Author Topic: soft playing -> no sound :-/ Fender Rhodes 73 Mark I  (Read 4097 times)

Offline levdave

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soft playing -> no sound :-/ Fender Rhodes 73 Mark I
« on: November 03, 2016, 09:45:11 AM »
Hi ! I'm back to try to solve another issue on my Fender Rhodes 73 Mark I.
When I play softly, there is no sound (the hammer tips don't touch the tines)
Of course it would not be an issue if it was when I play very very soft, but here I can't play under p

So my question is : could I make the keyboard higher ? for example with a 1mm board ? The hammers would be closer of tines...
(I tried to tune the echappement, but it didn't help...)

I hope it's possible for you to understand what I mean, english is not my native langage, as you probably guess !!

TIA,

  david.

Offline sean

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Re: soft playing -> no sound :-/ Fender Rhodes 73 Mark I
« Reply #1 on: November 03, 2016, 11:49:26 AM »
David,

If you want to play very quietly on a Rhodes, turn the volume knob down.  If you need convenient variation of the volume, use a volume pedal (like the trusty old Ernie Ball pedal).  The Rhodes piano does not have the same dynamic range that an acoustic piano has.  (I almost said "real" piano.)


Do not try to shim the action rail, or shim the whole keybed.

The right place to make adjustments is the escapement adjustment screws.

Read the service manual section on escapement a few times:
http://www.fenderrhodes.com/org/manual/ch4.html#4-1

If you really want to decrease the escapement across the whole piano, you can remove the shims that are on top of the harp supports (if there are any shims there).  Save the shims.

If you adjust the escapement so that it is very small, you might get the pp response that you desire.  However, I don't think that you will.  If you make the escapement too small, you will have other bothersome problems - key bounce, doublestrikes, broken tines.

It should only take ten minutes to prove this to yourself:  pick an octave, and take a screwdriver and crank the escapement and voicing screws four turns clockwise on every note.  Sit down and try to play this octave.  If you like it, great -- if not, get a volume pedal.

Sean



Offline David Aubke

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Re: soft playing -> no sound :-/ Fender Rhodes 73 Mark I
« Reply #2 on: November 03, 2016, 12:39:39 PM »
What sean said.

Dynamic range is not one of the Rhodes piano's strong suits. Decreasing escapement will help, but you have to promise never to play at ff or, as sean said, you'll have issues with the hammers muting the tines after they've been initially struck.
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Offline levdave

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Re: soft playing -> no sound :-/ Fender Rhodes 73 Mark I
« Reply #3 on: November 03, 2016, 02:44:30 PM »
Thank you very much for your answers !
So you think I shouldn't try to bring hammers closer... :)

Just to be sure : my problem is not that I want to increase the dynamic range of my Rhodes, my problem is I often play notes that don't sound at all. For example when I comp with left hand arpeggios, many notes don't sound at all. Is it the same with each Fender Rhodes ? (I never played another Rhodes than mine...)

 :)
« Last Edit: November 03, 2016, 03:45:54 PM by levdave »

Offline pianotuner steveo

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Re: soft playing -> no sound :-/ Fender Rhodes 73 Mark I
« Reply #4 on: November 03, 2016, 07:08:01 PM »
There is a chance that your key dip is too shallow, I would check that next.
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Offline Alan Lenhoff

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Re: soft playing -> no sound :-/ Fender Rhodes 73 Mark I
« Reply #5 on: November 03, 2016, 07:10:15 PM »
From former Rhodes engineer Mike Peterson's article on FenderRhodes.com, in which he explains the soft/loud Rhodes dilemma that Sean and David are referencing:

 "It was possible to adjust the traditional action to play soft or to play loud, but was impossible to get very loud and very soft with the same adjustment...

"In a grand piano, the jack accelerates the hammer and then, at the end of the stroke, moves out of the way. This allows the hammer to strike the string cleanly, and rebound without bouncing off the jack.

"In the Rhodes action, the hammer is accelerated by the key. The felt at the back of the key presses against the curved section of the hammer, until the end of the stroke. Then the flat part of the hammer makes contact with the felt and acts as a brake, which is applied a fraction of a second before the hammer hits the tine. The hammer rebounds off of the tine, and has a natural tendency to bounce and strike again. The friction between the key felt and the flat part of the hammer damps this motion, although not perfectly.

"The unfortunate side-effect of this design is that at the end of the stroke, after the brake has been applied, the hammer is slowing before it hits the tine. This limitation is inherent in the Rhodes design and cannot be overcome.

"As part of our analysis, we obtained a 12,000 frame per second camera to observe the strike of a hammer on a tine. When the hammer struck the tine once and then stopped, the tone was clear. When the hammer bounced and struck the tine multiple times, a very unpleasant sound was produced. We called it a "spud" note. In the worst case, on a very loud note, the hammer bounced up to 6 times. After learning this, our focus turned to understanding and preventing bounce.

"The critical dimension was the distance from the hammer tip to the tine at the end of the stroke. Adjust it close, and you could play a very soft note, but if you played loud, bouncing would occur. If the gap was adjusted to be large, loud notes sounded clear, but it was impossible to play soft. Good tuners learned to compromise between the two extremes."

Alan
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Offline levdave

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Re: soft playing -> no sound :-/ Fender Rhodes 73 Mark I
« Reply #6 on: November 04, 2016, 06:25:58 PM »
Hello ! Thanks again for your help !  :)
I begin to see more clearly...

I've just noticed that there is a shim under the harp on the bass side, and not on the treble side...
(is this black long thing a shim ? Could I remove it ?)
The issue of "non-playing" soft notes is just not present at extreme-treble side, it may start to make sense, isn't it ?





I made a picture showing the key dip (11mm) Is it ok ? It's close to the 13/32"


And another one that shows the space between keys and the name rail (about 2mm)


 :D
« Last Edit: November 05, 2016, 03:25:23 AM by levdave »

Offline David Aubke

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Re: soft playing -> no sound :-/ Fender Rhodes 73 Mark I
« Reply #7 on: November 06, 2016, 11:55:55 AM »
I've just noticed that there is a shim under the harp on the bass side, and not on the treble side...
(is this black long thing a shim ? Could I remove it ?)

Yes, you can remove it and I usually do. Those fiberboard shims usually pull off with little trouble, but you may want a thin putty knife to help break the glue. If you begin having trouble with muting on heavy key strikes, you can put the shim back.

And another one that shows the space between keys and the name rail (about 2mm)

This is something I've just started noticing on the early-70s pianos I've recently worked on. Once, I removed a little wood from under the cheek blocks. More recently, I've been using my thickest balance rail felts and also thicker (0.080") felt for the name rail.
« Last Edit: November 07, 2016, 08:58:01 AM by David Aubke »
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Offline Fred

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Re: soft playing -> no sound :-/ Fender Rhodes 73 Mark I
« Reply #8 on: November 07, 2016, 08:21:11 AM »
Hello David

The last sentence is key...
Quote
"The critical dimension was the distance from the hammer tip to the tine at the end of the stroke. Adjust it close, and you could play a very soft note, but if you played loud, bouncing would occur. If the gap was adjusted to be large, loud notes sounded clear, but it was impossible to play soft. Good tuners learned to compromise between the two extremes."

Does your piano have it's original '74 flat key pedestals untouched? A properly placed "bump modification" will increase response under a light touch (there is plenty discussion of the mod on this forum). In addition to reducing friction between the hammer cam and the pedestal, a properly placed bump will establish a much more precise "stop-lock" position (the relation of the hammer cam and pedestal upon depression of the key). You will notice that with unmodified, early '70's flat pedestals, when a key is held down, additional pressure allows the hammer to creep up toward the tine. This is called "after touch", which makes zeroing in on escapement much more difficult as a good stop-lock position is not present.

If you decide to install a bump mod, do this first and then proceed to lower the escapement. I shoot for 1/4" in the bass, and 1/16" to 1/8" in the treble - This can often require removing the harp supports and shaving them down on a table saw. Keep in mind, lowering escapement will result in damper and strike line adjustments.

A properly set up piano can play very well under a light touch and still bark with the best of them.

Good Luck!
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Offline David Aubke

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Re: soft playing -> no sound :-/ Fender Rhodes 73 Mark I
« Reply #9 on: November 07, 2016, 08:55:22 AM »
This can often require removing the harp supports and shaving them down on a table saw.

They called me crazy!

OK, nobody said I was crazy but I'd never read of anyone else doing this and it did seem extreme. Nice to get a little validation, albeit four years later.
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Offline Alan Lenhoff

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Re: soft playing -> no sound :-/ Fender Rhodes 73 Mark I
« Reply #10 on: November 07, 2016, 03:43:56 PM »
Fred:

Cutting the harp supports is a little scary for some of us whose woodworking skills are less than stellar!  (I guess I've been lucky because I've  not needed to do this on the small number of Rhodes pianos I've owned.)

But I'm wondering:  The Rhodes manual sets a fairly wide range for the acceptable height of the tonebar (1/2" max and 3/16" minimum, with a 3/8" factory setting), and suggests using this for adjusting escapement.  If removing harp shims doesn't reduce the escapement to your preferred measure, do you try cranking down the tonebar screws to reduce the escapement -- and only shave the harp supports if lowering the tonebars doesn't do the job?  Or is there a reason to prefer shaving the harp supports over lowering the tonebars?

Alan
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Offline levdave

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Re: soft playing -> no sound :-/ Fender Rhodes 73 Mark I
« Reply #11 on: November 07, 2016, 04:44:35 PM »
Yes, you can remove it and I usually do. Those fiberboard shims usually pull off with little trouble, but you may want a thin putty knife to help break the glue. If you begin having trouble with muting on heavy key strikes, you can put the shim back.
Ok David, I did it !
It was easy (no much glue), but it didn't change anything...

This is something I've just started noticing on the early-70s pianos I've recently worked on. Once, I removed a little wood from under the cheek blocks. More recently, I've been using my thickest balance rail felts and also thicker (0.080") felt for the name rail.
Interesting ! I plan to make my own custom wood blocks. I'll make them a little lower than originals !

Hello David

Does your piano have it's original '74 flat key pedestals untouched? A properly placed "bump modification" will increase response under a light touch (there is plenty discussion of the mod on this forum). In addition to reducing friction between the hammer cam and the pedestal, a properly placed bump will establish a much more precise "stop-lock" position (the relation of the hammer cam and pedestal upon depression of the key). You will notice that with unmodified, early '70's flat pedestals, when a key is held down, additional pressure allows the hammer to creep up toward the tine. This is called "after touch", which makes zeroing in on escapement much more difficult as a good stop-lock position is not present.

If you decide to install a bump mod, do this first and then proceed to lower the escapement. I shoot for 1/4" in the bass, and 1/16" to 1/8" in the treble - This can often require removing the harp supports and shaving them down on a table saw. Keep in mind, lowering escapement will result in damper and strike line adjustments.

A properly set up piano can play very well under a light touch and still bark with the best of them.

Good Luck!
Hi Fred :-)
I made the miracle mod a few months ago. Touch is lighter now.
Otherwise, I changed all hammer tips and dampers. I bought screws and grommets, I have to set them up...
The "soft notes non-played" issue was the same before the mod
(Are bump mod and miracle mod the same ?)


I think I will shave my harp supports. I use to woodwork a little bit, and with my table router it should be easy to do a good job...
And I will be able to "shim-back" if necessary...

Or maybe will I make new harp supports, to preserve the originals...! That sounds safer...  ;D

Offline Fred

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Re: soft playing -> no sound :-/ Fender Rhodes 73 Mark I
« Reply #12 on: November 08, 2016, 07:14:01 AM »
Hey Alan!

I have adjusted tone bar height by the screws, but only as a quick fix. If the piano is being completely set up, then I try to adhere to the specs (whatever there are) available in the manual. Also, I set up the harp visually using a generator block as a feeler gauge under the tone bars. Once the harp is mated to the action, it is easier (at least for me) to shave the harp supports rather than re-set all the tone bars. Usually, removing shims does the trick, but it's not too uncommon to shave the supports on the early '70's pianos.

levdave

I would expect the response under a light touch to improve with the Miracle (or bump) mod, but if there is an extremely large amount of escapement, the effect will be minimal at this point. In any case, if your action is satisfactory to you in terms of feel (proper key height, stop lock, dip, etc.) go ahead and zero in on escapement.
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Offline Alan Lenhoff

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Re: soft playing -> no sound :-/ Fender Rhodes 73 Mark I
« Reply #13 on: November 08, 2016, 11:49:46 AM »
Fred:

Coincidentally, last week I changed the grommets and screws on my '72 Piano Bass, setting the tonebar height using a generator block, as you described.  I went back today and measured the bass end escapement. It was slightly higher than the 1/4" you suggested (and all the shims had already been removed).  I took the non-woodworker solution:  I used the screws to lower all the tone bars by about 1/16", and it made a noticeable difference in the feel.  (It's certainly easier to lower all the tonebars on a Piano Bass than on an 88!) 

So thanks for the tips and the reminder to check the escapement.

Alan
« Last Edit: November 08, 2016, 03:52:56 PM by alenhoff »
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Offline martinb28

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Re: soft playing -> no sound :-/ Fender Rhodes 73 Mark I
« Reply #14 on: September 28, 2021, 06:18:38 PM »
Hi all, 

I know this is an old thread but I think it is right on point for the problem I am having - some keys have less dynamic range than other keys. That is, some individual keys dont sound when played lightly while other keys sound when played the same way. These problem keys need to be played forcefully to get sound.  What do I do to fix these problem keys?  Also, what order should I do things - should I install the Miracle Mod and then try to fix those keys, or try to fix the keys and then install the Miracle Mod?

More details: 
I recently snagged a 1976 Rhodes Stage 73.  It is so amazing.  I am so happy.  The keys and harp are in great shape, and most keys play and sound great.  The action is pretty sluggish on the bottom half of the keyboard, but that's to be expected in an almost 50 year old instrument that doesnt have the Miracle Mod installed.
 
I understand the piano as a whole will have less dynamic range than an acoustic piano. That said, I am really impressed with the dynamic range most keys have.  However, the problem, some particular keys have very little dynamic range. These few keys - all on the lower half of the keyboard - don't sound if played lightly. I need to strike the key with enough velocity to get any sound. Meanwhile, neighboring keys will sound if played lightly.  Interestingly, I can play these problem keys just hard enough that the hammer strikes the tine and the tine starts vibrating, but there's barely or no sound; if I similarly play a neighboring key, it makes some (or a louder) sound. So, some keys have less dynamics than other keys.  What do I do to fix this? Or is this just the nature of a 50 year old mechanical electric piano?
We have checked each pickup by touching it with a screwdriver - they all make about the same noise. The tines have some rust on them, but they and the tonebars vibrate vertically (like I think they are supposed to). 

I have the Miracle Mod kit but have not installed it, and per OP's post, the Miracle Mod doesn't fix this issue. 

There's lots of talk of properly setting the escapement, but I'm confused how that would help.  It seems escapement adjustments are for the whole piano - adjusting the height of the harp supports so that the entire harp sits closer or further from the hammers.  My issue is with only particular keys, so adjusting the entire escapement doesn't seem like it would fix the issue.  

However, I see that every tonebar has two screws with springs below them; it seems like I could lower or raise the tonebar & tine by adjusting these screws; that is, I can adjust the escapement of individual keys by adjusting these screws.  Is that a solution I should try?  It seems if I lowered it, the hammer would strike them harder with the same key velocity, thereby giving them more quieter dynamics. Which screw should I tighten first? Or should I not mess with those screws because it affects other things? Or should I not touch them because my grommets are probably original and I dont want to replace all my grommets? Yet. 

And again, order - should I do the Miracle Mod and then try to fix these keys?  Or should I try to fix these keys first, and then do the Miracle Mod? 

I am open to any and all suggestions.  I have been reading lots of blogs and watching lots of videos - Vintage Vibe is a wealth of information. Really really cool.

Thanks!Martin

Offline qlyde1973stage

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Re: soft playing -> no sound :-/ Fender Rhodes 73 Mark I
« Reply #15 on: October 08, 2021, 11:03:11 PM »
Thank you very much for your answers !
So you think I shouldn't try to bring hammers closer... :)

Just to be sure : my problem is not that I want to increase the dynamic range of my Rhodes, my problem is I often play notes that don't sound at all. For example when I comp with left hand arpeggios, many notes don't sound at all. Is it the same with each Fender Rhodes ? (I never played another Rhodes than mine...)

 :)

This video https://youtu.be/hSvOh8oMIUw deals with the exact issue you're having, I also had the exact same issue as you and just fixed it last week. I measured the distance between my hammer tips and tines when the key is pressed (escapement) and the space on mine was way higher than the Maximum recommended in the Rhodes Manual. I Cut 1/8th of an inch off of both supports and re installed, afterwards they were way better. I still had to lower the escapement screws on the harp to get it responding to very soft touches but it plays great now.

Follow the video and you'll be able to fix your problem easily. I watched it at least 15 times to keep referring back to it and making sure I was doing the work correctly lol. The Rhodes Manual says the space between your tines and hammer tips should be:

- 1/4 inch to 3/8 inch on the Bass End
- 1/32 inch to 3/32 inch on the Treble End

Those are very small gaps... Mine was at almost 5/8 inch on the Bass and almost 8/32 on the Treble, so 1/8th inch off each harp support brought them down to a close enough gap where I could get them playing soft and responsive by setting the escapement screws a little lower. I still have some notes miss every now and then but I can now play soft dreamy sounds on my MK1 and after a few weeks I'm sure I'll make some small adjustments again after I play it more and see which notes are "missing" more than others.

I hope this helps. Always make sure you cut the top of the harp support and not the bottom. You can add shims on the top if you cut a little too much, but if you cut the bottom your Action Rail screw won't line up anymore.

Cheers

-Q