The Electric Piano Forum

General => The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano => Topic started by: jpmas on June 11, 2022, 02:08:00 AM

Title: Recommendation for a Mk 1
Post by: jpmas on June 11, 2022, 02:08:00 AM

I currently have a Mk II Stage 73 from 1982 and am looking for a Mk 1 (either Stage or Suitcase) to replace it. 

What year would you suggest I look for? 

What are the pros and cons on the various changes made over the years the Mk 1 was made?
Title: Re: Recommendation for a Mk 1
Post by: spave on June 11, 2022, 12:22:27 PM
Hi jpmas,

The first question is why do you want a MK I? In my opinion the best years are 1969-early 1975 and 1978-mid 1979 but you should have an idea of the sound you want before diving deeper on a specific year. For instance, the 78-79 MK I will sound very similar to your MK II with the only major differences being the wooden keybed and rounded top so it might not be worth buying one unless you love the sound of your MK II with the keybed being the only part you dislike.

Also, how much work are you willing to do/pay for to get a MK I into good condition? The 72-75's have a great sound but will most likely need a bump mod and other TLC to play well and even then they probably won't be as fast and precise as the 78 and later Rhodes.
Title: Re: Recommendation for a Mk 1
Post by: jpmas on June 11, 2022, 01:59:31 PM

Thank you for the insights spave.  You're right, I don't like the keybed of my Mk II and that's the main reason why I want to replace it.

Do the earlier models have a mellower sound compared to the 78-79 MK I and MK II?

I also noticed that you excluded the pianos from mid 75 to 77.  Are there any particular reasons why these aren't the "best years" and are there certain things to look out for when buying pianos from this period?

I don't mind doing a bit of work on the piano if needed. Thanks again. 
Title: Re: Recommendation for a Mk 1
Post by: spave on June 11, 2022, 07:42:59 PM
Quote from: jpmas on June 11, 2022, 01:59:31 PMI don't like the keybed of my Mk II and that's the main reason why I want to replace it.

Ok, then right off the bat I'd say you want a piano made after late 1973, that's when Rhodes started getting solid wood keybeds. The earlier models will still feel better than the plastic MK II but if that's your main issue then I'd go for the full wood set. (Also, the 1979-early 81 MK IIs and MK V have wooden keys so that could be another alternative if you still like most of the other MK II features).

Quote from: jpmas on June 11, 2022, 01:59:31 PMDo the earlier models have a mellower sound compared to the 78-79 MK I and MK II?

Just about any Rhodes can be made to sound mellow or bark, 90% of the sound is in the voicing, hammer tips, grommets, and EQ. That being said, most 1971-75 Rhodes will have softer square tips which can sound a bit warm/mellower than later versions which are generally described as being cool/glassy. Also, stage Rhodes will sound mellower simply because they are passive so if that's the sound you want, you can save a bit of $$$ by not buying a suitcase.

Quote from: jpmas on June 11, 2022, 01:59:31 PMI also noticed that you excluded the pianos from mid 75 to 77.  Are there any particular reasons why these aren't the "best years" and are there certain things to look out for when buying pianos from this period?

It's not that they are bad but the general consensus is they aren't as desirable as the earlier models.

A few reasons why include:

-In early 1975 they switched from half wood hammers to all plastic which some believe changed the tone

-Aluminum harp supports replaced the solid wooden ones (The wooden harp supports were hand cut which led to some Rhodes sounding great out of the factory and others sounding terrible vs the standardization of the aluminum)

-New hammer tips which had a different "brighter" sound compared to the 71-75s (These can be changed though)

-In 1976 they put felt on the hammer cams which most people replace as its generally considered an inferior design
 
-The Torrington tines were replaced sometime after 1975 (Torringtons are often considered part of the "secret sauce" in the greatness of the 1971-75 Rhodes)

-After getting rid of the half wood hammers, Rhodes changed the profile of the plastic hammers which helped reduce tine breakage but also made it harder to get the Rhodes to "bark".

-The change from "Fender Rhodes" to "Rhodes" happened in late 1974 and many people simply like the look of the Fender Rhodes cosmetics over the Rhodes versions and are willing to pay a premium to have the "iconic version".


The main reason I included the 78-79s is because they came with the bump mod from the factory. Because of that alone, they are probably the best feeling stock MK I Rhodes.



I will sum all this up by saying, the condition of any particular Rhodes is more important than the year it was made.

That doesn't necessarily mean cosmetic  condition either. My 1971 is very "Rhode" worn but plays and sounds amazing while I've seen Rhodes that went straight from the factory to a climate controlled closet for 40 years and still sound horrible.

Personally, I'd recommend that you go year by year and listen to the different models on YouTube so you can hear the differences and see some of the cosmetic changes between them. After that go see a few so you can feel some of the changes in person. The MK I rabbit hole can go as deep as you want it to but you can find a gem in any year of production  :)
Title: Re: Recommendation for a Mk 1
Post by: jpmas on June 11, 2022, 08:27:00 PM

Thank you for that very enlightening info!  Much appreciated!
Title: Re: Recommendation for a Mk 1
Post by: lukevintage on June 12, 2022, 03:31:29 PM
Everything Spave wrote is spot on advice.

I would further add to the stage (passive) vs suitcase (active) advice by adding that many home players today go directly into their audio interface on their computer and use the virtual amps and pedals (such as on garageband) to get an incredible sound. Suitcases are loud. Pedals and preamps, as well as dedicated Rhodes preamps, abound in today's market. Home amplification can be though monitors. Live amplification can go through pedals and into the P.A. The requirements of the 70s are soon becoming obsolete in the advantages that today's digital and analogue technology offer. And I LOVE amps and cabinets.
I'm glad I went with a stage piano in the end, even if a suitcase is beautiful. Actually, I still plan to find a way to play live and not with headphones. So far, I've got a suitcase preamp with the L/R tremolo. Next step is a stereo amplifier. I already have a 2x12.