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Messages - Mark S 1

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The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: Solid Wood Case?
« on: January 20, 2014, 11:15:17 PM »
Thanks for the complements!

Yes, wood cheek blocks are a must. You could go real exotic here - zebra wood, purple heart, black & white ebony, lots of options. Blocks could be inlaid, stacked in patterns, all sorts of cool stuff.

Oh, and while a nice custom painted top would look cool, you could also forgo the vinyl top and make a wood top (kinda like the split case top mod, but lower profile since there is no vinyl lid underneath). This is what I am leaning toward, as I need to place a 2nd keyboard on top anyway.

Oh, and I agree, plywood bottom for strength with solid wood sides/front/back. Ever see a dovetail with walnut and maple? Contrasting woods make gorgeous dovetail joints!


The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: Marcel curve & Bump mods
« on: January 20, 2014, 11:02:40 PM »
I did consider filling them with wood (for weight), but it didn't occur to me I could then remove the plastic and then cap them like normal. I like it.  ;D Only down side is it makes it impossible to go back.

Hum.....perhaps I could order one or two keys from VV and give it a go before I risk my keys.

Anyone have one or two Pratt-Read keys with messed up plastic that they would like to contribute to an experiment?

The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: Marcel curve & Bump mods
« on: January 20, 2014, 07:40:36 PM »
The point isn't to replace the Marcels, but to have solid wood core keys vs the plastic skirted and domed keys that were used on early models. There is nothing wrong with the Marcel bump per se.

The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: Solid Wood Case?
« on: January 20, 2014, 07:37:10 PM »

I agree 100% - if it is staying in your house, a hard wood case is the way to go.

Regarding tone - wood choice can impact tone on a speaker enclosure, but I don't think it will matter for a stage model (or the piano half of a suitcase). Before I built a nice wood enclosure for my vibrolux I did some research and found several people who had built hardwood cases for guitar combo amps. They all claimed hardwood gave it a darker sound. As a result, I built my vibrolux enclosure from clear pine, and it sounds great.

Regarding carpentry - if your buddy is as awesome as you say, this should be a piece of cake. I'm no carpenter and would barely even qualify as an amateur wood worker, but I built the amp and desk you see in this thread - - not hard at all.  And yes, I plan to build a nice hardwood case for my Rhodes - complete with dovetail joints. I just haven't decided what I want to do about the legs on my stage model - keep them? Make a wood stand? Make a speaker box so it looks like a suitcase?

In any case, please post pics once you have your wood case. I'll do the same.

Parts, Service, Maintenance & Repairs / Re: Treble sustain problem
« on: January 18, 2014, 08:09:38 PM »
if you remove the tine/tone bar assembly, and swap it with a nearby tine/tone bar assembly what happens?

This will tell you if you have a problem with that particular tine/tone bar or if the hammer in that position is not giving you a proper strike.

Parts, Service, Maintenance & Repairs / Re: Treble sustain problem
« on: January 18, 2014, 12:55:45 PM »
or replacing the springs?

And by no way was I suggesting using a bicycle spoke as a tine! I merely used the spoke as a reference to one of the many things made by a wire swaging machine.
A spoke would probably not work out too well ;)

understood - but it was a very intriguing thought. They are swagged metal, and you can probably find butted spokes that are of the correct gauge and tapper. I'd be surprised if they made a good tine, but you never know! Stranger discoveries have been made....

Excellent point.

Unfortunately the only options for tines today are:

1. pull them from a donor (or buy them from a place that sells pulled tines)
2. buy new ones from VV
3. Improvise and try to make your own

While the idea of using stainless steel butted bicycle spokes is intriguing (might have to try that one day), rolling your own is probably impractical for most of us, which leaves VV the only game in town for new tines. So the OP's question is very pertinent - in what era Rhodes do VV tines work well and in what era(s) do they fail to blend? I could see this being register dependent as well. I'd be interested in hearing more reports from people who have tried them.

FYI - I've run my Rhodes Stage into a Marshal stack with a single sealed 2x10 cab and there is plenty of bass! I've also run it into an open back Vibrolux (2x10), and can verify there is less bass  in an open back cab than the sealed cab.

Twins are loud! I've owned several over the years (both black and silver face) and despite playing at some decent sized venues, not once did we have to mic it. Great amps, but a pain to lug around.

Rhodes harp --> tube pre --> stereo tremolo --> PA system with inputs panned hard L & R.

There are a number of small tube pre's designed for direct instrument input (VV even makes one for use in the name rail, though it will cost a bit more than some of the external options), and a number of guitar pedals that are mono in/stereo out. Use the PA for your amp and you are done. Of course this only makes life easier if the PA is already at the venue or if it is needed for the rest of the band. If you don't want to use a PA then I'd take the harp output directly into a stereo effects pedal and then run to two small combo amps.


The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: Marcel curve & Bump mods
« on: January 14, 2014, 05:43:34 PM »
Thanks guys! The amp was a complete scratch build - cab was made from clear pine based on exterior dimensions I found on line and my recollection of fender combo cabs (I've owned a few over the years). The electronics were built off schematics (also on line) using a reproduction chassis and face plate. These amps were point-to-point soldered, so there is no circuit board to reproduce.

So back to Rhodes keys - I think I'm going to try and make a few keys to test my construction idea. I'll probably make the test keys out of what ever scrap wood I have just to see how it goes, then if it works out, get some bass or spruce. If you look at a Rhodes key, the pedestal is glued on, which got me thinking, rather than cut all the keys off a single glued up board, I could rip strips and glue additional strips to the end to increase the width - eliminating the 90 deg cuts. This would allow for simple table saw operations, and given I can cut wood to 0.001" with a modern table saw (and digital fence), might make it easy to produce a set of custom keys.

You might want to just give the Weber folks a call (if you are willing to consider purchasing new Weber speakers). I've done this twice now, both times while building amps and in a quandary over what speaker to use. Both times the Weber folks gave great guidance and basically nailed the sound I was looking for. There were a lot more options than just model and magnet, and they did a great job explaining what effect these would have and how to get the tone I was looking for. In one instance, I had already built the amp (a 5E3) and loved the tone, but needed more clean head room, and they built a custom speaker that was more efficient without wreaking the tone I loved.

Now granted, new custom built speakers are a bit more expensive than pulling speakers from an old cab, but at least you know what you are getting. I should also add these were for guitar, I haven't asked the Weber folks about speakers for a Rhodes yet...


The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: Marcel curve & Bump mods
« on: January 14, 2014, 01:28:28 AM »
Understand the life and family thing. As they say, life is what happens while you are making plans. Hope your wife makes a speedy recovery.

You mention San Francisco - are you in/near the bay area? I'm in San Jose, and like you, may have some parts to mix and match.

I was looking at the keys tonight, and I'm pretty sure I could build new flat top keys from scratch and cap them with replacement caps ( - scroll down, I'm not gonna purchase real ivory for my Rhodes!). Most of the fab would be simple table saw and router operations, but I'd cut the key post holes on my CNC mill. Should be simple and I'd make flat pedestals so they could be bumped easily. Then again, I could just wait for suitable donor to show up, though I hate the idea of parting out a salvageable Rhodes.

I hear ya on the mix-n-match thing. Right now I have two 73 stage models - one is a '76 that I have restored all the internals. The Tolex and lid are OK but will ultimately be replaced once I've decided its fate. It is currently sitting in my studio and sees daily use. The other is a '70 that looked like it was pulled out of a swamp (OK, not quite that bad, but no way was it going any further than the garage). All the tines are tapered, though I have no idea if they are all Raymac or some mix (most likely). My first step is to rebuild the harp then place it on my '76 just to see how the tines sound and decide if it is a keeper or not. Guess I could use the harp and keys from the '76 on the '70 to make a virtual 74-75, but that would essentially kill my '76, so prob not. I'd like to end up with two excellent Rhodes so I can give one to a friend of mine.

Oh, and what ever winds up staying in the studio will get a custom hardwood case to match the studio decor (like this desk and amp I built). I might even build a speaker cab under it to make it look like a suitcase, though I've pretty much decided against built in preamps or amps as I like the flexibility of running it through various amps, effects, and even DI's. Basically I treat it just like an electric guitar.

The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: Marcel curve & Bump mods
« on: January 13, 2014, 04:10:35 PM »
Thanks Ray! Good to know.

My only concern at this point then is the plastic key skirts (vs all wood key base with plastic caps). Did you find that made any significant difference in the feel of the action?


Is Major Key still in business? There web page hasn't been updated in a long time and their "parts" page is "under construction". Anyone purchased Rhodes parts from them recently?

What about CAE Sound? Anyone used their hammer tips, felts, grommets, etc?

The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: Marcel curve & Bump mods
« on: January 13, 2014, 01:52:02 PM »

how did your 1970 restore turn out? Were you happy with the action? Did you wind up "enhancing" the bump? And how did the action turn out compared to a post '75 with bump mod?

I picked up a 1970 model last week and I'm debating what to do. Unfortunately it was pretty neglected, so I wasn't able to access the action before stripping everything down. And I mean everything - even the key post felts had to come out! I'm very curious to see how this one plays and sounds compared to my '76.


The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: Chrome Tone Bars
« on: January 12, 2014, 06:38:25 PM »
Thanks. Yes, I have confirmed they are not Aluminum, despite the white oxidation (prob zinc as you state). I tried to etch them in a setup I use for anodizing aluminum, and the etch solution which viciously attacks aluminum, did nothing to the bars.

I've cleaned mine with a wire brush wheel. They still have some discoloration that I can remove with 600 grit sand paper, but I will probably just have them nickel plated.


Fortunately I have a very understanding wife. I don't say anything about shoes and she lets me buy all the gear I want - though she does like to tell me it is her gear. :P


There is an alternative that can save you from having a house filled with adopted Rhodes pianos:  You could instead choose to spend the rest of your life searching Craigslist for a wider variety of vintage keys.  (See my signature.)


Nice collection - and if I had more space (and time and money), I'd be following your footsteps. Though I must confess I already have a nice collection of vintage guitars - mainly Gibson's from the 40's, 50's, 60's. The only Fender I own is a Jazz bass, but I do have some nice G&L Telecasters (and since G&L was Leo's company after he left CBS, I consider them true Fenders).


Your ailment has been known to have led to multiple deaths, typically bare-handed strangulation of people whose last breaths were spent claiming the supriority of their synth workstation or sw plugin sounds to those of genuine electro-mechanical instruments.

Ha! So true! My studio is pretty much all analog - I even have an English made analog console and plenty of analog outboard (even a pair of 1176's!), though I must confess I record to a DAW, not tape. If I had the space, time, and money to keep a Studer running though, you bet I'd have one.

The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: Chrome Tone Bars
« on: January 08, 2014, 12:41:11 PM »
Does anyone happen to know what alloy the tone bars are? I assume it is some type of aluminum, but appears to be a fairly soft alloy.

The reason I ask is I just picked up a '70 model and the tone bars are caked in white powder (AL oxidation). After I clean them up I plan to do something to prevent further oxidation - and I thought I might try anodizing them (I happen to have an anodizing setup in my shop). Though anodizing doesn't work well with cast AL, and the tone bars look similar to alloys used in casting.



I bought another Rhodes today. I only have room for one in my studio, and I've barely had my Stage 73 (1976 build) two months, not to mention I just finished the mechanical restoration over the holiday. It plays and sounds great, so why the 2nd Rhodes? Well, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about regarding tone with wood action rails/supports/hammers, etc, so I picked up a 1970 model.

Unfortunately the specimen I picked up is in need of serious attention - so it will be some time before I can compare the years, but it should be a fun restoration project, and then I'll have to choose one to keep. Not sure how I will like the plastic skirt keys on the 1970, so if I like the tone I may need to pick up a 74-75 (if I can find one), ya know, just to make sure I've tried all the options.

So tell me, is there a cure for this illness, or am I doomed to be scouring Craig's List for the rest of my life, searching for neglected Rhodes pianos?


The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: The Fender Rhodes Documentary
« on: January 07, 2014, 04:54:44 AM »
Just watched the video (MP4 download). Then watched it again with the wife, and afterward she handed me a shopping list of CD's to buy! Fortunately I had some of the material on LP, but I still spent 10x the cost of the video buying music!

Very well done Benjamin! That must have been an amazing experience getting to interview all those legends. The editing and recording was superb! I especially liked how the person interviewed would play a part of a song and then you would continue that song in the background. I assume this was a loop of their performance as it appeared seamless. And boy can those guys still lay it down. Wow!

Oh, and my wife loved the story of Phillinganes asking Stevie to call his Mom - hysterical!

Thanks again!

Parts, Service, Maintenance & Repairs / Re: Replacing Pedestal Felts
« on: January 03, 2014, 08:48:33 PM »
I do believe Lighter fluid is made from Naptha, though I don't know how they differ. Unfortunately the Lowes near my house doesn't carry Naptha and I was unsure about the substitutes, but I had plenty of Denatured Alcohol, and I figured why not give it a try.

Parts, Service, Maintenance & Repairs / Re: Which Preamp Should I Use?
« on: January 03, 2014, 08:44:06 PM »
Would any of you Sparkle Top owners be willing to take a close up of the preamp/control graphics and post them here? My graphics are barely readable, and I need to create some custom water slide decals as a replacement.

Rather than make water slide decals, you should make dry transfers (no film, looks like it was printed right on the metal). It's quite easy to do with a laser printer. Check out  I have no affiliation with these folks, I'm just a happy customer who has used their product to give my projects a professional finishing touch.


Has anyone compared the various sources for replacement "consumable" parts like grommets, hammer tips, or damper felts? Is there any significant difference in the parts from one vendor vs another?

Somewhat by accident I wound up with grommets from both VV and Ken Rich. The VV grommets were softer, but designed for slightly oversize screws. Since the Ken Rich grommets fit the stock screws I wound up using those, though I have no idea which would have sounded better or lasted longer, etc. Which got me thinking what differences might exist in other consumable parts.

So if anyone has done comparisons, please speak up. What are your favorite grommets, hammer tips, and damper felts, and why?


Parts, Service, Maintenance & Repairs / Re: Replacing Pedestal Felts
« on: January 03, 2014, 02:48:50 PM »
Slightly off topic, but I recently removed the felts from the plastic hammers on my 1976 stage. Obviously Acetone on the plastic hammers would be a bad idea, and a hot iron near plastic could spell disaster, so I used denatured alcohol. This left a smooth surface to ride over the pedestal felts.

Parts, Service, Maintenance & Repairs / Re: Which Preamp Should I Use?
« on: January 03, 2014, 02:40:19 PM »
Another option would be to leave the preamp out of the name rail (i.e. leave it as a stage) as this would allow you to us a wide variety of external preamps, no preamp, DI box, etc, to get the sound you want. Nothing says you can't place a peterson preamp in an external box (with power supply) and only connect it when that is the sound you want.

I listened to the video while reading, enjoying the great playing. They all sounded good, but when the last one started, right from the first note my immediate reaction was "Whoa! Stop the press. I want that one!".  Needless to say, I was not surprised when I looked at the video and discovered it was the real deal. The bell sound was more pleasing, and it sat in the mix a bit better (though it also appeared a bit more muddy at times, but this helped it blend). All told, I think you could use any of the plugins (or the Nord) and no one would complain. And with the proper eq/compression/re-amp/effects/etc you could make any of them sound the way you wanted. But as Ideasculptor pointed out, the feel of a real Rhodes is not matched by a digital piano, and in the hands of the right performer, that feel will inspire a better performance. And the performance is everything.

Thanks again for the video and great playing!

bjammerz, you make some very good points, though I would add the following...

As you point out, the pickup only "picks up" the tine and is not designed to respond to wood vibration - it only reacts to a metal object moving within its magnetic field. However, in the case of an electric guitar, the wood is tightly coupled with the vibrating string, thus the wood becomes part of the resonant structure (much like the tone bar and tine are coupled on the Rhodes). The most obvious influence is sustain, though I can tell you the tone of my Gibson ES-5 with P-90 pickups is way different than the tone of my Telecaster with a Gibson bridge and P-90 pickups. So in the case of a tightly coupled tine (or string) to a wood structure, yes, the wood (type, mass, shape, etc) does make a difference, even when the sound is coming only from an electromagnetic pickup.

With the Rhodes the grommets isolate the tine/tone bar from the wood, so I would not expect the wood to influence how the tine/tone bar vibrates. But given I haven't tried it, I thought I'd ask as others have claimed differently.

The hammers are an interesting item. Anyone who has ever played with different picks on a guitar knows the pick can change the sound dramatically (as can picking with fingers). Or perhaps a better analogy would be striking tubular bells (or a xylophone) with different mallets. Though due to the glue on hammer tips, I would imagine the material behind the tip is less important than it's mass. So the real question is are the wood hammers heavier or lighter than the plastic ones? A simple experiment would be to to try adding weight to the hammers - though this would alter playing feel.

Happy New Year everyone!



I've played guitar since I was old enough to hold one and fret a note (call it early 70's), but we never had a piano in the house so I never developed the same dexterity on keyboards that I have for fretted instruments. I'm mainly guitar, but I do play bass and some lap slide and have dabbled in Ukulele. I probably have over 20 guitars currently, but only 4 keyboards. I need to get a mandolin and a dulcimer (plus a B3  to go with my Rhodes)!

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