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The Pianet was a series of electric pianos built by the Hohner company of Trossingen, West Germany from the 1950s to the 1970s. The designer of the early Pianet models was Ernst Zacharias, basing the mechanism closely on a 1920s design by Lloyd Loar.

Sound is generated by an array of metal reeds which are plucked by foam pads impregnated with adhesive (actually a proprietary viscous silicone oil) connected via metal rods to the keys so that, on pressing a key, the pad is released and makes the reed vibrate. An electrostatic pickup consisting of a segmented vertical plate mounted orthogonal to and just beyond the ends of the reeds transmit the sound to an amplifier.

During its period of manufacture the Pianet was offered in a number of designs. The original models were the Pianet C and Pianet N, built with wooden cases and legs: later came the Pianet L which had metal legs. The C model has no additional controls while the N model is equipped with a tremolo circuit with a switch mounted next to the keyboard. The Pianet soon found popularity with popular music groups of the 1960s, leading Hohner to produce the Combo model, designed for the performing musician, without legs, being designed to sit atop an organ or acoustic piano.

In the 1970s Hohner produced the final models; the Pianet M and T. These featured a change in design from electrostatic pickups and foam pads to passive pickups and rubber pads as after a time the original foam pads were found to disintegrate. However, the new design also produced a completely different sound, which was mellower than that of the early models. While popular with semi-pro musicians due to its low price and portability, it failed to make a significant impact on major recording artists. The M model, designed for home use, was built with a wooden case with internal speakers and a phaser circuit. The T model, most commonly found on the used market today, was again built for the gigging musician. It had no legs and in a departure from earlier models finished in wood veneer, is finished in black vinyl leathercloth. Production ceased in the early 1980s.

Users

Early Pianets were used on a number of hit recordings from the 1960s and 1970s, including "She's Not There" by The Zombies, Louie, Louie by The Kingsmen, "Summer in the City" by The Lovin' Spoonful, I Am The Walrus and You Like Me Too Much by The Beatles, and Joy to the World by Three Dog Night. In the glam rock era, the pianet was used by Bryan Ferry on the first few Roxy Music albums, for instance featuring prominently in their hit Editions of You. In the punk rock period, the pianet provided the signature sound of The Stranglers, being used by their keyboard player Dave Greenfield for his trademark rapid arpeggios.

The Pianet is enjoying a renaissance (e.g. Bugge Wesseltoft's Change) due to its unique sound and the availability of new pads for the earlier models, most of which had been reduced to unplayability due to pad decay. It is also popular as a substitute for the more expensive Wurlitzer electric piano, which has a similar mechanism for generating sound but is typically much heavier and more expensive.

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