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As its name suggests, it was intended primarily for use in rock music, where a standard acoustic harpsichord would be drowned out.
The Rock-Si-Chord, manufactured by Rocky Mount Instruments (RMI), a division of Allen Organs Inc, was a solid-state instrument using one or two transistor oscillators per key, and was the first example of a type of instrument generally known as the electronic piano (contrast electric piano). Later RMI instruments also included piano sounds.
Composer George Crumb specifies the use of an electric harpsichord in his 1968 composition "Songs, Drones, and Refrains of Death"; however, he does not specifically call in the score for a Rock-Si-Chord, and thus it could also refer to a Baldwin Combo Harpsichord, an electromechanical instrument dating from the same era.
Orchestrator Jonathan Tunick used a combined Rock-Si-Chord/Electric Piano in the Stephen Sondheim musical Company (1970). He considers the instrument now obsolete and recommends the use of a current electric keyboard.
Artists and groups using a Rock-Si-Chord
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- The Band, played by Garth Hudson through a Telegraph key on This Wheel's on Fire
- The Beach Boys (on Sunflower)
- Chevy Chase's Chamaeleon Church
- Call Cobbs, Jr.
- Sam Coomes with Quasi
- Dr. John
- Michael Kamen
- John Lennon
- Mandrake Memorial
- New York Rock and Roll Ensemble
- Terry Riley (on A Rainbow in Curved Air)
- Stereolab (on Sound-Dust)
- Sun Ra
- Rick Wakeman (solo and with Yes)
- Mark Welsh
- Wilco (on A Ghost is Born)
- Edgar Winter
- Steve Winwood with Blind Faith
- "RMI Rock-Si-Chord does the whole bit". Billboard. Vol. 79 no. 40. Billboard Publications, Inc. October 7, 1967. p. 16.
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