into the organ to verify. Fortunately, I stumbled across a pair of keybeds on Ebay described as being from a T-series Hammond from 1971, which clearly are Pratt-Read. Other Hammonds keybeds I saw on Ebay didn't look like these. Those were quite a bit older. That might explain it.

( Minimoog )