The Rhodes piano (also known as the Fender Rhodes piano or simply Fender Rhodes or Rhodes) is an electric piano invented by Harold Rhodes, which became particularly popular throughout the 1970s. Like a piano, it generates sound using keys and hammers, but instead of strings, the hammers strike thin metal tines, which are then amplified via an electromagnetic pickup which is plugged into an external keyboard amplifier and speaker.
The instrument evolved from Rhodes' attempt to manufacture pianos to teach recovering soldiers during World War II under a strict budget, and development continued throughout the 1940s and 1950s. Fender started marketing the Piano Bass, a cut-down version of the piano, but the full-size instrument did not appear until after the sale to CBS in 1965. CBS oversaw mass production of the Rhodes piano in the 1970s, and it was used extensively through the decade, particularly in jazz, pop, and soul music. It fell out of fashion for a while in the mid-1980s, principally due to the emergence of polyphonic and later digital synthesizers, especially the Yamaha DX7, and partly through inconsistent quality control in production due to cost-cutting measures. The company was eventually sold to Roland, which manufactured digital versions of the Rhodes without authorization or approval from its inventor.
In the 1990s, the instrument experienced a resurgence in popularity, resulting in Rhodes re-obtaining the rights to the piano in 1997. Although Harold Rhodes died in 2000, the instrument has since been reissued, and his teaching methods are still in use.
A Rhodes Mark II
|Manufacturer||Harold Rhodes (1946–59)|
Fender Electric Instrument Company (1959–65)
William Schultz (1983–87)
Roland Corporation (1987–91)
Rhodes Music Corporation (1997–present)
|Dates||1946 ("Pre piano")|
1959 (Piano bass)
1965 (MkI "suitcase")
1970 (MkI "Stage")
1984 (Mk V)
1987 (Roland Rhodes MK 80)
2007 (Mark 7)
|Oscillator||Induced current from a pickup|
|Effects||Tremolo, stereo auto-pan|
|Keyboard||73 or 88 keys|
|External control||Line out or DIN connector to external amp /mixing board|
Rhodes Mark I Tube amp
A Rhodes Mark I played on a tube amplifier (overdriven).
The Rhodes piano features a keyboard with a similar layout to a traditional acoustic piano, but some models contain 73 keys instead of 88. The touch and action of the keyboard is designed to be as close to a piano as possible. Pressing a key results in a hammer striking a thin metal rod called a tine connected to a larger "tone bar". The whole "tone generator assembly" acts as a tuning fork, the tone bar reinforcing and extending the vibrations of the tine. A pickup sits opposite the tine, picking up its vibrations and inducing an electric current in a similar manner to an electric guitar. The basic mechanical act of hitting tines does not need an external power supply, and a Rhodes will make sound even when not plugged into an amplifier, though like an unplugged electric guitar the sound will be weak.
The Suitcase model Rhodes includes a built-in power amplifier and a tremolo feature that bounces the output signal from the piano in stereo across two speakers. This feature is mistakenly labeled "vibrato" (which is a variation in pitch) on some models to be consistent with the labeling on Fender amplifiers.
Although the Rhodes has the same mechanical operation as a piano, its sound is very different. The sound produced by the tines has a mellower timbre, but varies depending on the location of the tine relative to the pickup. Putting the two close together gives a characteristic "bell" sound. The instrument's sound has been frequently compared with the Wurlitzer electric piano, which uses a similar technology, but with the hammers striking metal reeds. The Rhodes has a better sustain, while the Wurlitzer produces significant harmonics when the keys are played hard, giving it a "bite" the Rhodes does not have.
Rhodes started teaching piano when he was 19. He dropped out of studying at the University of Southern California in 1929 to support his family through the Great Depression by full-time teaching. As a teacher, he designed a method that combined classical and jazz music, which became popular across the United States, and resulted in an hour-long nationally syndicated radio show. Rhodes continued to teach the piano through his lifetime, and the piano method continues to be taught today by a team led by Joseph Brandsetter.
By 1942, Rhodes was working for the Army Air Corps, where he was asked to devise a teaching program to provide therapy for soldiers recovering from combat in hospital. He was unable to supply enough acoustic pianos, so decided to develop a miniature electric model that could be made from surplus army parts. Rhodes won a service award for his piano design and subsequently put the model into production for piano teachers during the 1950s. These were retrospectively known as the "Pre-Piano".
In 1959, Rhodes entered a joint venture with Leo Fender to manufacture the instruments. Fender, however, disliked the higher tones of the pre-piano, and decided to manufacture a keyboard bass using the bottom 32 notes, known as the "Piano Bass". The instrument introduced the design that would become common to subsequent Rhodes pianos, with the same tolex body as Fender amplifiers and a fiberglass top. The tops came from a boat manufacturer who supplied whatever color happened to be available; consequently a number of different colored piano basses went into production.
Fender was bought by CBS in 1965. Rhodes stayed with the company, and released the first Fender Rhodes piano, a 73 note model. The instrument was made up of two parts — the piano, and a separate enclosure underneath containing the power amplifier and loudspeaker. Like the piano bass, it was finished in black tolex, and had a fiberglass top. During the late 1960s, two models of the Fender Rhodes Celeste also became available, which used the top three or four octaves, respectively, of the Fender Rhodes piano. The Celeste did not sell particularly well and examples are now hard to find.
The Student and Instructor models were also introduced in the late 1960s. They were designed to teach the piano in the classroom. By connecting the output of a network of student models, the teacher could listen to each student in isolation on the instructor model, and send an audio backing track to them. This allowed the teacher to monitor individual students' progress.
In 1970, the 73-note Stage Piano was introduced as a lighter and more portable alternative to the existing two-piece style, featuring four detachable legs (used in Fender steel pedal guitars), a sustain pedal and a single output jack. Although the Stage could be used with any amplifier, catalogs suggested the use of the Fender Twin Reverb. The older style piano continued to be sold alongside the Stage and was renamed the Suitcase Piano, with 88 note models also becoming available.
During the 1970s various internal changes and improvements were made to the mechanics. In 1969 the hammer tips were changed to neoprene rubber instead of felt, to avoid the excessive need for regular maintenance, while in 1975 harp supports were changed from wood to aluminum. Although this made production cheaper, it changed the resonance of the instrument slightly. In 1977 the power amplifier design was changed from an 80 to a 100-watt model. The Mk II model was introduced in late 1979, which was simply a set of cosmetic changes over the most recent Mk I models. A new 54-note model was added to the range.
The Rhodes Mk III EK-10 was a combination electric piano and synthesizer instrument, introduced in 1980 before CBS bought ARP Instruments in 1981. It used analog oscillators and filters alongside the existing electromechanical elements. The overall effect was that of a Rhodes piano and a synthesizer being played simultaneously. The instrument was unreliable with a problematic production, particularly when a shipment of 150 units to Japan caused interference with local television reception. Compared to the new polyphonic synthesizers being marketed at the same time, it was limited in scope and sound, and very few units were sold.
The final Rhodes produced by the original company was the Mk V in 1984. Among other improvements, it had a lighter plastic body and an improved action that varied the dynamics with each note. The Mark V is the easiest of the original Rhodes pianos for touring musicians to transport to gigs.
One of the key problems with production of Rhodes pianos under the original company was the desire to mass-produce the instrument, which caused a variation in quality. Collectors are advised to take care when buying a second-hand instrument.
In 1983, Rhodes was sold to CBS boss William Schultz, who closed down the main factory in 1985 and subsequently sold the business to Roland in 1987. Roland manufactured digital pianos under the Rhodes name, but Harold Rhodes disapproved of the instruments, which were made without his consultation or endorsement.
Rhodes subsequently re-acquired the rights to the instrument in 1997. However, by this time he was in ill health and died in December 2000. In 2007, a re-formed Rhodes Music Corporation introduced a reproduction of the original electric piano, called the Rhodes Mark 7. This was a version of the Rhodes housed in a molded plastic enclosure.
During the late 1970s and 1980s, Chuck Monte manufactured an after-market modification to the Rhodes, known as "Dyno My Piano". It included a lever that moved the relative position of the tines to the pickups, modifying the sound, and fed the output signal through additional electronics. This sound was emulated by the Yamaha DX7 with a patch (known as the DX7 Rhodes) that was popular during the 1980s, and caused several players to abandon the Rhodes in favor of the DX7.
The Doors' Ray Manzarek began using Rhodes instruments when the band was formed in 1965. He played bass parts on a Piano Bass with his left hand, while playing organ with his right. He also played a full-size Rhodes on later studio recordings, such as "Riders on the Storm". Manzarek later said, "If Mr. Rhodes hadn’t created the keyboard bass, the Doors would never have existed."
The Rhodes piano became a popular instrument in jazz in the late 1960s, particularly for several sidemen who played with Miles Davis. Herbie Hancock first encountered the instrument in 1968 while booked for a session with Davis. He immediately became an enthusiast, noting that the amplification allowed him to be heard much more easily in groups when compared to the piano. Hancock continued to experiment with the Rhodes over the next few years, including playing it through a wah wah. Another former Davis sideman, Chick Corea started using the Rhodes prominently during the 1970s, as did Weather Report founder Joe Zawinul. From 1969's In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew onwards, the Rhodes became the most prominent keyboard on Davis's recordings until the mid-1970s. Vince Guaraldi started using a Rhodes in 1968, and toured with both a piano and a Rhodes. He achieved particular prominence with his soundtrack music for A Charlie Brown Christmas and other Peanuts / Charlie Brown films.
Billy Preston has been described as "The Ruler of the Rhodes" by Music Radar magazine, and played one during the Beatles' rooftop concert in 1969, and on the group's hit single "Get Back". Many of Stevie Wonder's recordings from the 1970s feature him playing the Rhodes, often alongside the Hohner Clavinet. Donny Hathaway regularly used the Rhodes. His hit single, "This Christmas", which receives seasonal radio play on African American stations, makes a prominent use of the instrument. Although better known for playing the Wurlitzer, Ray Charles played a Rhodes on his performance of "Shake a Tailfeather" in the film The Blues Brothers.
Donald Fagen of Steely Dan has regularly used the Rhodes throughout the band's career. He has also used the Rhodes in all of his solo albums and continues to play it at every one of his touring performances since 1994.
The instrument features in "Angela", the 1978 instrumental theme from the sitcom Taxi by Bob James. The French band Air make regular use of the Rhodes piano in their recordings. German pianist and composer Nils Frahm uses a Rhodes piano extensively in his studio and live performances.
801 was an English experimental rock band originally formed in 1976 for three live concerts by Phil Manzanera (guitars, Roxy Music), Brian Eno (keyboards, synthesizers, guitar, vocals and tapes, ex-Roxy Music), Bill MacCormick (bass and vocals, ex-Quiet Sun, Matching Mole), Francis Monkman (Fender Rhodes piano and clavinet, ex-Curved Air), Simon Phillips (drums and rhythm generator) and Lloyd Watson (slide-guitar and vocals).Alive at Red Rocks
Alive at Red Rocks is a live DVD and bonus CD by the American band Incubus. It was recorded in Red Rocks, Colorado on July 26, 2004. It was the first DVD showing new bassist Ben Kenney (Dirk Lance's replacement). It was also the first DVD that featured Mike Einziger using a Fender Rhodes piano, on the performances of "Here in My Room" and "Drive."
The bonus CD included five previously unreleased tracks. One was the popular live song "Pantomime", which was recorded for A Crow Left of the Murder..., but ultimately left off. "Monuments and Melodies", a B-side of the "Megalomaniac" single and Japanese bonus track of A Crow Left of the Murder..., was also released. A new version of the song called "Follow" (the previous version being a movement from The Odyssey, featured on the Halo 2 Original Soundtrack) was included. Finally, there are live performances of the songs "Circles" and "Are You In" on the CD.Aretha Live at Fillmore West
Aretha Live at Fillmore West is the third live album by American singer Aretha Franklin. Released on May 19, 1971 by Atlantic Records. It was reissued on compact disc in 1993 through Rhino Records. An expanded, limited edition 4-CD box set entitled, Don't Fight the Feeling: The Complete Aretha Franklin & King Curtis Live at Fillmore West was released by Rhino in 2005. This was limited to 5000 numbered copies. In addition, there is a guest duet vocal by Ray Charles on "Spirit in the Dark".Franklin played a Fender Rhodes piano on four cuts, including "Eleanor Rigby", "Spirit in the Dark", "Don't Play That Song" and "Dr. Feelgood". Backing Franklin was King Curtis' band, the Kingpins, featuring Cornell Dupree on guitar, Bernard Purdie on drums, and Jerry Jemmott on bass, Billy Preston on organ, Curtis on saxophone, together with the Memphis Horns.Colosseum II
Colosseum II was a British progressive jazz-rock band formed in 1975 by former Colosseum drummer and bandleader Jon Hiseman, which featured guitarist Gary Moore.Dog in the Sand
Dog in the Sand, Frank Black's third album with backing group the Catholics, was released by the Cooking Vinyl record label in 2001, and was produced by Nick Vincent. The album was generally met with favorable reviews. Though retaining the live-to-two-track method of recording of the previous two albums, this album found the band branching away from purely electric rock to incorporate acoustic guitar, pedal steel, and Rhodes Piano and Wurlitzer organ into the sonic template.
The album was initially released by the What Are Records? label in 2001, and was reissued by SpinART in 2003.Freeflight (album)
Freeflight is a live album by American jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal featuring performances recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1971 for the Impulse! label. Additional performances from this concert were released as Outertimeinnerspace in 1972. It was also the first album to have Jamal play electric piano. The Rhodes Piano was given to him by somebody living in Switzerland, and Jamal said he would continue to play the instrument in the future as well as his standard acoustic piano.Into the Blue Again
Into the Blue Again is the fourth album by The Album Leaf, released in 2006.Keyboard bass
Keyboard bass (shortened to key bass and sometimes referred as a synth bass ) is the use of a low-pitched keyboard or pedal keyboard to substitute for the bass guitar or double bass in music.Man Man
Man Man is an experimental band from Philadelphia. Their multi-instrumental style is centered on the piano playing of lead singer and lyricist Honus Honus. On recordings, Honus usually plays piano but during the live shows he uses a Rhodes Piano or a Nord Electro 3. He is accompanied by an energetic group of musicians and vocalists. Instruments played by the band include a clavinet, Moog Little Phatty, sousaphone, saxophone, trumpet, French horn, flute, bass clarinet, drum set, euphonium, Fender Jazz Bass, Danelectro baritone guitar, xylophone, marimba, melodica and various percussive instruments including pots and pans, toy noisemakers, Chinese funeral horns, spoons, smashing plates, and fireworks.Mark Webber (guitarist)
Mark Andrew Webber (born 14 September 1970 in Chesterfield, Derbyshire) is an English rock guitarist. He is most famous for playing in Pulp (since 1995), and appearing on all of their albums since their Mercury Music Prize winning collection Different Class. Webber was originally the president of Pulp's fan club. Before joining the group Webber had assisted in the production of stage sets and acted as their tour manager.Webber's musical instruments include: Gretsch Viking Guitar; Gibson ES-345 Guitar; Gibson Les Paul Custom Guitar; Gibson Firebird Guitar; Yamaha Acoustic; Fender Jazzmaster; and Rhodes Piano.In 1998 Webber curated the 'Underground America' film presentation at the Barbican. When Pulp went on hiatus in 2002, Webber travelled the world presenting avant garde films. Webber first met the band in 1986 while doing a fanzine called Cosmic Pig. He is a fan of the Velvet Underground and has been influenced by Andy Warhol. His amplifier onstage can often be seen to bear the legend "Warhol". He is also a piano player and has played it on a few Pulp songs.Maura Davis
Maura Davis is an American singer and musician, most known as the lead singer of the American indie rock band Denali from Richmond, Virginia, United States, active from 2000 to 2004 (with brief reappearances in 2008). She also fronted the alternative group Ambulette, formerly known as Bella Lea, who released an EP on Astralwerks in 2005, and broke up in 2007 before releasing a first full-length album.
Davis is noted for her soaring vocals and minimalist lyrics. In addition to having a unique ethereal vocal style, she can play both keyboards and guitar. She seems to favor Fender Telecasters in concert (seen live while playing with Ambulette), as well as a variety of other guitars. She is noted for playing a vintage Rhodes Piano on both Denali albums, their self-titled album and its follow-up, The Instinct. She has also been seen playing a number of synthesizers, including her Nord Electro, in Ambulette. For live use, this small, lightweight instrument, has taken over from the Rhodes, which is notoriously heavy at around 200 pounds.
She has teamed back up with her brother Keeley to form the band Glös.Secrets (Herbie Hancock album)
Secrets is a August 1976 jazz-funk fusion album by keyboard player Herbie Hancock. It is also Hancock's seventeenth album overall.
The album clearly followed from its predecessor Man-Child. As ever, Paul Jackson's basslines were critical, and the other regular member Bennie Maupin continued to provide most of the solos alongside Hancock. Man-Child had seen the addition of electric guitar to Hancock's sound, and Secrets saw the guitar's place in the arrangements rise to crucial importance throughout. The flamboyant rhythm guitar contributions of top Motown session musician Wah Wah Watson are a particularly notable feature of the album.
Where Man-Child was evenly divided between up-tempo and laid-back tracks, Secrets emphasized the more mellow, softly rounded mood. Even the more up-tempo tracks, "Doin' It" and "Cantelope Island", are suffused with a relaxed Caribbean influence, and overall the album tends towards restrained, rolling grooves rather than overtly high-energy funk. Appropriately, Hancock spent much of his time using the mellow tones of the Rhodes piano, and took advantage of the new polyphonic synthesizers to contribute thick pads, foreshadowing ambient music.
Although summery and mellow, the album was far from lounge music, with some extremely abstract and intense sections, particular in the latter half; it is also entirely instrumental beside the "Jus' keep on doin' it" chants of the opening track. Subsequent Hancock albums saw the addition of more vocoded lead vocals and disco influences.
The Secrets line-up performed "Spider" (from this LP) and "Hang Up Your Hang-Ups" (from Man-Child) at the V.S.O.P. concert in the summer of 1976.The Album Leaf
The Album Leaf is an American solo musical project founded in San Diego, California in 1998 by Jimmy LaValle. He is known for his use of electronics, synthesizer, and Rhodes piano. His performances often feature projected visual art.The Belle Album
The Belle Album is the 12th studio album by soul musician Al Green. It is his first album recorded without longtime producer Willie Mitchell, owner of Green's former label, Hi Records. With Mitchell and his label Green also abandoned the famed Hi Rhythm Section, which had previously played a large part in defining Green's distinctive musical style. This also marks the first instance in which Green plays lead guitar on his records.
The Belle Album is one of the last in a string of secular recordings made by Green; he had recently converted to Christianity and had been ordained as a pastor, and thereafter he began creating gospel records exclusively.The Bill Evans Album
The Bill Evans Album is an album by the jazz pianist Bill Evans, released in 1971.
At the Grammy Awards of 1972, The Bill Evans Album won the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo and the Best Jazz Performance by a Group awards.
The Bill Evans Memorial Library states it is the first recording in which Evans used a Fender Rhodes piano.The Bill Evans Album was reissued with three bonus alternative tracks by Sony in 2005.The Whitest Boy Alive
The Whitest Boy Alive was a German-Norwegian musical group based in Berlin that was active from 2003 to 2014. The band comprised singer and guitarist Erlend Øye of Kings of Convenience, bassist Marcin Öz, drummer Sebastian Maschat, and Daniel Nentwig on Rhodes piano and Crumar.Thrust (album)
Thrust is a jazz-funk album by Herbie Hancock, released in September 6, 1974 on Columbia Records. It served as a follow-up to Hancock's album Head Hunters (1973), and achieved similar commercial success, as the album reached as high as number 13 on the Billboard 200 listing. The lineup for Thrust is the same as on Head Hunters, except that Mike Clark replaced Harvey Mason on drums. This is Hancock's fourteenth album overall.
The composition "Actual Proof" was originally written for the 1973 film The Spook Who Sat by the Door, and Hancock has used it as a demonstration of his style of playing the Fender Rhodes piano.The composition "Butterfly" would subsequently be performed on the live album Flood, and two other studio releases: Direct Step and Dis Is da Drum. "Butterfly" is the opening track on Eddie Henderson's 1978 album Mahal, which features Hancock on keyboards.True Love Waits (song)
"True Love Waits" is a song by the English alternative rock band Radiohead. Radiohead first performed it in 1995, and singer Thom Yorke performed it solo on acoustic guitar or Rhodes piano in the following years. The band and producer Nigel Godrich attempted to record the song for the albums OK Computer (1997), Kid A (2000) and Amnesiac (2001), but could not settle on an arrangement, and it became one of their best-known unreleased songs.
A recording of "True Love Waits" from the Amnesiac tour was released on I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings (2001). In 2016, a studio version was finally released as the closing track on Radiohead's ninth album, A Moon Shaped Pool, rearranged as a minimal piano ballad. Both versions received positive reviews; several critics felt the long wait made the studio version more powerful. Though it was not released as a single, "True Love Waits" entered the French SNEP and US Billboard Hot Rock Songs singles charts.Wurlitzer electric piano
The Wurlitzer electronic piano, commonly called the Wurlitzer electric piano is an electric piano manufactured and marketed by Wurlitzer from the mid-1950s to the early 1980s. The sound is generated by striking a metal reed with a hammer, which induces an electric current in a pickup; although conceptually similar to the Rhodes piano, the sound is different.
Wurlitzer manufactured several different models of electric pianos, including console models with built-in frames, and standalone stage models with chrome legs. The latter became popular with several R&B and rock musicians in the 1960s and 70s, particularly Supertramp.