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Messages - sean

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The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: Mark 2 difficulties
« on: Today at 01:15:57 PM »
First, slow down, breathe... take a pause, relax.  (although not in all caps, you sound out of breath)
You have come to the right place.  If we can't help you, there are Rhodes techs in LA that will chime in.

I assume you have a seventy-three key Mark II stage piano.  Is this correct?  It looks like this:

The stage piano does not have a power supply or amplifier beneath it.  Just a piano top on four legs.  The Stage Piano will have only one 1/4" jack on the face panel... oh, I forgot the obvious... It will have the words "Stage Piano" on the name rail.  Ha.

[If your piano has a built-in preamp, then you have either a Rhodes Janus Piano (missing the amp), or you have a Suitcase model Rhodes (also missing the amplifier base).  These two model pianos require a power supply for the internal preamp.]

I will assume you have a STAGE PIANO.

In a perfect world, if you plug a guitar cable from the output of the Rhodes (deceptively marked "Input") to the input of your guitar amp, you will get music.  If you don't, there are a few things that could be wrong, but it is almost always this: some of the pickups in the piano are dead.  If there are three dead pickups in a row (a whole group-of-three is dead), you get no output from the Rhodes.

(There are other things that could be wrong too:  maybe the RCA jack is corroded, maybe the cable from the RCA jack is unplugged or defective, maybe the controls on the name rail are defective, or maybe the 1/4" jack is screwed up, or maybe a ground wire is broken, or ....)

The method of finding all the dead pickups is reasonably well-discussed here: 
           (This post has links to other similar posts at the bottom.)

Take a good look around inside your Rhodes, and send us some pictures if you can.

Of course, you should read the service manual a bunch of times:
See also the technotes at:


By the way, I completely disagree with your assertion that you have search all over the internet.   :-)

Parts, Service, Maintenance & Repairs / Re: impossible escapement
« on: Yesterday at 07:58:48 PM »

Oh, by the way, read the service manual a bunch of times:

See also the technotes at:


Parts, Service, Maintenance & Repairs / Re: impossible escapement
« on: Yesterday at 07:56:22 PM »
Do you see those two flanges that stick out from the aluminum harp support to create a slot?  The screw to hold the back end of the harp support goes in there.

A #8-32 screw will fit loosely, and a #10-32 screw will be very snug.  I think you want a self-tapping #10-32 screw about 1/2" long.  If the screw bottoms out in the slot, add washers under the head of the screw.

See photo below.



Do not modify the balance rail pins in any way.

If you are lucky, you may be able to find a key from a higher octave that will work.

If that is absolutely impossible, you could modify the key by sawing a notch in the bottom of the key to remove the existing hole.  Fill that with nice dry basswood or other white wood.  Drill a new hole after the glue dries.

See the attached drawing.



. Awesome.  Congratulations!   ...aaaand that's how they get ya!

Now your respect for the instrument has turned into affection....

That is the one that you will never sell.


The Wurlitzer Electric Piano / Re: New (to me) 140A questions
« on: January 08, 2021, 11:20:00 AM »

Take the knobs off!!

Parts, Service, Maintenance & Repairs / Re: impossible escapement
« on: January 06, 2021, 04:54:36 PM »

Are there wood shims on the top of the harp support on the left side?  You can lower the harp by removing shims.

Are your new hammertips a different size than the original hammer tips?

Did you remove a ton of felt or paper punchings from the balance rail when you played with the keylevel and keydip?

Is your key dip too small?

I hope that you have the thick factory-installed shim on top of the harp supports.  If it is glued on, try heating the glue to get it to release cleaner.

Is this a stage piano with wooden keys or with plastic keys?



I think the worst part of the clacking sound is the hammer itself bouncing.  Plus, the key does thump a few times on the back felt.

I get no impression that any of the clacking sound is from the contact surfaces of the keypins.



I am proud to be the first one to tell you that this is a ridiculously dumb idea!  However, don't let that stop you.

First of all, I am upset about the premise that the plastic balance rail is "a problem" or even "the problem" with the plastic-keyed Rhodes pianos circa 1982-1983.  I have seen a few rare complaints about the plastic pins breaking when abused, but I have never seen what I would think was "hatred" specifically aimed at the balance rail.

For the record, the balance rail in my plastic-key Rhodes is just fine.

Changing the balance rail to aluminum may solve the rare issue of broken balance rail pins, but at what cost?  I wouldn't pay more than the cost of a plastic balance rail section to replace a broken pin.  Twelve bucks:  OUCH!  The front rail sections are expensive!!

How will you polish the aluminum balance rail pins so they are as friction-free as the ABS originals?  That would be a costly pain.

If you want to advance the state-of-the-art in plastic-key Rhodes action, please figure out an elegant solution to the insane key bounce!  The plastic-key Rhodes action is impressively loud and bouncy.  I have always wanted to rout a trough in the piano case bottom under the back end of the keysticks (under the felt strip), and fill it with damping gel (like the stuff VV sells for Clavinet string damping), then put a layer of felt over that.  I realize that a lot of testing would be required to arrive at the best way to stop the keys from bouncing, and it would take more effort and money than my plastic-key Rhodes is worth.

However, I have not a leg to stand on when it comes to criticizing passionate projects of moderate lunacy - I am fool enough to follow my own goofball ideas.

If this is a project that captures your imagination and grabs your heart, then by all means proceed!  But don't be embarrassed to quit when you get halfway down the road and have run out of steam.  Turn off into the woods and start a new project.  At least you will have learned valuable skills in drawing, 3D modelling, and machine tooling.



Did I forget to interject my advice for all plastic-key Rhodes? 

Move the balance rail to the forward position!


The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: MkII Plastic Balance Rail Punchings
« on: December 21, 2020, 10:41:53 PM »

Oops.  Sorry.  My plastic key Rhodes has the outer case lid on it, and junk piled on top.  Not gonna dig it out today.


The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: MkII Plastic Balance Rail Punchings
« on: December 21, 2020, 10:34:41 PM » will sell to the great unwashed, but why would any piano supplier have paper punchings with the huge hole in them?  Some front rail punchings are larger than balance rail punchings, but are they big enough?

And it should be obvious to all that there are lots of piano repair parts available on Amazon.

I would be surprised if the plastic-key Rhodes requires a lot of balance rail punchings.  I don't think there are any in mine.   I think it just has felts.

Lemme go look....


The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: Mute rail (buff stop) for Rhodes
« on: December 21, 2020, 10:23:02 PM »

Once again, you amaze us. 

That is very cool.  Do you want to actuate it with a knee lever, or a foot pedal? 


The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: New Owner: Basic Questions
« on: December 21, 2020, 10:17:17 PM »

If you put the leg braces on the back legs BEFORE you stand the piano up, you will have an easier time fitting them correctly.  The knob is supposed to screw all the way in to the bottom of the piano and keep the braces snug and tight. 

Maybe your piano was owned by a player with a punishing left hand (e.g. Rod Laver), and the action was adjusted accordingly.

To make the left hand play just as loud as the right hand, there are two things you want to look at:  1. Escapement, and 2. Pickup position
1.  Escapement is how much slop is in the action - not really - Escapement is the distance from the top of the hammer tip to the bottom of the tine when the key is depressed and the hammer is in the stop-lock position.  See chapter 4 of the service manual at
In the low notes on the Rhodes, the escapement can be 3/8" or even 1/2" and still play comfortably.  Just note that the escapement on the left side of the harp has to be larger than the escapement on the right end of the harp.  If your escapement is not too out of whack, then you can adjust the volume of each note by correctly positioning the pickups.

2.  Pickup position is also discussed in chapter four at 
Basically, just slide the pickup closer to the tine, and that note will be louder.  Get all the notes set so that each note is the same volume for a reasonable poke at the key; and then play for a while, if any note stands out as too loud or too soft, adjust the pickup again.

While you are playing with the pickups, you might also want to perfect the intonation of each note.  See chapter 4 and also the technote at  You will notice that if you change the setting of the escapement and timbre screws, you might change the escapement for that note considerably.  Then you will understand the delicate dance of adjusting your Rhodes. 

The upper dozen notes on the Rhodes have hammer tips that are a piece of hard maple wrapped in shrink tubing.  The maple is hard, and makes an impressive whack when struck with authority.  The tines are so short in this region that they need a percussive whack to make them ring.  That is indeed part of the instrument's nature.

Read through the service manual a few times (, and see all the videos that Chris and Fred from Vintage Vibe have posted on youtube. 


For Sale / Re: Picked up a Fender Rhodes 88 Suitcase Piano at an auction
« on: November 17, 2020, 11:43:48 PM »

You have the top half from an 88-key 1978 Rhodes Mark I Suitcase piano.  See the photo at the bottom right of

My five-photo appraisal is $300. 

If I knew more, I might be better-equipped to give a real value estimate.  Like... do all the keys work?  Are there missing or broken tines?  Are there mice living in it?  Were there?  Do all of the pickups work?  Any signs of water damage?  Is there more tolex damage on the bottom of the piano or other areas we cannot see?  Is there a reason that you photographed the piano with the top lid flopped over the name rail?  (It should fit behind the namerail, like in the photo mentioned above.  Insert the front behind the namerail, and then drop the back corners into place.)

Does the preamp work?  Are the pots scratchy?  (The preamp needs a power supply to bring it to life.  A pair of 9V (or a boatload of AA) batteries will be adequate for testing, but a + and - 15VDC supply is what the preamp is designed to have.  See my moronical quest to build a power supply for my Janus preamp,)

In what part of the world are you trying to sell this top half of a Suitcase 88 Rhodes piano?  If you are selling in Australia, you will get top dollar, because there are Tusken Raiders crawling from Perth to Brisbane searching for Rhodes pianos.  If you are selling in a major US city, you should be able to find a local buyer within a few weeks.

Maybe a fairer initial appraisal would be $500 - $200 for the preamp, and $300 for the piano top.
If you bring it into fairly functional condition, you might hope to get $1000 or more for it.  If it were in fantastically beautiful condition, obviously more.

By the way, you should not sell it.  You should keep it in the family.  Find a nephew or niece who plays and is handy with a screwdriver.

Take a closer look at it, and tell us what you find.



One more thought...  you aren't using the NE5534 are you?  I doubt you really need the external compensation and input balance.

A single NE5532AP would be just fine - one op amp for the input gain, one op amp for the baxandall EQ.



The gain control in that schematic is amusing.  Why design it like that?  The left side of the R23 potentiometer (the part between the wiper and the full clockwise position) is in the feedback voltage divider.  The right side of the R23 potentiometer creates a voltage divider with R25 that slightly diminishes the output signal that gets fed to C8 and the EQ section.   I would not re-implement this design; I don't see the benefit... well, since the wiper of R23 is tied to ground, you will never get much scratchy pot noise.  That would be important in a very high gain circuit.  Okay, fine, that's enough justification to build it this way.

I don't see the need to have gain skyrocket to 101, but I don't ever remember turning the volume on the preamp up past 12 o'clock.  The 12 o'clock position on the pot is probably only about 10% of the way through the full resistance of the pot (see charts like  The gain at this pot position would only be 5.43, and then the R25/R23 voltage divider removes 46.6% of that.

So, I commonly run this preamp with pretty low gain setting, and it seems to work very well like that.

If you want to raise the value of R13, you certainly won't cause any circuit problem; however, you will certainly decrease the maximum gain, and you might affect the intuitive smooth feeling of volume increase as you turn the knob.  It shouldn't be too hard to model in any of the spice-based simulators (maybe I will stop and do this someday).

I am surprised that a full-range maximum setting of gain of eleven causes any clipping.  If the input from the Rhodes harp is 600mV peak-to-peak, and +300mV peak at full gain would only be 3.3V.  The op amp shouldn't be clipping at all.

I verified that my 5-knob Janus preamp is indeed connected as shown in the schematic - except the schematic calls out a reverse audio taper for R23.  The pot installed in my preamp is a regular audio taper pot, and the clockwise rotation matches that shown on the schematic.

Hmmm... I don't know if I helped you at all, but I agree with your assessment.


The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: Restoring '82 MkII Suitcase
« on: November 10, 2020, 07:44:48 PM »

Yeaaahhh, the cheekblocks look great.  Excellent stain color.

On those lowest notes, the tines are very long, so their swing can sometimes collide with the tonebar!  But that should be rare, like you only do it once a night when you get carried away.

If you can hear that the heavy and long tonebar assembly is a little looser than you want... there is a very common solution:  stronger springs, or double up on the springs.

VV sells a super-duper beefy tonebar spring, and I think it comes with a harder grommet as well:

If you have extra tonebar springs on hand, you can simply put two tonebar springs around a single screw, and get better stability on the long tonebars.  I mean that you take two springs, and intermesh their windings (squeeze them together side-by-side), and then push the escapement screw through it.  (I do NOT mean that you stack the springs end-to-end.)

If that is NOT the issue, and the long tines are making a clanging sound... check the strikeline.  I really doubt this is it - but if you haven't played around with the strikeline, it can be an illuminating experience.  Just move the left end of the harp a little bit back and a little bit forward, and see if there is a better contact point on those tines.  Chapter four of the service manual claims that the ideal striking spot for those long tines is 57.150mm from the end of the tine.   Yes, they expect you to measure to the 1/1000 of a millimeter.  ...or just 2 and 1/4 inches.

If your tines are cut a tiny bit short, then your tuning springs will be closer to the end of the tine, and the tine may swing differently than a longer tine with the spring tuned to the same pitch... so the "sweet spot" perfect strike location and perfect strike line may be somewhat imperfect. 

In any case, don't set the strikeline by measuring; set the strike line by listening! 


The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: Restoring '82 MkII Suitcase
« on: November 10, 2020, 09:51:31 AM »

Looks Great!

I would love to see brightly-lit close up photos of the mahogany cheekblocks. 

I think the name rail needs orange pinstripes to match the tolex.  ;-)

When you say "front" speakers, you mean facing the wall, right?  Flip the switches to turn off the front speakers so that the drywall and the window stop shaking, right?

You must be pleased with the outcome, it looks very nice.


The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: Measurement between pedal and legs
« on: October 04, 2020, 02:43:17 PM »

That front to back measurement is center to center....  So you only have 23 inches of clearance between the legs if you want your pedal board to stick out that side.

My measurements were taken with the legs in the normal position (adjusted to their shortest length).  If you are a circus freak, and play your Rhodes with the legs extended, then you will have a little bit more space.  BTW, the measurements were taken on a 1979 73-key Rhodes Mark I stage piano with the cross braces installed, so it should match your Rhodes.


Oooh, 900 posts.

The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: Measurement between pedal and legs
« on: October 04, 2020, 02:33:23 PM »

You have 22 inches of clearance from the left side of the sustain pedal to the inside edge of the bottom of the back left leg.

Distance from bottom of front leg to bottom of back leg is 24 inches.


Parts, Service, Maintenance & Repairs / Re: Rhodes M2 Clacking keys problem
« on: September 30, 2020, 03:13:56 PM »

Hmmm... wear ear plugs.  Install a six-inch layer of fiberglass insulation on top of the piano.  Layer the lid with Dynamat.  None of these ideas are any good.

There is no practical way to eliminate the percussive whack that the wrapped-wooden hammer tips make against the stubby tines.  The best recommendation is that you learn to live with it. 

The percussive whack is not heard in the audio output of the Rhodes - prove it to yourself my making a recording:  you won't hear it in the playback.

If the top notes of your piano are too loud, simply move the pickups a bit further away from the tips of the tines.
If your hammer tips have worn through the shrink-wrap layer around the wood, you can replace or repair the hammer tips.



Here are my thoughts.  Hopefully they will inspire one of the repair shops to chime in.
The service manual has a section on key dip, and it doesn't say how to change the key dip!

It is my understanding that most folks hope that the key dip can be adjusted by paper punchings on the balance rail.  I don't know how much this works.  It doesn't.

I might suspect that the keybed is not dead flat.  Is the keybed solidly screwed down?  Are there any gaps underneath the keybed - between the keybed and the case?

Also, you just replaced all the hammer flanges - are they mounted perfectly evenly?  Maybe one strip of hammer comb is drooping near the ends of the keyboard.

What is the chance that your piano has been in use for decades, and that over that time, the felt under the back end of the keysticks has become heavily worn in the areas most played... so the felt is thinner in the middle of the piano, but still relatively fresh and thick near the ends of the keyboard.   Hmmm... that's my bet.

You should have enough felt and paper punchings on the balance rail to keep the keys from bottoming out on the front rail felt strips or felts around the guide rail pins.

Then the key travel is limited by the key pedestal travel between the rest position and the stop-lock position.
Then the key travel is limited by the key pedestal travel between the rest position and the stop-lock position.
................................................................................between the rest position and the stop-lock position.

To change the travel between the rest position and the stop-lock position, you can:
1.  Make the key pedestals shorter, or simply shave off a bit of wood from the bottom back end of the key.  Thinner pedestal felts give only a tiny bit of extra travel.
2.  Replace the felt underneath the back end of the keys with thinner felt.  Again, this will only give you the difference in felt thickness, so not a huge change in travel.
3.  Raise the hammer cam stop-lock position by raising the whole action rail.  Shims under the action rail are not illegal.  This could give you a huge change in key dip.  You should probably expect to have to raise the position of the tines, probably best by putting shims on top of the harp supports.  And you will want to check the strike line.


The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: Restoring '82 MkII Suitcase
« on: September 02, 2020, 11:04:28 AM »
Hey Tom,

1.  The plastic-key Rhodes has plastic pins in the balance rail and guide rail.  These plastic pins are much larger in diameter than the little metal pins in the other Rhodes pianos, so the standard round paper punchings and felt donuts do not fit the plastic-key Rhodes.

The felt at the guide rail serves no purpose.  The downward travel of the key will stop when the pedestal jams against the hammer cam in the "stop-lock" position. 

There are some folks who believe that it is helpful or good to have front rail felts impede or stop this travel, and they try to build up the guide rail felts until they hit the bottom of the key. 

2.  I personally love the look of the black name rail (I have a 1983 plastic-key Rhodes downstairs).  If you are energetic enough to change the tolex color AND paint the flat-top harp cover, then you should also be inspired enough to buy a new name rail.  This may would give you the look you want.   Hmmm... maybe I should run downstairs and make sure that the black rail's aluminum extrusion profile is similar to the other Mark II namerails.  (See next post.)

You should definitely move the balance rail to the front position!  (There are two grooves in the bottom of the case, the factory installed the balance rail in the back slot, but moving the balance rail to the front slot will make your action much better.  It will still bounce and clickety-clack, but it will feel lighter and faster.)

Is that the Rhodes amplifier and base at the bottom left in your photo?  Do you need a power supply for the preamp?  See and



Has anyone tried the MXR MX-81 Bass Preamp with a Rhodes stage piano?

On paper and in the movies, this unit looks pretty good:  2.2MΩ input impedance, *sweepable* midrange EQ, treble EQ at 4KHz instead of 12KHz, a little bit of gain, convenient power options (9V battery, wall-wart, or phantom), 1/4" and XLR DI output.

The only two bad things about it are the blue LED and the pricetag.

Has anybody seen one in person and played with it?



WurliTzer made organs.  To some people, a WurliTzer is an organ.  To other people, a WurliTzer is a juke box.  To less than 1% of people, a WurliTzer is an electric piano.

But really, c'mon, a piano tech that doesn't know the WurliTzer 200A Electric Piano?  You don't want that guy to touch your instrument.




This is awesome, and a great reference.  I wish you did the finish on a scrap piece of wood so you could test the final buffing technique.

I wonder what other things around the house we can paint metallic purple... the refrigerator might look good.



If you have an early Mark I piano with wooden harp supports, the harp is held down with screws similar to modern sheet metal screws.  I would buy Round Head Phillips #12 sheet metal screws, 1" long.

Zinc plated


or here is your box of fifty:


If you have a Mark I piano with aluminum harp supports, the screw used is a plain steel pan-head phillips screw with #12-24 threads, length 0.850" - a 3/4" or 1" length will work fine, but 1.250" screw will bottom out on the aluminum extrusion.  The original screws were self-tapping, but you don't need to cut new threads, so just get a plain screw.  The original screws are not stainless steel.



The back corners should already be supported by the wooden block on the inside of the corners.  You shouldn't need a metal bracket in there, but if you have already broken the joint enough to notice the separation, you will have to put a metal bracket in there and hope for the best.

If it falls apart, you get to repair and retolex.

You might be able to get a metal bracket inside that corner just above the wooden block.  Looks to me (on my 1979 Mark I) that a little 2" corner bracket will sit in there without protruding up above the sloped sides.  I would try a 3" bracket too, but you might have to grind down the top edge of the bracket to keep it out of sight.
Stainless Steel!  -
No.  Get this:

Who knew that they make something like this?



It really looks beautiful.  How soon until we can see it on the piano?


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