Fender Rhodes

The Suitcase Rhodes On Resolution 88’s Album:

We’ve used a 1975 suitcase Rhodes mk1 88 key piano on every track of Resolution 88’s studio output. If you love the sound of the Fender Rhodes, please check our discography out here on bandcamp.

How Did I Discover The Fender Rhodes Piano Sound?

The sound of the Fender Rhodes was what started it for me. I remember first hearing Toby Smith’s descending whole note scale blasting out at the beginning of ‘Just Another Story’, signalling Jamiroquai’s intent right from the first few seconds of their ‘Return of the Space Cowboy’ album. I went crazy – I just had to find out what that sound was. My Mum didn’t know the name of the instrument so I had to keep looking and asking – eventually I found out it was a Fender Rhodes. Fast forward a few years and having worn out my tapes of the first two Jamiroquai albums, I discovered Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters – it blew my mind. I set about finding my own Fender Rhodes and eventually bought a 1978 mk1 Stage Rhodes from a guy in Coventry – it cost me £600. I didn’t even have an amp so I had to plug it in to my hi-fi using a jack adaptor. I loved the sound but there was still something missing. I realised I needed to understand more about the different Fender Rhodes pianos – it turned out that what I really wanted was a suitcase model. The suitcase models have a speaker cabinet instead of legs, with two pairs of speakers. One pair faces the player, one faces the audience. There is a tremolo switch (called ‘vibrato’ on the preamp) that bounces the sound from one speaker side to the other. *That* was the sound I wanted – it is heavenly; I can’t describe how good it feels to sit at a suitcase Rhodes. The problem for me was that these suitcase Rhodes pianos are much more difficult to get hold of. They’re often in better condition (having been reserved for studio use) and there are far fewer of them. I was already at University by this point and one day I saw the perfect Rhodes on ebay. It was in Dallas but just from looking at the pictures I knew it was the piano for me. I don’t know how, but I convinced my Mum and Dad that it was worth me risking most of my student loan for that year on this suitcase Rhodes I’d never seen before. My poor parents had to drive to Birmingham International airport late at night and pick up the Rhodes in two crates – but once I’d got it set up, I knew I’d done the right thing. The Rhodes is such a fantastic instrument capable of so many different sounds – angelic, bell-like treble and filthy, growling bass. Its timbre is so responsive to how you play too. If you play smoothly it will purr mellowly and if you dig in, it will bark back!

Fender Rhodes mk1 88 suitcase piano
Suitcase Rhodes

I’ve since bought and sold other Fender Rhodes pianos for gigging with, but none come close to my suitcase Rhodes – these days, I have two pretty much identical suitcase Rhodes (both mk1s, both 88 keys). I keep one at home for recording and use the second one for all Resolution 88 gigs.

What’s The Best Model Of Fender Rhodes Piano?

This is a very subjective issue but having played and recorded on many different Rhodes pianos now, I can say that my absolute favourite Rhodes pianos are the mid 70’s (1975/1976) suitcase models, that have the Peterson preamp (concentric knobs), power amp outputs (great for sending to DIs when playing live), flat key tops (much nicer to play than the curved Pratt-Read keys) and plastic hammers (very nice and light). By this point, Harold Rhodes’ pianos were labelled purely as ‘Rhodes’ pianos, having previously been labelled as ‘Fender Rhodes’ up until the mid 70’s.

Which Records Feature The Fender Rhodes?

There are many records that feature the Fender Rhodes – here are just some of my favourites:
Herbie Hancock – Headhunters, Thrust, Dedication, Manchild, Flood, Secrets, VSOP, Sunlight, Feets Don’t Fail Me Now.
Patrice Rushen – Prelusion, Before The Dawn, Shout It Out.
Stevie Wonder – Talking Book, Music of My Mind, Innerversions, Fulfillingness’ First Finale, Songs in the Key of Life.
Jamiroquai – Emergency on Planet Earth, Return of the Space Cowboy, Travelling Without Moving.
You can find many other records featuring the Rhodes at this excellent blog:
Never Enough Rhodes Blog

Looking After A Fender Rhodes:

These electromechanical beasts require maintenance and to get the most out of them, it’s necessary to have an understanding of how they work. There is plenty of useful information at the following website:
Fender Rhodes Supersite

There is also plenty of advice and information at the forum:
Fender Rhodes Forum

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