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Rhodes piano

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A Rhodes piano is a musical instrument, a brand of electric piano. Its distinctive sound has appeared particularly in jazz and rock songs of the last fifty years.


[edit] History

The Rhodes piano was invented during WWII by Harold Rhodes in an effort to provide a piano that injured servicemen could practice while in bed. It evolved from the Rhodes Pre-piano over the 1946 to 1950s timeframe, to an initial design launched as the FenderRhodes PianoBass in 1959. The Rhodes piano's tone-generating principles are derived from the concept of an asymmetrical tuning fork - with a stiff wire (called a "tine") struck by a felt-tipped (neoprene-tipped after 1970) hammer acting as one side of the tuning fork, and a counterbalancing tone bar above the tine acting as the other side. The tine's vibrations and tonebar's resonations are picked up by an electromagnetic pickup (one for each tine), and amplified.

The Rhodes' action is quite different from that of a conventional piano. Whereas in a conventional piano each key causes the hammers to strike sets of strings, in a Rhodes piano the hammers strike the tines instead. The result is a unique, fat sound with a bellish attack and good sustain.

[edit] Sound-producing mechanism

The tuning forks themselves are "unbalanced" or asymmetrical: one arm consists of a short, stiff metal rod (essentially a stiff wire) called a "tine" which is struck by the hammer, and the other arm is a tuned resonator resembling a piece of metal bar stock, sized to sound the appropriate note. The actual sounded note is, just like on an electric guitar, produced to be picked up by an electric-guitar-style magnetic pickup. The pickups' output is fed to an amplifier which can be adjusted to produce the desired volume.

The sound produced has a bell-like character not unlike a celesta or glockenspiel. Because the instrument produces sound electrically, the signal can be processed to yield many different timbral colors. Often the signal is processed through a stereo low-frequency pan oscillation (which was called Vibrato on the Rhodes front panel) effects unit, which pans the signal back and forth between right and left; it is this "rounded" or chiming sound that is most typically called a classic Rhodes sound, which can be heard on, for example, many of Stevie Wonder's songs. The preamp with stereo panning is included on the original Fender Rhodes Electric Pianos and after 1970 on the "suitcase" models; the "stage" models lack the preamp and the amplified speaker cabinet.

Inspired by one particular and very famous rental piano in L.A., the E-Rhodes, used on hundreds of famous records by many big artists, in 1977 and during the 1980s a set of Rhodes modifications done by a company called "Dyno My Piano" became popular: it made the sound brighter, harder, and more bell-like. It can also be heard on many records from that time. The modifications brings out more of the Rhodes sound and makes it cut through like a grand piano, for instance : when notes are played forcefully, the sound becomes less sweet, as nonlinear distortion creates a characteristic "growling" or "snarling" overload—skilled players can contrast the sweet and rough sounds to create an extremely expressive performance.

[edit] Artists who play Rhodes

The Rhodes was particularly popular from the early '70s-mid '80s, and many of its signature songs date from this period: The Doors' "Riders on the Storm", "Freeway Jam" by Jeff Beck and the Jan Hammer group, "Just the Way You Are" by Billy Joel, "Ride Captain,Ride" by Blues Image, "Still Crazy After All These Years" by Paul Simon, "Babe" by Styx, "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life" by Stevie Wonder, "Peg" by Steely Dan, "Gotta Serve Somebody" by Bob Dylan, the intro to "Sheep" by Pink Floyd, "I Can't Tell You Why" and "New Kid in Town" by The Eagles and the theme from Taxi by Bob James. Also, Billy Preston played one on the Beatles' "Don't Let Me Down". AzouhouniThe Rhodes also features prominently in the song "Incommunicado" by Jimmy Buffett. "You're My Best Friend" by Queen,was previously incorrectly listed here,that was played on a Wurlitzer 200A electric piano.

Ray Charles played "Shake a Tail Feather" on a Rhodes during the music store scene in the 1980 film The Blues Brothers, and was seen playing "What'd I Say" on a Rhodes on a late 1970's Saturday Night Live appearance (although he played a Wurlitzer on the original 1959 recording).

The Rhodes was also used in jazz-fusion throughout the late 1960s and '70s. Chick Corea's album Light as a Feather and Miles Davis's In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew featured the Rhodes throughout the whole album. Joe Zawinul of Weather Report, Jan Hammer of the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Herbie Hancock also used the Rhodes. Steely Dan used the Dyno-My-Piano modified Rhodes on many recordings such as "Hey Nineteen," "Kid Charlemagne," "My Rival," with a phaser on "The Fez," and on most of their newer recordings. Bill Evans used the Rhodes (often together with a grand piano) on different recordings (including "The Bill Evans Album" and "From left to right").

More recently, the Rhodes has seen a resurgence in popularity and has been adopted by a number of bands, including Radiohead (heard most prominently on OK Computer and Kid A), Copeland, Jumbling Towers, Incubus, Little Glitches, The Appleseed Cast, Super Furry Animals, Bright Eyes, Eisley, Elliott Berry, Arcade Fire, Vanessa Carlton, Secret Machines, Tori Amos, Cat Empire, Silversun Pickups, Wilco, Mute Math, ne0pxi, Thrice, R.E.M., Hot Hot Heat, Cake (the Rhodes is in "Sheep Go To Heaven" in the background chords of the chorus), The Strokes, Citizen's Band (Omaha, NE), The Flaming Lips, Jim Asbell and the Tropiholics (the Rhodes figures prominently on "800 Miles Away") and Glenn Danzig of the Misfits. It has also seen a large resurgence in the genre of "Jam Bands," being used regurarly by Phish, The String Cheese Incident, Leyline and The Special Purpose. Although it is unconfirmed, The Raconteurs seemed to have used one on their album Broken Boy Soldiers. Heavily filtered or processed Rhodes piano samples have become canon for contemporary dance-oriented electronic music genres.

In addition, the Rhodes has seen heavy usage in hip hop—especially that of a more jazzy nature. This can be seen with artists such as The Roots, Mos Def and Talib Kweli are Black Star, Blackalicious, Jurassic 5, A Tribe Called Quest, and others. It is even more popular in the neo-soul genre with such artists as Erykah Badu, D'Angelo, and Jill Scott, almost replacing the traditional piano. J Dilla, a late Hip-Hop producer, was a well-known Rhodes player.

[edit] The Fender buyout

Leo Fender of The Fender Musical Instruments Corporation, then called the Fender Electric Instrument Company, made a joint-venture deal with Harold Rhodes in 1959, and they produced the instruments for six years. That's why the Rhodes instruments were called "Fender Rhodes" for 15 years.

The first Fender-Rhodes product was the Piano Bass in 1959, and no other models were mass-produced until after the CBS takeover of Fender. During January of 1965 CBS bought the whole Fender company for 13 million dollars, and shortly afterwards the 73-note Fender Rhodes Electric Piano went into production. During the '60s, we also saw the Fender-Rhodes Celeste, the Student/Instructor models and systems as well as the very rare Domestic models. In 1970 the more portable MkI Stage model was added to the range as well as the two 88 note Stage and Suitcase models, and in 1974 the brand name was correctly changed from "Fender Rhodes" to simply "Rhodes". The Rhodes piano at this point changed internally. The hammers were plastic, the pedestals were bare, (the felt was on the underside of the hammer)and had a few different shapes, the pickups were altered, and the tine structure differed from pre-1975 tines. The Mark II model was introduced in late 1979.

Also made for a very brief period was the Rhodes Mark III EK-10 which had analogue oscillators and filters alongside the existing electromechanical elements. The overall effect was that of a Rhodes piano and an electronic piano being played simultaneously; compared with the new polyphonic synthesizers being marketed at the same time, it was far too limited in scope. Very few units were sold.

The final Rhodes electric piano was the Mk V in 1984. The Mark V was thought to be the greatest Rhodes instrument ever built. With a lighter body, all new action design an improved cam, increasing the hammerstroke 23% for power, all the while eliminating any key/hammer regulation concerns of the past models, as well as giving the player a whole new level of performance over the past Rhodes models. A new harmonic tone bar designed for better upper and lower clarity as well as a big reduction in the weight with usage of polymer material in the outer case reducing the weight to approx. 100 pounds.

[edit] Models

Different models of the Rhodes pianos were manufactured. 73 and 88 note versions were available of both the stage model and the suitcase model, which included built in amplifier and speakers. For quite a few years, a 54-key version was also produced. The first model to be produced by Fender-Rhodes was the 32-note PianoBass in 1959. This was followed by the Sparkletop Fender-Rhodes Electric Piano or "Mark 0" (1965), Mark I (1970) and Mark II (1979) which was continuously improved and developed, but housed in about the same construction throughout the years.

In 1984-85, the last years of production,and after four years in develpment the Rhodes Mark V was introduced and known as,the greatest Rhodes piano ever built, (improved action. weight and sound).

[edit] Future production

In 1987 the Rhodes trademark was acquired by Roland, but they only applied the name to digital pianos; never manufacturing real electro-mechanical Rhodes piano. Harold Rhodes was reportedly very disappointed with the Roland-Rhodes instruments.

In 2003 Joseph A. Brandsttter purchased the rights to the trademark Rhodes The prototype "Mk 7" Rhodes pianos were unveiled on January 18, 2007 at the annual NAMM Show in California. Early indications are that they will be real Rhodes Electomachanical pianos in three sizes; 88, 73 and 61 keys, each available in three specifications - passive electronics; active electronics; active plus MIDI. The instruments use wooden keys and the same action as the mid-1980s Mk V, but are reportedly lighter than previous models. It appears that something like the Suitcase configuration will be available to allow a self-contained instrument with speakers. Production is scheduled to begin in fall 2008.

Made in Long Beach California USA

[edit] External links

This article was started using a Wikipedia piano article
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