Best way to get that overdrive sound?

Started by Spumoni, December 31, 2016, 07:07:27 AM

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I am not very experienced with pedals, but someone recommended a Fulltone OCD pedal on my Rhodes / Twin Reverb set up, but it doesn't have that sound I'm looking for.  I'm trying to get that typical Doors-ish piano bass sound.  I was hoping the OCD pedal would simulate an overdriven amp, but it doesn't really work for me.   I'm looking into an Electro Harmonix Black Finger compressor pedal, but I'm not sure if this is the route I should go.   

Any suggestions would be helpful!


Alan Lenhoff

Now there's a unique Doors rig -- with the Vox on top of the Rhodes! Nice UK Continental!

At the risk of telling you two obvious things you may already know:

If you want the Rhodes to sound like a bass, you'll want to use a bass amp. (I use a Peavey keyboard amp with a 15" woofer for my Piano Bass, and it works fine, too.)

If you're trying to emulate the Doors' recorded bass sound, on most (maybe all) of the Doors studio albums, they used a bass guitarist on their sessions. 

Co-author, "Classic Keys: Keyboard Sounds That Launched Rock Music"

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1965 UK Vox Continental;1967 Gibson G101 organ; 1954 Hammond B2; Leslie 21H; Leslie 31H; 1974 Rhodes Mark I Stage 73; 1972 Rhodes Sparkletop Piano Bass; 1978 Hohner Clavinet D6; 1968 Hohner Pianet N II; 1966 Wurlitzer 140B; 1980 Moog Minimoog Model D; 1983 Roland JX-3P; 1977 Fender Twin Reverb; 1983 Roland JX-3P synth; Vox AC30CC2X amp.
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Thanks Alan - never thought about the bass amp.  But when I turn the treble and mid way down and the bright switch off, the tone is perfect.  I'm aware the Doors recorded with a bass along with the piano bass, but if you listen carefully to that piano bass it has a nice distortion sound.   The organ does as well...    just looking for a simple way to replicate that sound.   

I think I will give that compressor pedal a shot, especially if I can over drive it a bit.


Down the Rhodes has an episode with Ray Manzarek in it. I can't recall if he was mentioning anything about effects. You might give it a go
1976 Rhodes Suitcase 73 <effects loop || EHX Holy Grail Nano>
Line 6 midi keys
Scarbee Mark I, A-200 and Classic EP-88S


Some of that bass buzz sound if from the Rhodes itself.  If you set the pickups to a uniformly close distance away from the tines, the bottom octave on a 73-key rhodes will distort.  (The octave above that might be distorting as well, but it doesn't sound as obvious.)

The bass notes have this flabby blubbery floppy buzz sound (q.v. in Webster's dictionary of sound descriptions).

I believe it is because of the huge swing of the bass tines.  They swing way up out of the heart of the pickup's magnetic field, then back into the field, then way down away from the pickup, and back again and again.

I imagine that the huge pulse of current induced in the pickup will ring or resonate in the coil, or maybe the huge pulse saturates the coil and clips off the top and bottom of the waveform.  I am convinced that this sound is purely from the Rhodes pickups themselves because I cannot make it go away by turning down the amplifier gain.

If you move the pickups back away from the bass tines, you won't get this nice sound.  If you play the notes timidly, you won't get this nice sound.



FWIW- most guitar overdrive / distortions won't handle the transients a Rhodes produces very well. Don't waste too much time/bucks its just going to be a fizzle festival :P
The compressor can boost yes, but will also "knee" or "shelf" the attack/thump of the bass tone. Results may vary with the compressor.

An option would be wiring your stage piano for dual output- Split the lower register and wire in a Rhodes piano bass tone stack and setting up / voicing the lower register like a piano bass.
It's a project for sure but the piano bass tone stack/setup is the ticket imo!  I believe Ray had this done on a few of his pianos, one of the youtube vids floating around has that setup or at least appears to have that setup. Again the crucial aspect is having the voicing / setup nailed down right.

One of our collector customers has both the silver and gold sparkle piano basses which he runs into a vintage ampeg SVT, totally nails the sound, no pedals necessary.
Any amp without a HF driver will probably get you close, especially a 15" w/ tubes-  big slow responding speaker will equal flubo tones like the original recording.

Happy new year!


The dual output seems like an interesting concept!   I ended up getting that black finger compressor and I managed to get a tone that was surprisingly close.   Yesterday I ended up biting the bullet and buying a Rhodes Piano Bass - so I should have that in a week or so.  It's an unrestored 1976 that looks like new.  I will probably resell it when I finally find a sparkle top.   The plan now is to get reproduction legs for the Vox Conti, stick the Rhodes Piano Bass on top of the organ where it belongs...

The question now is, what amp for this set up?  I'm not gigging, I just want a simple set up for home use.  I'm leaving the twin reverb with the 88 key, so I've been looking at the Vox AC15 because it seems two have two inputs with overdrive and reverb.  Perhaps I can get buy with just that?

I understand what retro-mike is saying about guitar overdrive not handling the overtones, but I tested plugging the Vox organ into my small Vox modeling guitar amp, and with a little bit of drive it sounded better than the twin reverb!  (to my ears). 

Curious to hear what this piano bass ('76) sounds like in comparison to the lower keys of the 88 ('74).

pianotuner steveo

I agree that the distortion you hear on the records ( IE Break on Through) is from setting the pickups closer to the tines,not an effect pedal or special amp.

Alan, they did not use a bass player on every studio track. Especially the first 2 or 3 albums, is mostly the Rhodes.

The low keys of a piano bass are the same as on the 73 key models.  The 88 goes down lower.
1960 Wurlitzer model 700 EP
1968 Gibson G101 Combo organ
1975 Rhodes Piano Bass
1979 Wurlitzer 206A EP
1980 Wurlitzer 270 Butterfly Grand
2009 73A Rhodes Mark 7
2009 Korg SV-1 73
2017 Yamaha P255
2020 Kawai CA99
....and a few guitars...


So then once I get the piano bass I will try to adjust the pickups to get that overdrive sound.   And if I get the Vox AC15 amp, I should be able to get away with the reverb and overdrive from the amp alone... as opposed to all the pedals Im using on my Twin Reverb. 

Thanks for the advice everyone...


Any thoughts on what amp makes more sense for my set up?  It will be for home use only, and I want to use one amp for both the piano bass and Vox organ.   It's down to the the Vox AC15c1, or Fender HotRod deluxe.

I'm not sure which would be more appropriate, and I'm not in a position to try them.  But with Sweetwater they're always great with returns.

Any advice would be helpful.

By the way, this is the piano bass I just ordered yesterday.  I plan on keeping it until I find a sparkle top...


Quote from: retro-mike on January 02, 2017, 05:29:27 PM
FWIW- most guitar overdrive / distortions won't handle the transients a Rhodes produces very well. Don't waste too much time/bucks its just going to be a fizzle festival :P

I agree--no distortion box sounds right with a Rhodes.  OTOH, if you want to crank the distortion and just play one-note leads it's pretty OK


Well I received the Vox AC15C1 amp yesterday and tested it out on the Rhodes and Vox...  it's definitely very nice, and worth the money, but now I'm realizing how amazing the Fender Twin Reverb really is!   The sound just doesn't compare.   There is zero bass with the Vox amp, no matter how I tweak it.   I will probably send the Vox amp back, and continue to use the Twin Reverb with the Black Finger tube pedal.  It's probably the closest I'm going to get using one amp for two instruments simultaneously. 

The other thing I noticed with the Vox amp is that two inputs doesn't mean two channels... so if the Rhodes is played hard, then it distorts the organ and vice versa.   Unlike the Twin Reverb.

It will definitely be worth the return shipping to have the opportunity to try this out.


People tend to ascribe magical qualities to the Twin Reverb--it's a darn good amp, but so are many others--some for perhaps 1/2 the price and 2/3rd the weight.  Personally, I think Rhodes pianos sound awfully good with solid-state amps, which, as a rule, are cheaper and lighter than tube amps.  Tube amps really shine when they're overdriven, which I don't like to do with a Rhodes.  I have one tube head and 2 SS heads.  Honestly, I don't think anyone could tell the difference--I can't, as long as the amps' controls are set so the frequency responses are matched.