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Messages - Dan Belcher

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The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: Sad
« on: July 04, 2012, 04:32:04 PM »
Supply and demand means you unfortunately tend to pay through the nose for a Rhodes outside of the USA it seems like. And yes, I remember that Rhodes. I can't say I'm surprised you had to abandon it. At least you didn't abandon it like its former owner or owners did at least -- they apparently just chucked it into the bottom of their swimming pool to get it out of the way...

The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Sad
« on: July 04, 2012, 11:30:15 AM »
I stopped in my local Music Go Round used instrument store yesterday and glanced over at the keyboard section when I walked in, and got all excited when I saw this!

This is only the second Rhodes I have ever gotten a chance to actually personally play in my life. Outside of the one sitting next to me right now, I have never been around one in person except for watching bands like Steely Dan and Boz Scaggs use a Rhodes on the stage in concert. So I was extremely excited just to get a chance to check it out.

Upon closer inspection, it was a 1977 Stage 73. The tolex wasn't in bad shape, but it was missing the harp cover logo, and the harp cover was very badly scratched all over, and the whole thing was dirty and grimy. Nothing too bad. But the thing that caught my eye the most was this:

The entire keyboard looked this rough! It needed either a new set of keys (not always the easiest thing to find) or some serious recapping work.

Then I tried playing the piano. It felt like the keys were floating in a bed of jelly. The action was incredibly mushy and slow. The tines and tonebars all sounded like they were in pretty good shape, and they had a much more aggressive, barky tone than my 1978 Stage 73 I have at home. Unfortunately, even the best sounding notes were extremely muddy sounding, and the entire thing needed to be completely revoiced and the strike line needed to be readjusted. Not huge deals, but in its current condition it sounded abysmal. Also no sustain pedal and no legs.

And yet they wanted $600 for it! I know the value for Rhodes pianos is higher than it has been in quite some time, but that's still asking way too much for this piano in my opinion when it needs hundreds of dollars in repairs and replacement parts. (Even the employee I was talking to agreed it was horribly overpriced) Makes me definitely appreciate how great of a deal I got on my piano ($200, a steal!). But it was also just sad to see such an amazing instrument in such poor condition. It's a downright shame so many people let their pianos fall into this condition without ever learning how to do even the smallest of tweaks and repairs to keep it sounding and playing the way it's supposed to. It made me honestly very sad to see it!

The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: Mixing a Rhodes
« on: March 26, 2012, 06:46:12 PM »
I've been reading a lot of the tips at and even though they never really use Rhodes pianos in their mixes. The same principles tend to apply though. You probably could stand to use a little more compression (don't squash it or anything, just take away the peaks a little so you can raise the overall volume a hair without making it too loud when you play harder, plus it also adds sustain and body). Also using high pass filters on everything except the bass and the kick drum can give everything more room to breathe and remove some competing frequencies. From there you might look for the frequencies of the Rhodes you want to cut through more and notch out 3db or so from other instruments in those areas if possible, and also try notching away 3db or so of frequencies from the Rhodes you DON'T really need so you can raise the volume on that track a little without dominating other instruments. In general the Rhodes has a LOT of bass frequencies that make the tone sound fat on its own, but get lost in a full mix. You can probably stand to EQ out a lot of those frequencies to make it sound clearer and more powerful. Listen to something like Patrice Rushen's Forget Me Nots and hear how thin the Rhodes sounds on its own, but how well it sits in the mix, even if it's just bass and drums filling in the bottom end that's otherwise missing.

Other Keyboards & Software Synths / Re: Steely Dan's 'plastic organ'
« on: November 18, 2011, 08:05:35 AM »
I've heard a few people speculate it's a Yamaha YC-30, but I've never seen any kind of definitive proof.

The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: The Fender Rhodes Documentary
« on: October 21, 2011, 08:42:42 AM »
I too was surprised by how good Greg Phillinganes' Stevie Wonder voice sounded. I've heard him play for years on assorted things (love his work on the Rhodes on Donald Fagen's Nightfly album) and even saw him backing Boz Scaggs a couple years ago, but I hadn't heard him sing before.

No wonder ( no pun intended) that his playing sounded exactly like the record, but his singing sounded like Stevie also.

I always assumed that Stevie did all of his own Keyboard tracks.

Me too. Learn something new every day I suppose!

The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: The Fender Rhodes Documentary
« on: October 19, 2011, 09:48:12 PM »
Finally got to watch it tonight. That was a very, very enjoyable two hours!! Unbelievably well done, and it really touched on so many key Rhodes moments through the years.

Amps, Effects & Recording Techniques / Re: Phaser and Chorus
« on: October 17, 2011, 10:22:08 AM »
Love the sound of both of those pianos, and both of those pedals. 8)

The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: The Fender Rhodes Documentary
« on: October 13, 2011, 07:35:59 PM »
Well crap. I'm in the same boat as Kenneth! According to my computer's DVD player, the disc is blank. :(

Edit -- Already got replies from Ben and Gerald that they're sending me a new copy first thing today. That was quick! 8)

The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: The Fender Rhodes Documentary
« on: October 12, 2011, 10:06:28 AM »
Sent my donation in a few days ago. Can't wait to get my copy!

Parts, Service, Maintenance & Repairs / Re: What makes it sound so good?
« on: October 04, 2011, 08:33:26 AM »
Even if made by the same manufacturer, the actual construction of the tines isn't necessarily going to be exactly the same from year to year. The exact mixture of the alloys may change, the quality of the metal used may change, and even the exact manufacturing process may change. The later 70s and 80s era tines simply had a different tone than even the mid 70s era tines. I can voice my piano however I want, but it's always going to be a little lacking in midrange punch because the 1978 tines I have just naturally have a lot of bass, a lot of harmonic treble, and a less powerful midrange fundamental tone. And I subscribe to the school of thought that you can't add something that's not there, so you have to just make the best of the natural characteristics of an instrument, so I've just accepted that my Rhodes is going to be naturally fairly bright and full of harmonics (think of that sound Bob James got on "Angela") and I've tried to voice it and EQ it accordingly. If I try to take away some of that treble, it just ends up sounding dull and lifeless. But if I just go with it and use the punchy brightness to my advantage? It sounds great.

Parts, Service, Maintenance & Repairs / Re: Re-Tolexing/Painting?
« on: August 31, 2011, 07:37:37 AM »
I think he means he only wants to replace the tolex on the half of the case that is attached to the piano, but not the half of the case that you take off and set aside while the piano is in use. (Because who's ever going to see that part of the case anyway?)

When I buy something from Vintage Vibe, I'm also paying for their knowledge in getting me the right part/remanufacturing a part that no longer is mass produced/etc. That's certainly worth something. For example, I'm sure I could have gotten the hardware to build my own suitcase-style Rhodes preamp if I really wanted, but I wouldn't have the slightest clue how to actually put it together! So it was well worth the money for me to get one of their preamps that just needed to be dropped in my piano and that's it.

The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: Can someone identify this rhodes
« on: August 18, 2011, 08:08:45 AM »
There are a ton of pictures near the bottom part of the page.

The logos on the suitcase bottom and the piano's namerail all say Fender Rhodes, so it should be earlier than this guy claims. Probably '73 or '74? Also the front isn't blacked out -- the guy just doesn't know how to put the lid on the piano properly! It's supposed to rest behind the silver namerail, not in front of it.

The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: just another VST...
« on: July 29, 2011, 10:22:19 AM »
The VSTs of Rhodes never, ever get the dynamics quite right, and they always insist on changing the sound to "fatten it up" and such. But whatever they do just makes it sound worse in my opinion! At least give me the option to use the dry, unaltered tone and I'll EQ, compress, reverb, and/or chorus it as necessary for whatever I'm playing that day, you know?

That said, I do love VSTs in general. I have spent a combined total of around $350 on VST instruments to recreate the sound of a Steinway D, a Hammond B3, and several modern and vintage drums and cymbals. They're not perfect, but that's also better than the $200,000 it would have cost me to acquire all of those actual instruments.  8)

Also note that the piano voicing plays a very important role here. If the tines are as little as a few mms above the pickups, you will be so much into the fundamental tone that it will muddy itself defeating any chances for bell. If you haven't done so already, it might be good to pick a few notes in the middle register and voice see if this gets a difference.

Assuming the escapement is already OK, you need only tighten the inner screw, playing the note until it hits the overtone (harmonic) range. Then untighten it a little so you just fall back into fundamental. You're at a sweet spot then where you'll have the best tone.
This is a huge, huge aspect of it. The physical sound creation needs to be right before any amount of EQ can get you a decent tone. Proper voicing through the tonebar screws, making sure the strikeline is set properly, and making sure the pickup distance from the tines is appropriate will all make your Rhodes sound brighter and punchier with less muddiness in the low-mids.

Great tone. However, you really ought to get a Smallstone or MXR phaser though because they're pretty cheap and you just can't recreate that sound easily! ;)

(Also, I very recently discovered Reaper. Great DAW!)

Do any of you guys have any experience with the Vintage Vibe stuff? Their preamps, and other assorted goodies? I've always really wanted the Quadrapuss. Any thoughts?
I've got the Stereo Vibe preamp and love it. Here's a clip I posted of it awhile back showing off different EQ settings and tremolo settings. (And a little Small Stone phaser action at the end for good measure :P)

Also, it has the same exact faceplate design as the older suitcase preamp so it looks stock aside from the cheekblock power supply.

Bypassing the stage piano's passive controls is a great way to clean up your signal and reduce some noise and hiss. Come straight off the RCA connection and plug into your amp or pedal chain or mixer.

Some thoughts: the treble on a Rhodes is really closer to what would be a midrange frequency for something like a guitar or bass amp, and it's a fairly narrow frequency range. An EQ pedal or running through a mixer with EQ adjustments or something may help, but like jean-papa mentioned I can certainly imagine running through a preamp designed for the Rhodes would be most likely to get the job done. I personally use the Vintage Vibe Stereo Vibe preamp and get an extremely clean, low-hiss tone that I can get to be fairly bright if I turn up the treble and turn down the bass (on a '78 piano, so it's a different tone than you'd get, but still applicable). The Rhodes already has a good amount of bass when it comes off the harp -- I end up cutting a lot of that bass on my preamp, and if I'm recording it and plan on mixing it with other instruments, I usually need to cut the bass even further for it to really sit well in the mix. When I play through a guitar amp, the amp adds a fair bit of noise and hiss, but it's mostly negligible if you're just listening through the amp. If I try to record playing through the amp, however, the hiss really becomes noticable so I tend to just record direct for a cleaner sound.

Cool, good to have that info available to anyone else trying to go your route I suppose! FYI, installation is really pretty easy. They forgot to include the faceplate and knobs by mistake when boxing my order and I had to wait another few days to get those, but other than that, I was able to remove the old passive electronics and faceplate and put the new assembly in very quickly. (I am assuming your namerail already has the holes drilled for a suitcase preamp. Can you confirm that?)

Oh, you mean the accessory loop? If so, that part already comes with the board.

I'm not familiar with exactly how the satellite speakers work, but to my understanding they should power the preamp instead of you needing to get the cheekblock power supply. You might want to give them a quick call Monday to confirm that, but at least that was my understanding. The way they sell the kit, you can buy just the board itself to replace the preamp you already have in a suitcase piano, or you can buy the full conversion kit that has the board with all the pots, the faceplate, knobs, and the cheekblock power supply that also has 1/4" outputs if you want to run a direct line in to a mixer or something.

I used to be of the mindset that I'd like to keep everything vintage on my piano as well. But then I thought "why bother?" If they can make modern stuff for it even better than the originals, why not take advantage of it? I can still keep the retro look. Since I'm not using the satellite speakers, I got the cheekblock power supply/stereo output mod as well, and even that actually looks pretty cool! (Also got new reproduction corners, latches, and handles, but they look essentially identical to the originals, just not all scratched up and rusted)

If you were to buy the ebay one, the rail and anything else you do not want is worth something to someone here. I wouldnt discard anything anymore! Even if it is beat up, it is better than none at all...
Agree on that part! Parts aren't exactly getting any easier to find these days. No sense in getting rid of something that you or someone else may find useful.

I got the Vintage Vibe "Stereo Vibe" preamp (their take on the suitcase preamp) for my stage piano, and I love the way it sounds. The biggest differences between it and the original Peterson preamps: 1) You can flip a couple dip switches on the board to switch between the Peterson-style preamp, or a slightly warmer, cleaner sounding FET channel they created. I haven't even switched mine off the FET setting because it sounds so good; and 2) the tremolo uses a push-in toggle instead of the classic pull-on to make it easier to change on the fly, and you can also toggle-push the EQ treble knob to switch between regular tremolo panning speeds and an extra-slow panning speeds.

So, the short story here is that I don't have any experience with vintage suitcase preamps, but the Vintage Vibe ones are an absolutely great choice as well. (And I also love how the VV one looks identical to the vintage suitcase preamps because it uses the same exterior design!)

And just to be clear, the VV preamp uses the 4-pin connector cable the old Peterson preamps used as well.

Edit -- Here, I recorded a quick sample clip of the different sounds you can get from this preamp. First I play around with the EQ, then I play around with the tremolo. And the last few seconds, I turn on my Small Stone phaser just to show off that Richard Tee kind of sound I can get now. ;) No post-processing at all on this clip. This is the raw sound exactly as it came out of the preamp.

Why's your channel closed, Rob?? The funk quotient of the Internet just dropped 84%!

Damn, that's funky. Love that wah-wah sound on a Rhodes. Got an MP3 version to download by chance?

The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: Announcing: the Mark XI!
« on: April 01, 2011, 03:33:02 PM »
"3 bold new colors" eh? Which one do you guys think I should order: "Dirty black," "faded dirty black with vintage scuffs and scrapes," or " 'super vintage' gray that was at one time black"?

Parts, Service, Maintenance & Repairs / Re: Annoying keys!!
« on: March 22, 2011, 03:27:59 PM »
I guess that's the confusion -- I'm using a really small, light-weight wrench, or in the case of the Speakeasy reproduction tine I recently tried (it sounds great BTW), an allen wrench. Hard to create very much torque with those tools.

Parts, Service, Maintenance & Repairs / Re: Annoying keys!!
« on: March 22, 2011, 12:59:59 PM »
Hence why I said "a little" instead of "a lot"  ;D

Parts, Service, Maintenance & Repairs / Re: Annoying keys!!
« on: March 22, 2011, 08:34:58 AM »
Yeah, the pinging keys are pretty bad. It certainly sounds like the tine isn't able to vibrate freely like it's supposed to. Either the tine itself is bad, or the mounting between the tine and the tonebar isn't solid enough, and the whole unit can't vibrate properly. I agree with tjh392, try removing the tine from the tonebar and then reattach it. When you put the tine back on, don't be afraid to put a little elbow grease behind it it. You need to make sure the entire unit operates as one body when the tine is struck and starts to vibrate. If that still doesn't work, you may have a bad tine. I recently got a replacement tine that just thunked when I struck it, and it turned out that it was indeed just a bad tine. It happens.

BTW, your piano sounds great aside from those couple of bad keys. :)

The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: Rough sound
« on: March 21, 2011, 07:02:00 PM »
...and nevermind. I am an idiot. This was a case of PEBKAC (Problem Exists Between Keyboard and Chair). When I switched over to my audio recording software, I accidentally hit the scrollwheel on my mouse and put in the wrong recording settings, so it was trying to record at the wrong sample rate! My piano sounds fine now. ::) The rest of the issue was just bad cables that I recently replaced creating a lot of scratchiness and noise in the past month or so. New cables cleared that right up.

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