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Renting a Clavinet for the weekend!


NewImprov
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I'm working on a new recording project, one track of which has a very prominent Clavinet part, think '70's Stevie or Funkadelic. I tracked it with the band using Sonic Coutture's CLAV instrument, but decided to see if I could replace it with the real thing, as the rest of the production on this album is using real Rhodes, Hammond and analog synths. Looked around, and found one to rent, from Nash Keywords in Portland, OR, and made arrangements to get it for the weekend, at a very reasonable price.

 

Thing is, I've never played a real Clav. I have a Fender Twin, and a bunch of stomp boxes here at the studio, wah, phasor, etc. Will probably track direct and mic'd amp at the same time. I use a semi weighted controller to play Clav parts live, anything I should know about playing the real thing? Looking forward to this!

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You are in for a big treat, provided the clav is not beat to death and doesn't have noisy electronics. Have a backup ready just in case though.

 

A few tips:

- don't place it on top of (or below) anything with a transformer to avoid induced hum. If it has a wall wart PS and you have some hum, you might try battery power instead.

- if you need to tune, remove the front panel under the keys to expose the tuners.

- the action is shallow, fast and very dynamic so you don't need to beat it. In fact you can bend hammers if you use a heavy touch for too long.

- slapping ghost notes like you do on a Hammond is part and parcel of the playing technique.

- You will hear key off noise especially with a cranked amp. It can be used to increase the funk if you pay attention to the timing of your note releases. If the key off sound includes a loud pop, the rubber hammer pad is probably grooved from the string and is catching as it releases. A quick repair involves opening the top, removing the 4 nuts that hold the action, finding the offending pad, and removing it gently with needle nose pliers and rotating it a quarter turn.

- take the time to try putting the amp next to the clav and cranking it until you can get super sustain and feedback. Large fun.

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Moe

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If possible, try to work it out with Nash Rentals to demo / audit the specific instrument prior to studio day. Some backline clavs have been ridden hard and put away wet, and you'd want to identify any bad hammers, bad pickups, or other anomalies in advance. Because the real McCoy has a different action than playing a clavinet patch on a VST or ROMpler, it would be advantageous to work up your funky two-fisted clav licks in advance, by yourself without the red light over your shoulder. 

 

Hope you have an incredibly enjoyable time - and then you're going to end up scouring Reverb and Craigslist to feed your jones...

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1 hour ago, mate stubb said:

You are in for a big treat, provided the clav is not beat to death and doesn't have noisy electronics. Have a backup ready just in case though.

 

A few tips:

- don't place it on top of (or below) anything with a transformer to avoid induced hum. If it has a wall wart PS and you have some hum, you might try battery power instead.

- if you need to tune, remove the front panel under the keys to expose the tuners.

- the action is shallow, fast and very dynamic so you don't need to beat it. In fact you can bend hammers if you use a heavy touch for too long.

- slapping ghost notes like you do on a Hammond is part and parcel of the playing technique.

- You will hear key off noise especially with a cranked amp. It can be used to increase the funk if you pay attention to the timing of your note releases. If the key off sound includes a loud pop, the rubber hammer pad is probably grooved from the string and is catching as it releases. A quick repair involves opening the top, removing the 4 nuts that hold the action, finding the offending pad, and removing it gently with needle nose pliers and rotating it a quarter turn.

- take the time to try putting the amp next to the clav and cranking it until you can get super sustain and feedback. Large fun.

Thanks for the info! The one I'm renting has been recently serviced and tuned, so I'm hoping I'll be fine there. As a plan B, I can just use the sampled Clav, which sounds totally realistic to me, but hoping this works!

 

1 hour ago, timwat said:

 

Hope you have an incredibly enjoyable time - and then you're going to end up scouring Reverb and Craigslist to feed your jones...

That's what I'm most worried about...

Turn up the speaker

Hop, flop, squawk

It's a keeper

-Captain Beefheart, Ice Cream for Crow

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Anything you should know? Just that it’s gonna fun as hell and will be exactly what you need. It might take a pass or two to get used to the shallow action but you’ll find yourself instantly playing and understanding all clav parts you’ve played in the past much more clearly. And it’ll just be so fun. So fun!

 

(BTW, for someone who has the collection you have and the stylistic bag you do, I’m a little surprised this’ll be your first time! Never too late!)

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I've only ever played real clavinets in the studio, and at one gig with a shared backline. (By the way, the one at the gig with the shared backline wasn't even owned by a keyboard player. "Just a guy" who liked owning stuff like that, and the money to make it happen.) It's one of the few pieces of dedicated vintage gear I could see 1) willingly acquiring and 2) hauling to gigs, not only to make my clav playing better on all the places I use that sound, but also because NONE of those places ever sound right. The attack never sounds authentic. Even on songs like Superstition, where everyone there needs to hear that line come on in clav so you have to do it, I often switch over to organ after the first chorus, just because the falseness of even a good emulation bugs me so much.

Good luck, and how cool.

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1 hour ago, MAJUSCULE said:

Anything you should know? Just that it’s gonna fun as hell and will be exactly what you need. It might take a pass or two to get used to the shallow action but you’ll find yourself instantly playing and understanding all clav parts you’ve played in the past much more clearly. And it’ll just be so fun. So fun!

 

(BTW, for someone who has the collection you have and the stylistic bag you do, I’m a little surprised this’ll be your first time! Never too late!)

I've been on the lookout for one for years, but never had one come up at the right time and price. I think part of it is living in the PNW,  I'd love to have one for the studio now, but if this rental works out, I may have an ongoing access to one, and some other cool stuff, at a pretty reasonable price. BTW, Sydney Nash at Nash Keyworks in Portland is a very cool dude, if anybody needs repairs or backline rental, etc.

 

14 minutes ago, MathOfInsects said:

 It's one of the few pieces of dedicated vintage gear I could see 1) willingly acquiring and 2) hauling to gigs, not only to make my clav playing better on all the places I use that sound, but also because NONE of those places ever sound right. The attack never sounds authentic. Even on songs like Superstition, where everyone there needs to hear that line come on in clav so you have to do it, I often switch over to organ after the first chorus, just because the falseness of even a good emulation bugs me so much.

Good luck, and how cool.

As someone who lugs a Rhodes to gigs, I get it. The real instruments all have a certain key->finger->brain connection that isn't just about the sound produced, but it also affects the way that you play and phrase things on the instrument. And, I find, when I'm playing an emulation, there's a part of my brain worrying about whether what I'm playing sounds authentic/appropriate to the instrument enough, and that goes away when you play the real thing. 

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Turn up the speaker

Hop, flop, squawk

It's a keeper

-Captain Beefheart, Ice Cream for Crow

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The Clavinet is one of those instruments that positively pulls the notes out of your fingers. It's like you were born with a Clav imprinted on your psyche. A kitten knows how to work its paws to express milk. You'll know what to do. 

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9 Moog things, 3 Roland things, 2 Hammond things and a computer with stuff on it

 

 

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Had a productive evening with it, got a good enough (I think) take of the tune I was renting it for. 
 

I’ve got it for the day today, and have ideas for parts on 2 other tunes from this project, so I’m going to try to work those up and track them.

 

so, nobody told me it needs a 9 volt battery! Took me 20 minutes to figure out why it wasn’t making a sound at first, and, of course, I had to run to the store, but when it finally worked, it sounded glorious! Tracked both with and without FX, I think I like the clean tone the best, though the original part I tracked with the emulated clav has fuzz and wah. Seems like the tone of the real thing doesn’t need to hide behind all that. 
 

it’s really fun to play, and I now get how all those classic clav parts work, with the fast, light touch and minimal key travel. This clav was, as represented, in great shape and in tune. 
 

Next time, I may rent it for the tracking session with the full band. 

image.png

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Turn up the speaker

Hop, flop, squawk

It's a keeper

-Captain Beefheart, Ice Cream for Crow

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This thread is bringing me so much joy. Like many of us, I think, I'm getting a vicarious thrill remembering the first time I laid my hands on a real clav. I don't know that I'll be gigging with mine much anymore, but it was worth hauling to all those shitty clubs just to get that sound and that feel.

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Samuel B. Lupowitz

Musician. Songwriter. Food Enthusiast. Bad Pun Aficionado.

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On 2/20/2022 at 7:58 AM, NewImprov said:

Had a productive evening with it, got a good enough (I think) take of the tune I was renting it for. 
 

I’ve got it for the day today, and have ideas for parts on 2 other tunes from this project, so I’m going to try to work those up and track them.

 

so, nobody told me it needs a 9 volt battery! Took me 20 minutes to figure out why it wasn’t making a sound at first, and, of course, I had to run to the store, but when it finally worked, it sounded glorious! Tracked both with and without FX, I think I like the clean tone the best, though the original part I tracked with the emulated clav has fuzz and wah. Seems like the tone of the real thing doesn’t need to hide behind all that. 
 

it’s really fun to play, and I now get how all those classic clav parts work, with the fast, light touch and minimal key travel. This clav was, as represented, in great shape and in tune. 
 

Next time, I may rent it for the tracking session with the full band. 

image.png

It's the same thing with a real Hammond. I remember trying to learn Hammond stuff on a Yamaha combo organ when I was a kid, with awful results. Then I played on a console and immediately understood how easy it was to do on the right instrument. The Clav is the same, as you posted...you immediately can do those slaps and percussive conga-like non-note sounds that we've all heard for years on records. 

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10 hours ago, SamuelBLupowitz said:

This thread is bringing me so much joy. Like many of us, I think, I'm getting a vicarious thrill remembering the first time I laid my hands on a real clav. I don't know that I'll be gigging with mine much anymore, but it was worth hauling to all those shitty clubs just to get that sound and that feel.

Yeah, just spending a couple days with the instrument taught me a lot about how to play and phrase with it, and I think my playing on the emulated/sampled clavs I use will sound that much better.

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Turn up the speaker

Hop, flop, squawk

It's a keeper

-Captain Beefheart, Ice Cream for Crow

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The action is so important - once you play a real clav, you instantly understand why people played it the way they did. 
Worst mistake I ever made was parting out an old Clav I got for free.  I refurbed it as best I could, but could not for the life of me find a used damper assembly.  I was but an impatient boy at the time!!! 

Interesting aside - it was originally owned by Seth Justman of J. Geils.  When I got it, it was covered in white gaffer tape and mold.  It took forever to strip the tape and clean it up.

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