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Messages - sean

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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?


The Wurlitzer Electric Piano / Re: Need Help Diagnosing a 200A
« on: August 12, 2020, 01:13:27 AM »


I cannot stop giggling about this.  What part of "remove the death cap" would lead one to believe that I meant "replace the death cap with a piece of wire"?  I must therefore assume you were joking.  Well played.   And wait a second, that cap doesn't qualify as a death cap, because it doesn't have one leg touching ground.  Right?  It could fail to a short circuit, and that would blow the fuse, but not expose the chassis to the AC mains.   Hmmm... does that cap protect the neon bulb from kickback when power is turned off? I dunno.  Maybe I should not have recommended removing it.

You should absolutely positively buy the vintage vibe kit.  They have selected capacitors that meet the capacitance value, voltage rating, temperature rating, ESR, physical size, and sexual orientation (axial or radial leads).  What's it cost?  14 capacitors for 42 dollars?  Three bucks a component.  That's fair and resonable.

If you were experienced in selecting electrical components, you would not have asked the question.  It takes a long time to shop online for components (there are a TON of options, and a TON of specs to verify).  You can theoretically save a small bit of money buying all the components from Digikey or Mouser, but you have to get lucky and make all of the component selections correctly - so that you don't have to re-order any items that you got wrong (and pay for shipping again).  But whenever I am searching for components, I always stumble across an amusing option:  see (Prices like diamonds).  I see that the VV kit does not include the rectifier diodes.  Let's hope they are fine, and the lightning just blew the fuse.  Let's also hope that the transformer isn't damaged.

You also bring up a very good point - shame on me for not suggesting this first:  Yes, you should be careful while testing with the power turned on!  My advice is, uhm DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING!  There is a high voltage section coming off the transformer (blue wire).   See the schematic area just below the transformer.  The little ladder of capacitors and high-value resistors smooth out the high voltage and feed the high voltage to the reed bar (black wire).  Look closely at the circuitry in your piano and locate these components, and do not touch them. 

Now look at the upper left corner of the schematic where the connection labeled "18" comes from the little ladder and goes through the 1Meg resistor, then makes a turn through the 22K resistor over to the screw that connects to the reed bar.  Do not touch anything to the left of the .022uF capacitor.  These components are on the little circuit board mounted up on the reed bar.  Find them, and do not touch them.  Oh yeah, don't touch the reed bar either.

Also, while you are poking around with the probes from the multimeter, be careful.  It is very easy to slip and touch the wrong thing, because you set the probes in the desired position and then you turn your head to look at the meter readout.  Put the meter close, and on a secure surface, and don't tug on the probe wires or the meter falls over.

Oh yeah, and before you get into this, watch these videos:
3.  Oh my, they look so young.  It's a wurly, but not a 200A!
4.  not any wurly, but....


Whoa!   VV has a much clearer 200A schematic as the install directions for their rebuild and hiss-killer kits. 

The Wurlitzer Electric Piano / Re: Need Help Diagnosing a 200A
« on: August 11, 2020, 03:06:02 PM »


Rudimentary knowledge will get you pretty far if you have patience and common sense.  You should study the schematic in the service manual (or find a friend to show you how to read the schematic), and identify the parts on the circuit boards.

This is the 200A manual from Vintage Vibe's manuals page (

Note that the manual has many different piano versions all crammed into one document, so you have to keep your eyes peeled for the "200A" content.  Keep hitting page down, and don't lose hope.  Eventually you will get to page 62...   Then you have to decide if the schematic on page 66 matches your piano, and then wonder why there is no similar schematic for the early production models like the table of contents on page 62 leads you to expect. 

Well, you will realize that there is nothing to do until you get your hands dirty.  Check the slow-blow fuse on the AC input, it may look fine, but test for continuity with your multimeter.(*1)  Look for smoked or burnt sections on the circuit board.  If you are lucky enough to find a burnt spot, that is a pretty obvious indicator that the components in that area need to be replaced.   You can test the rectifier diodes, but it is easy enough to just swap them out with new ones.  Test all the voltages around the voltage regulator (IC-1).  You should also expect to replace each and every one of the large electrolytic capacitors.  Remove the "death cap" - the .01uF capacitor right next to the neon bulb on the schematic.


(*1) Do not admit that you don't own a multimeter.  How embarrassing.  What have you been doing with your life?  Everyone should have a multimeter, and they are practically free:  six bucks will get you one that works very well for low-voltage work.  See

Parts, Service, Maintenance & Repairs / Re: Rhodes Help
« on: August 03, 2020, 11:58:02 PM »

When you say "feedback," do you actually mean buzzing noise? 

[Or do you mean "feedback" - an oscillating howl created by the amplified resonance between the speaker and a microphone?]

Look for obvious problems first (is there a short or broken wire at the RCA connector, does any wire look out of place or broken), but you should expect that it could be dead pickups. 

Get a cheap volt-ohm "multimeter" and check the harp for continuity. 
This cheapie multimeter will work fine:

and the links at the bottom of that post.

Come back at us with any new information or developments.

Is it a stage piano or a suitcase?



Unless your existing washers are offensively nasty and rusted, you should just re-use the existing washers.


The tonebar washers I have are:
0.432" in diameter (just under 7/16", very close to 11mm)
0.187" center hole (3/16", well under 5mm)
0.045" thick (3/64", 1 and 1/7 mm?  HA)

Let's see what we can find online:  Bingo!

SAE #8.  (General Purpose washers won't be the right size or thickness, you want SAE.)



Looks pretty sweet!

I also like the paints booth!  Great idea.


The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: Fender Rhodes Mark 2
« on: July 28, 2020, 12:40:52 PM »

Ja! Bitte poste Fotos!

...Ich hoffe, die Tonabnehmer haben kein weißes Klebeband.

(Leider spreche ich kein Deutsch.  Ich kann nur ein paar Sätze in Google Übersetzer machen.)


[Yes, please post photos.
...I hope the pickups don't have white tape.]

The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: Fender Rhodes Mark 2
« on: July 28, 2020, 12:33:40 PM »

Dies wird eine Herausforderung sein...  Kann einer unserer Techniker hier Deutsch?

[This will be a challenge... Do any techs here speak German?]

The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: Fender Rhodes Mark 2
« on: July 28, 2020, 12:22:20 PM »

Google Translate thinks he said:

Hello everyone,
I got a Fender Rhodes Mark II from my basement a few weeks ago from my father.
I immediately organized an amplifier and connected the piano to my system.
Then I noticed that the lower half is quiet to no sounds.
Since I am only 15 I am familiar with it and do not know exactly what to do now.
I appreciate every tip.
I can also send photos if necessary



Get a vise.  If you want sustain, get a vise.




When you tap a screwdriver against those pickups, you hear a loud POP through the amp, correct?  (that means the coil is intact)
Can you feel the pull of the magnet on these pickups?  (To confirm that the magnet is still inside the pickup bobbin.)

If you just said "yes" twice, then...

If you can make the tines vibrate, but do not get any sound from the pickups, then the tine is NOT close enough to the pickup.  It may be too far back, it may be too far above, or it may be too far below.  (Remember, a short tine without a tuning spring will make almost no sound or sustain at all, so test on a tine that has a tuning spring installed.)

You can easily test the swing of the hammers and see exactly where they contact the tines: 
1.  Remove the screws at each end of the name rail, unplug the grey cable that goes to the back left corner of the harp, and set the name rail aside.
2.  Reach your hand in from the front, and lift the hammers manually with your fingers.

Then you will see where the hammer is going to hit the tine, or where it bangs against the tine block, or the end of the damper arm.




You cannot adjust the position of the hammers.  You can only move the tines or the pickups. 

You have five ways of moving the tines:
1 - fiddle with the "timbre" tone-bar mounting screw
2 - fiddle with the "escapement" tone-bar mounting screw
3 - add or remove shims from the harp supports
4 - slide one or both ends of the harp forward or backward (this adjusts the "strike line")
5 - if the tine is mounted off-center, loosen the tine-block mounting screw, and align the tine so that it is straight

You have two ways of moving the pickups:
1 - loosen the screw, and slide the pickup a tiny bit forward or a tiny bit backward
2 - if the pickups seem abnormally high or low, you can very delicately bend the aluminum tang to get the pickups to sit right (straight is best, but... you gotta do what you gotta do.  Be careful not to break the pickup bobbin off the tang.)

In the situation that a tonebar is leaning down so much to get the tine facing the pickup, bend the pickup to sit higher, and the tonebar won't be leaning down so much that the tine block is pinned against the rail.

Are these new tonebar grommets or old tonebar grommets?  New grommets will fix (or change) lots of positioning issues.

To re-install the tuning spring, you should remove the tonebar and tine from the harp, and hold it steady in a bench vise.




Tine 72 and 73 need tuning springs.
The tine block for tine 72 is pinned against the tonebar rail, so it will be damped.
Tine 71 is well above the pickup, and the pickup is extended too close to that tine.  Tine 73 may be too high as well.

Have you adjusted the tonebars so that they are about 3/8" above the surface of the rail?
Adjust the escapement screw so that the distance from the bottom of the tonebar to the top of the rail is 3/8. 
Look right here at the place where the #1 arrow is pointing:

Use a 3/8" block as a feeler gauge (we all use the mounting block from an old broken tine).  Then adjust the timbre screw so that the tine is pointed at the tip of the pickup (and re-check the 3/8" gap again), then adjust the pickup so that it is nice and close to the tine. 

Take a look at chapter 4 of the repair manual, and search this forum for "strike line."



Don't worry about your tines yet.  Yes, definitely replace the grommets, you will be surprised how much of a difference that makes.

Your damper felts look great.  The one that leans can be re-glued, or gently convinced with a little glue at the base to sit up straight and eat his peas.

I think you should go for new hammer tips, because you don't like the current dried-up and hardened ones.  Newer softer tips will sound different.  If nobody here has guidance, call Chris or Fred at VV and discuss it.  They will help you decide which style tips to get.

I would leave the pedestal felts as they are.  They don't seem to be any problem - you don't seem to be hating the action in the video. 


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