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Rhodddddes!
Old 7th June 2011
  #1
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Rhodddddes!

Hey all, I'm a keyboard player (among other things...) and I luv me some rhodes. I've been wanting to get one for a while and I found one at a pretty cheap price.

I will find out more details hopefully tomorrow, but I wanted to hit the ground running with my research.

So, all the info I have so far is that it's a late-70's model. That's it! Obviously I need more info from the seller.

My question is more, which model(s) is (are) the most coveted?

In this link here, there are several examples.
http://au.fenderrhodes.com/audio/

Looking at the Mark Ib Stage 1979.mp3 - you hear that chimey sound? I'm really not a fan of that sound. I prefer the darker tone (as in all the other Mark I clips on there). The question is, if this one has that chimey sound, can you dial it in to the mellow sound, or is it a one-or-the-other kind of thing?

Geez I feel like I should know this stuff but I've been leaning on my Nord for a while and I'm just used to the different emulation sounds, not the real-deal sounds!

Thanks in advance for the info!
Old 7th June 2011
  #2
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Usually the Mark I is more coveted for exactly the reason you gave. Most coveted is the 88-key with Suitcase amp, as it just has the very best bass sound of any E-piano!
Old 7th June 2011
  #3
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JoaT's Avatar
1b sounds a lot brighter and "bell-y" than my mark1 73 suitcase.

That sound could probably be tamed with some distortion on preamp / amp stage. As in mark 1a clip.
Old 7th June 2011
  #4
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matucha's Avatar
And you can also change the character by readjusting the tines vs pickup.
Old 7th June 2011
  #5
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thepilgrimsdream's Avatar
 

I dont know much about models. My mom had a Fender Rhodes and played it while i was growing up, she sold it to get a korg, i still miss the sound of it.
Old 7th June 2011
  #6
You have 4 choices. Mk1's used softer steel tines and wood hammers. Those you hear on Bill Wither's stuff.

Mk2's switched to plastic hammers, more reliable as the wooden ones would often warp from moisture. 1980's Stevie Wonder sound, although most of his were modified with hard tips.

Mk5's were that last version made in Ensenada, Mexico. Those are prized by players like Chick Corea due to their faster action and less back bounce on the keys. Those were made in a plastic case, no plywood so they are light.

Mk7's are the current model. They use the Mk5 version hammer assemblies and 903 steel tines. They have an advanced preamp design and 800 watt powered speakers. They are available with optical based midi with polyphonic aftertouch.

I'm a bit biased to the Mk7's as I was involved in their design, they are a fine piano. The preamp/EQ allows a softer Mk1 sound as well as briter bell like tones.
Old 7th June 2011
  #7
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Rhodddddes!

In my music store days in the mid 70s I spent a lot of time tweaking Rhodes. In an old one some of the tines may be fatigued. But they never sound consistent from note to note anyway.

The basic thing was to pull the keys out and spin a pencil in the slot where they sat on the key bed pins. That lubricated it with graphite and polished the wood a bit. While the key is out, check the felt to make sure it isn't torn or compresses flat. You can also put some silicone spray on the pin and felt washers.

Once you have the action fairly even, then start in the middle and play with the position of the pickup relative to the tine. Back then, everyone wanted that chimey Chick Corea sound. A softer darker sound will be easier to get. It's tedious but rewarding. No synth feels like a real Rhodes.
Old 7th June 2011
  #8
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tha]-[acksaw's Avatar
 

I've got a Stage with two stock satellite speakers. I really love it. Im always disappointed when i sit down to a Rhodes and it has that heavy bell sound. Not my bag. I like it fat and warm. Not high and tiny. Love my stage.

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Old 7th June 2011
  #9
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Nice! Thanks for the great info slutz! I'm gonna scream if I have to read another plugins thread but when it comes to solid info on classic topics like this y'all never disappoint!
Old 9th June 2011
  #10
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RKrizman's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by rcb4t2 View Post
Hey all, I'm a keyboard player (among other things...) and I luv me some rhodes. I've been wanting to get one for a while and I found one at a pretty cheap price.

I will find out more details hopefully tomorrow, but I wanted to hit the ground running with my research.

So, all the info I have so far is that it's a late-70's model. That's it! Obviously I need more info from the seller.

My question is more, which model(s) is (are) the most coveted?

In this link here, there are several examples.
Index of /audio

Looking at the Mark Ib Stage 1979.mp3 - you hear that chimey sound? I'm really not a fan of that sound. I prefer the darker tone (as in all the other Mark I clips on there). The question is, if this one has that chimey sound, can you dial it in to the mellow sound, or is it a one-or-the-other kind of thing?

Geez I feel like I should know this stuff but I've been leaning on my Nord for a while and I'm just used to the different emulation sounds, not the real-deal sounds!

Thanks in advance for the info!
Having owned many Rhodes over the last 40 (!) years or so I have strong opinions about which are the best. I believe you need to get something earlier than 1975, because that's about when they changed to all plastic hammer shanks and replaced the wooden tines-bed with a cast aluminum one. The tone went completely out the window. (Unfortunately the newly manufactured ones don't take that into account). It lost it's bark, it's chang, it's sustain, it's spank, it's subliminal sweetness, and it's non-cloying chimeyness. Listen to some old Joe Sample tracks for what I'm talking about, or Stevie Wonder in his heyday. Or Earth, Wind and Fire. Or David Sancious playing with Springsteen.

That's what you want. The trick is finding one with a playable action

By contrast, all the Steely Dan stuff was done with later models, necessitating a phase shifter for any tone at all. IMO

-R
Old 9th June 2011
  #11
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The hardest thing about buying a rhodes is finding one with good action. Most of them have horrible spongy action which hurts your hands after a long session.

I have a 1967 silver sparkletop rhodes (you forgot one, Jim) that is the third rhodes I have owned. Sparkletops have a completely different assembly - different hammers, tines, resonator bars, etc. As a general rule the sparkletops are to be avoided because the tines broke easy and the felt on the "teardrop" hammers wore a groove where it hit the tine, which deadens the tone.

It cost a lot of money to restore the teardrop hammers, but sparkletops are in demand more for their attractive silver harp cover. There are a lot fewer of them than the later pianos. Because of dimensional differences, the harp cover of sparkletops will not fit later pianos.

The sparkletop I found had been modified. Someone replaced the original "teardrop" hammers with the plastic/wood with neophrene tips. Apparently the factory recommended this if the teardrop hammers wore out. There was a "transitional" rhodes with first generation tines/resonators and second generation plastic/wood hammers, made for only about a year. These were known as the "model E" rhodes. My sparkletop is a "model E".

The action on my sparkletop is fantastic and the tone and attack transient is way better than the many Rhodes I have played since 1978. I got very lucky when I found this piano.

But don't hunt for a "model E", they are very very hard to find. Finding a rhodes with good action takes time. You can adjust the tone of the tine, but fixing a bad action is a lot harder. You have to audition them in person. Buying them on the 'bay is a crapshoot.

And I agree that the tone suffered when the wood harp support got replaced with the extruded aluminum.

Oh, and parts are generally NOT interchangeable between different era pianos (ESPECIALLY the key sets).
Old 9th June 2011
  #12
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this is from my mk1 seventy three (dont know the year though)

diff patches made from samples, but you get the idea of the sound...a nice valve pre and some distortion makes a big diff...also a compressor can be good
Old 9th June 2011
  #13
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So I am no expert...please help me out. I do a lot of live sound and one of the big downers for me are inexperienced players with a distorted Rhodes. Kinda like
b3/Leslie combos played waaaay to loud and being almost impossible to mix around. My memories of my favorite Rhodes sounds were the clean, phasey chord stuff..maybe Donald Fagen like? I feel that for the distorted stuff the Wurlitzer is the better alternative. I thought the reason for this is because of the tine design the Rhodes produces few overtones so adding them through distortion always sounds weird to me.
Old 10th June 2011
  #14
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captainate's Avatar
 

I have a '74 with plastic hammers. I think they started phasing that modification in as early as '73, with a few different revisions including a wood/plastic hybrid mechanism. These things are built like tanks, and maintenance is relatively easy if you're decent with a screwdriver. The action is the EASIEST part to fix, I find the tone to be the trickiest. You still won't find a 30 year-old anything in great condition unless it has been regularly maintenanced. And most people don't bother, don't realize they need to, or don't know how. I'm the only guy I know who knows how to fix one up, and believe it or not, it comes in really handy!!

As far as the action goes, all most of them need is a "miracle mod" if they have flat key pedestals, and proper reaming of the key bushings (and maybe lubing of the post, which I never found necessary). If you want to go a step further, you can install a basic back-check system to prevent the hammers from bouncing upon release. This also helps the damping action because the damper mechanism is connected directly to the hammer via a fiber cord. The miracle mod and backcheck systems can be purchased from www.vintagevibe.com

The miracle mod is fine, the back check system could be better but this one is relatively simple to install and not expensive. Most importantly, if you want to go down this rabbit hole, budget quite a few hours tinkering around. If you've never done it before it takes a while to get a handle on some of these processes. Totally worth it though
Old 10th June 2011
  #15
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captainate's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by blindjoni View Post
So I am no expert...please help me out. I do a lot of live sound and one of the big downers for me are inexperienced players with a distorted Rhodes. Kinda like
b3/Leslie combos played waaaay to loud and being almost impossible to mix around. My memories of my favorite Rhodes sounds were the clean, phasey chord stuff..maybe Donald Fagen like? I feel that for the distorted stuff the Wurlitzer is the better alternative. I thought the reason for this is because of the tine design the Rhodes produces few overtones so adding them through distortion always sounds weird to me.
This has completely to do with the voicing of the instrument, and ultimately the signal path. If you put a Rhodes through a guitar amp, you'll find it compresses more easily because it has a slightly hotter output than most guitars. The closer the pickup is to the tine, the louder it is. The closer to center the tine tip is to the crest of the pickup, the more overtone you get. If you put it dead center, you'll get a full octave overtone. Farther away = more fundamental. You can adjust to put as much overtone (bark/bite/grit) as you want in the voicing.

Also, since most of the instruments you find are not adjusted properly, you'll see a lot of Rhodes' with inconsistent dynamics, which makes for an awful distorted sound. It gets better with a properly set up instrument, and a decent tube amp with transformers the size of your head!
Old 10th June 2011
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by captainate View Post
This has completely to do with the voicing of the instrument, and ultimately the signal path. If you put a Rhodes through a guitar amp, you'll find it compresses more easily because it has a slightly hotter output than most guitars. The closer the pickup is to the tine, the louder it is. The closer to center the tine tip is to the crest of the pickup, the more overtone you get. If you put it dead center, you'll get a full octave overtone. Farther away = more fundamental. You can adjust to put as much overtone (bark/bite/grit) as you want in the voicing.

Also, since most of the instruments you find are not adjusted properly, you'll see a lot of Rhodes' with inconsistent dynamics, which makes for an awful distorted sound. It gets better with a properly set up instrument, and a decent tube amp with transformers the size of your head!
also helps to roll off the bass or treble depending what sound youre after, as the full spectrum can be pretty massive...a distorted rhodes def gives the guitarists something to think about...they get a bit twitchy
Old 10th June 2011
  #17
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I have a Rhodes Stage 54. When I bought it, it was in complete disarray, unplayable, horrible action and didn't even pass signal. After gathering infos from friends and on the net, I disassambled the thing completely, cleaned everything, changed everything that needed to be changed (some pickups, some tines, some felt keybed piece, some hammer tips), lubricated everything using either graphite or silicone depending on the location and now the thing is great. Smooth action, cool tone ! I agree, the hardest part is not the resetting the action but tweaking the tone. Many variables, many screws to adjust, tuning fork, tine height etc. It took me roughly two days to complete the task.

To my understanding, the transition to full plastic keys was later than stated in this thread because mine is late 70s and it is still an hybrid wood plastic system. The keys are wood, only the hammer is plastic. The only thing to check when buying is : are wooden keys warped and thus rubbing each other when playing ? It is very hard to rectify that situation. Other than that, if it is not too rusty inside, everything is quite easy to fix with a bit of elbow grease IMHO...

edit : quick technical description of the Rhodes assembly :
http://www.collino.net/wp-content/up...n-Obremski.pdf
Old 10th June 2011
  #18
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just remembered there's also a slightly diff tuning system for electric pianos...not the same as a piano - my service guy has an ancient looking chart that has all the frequencies..he tells me not to let a piano tuner tune it as it won't sound right.
I'm guessing its to do with the way the harmonics of the tines react with each other in comparison to the strings of a piano.
Old 10th June 2011
  #19
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JoaT's Avatar
I was very surprised when I opened mine the first time. You can't get much simpler than what it is, and still have an electric instrument.

The good thing is that because of it's simplicity you can really fix it yourself if you have to. Same goes for tuning.

Tuning is explained in the rhodes literature as a process everyone can do themselves. It is basically just moving the adjuster springs with a suitable tool (a bit like a mini-crowbar) and comparing to other notes until you are satisfied with the results.

Still, a great instrument with it's own distinctive sound. One that actually made me play the keys for fun the first time in years.
Old 10th June 2011
  #20
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Old 10th June 2011
  #21
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the above chart from
here
descibes stretch tuning for the rhodes...equal temprement tuning can sound a bit dull and flat - to do with how the ear perceives the notes
Old 10th June 2011
  #22
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Real MC View Post
The hardest thing about buying a rhodes is finding one with good action. Most of them have horrible spongy action which hurts your hands after a long session.

I have a 1967 silver sparkletop rhodes (you forgot one, Jim) that is the third rhodes I have owned. Sparkletops have a completely different assembly - different hammers, tines, resonator bars, etc. As a general rule the sparkletops are to be avoided because the tines broke easy and the felt on the "teardrop" hammers wore a groove where it hit the tine, which deadens the tone.
I didn't, just because they are so rare. Most have never seen one. Stevie Wonder as some of them, silver AND gold sparkle. They are not used much, in storage at Wonderland's vast equipment/instrument storage room. They do look cool but have too may problems compared to his collection of Mk1's and Mk2's. Stevie even has a sparkle silver Piano Bass, the only one I've ever seen. The Mk2's we used to take on the road, all 88's. We would take 4 of them, usually down to #4 on a long tour. One day I opended one up in Cleveland and all the keys fell out. I spent 2 hours sorting and replacing them.

Having used/recorded Rhodes since the early 1970's, I can say I'm not a fan of the Mk1's. They have too many alignment issues with warped wood hammers and sloppy action. They will tire out your hands. Just ask Chick Corea or Herbie Hancock. The tone is always very dark due to the wood hammers and softer tine steel. Back in those days the powered pianos always had the bass on full cut and treble on full boost, that was the way they worked.

I favor the Mk5's and new Mk7's. The Mk5's are a bit rare, but very fast and light. Chick Corea has the only 88 ever made, the rest were 73's. They have some issues as well, sloppy assembly and crooked drill holes in the plywood base from a wobbly drill press (I kid you not!). Typical Mexico, if you like.

What I like about the Mk7's is the precision assembly and workmanship. They are consistant, at last. The 903 steel tines sound wonderful, many versions were tried before that was selected. They are also precison made and are very reliable, lasting a couple million hits without breakage. Yes, you Rhodes guys can order and buy these tines from Rhodes. They are made in the USA because they have too to get that quality of metalwork. They buy that steel in 1/4 ton blocks before machining.

I do like the electronics I designed for them. The 3 band EQ has tonal adjustments beyond any previous Rhodes. + - 15 db at 10k hz and 70 hz shelf and + - 15 db 100 hz to 8 k bell EQ. With that EQ you can soften the top attack for a mushy Mk1 tone, boost a bit at 300 hz for that mid bloom. Crank up 8k bell and a bit of top boost and you get that Stevie Wonder hard tipped ballad piano sound without modifing the hammer tips. Unlike older pianos, the input impedance is 2 meg ohms using a discrete jfet in the feedback loop of a LME49710 opamp. Therefore top end clarity is unmatched so you don't need to push up that treble pot anymore, they sound balanced and full set flat. Older Mk1's had a 33k ohm input impedance, too low and MK2's were even lower at 10k ohms feeding the inverting input of a lowly RC4558 opamp, ecch!

The beauty of the Rhodes design is it's versitility like an electric guitar. Interfaces change the sonics, loading does too. Any Rhodes has access to the harp pickups via the RCA jack. Therefore you can feed them into anything for an infinate variety of sounds.
Old 10th June 2011
  #23
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Rhodddddes!

The stretch on a Rhodes isn't as much as on a strung piano. So you don't want someone using a spinet chart on your Rhodes. But tuning it even will sound flat in the high notes and sharp in the bass. Especially for folks who play hard.

Back in the day a lot of people would have a Clavinet on top of their Rhodes. And the Clavinet needed a real dramatic stretch to sound right. Throw in a Hammond and string ensemble which were even and you had pitch nightmares for horn players trying to do things together. Or how to intonate a guitar to fit in and not drive the singer nuts with all these wavering pitches all over the stage.
Old 10th June 2011
  #24
We used to match them up pretty close on stage, the Yamaha grand, clavs and Rhodes. Adding to the hassle was all Steve's keyboards and all other instruments are tuned at 442 instead of 440. Everyone that came to jam sounded flat!
Old 10th June 2011
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Williams View Post
Chick Corea has the only 88 ever made
So THAT'S where that piano wound up. The designer said the mold did not survive the first casting, he didn't know where that piano went.

Quote:
The beauty of the Rhodes design is it's versitility like an electric guitar. Interfaces change the sonics, loading does too. Any Rhodes has access to the harp pickups via the RCA jack. Therefore you can feed them into anything for an infinate variety of sounds.
The previous owner removed the preamp, power amp, and speakers from my sparkletop. The sole 1/4" jack goes straight to the harp. Lacking a Fender Twin Reverb, I tried my Selmer Zodiac Twin Thirty on the sparkletop and dialed up a beautiful sound. Unfortunately the harp pickups has a nasty buzz, currently sorting that out. I have a surplus Peterson preamp from a MK1 suitcase that I may try on the sparkletop.
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