Rhodes piano

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Mark I, 73-key "stage" model, 1970.

The Rhodes piano is an early electromechanical piano invented by Harold Rhodes which saw a lot of use in 1970s jazz, soul, and rock music. Like a conventional piano, keys are pressed which moves a hammer, however, unlike a piano with strings, the hammer strikes thin metal tines which are amplified via an electromagnetic pickup plugged into an external keyboard amplifier and speaker. This novel method of generating tones gives the instrument a very unique timbre, and, since each Rhodes piano will be in a different level of maintenance, each will have a slightly different sound.

The piano was developed by Harold Rhodes who based it on a small teaching piano he built in 1946. In 1959, Rhodes entered a joint-venture with Fender and built a 32-key "Piano Bass." In 1965, the company was sold to CBS, and they released the full-sized 73-key Mark I model. In 1970, a stage model was made, in 1972 an 88-key model was made, and, in 1979, the Mark II was released. The Rhodes fell out of favor in popular music during the 1980s as synthesizers became more popular (the Yamaha DX7 even had a patch that simulated the Rhodes), and the last model to be made under CBS was the Mark V in 1984. In 1985, the company was closed down and sold to Roland in 1987 who released the MK 80 which Harold Rhodes did not contribute to or approve of. Harold Rhodes bought the rights from Roland in 1997, but, due to poor health, he was unable to release a new model before he died in 2002. The Mark 7 was released in 2007.


Although I grew up in a family where music was frequently played, and I heard plenty of songs which used the Rhodes piano, nobody in my family was trained in instrumentation, so I never knew much about the technical details of music or how to identify the sound. I remember seeing the term "Rhodes" on synthesizers, but I didn't know what that meant. As an adult, I noticed that I really enjoyed the sound of electric pianos, and, after seeing the term Rhodes again, I decided to research it to get a better ear for the keyboard's timbre.


Songs in this table feature the Rhodes piano. Obviously, there are many more songs, but these are the ones I'm familiar with.

In song credits, the specific model of Rhodes is almost never credited, in fact, they commonly use the term "electric piano," which makes it difficult to distinguish the Rhodes from other electronic keyboards like the Wurlitzer, or synthesizers simulating a Rhodes.

Title Artist Player Published Example
Angela (Theme From Taxi) Bob James Bob James 1978-07-20 Link
Babe Styx Dennis DeYoung 1979-09-?? Link
Dreams Fleetwood Mac Christine McVie 1977-03-24 Link
Get Back The Beatles Billy Preston 1969-04-11 Link
Just the Way You Are Billy Joel Billy Joel 1977-09-29 Link
Killing Me Softly With His Song Roberta Flack Roberta Flack 1973-08-01 Link
My Slumbering Heart Rilo Kiley Jenny Lewis 2002-10-01 Link
Riders On the Storm The Doors Ray Manzarek 1971-04-?? Link
Shake a Tail Feather (The Blues Brothers soundtrack) Ray Charles Ray Charles 1980-06-20 Link
Sheep Pink Floyd Richard Wright 1977-01-23 Link