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. The instrument generates sound like a conventional piano with keys and hammers, but instead of strings, the hammers strike thin metal tines, which are amplified via an electromagnetic pickup plugged into an external keyboard amplifier and speaker. This gives the instrument a very unique sound.

Harold Rhodes produced a small teaching piano in 1946, and, in 1959, he started a joint-venture compant with Fender and build 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, then, in 1979, the Mark II was released. The Rhodes fell out of favor in 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 later 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 was unable to release a new model and died in 2002. The Mark 7 was released in 2007.

Although I grew up in a family where music was frequently playing, nobody was trained in instrumentation, so I never knew much about the technical details of music, but I did listen to a lot of classic rock so I heard the Rhodes quite a bit. I remember seeing the term "Rhodes" on synthesizers, but I didn't know what that meant. As an adult, I noticed that really enjoyed the sound of electric pianos, and, after seeing the term Rhodes again at age 39, I decided to research it. Upon learning about the instrument, I sought out other songs that used it and got a better feel for the timbre of the keyboard.


Songs in this table feature the Rhodes piano.

Title Artist Player Published
My Slumbering Heart Rilo Kiley Jenny Lewis 2002-10-01
Riders On the Storm The Doors Ray Manzarek 1971-04-??
Shake a Tail Feather (The Blues Brothers soundtrack) Ray Charles Ray Charles 1980-06-20
Taxi Theme (Theme from Taxi) Bob James Bob James 1978-09-12