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Topics - The Real MC

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I just finished the book Fender: The Inside Story by Forrest White who was plant manager for Fender from 1954 to 1967.  He states that the first Rhodes pianos and celeste were displayed in Chicago at a trade show in 1963.  The piano bass first appeared in 1959 - Harold did build a piano back then but Leo was not happy with the sound.

Forrest also states that Harold Rhodes was a bit of a procrastinator.

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Don't EVER use a guitar tuner to tune a Rhodes.  Not even the rackmount ones.  They are not finite enough.

Do use a strobe tuner to tune a Rhodes.

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Parts, Service, Maintenance & Repairs / Vintage Rhodes handle on eb@y
« on: July 08, 2016, 04:34:05 PM »
I've been surfing eb@y for a long time.  As for insane price gouging, this takes the cake - a 1975 vintage handle for a Rhodes case for $150

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Genuine-And-Vintage-Fender-Rhodes-Handle-Circa-1975-/182141579386?hash=item2a687bf07a:g:CQ0AAOSw9k5XQL-9

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The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Building speaker panels for suitcase
« on: February 28, 2016, 08:22:02 PM »
Finally got around to building new speaker panels (3/4" 13 ply cabinet grade birch plywood, not shipboard like original) for the empty suitcase bottom that came with my sparkletop.

I wanted the panel facing the player to have two 15" speakers as far down and to extreme sides as possible so I could hear stereo when I play.  Then like the original, another pair of speakers facing the audience.  Their placement wasn't important.

Do not attempt, 15" speakers WILL NOT WORK.  With 15" speakers there is NO PLACE to position two speakers on the other panel.

Only four 12" speakers or smaller will work.

I'm not using any suitcase amplifier, using a Mosvalve amp that has plenty of power.  I am wiring a jack panel to the suitcase bottom so at home I just use the speakers facing the player, at gigs I use both sets.  With the outboard amp this keeps the separate components to a reasonable weight.

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The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Sparkletop on eBay
« on: May 13, 2014, 03:48:51 PM »
http://ep-forum.com/smf/index.php?topic=8178.0

Already posted in FS forum but this is a hybrid sparkletop with Raymacs and hybrid wood/plastic hammers with neophrene tips.  I have one of these and it sounds fantastic.  I never thought I would see another one.  Pretty pricey though.

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The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Sparkletop piano at AHMW
« on: April 01, 2014, 12:13:07 PM »
Hey folks if you are in the midwest near Ft Wayne IN, I will be bringing my 1967 sparkletop piano to AHMW this coming saturday for show and tell (hey the event *IS* at a school).  I'll also have some Moogerfooger pedals (phaser, chorus/flanger, ring mod) hooked up to it.  AHMW is an annual get-together for analog synthesizer enthusiasts but EPs and Hammonds have been known to join the party.

http://165.138.219.1/~drew/ahmw/

http://www.retrosynth.com/~analoguediehard/studio/keyboards/fender_rhodes/index.html


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Amps, Effects & Recording Techniques / Countryman Type 10 Direct Box
« on: February 27, 2012, 11:13:06 PM »
Mr UPS dropped off my new Countryman Type 10 Direct Box and I spent the night experimenting with the sparkletop piano.

One of the problems with the sparkletop piano is hiss and it loads too easy.  I have noticed a loss of high end when plugging in a stompbox effect.  I have Moogerfooger stuff so they are no slouches.  Seems that the sparkletop gets loaded down too easy and loses its tone.  Hiss is also problematic.

I had read a tip that the best direct box for rhodes pianos are those with an input impedance of 1Mohm or higher - meaning an active direct box.  I didn't have a DI in my arsenal with high enough impedance so I chose the Countryman after looking around.

Wow did this box make a difference.  The hiss went WAY down, and the tone is great.  This thing has flat frequency response, minimal phase shift, and low noise way past 20Khz.  It has a FET front end with a 10Mohm input impedance.  It doesn't color the sound one iota, just crystal clear.  Not muddy at all.

I have a pretty well stocked OTB studio and discriminating ears so I'm not throwing out praise lightly.  I compared the Type 10 to my Radial J48 - slightly hotter signal at the expense of hiss.  The ART active box had better input impedance than the J48 but the tone and hiss was the worst.

If you want a DI for Rhodes piano into your recording system, the Type 10 is a great box.  Best sound quality is achieved right off the harp, and make sure the pad switch is set at 0dB for maximum input impedance.

I have a gig this friday and will be using the sparkletop/DI into my mixing board.

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Preamps, Modifications & Upgrades / That substandard RCA jack
« on: February 18, 2012, 08:44:23 PM »
I have had that RCA jack go flaky on me for the LAST time - ENOUGH!  I am replacing it with a 1/4" jack.  This makes a much more secure connection, and serves as a convenient tap for my Countryman Type 10 DI box for recording/reamping.

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The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Never saw one of these
« on: January 20, 2012, 05:41:27 PM »
It appears to accept a cable from the later preamp (5-pin XLR) to be used with a Peterson-era suitcase bottom cabinet or Super Satellite.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/FENDER-RHODES-KEYBOARD-PIANO-POWER-SUPPLY-CONVERTER-AMP-P-N-014372-SUPER-RARE-/230732135642?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item35b8b4fcda

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For Sale / Sparkletop 73 suitcase handyman's special on ebay (not mine)
« on: January 07, 2012, 07:49:15 PM »
Obviously has been in storage needs cleanup & TLC, no indication if all tines are intact.  Silvertop harp cover looks clean and no rust on hardware.  Does not show the datecode but have a low serial (#0052).

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Fender-Rhodes-Suitecase-style-piano-/330666721870?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item4cfd45c24e#ht_500wt_940

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I have a sparkletop piano that is missing its original preamp and the bottom case is completely devoid of power amp and speakers.  I have a surplus Peterson preamp plus namerail from a scavenged piano and I want to shoehorn the preamp in the bottom case of the sparkletop, with added power supply.  I don't want it in the piano case because I don't want to drill holes in the chrome namerail and I don't want to carve out clearance in the harp cover for the wider case of the Peterson.

I'd like to get the faceplate off the namerail and transplant it to the panel that will be fitted to the bottom case.  Anybody know how to remove it without damaging it?

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The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Tuning tech screwed up my tone!
« on: December 23, 2011, 01:45:24 PM »
I spent a lot of time optimizing the pickups and tonebars to get the tone I wanted from my sparkletop, then I sent it to my tech to be tuned.

When I got it back and played it through my amp, the tone had changed!  The tech had admitted that he reset the positions of the pickups.  So I had to go through THAT process AGAIN...

If you send your rhodes to a tech to be tuned, be sure to specify NOT to change the pickups or tonebar positions  >:(

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For Sale / SOLD: 73 key Rhodes full harp assembly
« on: October 24, 2011, 03:07:44 PM »
SOLD

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For Sale / FS: keyset for 73 key piano FULL WOOD
« on: May 14, 2011, 10:23:40 AM »
gone

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For Sale / FS: Stage 73 piano shell & lid
« on: May 14, 2011, 09:47:04 AM »
gone

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The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / SCORE! Sparkle Top Suitcase
« on: April 06, 2011, 09:35:48 PM »
Walked into one of my favorite haunts for used gear and they had JUST landed a sparkle top 73 piano.  I had passed on two of these due to bad hammers, so the first thing that greeted me when I popped the hood was a complete set of raymac tines and the hammerhead felt hammers replaced with the modern hammers with neophrene tips.

AH - the fabled "Model E" configuration!

Missing the preamp, power amp, and speakers - no big loss.  The 1/4" jack on the front panel goes right to the harp.

Played the thing and beautiful bell tone with that fusion tone.  Strike point didn't sound off.  Nice action.  Tolex not torn but is weathered, harp cover in good shape.  Bottom cabinet is empty, only used as a stand and sustain pedal.

$489!!!

Within 30 seconds of playing I told them to pack it up.

They were astounded - the former owner had just leaving the store when I walked in!

Pics when I get it home...

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For Sale / Mark II Suitcase 88 (not mine but excellent specimen)
« on: May 10, 2008, 11:08:40 AM »
Not mine but I had to report this one...

House of Guitars in Rochester NY has an excellent condition Mark II 88 suitcase piano date code 198x (x is either 2 or 3, lack of ink on stamp).  Some minor tolex tears, but VERY clean cosmetically and the tines and tips are excellent and the full wood key action is light and fast - the best I have ever played.

They call it mint, I prefer to call it excellent given the minor tolex tears.

Closer inspection revealed that the pedestals have the bump mod and it is obviously factory original - that is why the action is so good.

This thing even has the plastic music rest that says "RHODES" on it.

They're asking $1800 - trust me I have never seen a nicer condition Rhodes than this one.  I don't think it has ever seen a stage.

Sorry no pics, didn't have a camera with me.

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Parts, Service, Maintenance & Repairs / Two pianos enter, one piano leaves
« on: December 04, 2007, 03:16:57 PM »
Well I had this well gigged basketcase Rhodes for a year that I got for nothing from a tech.  It's a suitcase without the bottom amp.  Case is bashed in on the bottom and not salvageable.  I bought a set of full wood keys and discovered that they were not interchangeable with the plastic keys, because they use different pin rails.  So the salvageable components are the harp, all but four tonebars and tines, wood/plastic hammers, dampers, and wood harp support.

I had been waiting for Music Parts Guru to come up with a replacement case, pin rails, and tonebars but I lost my patience after eight months.

So I now have Rhodes #2 (stage piano) that I bought on the 'bay.  While this one has rusted harp and tines, all the other components meet my gaps in the other piano.  Full wood key set with balance rails and the case is in excellent condition (I don't think it has ever seen a stage).  It's a stage model with legs and crossbars.  This one is late 1975 so it has the "modular" all plastic hammers and dampers with aluminum harp support.

All I am missing is the sustain pedal - if anybody has one surplus, let me know.

Now it's time to make one good piano out of the two.  I will be comparing each for the sound I want, so the end product will be a "frankenstein".  Right away the difference between the plastic keys and full wood keys is phenomenal, the wood keys are soooooo much better.  I have the Peterson suitcase preamp so I can put that in, I bought a power supply/audio interface and new set of hammer tips from CAE Sound.

Question about the action - both pianos have stiff action and need to be lubed.  I have read that teflon powder does the trick.  I have not yet found teflon powder but I do have teflon grease, is that a good substitute?

It's been 25 years since I last owned a Rhodes - looking forward to the "experiment".

Pics later :)

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Here is one I dug out from the dustbins: a 1982 cassette recording, complete with hiss and dropouts (I was 19, my recording skills were novice back then), of my Fender Rhodes stage 73 going through a Leslie 760.  I always liked the sound of a Rhodes through a Leslie.

http://www.retrosynth.com/~analoguediehard/studio/keyboards/fender_rhodes/fender-rhodes-warmup.mp3

The piano was a 1972 model - half wood/plastic hammers, Torrington tines.  Even though it sounded great, I sold it in 1984 because it had awful spongy action.

I snatched a basket case suitcase Fender Rhodes last year (top only) that I am restoring, hopefully I can get it to sound the one I used to own.

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The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / The Rhodes Piano by Bob Moog
« on: March 19, 2007, 06:40:42 PM »
From my library of Keyboard magazines I found this intriguing article.  Enjoy.

The 'tone bar' referred to in this article is the tine and mounting post.



Quote
A tone-producing mechanism of the Rhodes is shown in the drawing.  When a key is depressed, a hammer hits the wire-shaped tone bar, which then vibrates like a reed.  The motion of the free end induces a signal in the pickup coil.  Three processes of interest to us occur as the tone decays.  First, at the beginning of the tone, the tone bar vibrates simultaneously in many modes, or patterns.  The faster modes die out more rapidly than the slower ones.  The tone bar is shaped and mounted in such a way that these higher-frequency modes result in a pleaseing bell-like attack that decays much more rapidly than the 'sustain' portion of the tine.  Second, the amplitude of the tone bar's motion at the pickup coil is much greater at the beginning of the note than at the end, and is greater for loud notes than for soft notes.  When the tone bar motion stays within the range of the pickup coil's pole piece, the coil output waveform is a reasonably accurate replica of the tone bar's motion.  However, on loud tones when the tone bar swings outside the pole piece's range, the coil's output waveform is 'distorted' in much the same way an overloaded vacuum tube or transistor amplifier distorts signals, and its harmonic content is thereby greatly increased.  Thus the beginnings of the notes have more harmonic content than the ends, and loud notes have more harmonics than soft ones.  These relationships appear to be desirable in any polyphonic instrument that produces percussive (piano-like) timbres.

The third process in Rhodes tone production has to do with the way the tone bar is mounted.  The mounting post is not entirely rigid.  Vibrations can pass from the tone bar up through the post to the resonator bar.  The resonator bar is also a reed-like structure, free to vibrate at the end opposite that which is fastened to the post.  Nothing strikes the resonator bar, and no pickup is located near it.  It serves only to store vibrational energy.  The resonant frequency of each resonator bar is tuned to be very near that of the tone bar to which it is attached.  As soon as the tone bar is struck, it begins to vibrate the resonator.  The resonator vibration builds up, literally sucking vibrational energy out of the tone bar.  At one point, nearly all the fundamental frequency energy is in the resonator, from which it then begins to flow back to the tone bar.  If you have access to a Rhodes you can actually see this happen, especially on the lower notes; remove the top of the instrument, strike a low note, and watch that note's tone bar and resonator.  First the tone bar will be vibrating and the resonator above it will be still.  After a second or so the resonator will be vibrating and the tone bar will be almost motionless.  This exchange of energy will keep on going for several seconds.  Of course, the pickup coil signal doesn't null out (disappear) because the tone bar is never completely motionless, as long as the key is held down.

From a musical acoustics point of view, this energy flow out of and into the tone bar has an effect which is similar to the flow of energy from one harmonic to another in an acoustic piano string.  The sound is always moving.  The energy interchange imparts complex envelopes to the sound's overtones and introduces phase shifts that slightly detune the fundamental with respect to the overtones.

The 'Rhodes sound' thus has three features that contribute greatly to its aural appeal: (1) a bright, bell-like attack, (2) velocity-dependent brightness that decreases as the sound gets softer, and (3) a warm moving quality.  Each of these is closely related to specific elements of the instrument's mechanical design.  The ultimate success of any instrument depends not only on the existence of features such as these, but also on the care and taste with which the instrument designer proportions and adjusts the instrument's design parameters.

Bob Moog, April 1980, Contemporary Keyboard

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I have a handyman's special suitcase 73 Rhodes that I am restoring.  It has sloppy action and I decided to replace the two-piece plastic keys.  I had played Rhodes pianos at stores that had full wood keys that felt much better so I went looking for full wood keys.

I found a set of full wood keys from a scavenged Rhodes and proceeded to swap them out of my project Rhodes.  I quickly discovered they are NOT interchangeable as the guide pins are not lined up the same.

They can be made to fit, but it requires removing the two guidepin blocks and relocating certain pins.  I haven't gotten that far yet so we'll see how hard that is, that may be a job I'll leave to Vintage Vibe when I send them the piano for retolex, new tines, new hammer tips, and new harp top.

It's too late to scavenge the pin blocks from the other piano where I got the wood keys, unless I'm lucky enough to find another Rhodes for parts.

Damn....

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Amps, Effects & Recording Techniques / Leslie cabinet
« on: January 11, 2007, 08:07:52 PM »
Back in the 80s I used to play my Rhodes Stage 73 through a Leslie 760 cabinet.  I had the preamp for the Leslie with 1/4" inputs.  Man did that sound nice - much better than a phaser pedal.

Remember the piano solo on the FM staple "Do You Feel Like We Do?"  That's a Rhodes through a Leslie.

Still have the Leslie, sold the Rhodes twenty years ago, just got a beater suitcase top with no amp that I'm going to restore.

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The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / "Handyman's Special" Rhodes
« on: January 11, 2007, 07:58:42 PM »
I got a Rhodes piano for $0.  It's a handyman's special.  You may think I got a bargain, but fixing it up is gonna cost me  :D

It's a Mark I suitcase top with no lid, no amp.  Harp datecode is "4572" and there is a datestamp "Oct  28 1972" on the left side of the key base - never knew they put a timestamp there.  The harp has a "Fender Rhodes" badge while the panel rail and rear badges are "Rhodes".   Plastic hammer shanks with wood hammers and neophrene tips.  It is missing tone bars, hammer tips, harp brackets, and has ten broken tines.  The tolex on the bottom of the case is badly torn.  Some minor rust on the tines but none on the other metal components.  Two piece keys with plastic keyshells on wood actuators.  Hinge pins for the sustain rail were loose inside the piano.

I used to own a 1974 F-R stage 73 and sold it in 1984 because it had horrible spongy action with the two piece plastic keys.  I didn't think I'd ever own another Rhodes until I stumbled on this one, and the tines have that classic fusion "bark" tone.  I have played many Rhodes in stores with that mellower bell tone -  I prefer the older pianos with that "bark".  The wood hammers/neophrene tips with tines from that era are the key to the sound.

I used to voice my Rhodes back then.  Whoever owned this basket case before me knew nothing about voicing a Rhodes piano - uneven tonebar adjustments and pickups too close to the tines, many of them colliding with the tines!

It has the spongy action of my stage piano, but with the Internet resources I have learned how it can be fixed.  I had played Rhodes in a store years ago with full wood keys that had a much better action, so I located a source with a set.  I also got a harp from them that I will scavenge tonebars and brackets from (no tines though).  MusicPartsGuru.com scavenges parts from busted pianos, so call them to check their current inventory.

I won't be looking for a suitcase amp as they are hard to find.  I will put the piano on a stand and build a power supply/interface for the suitcase preamp (I'm an EE).  Getting stage piano legs/flanges is tempting but it's much cheaper to use a spare stand I have laying around.

I know that Rhodes changed the tines and hammer tips during production, so I will be calling VintageVibe to get proper replacement parts to match the production era of my piano.  I will also be getting "Fender Rhodes" reproduction badges from them.  Have to find a sustain pedal but  from what I read the stage sustain pedals will not work on a suitcase without modifying the wood plunger for the sustain rail.

In the future I will inquire on a custom colored top and re-tolexing of the case.

It's been a long time - after dealing with sampled Rhodes over the years, I'd decided that there ain't nothing like the real thing.   I'm looking forward to hot-rodding this thing so I can build the "ideal" Rhodes piano.

Edit: oh yeah there is something non-stock on the harp.  A small terminal strip with an RC network, and the pickups are connected to it.  There is an auxiliary cable off this RC network with a 1/8" plug on the end.  No audio from this 1/8" plug, but the audio from the RCA plug sounds normal.

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