Here is one of the most ambitious –and definitely the nerdiest– custom restorations that we have ever from The Chicago Electric Piano Co: A custom 54 key Mark I with all period-correct Mark I components.
And why not give it a little extra flare with some tweed and a gold sparkletop??? Maybe Accent it with some walnut end blocks and western tolex lining the case???
The 54 key Rhodes was originally only offered during the Mark II Rhodes era circa 1980-1983. It’s key set was the mid range of the Rhodes with a few less base notes and treble notes from the 73/88 key models. It’s size makes it great for gigging musicians and can fairly easily be lifted by a single person (though it is still not preferable to carry it alone for long distances).
Our goal was not only to get the aesthetic look of the early Mark I’s rounded lid, but also to capture its signature tone. For this we sourced parts hand selected from our inventory from the early Mark I production period. Wooden supports and hammer rails were sourced from an early Stage piano. Tines were sourced from the late Torrington period. Pickups were sourced from circa 1974, and wired in series/parallel (unlike the series wiring of the 80’s era 54). Most importantly we hand selected vintage cube hammer tips from our inventory. In the end, the case, keys, and the harp frame were the only 1980’s parts used. Everything else was purely Mark I.
The end result was a wonderfully warm tone with the quintessential bark of the early Mark I.
For the custom 54 key lid a Mark I 88 lid was cut, glued, and strongly reinforced before refinishing with automotive grade flake paint for a sparkletop finish. It worked remarkably well and it was impossible to find the seam when completed.
The “Fifty Four” script logo was custom 3D printed. The future is here!
Along with the Custom Rhodes finish, our client requested matching tweed cabinets. Rather than building them ourselves we sourced them from Mojotone.com and finished them to match. It’s a great looking set!
Here’s a custom Rhodes that we’re not going to forget! Inspired by their “Grape Sparkle” Gretsch Penguin guitar, we were tasked with matching the sparkle on their Rhodes–and we were even more thrilled when it was paired with the ivory sparkle tolex. This thing is 1,011% Glam and we’re in love with it!
Along with the complete restoration service of the instrument and amplifier we also upgraded the Rhodes with an optical MIDI system! –This thing is a total spaceship!
The MIDI system that we use is an all-optical sensor system developed by QRS Music Technologies. The system was originally designed for installation inside an acoustic piano, and with a little extra modification to the Rhodes’ key bed it is an amazing upgrade for your instrument. With the MIDI output you can control any variety of synthesizers, or MIDI triggered devices running a 100% independent signal from the Rhodes’ output. This allows the two systems to be used independently, or–better yet–blended together to create all new sounds of your own!
It’s an incredible upgrade for your Rhodes that is sure to inspire a whole new world of creativity from the instrument! Here’s our Reverb.com video featuring the system on another recent MIDI Rhodes restoration:
And do we need to say that this MIDI system works on Wurlitzers too?!
The QRS PNOScan can also be installed on Wurlitzer Electric Pianos–and we love the feel of Wurlitzer action assemblies with the MIDI output! Just like with the Rhodes Suitcase we customize the power supply so that the system fires up as soon as the instrument is switched on.
What were we talking about? ? ?
…Oh, yeah–The GLAM SPARKLETOP! I don’t think I need to say much more… Have a look:
Here is a glimpse of the latest Custom Shop Rhodes from The Chicago Electric Piano Company: Did we finally go over the top with this one?
This one will certainly turn some heads! We dubbed this finish with the nickname “Champagne Cowboy” because of it’s champagne sparkle top and brown western tolex. On top of that we outfitted the piano with walnut cheek blocks.
This Fender Rhodes is from 1973, right in the heart of the early Fender Rhodes production period. We restored the piano with our “Rebirth” level of restoration services, virtually rebuilding the piano from scratch. Throughout the process we leveled the key bed and set the proper black key height, replaced all action felts and aging rubber components such as the grommets and hammer tips. Our goal was to keep the sound of the Rhodes as true to the sound of the 1973 production period by using only period-correct vintage parts and top quality reproduction parts that bring out the early Rhodes’ signature sound.
Here’s the latest Custom Shop Rhodes from our workshop. This one was upgraded to eleven!
[Update: This piano has sold. If you are interested in a similar piano we can restore one for you! Please contact email@example.com for more information]
For sale by The Chicago Electric Piano Company is this completely restored and customized Rhodes. It features Carolina Blue tolex, Cane Grill Clothe, a custom fiberglass Sparkle Blue top by Vintage Vibe, our signature handmade wooden cheek blocks, and four new Eminence speakers.
As you’ve come to expect with any CEPCo restoration, this piano has been rebuilt internally to make it sound even better than it looks. New tonebar grommets, fresh graduated hammer tips, dynamic action setup, and a complete keybed level ensure that this Rhodes will keep its mojo for years to come.
All aging electronic components have been replaced and properly biased. This Rhodes also features four new Eminence Legend speakers modeled after the Jensen C12N Speakers used in the original 60’s Rhodes’ Suitcase Cabinet. The new speakers are higher efficiency resulting in a louder and deeper cabinet response. The stereo tremolo is gorgeous! –-Have a listen for yourself:
Additional Vibrato Demo:
This Rhodes can be yours for $5,299. Worldwide shipping is available. Please contact Max Brink at (312)476-9528 or firstname.lastname@example.org for ordering information.
Here is the latest from our custom shop: The Custom Silver “Low A” Fender Rhodes Piano Bass.
This key set was modified to play down to low A like the 88 key Rhodes key set rather than the low E from the 73 key set that usually punctuates the deepest end of the Piano Bass. The Piano Bass was refinished cosmetically with silver tolex and fully setup from top to bottom by hand. And with the low A this Piano Bass rumbles!
The installation of the deeper key set was intensive and required modifying parts from a vintage 88 key Rhodes. The key bed was cut down and routed to fit with the former key bed with a mortise and tenon joint just as the Rhodes key beds were originally manufactured. (See Below)
And the list of modifications doesn’t end there… Once the key bed was installed in alignment with the hammers the strike line and escapement height of the harp was set. This is done by setting the alignment of the harp and harp supports and also shimming the height for final find tuning. The pickups also needed to be re-soldered for the piano bass ~5.7ohm impedance level. In the end, the entire Piano Bass was practically re-built by hand from top to bottom!
Stunning, right? When this Rhodes came into our shop the original tolex was in complete tatters! Since the piano is going to be hitting the road we decided to install protective corner hardware that was originally absent from the Piano Bass case design. We also installed a “Fender Rhodes” script logo for just an extra flair.
Does anyone else get the impression that this Rhodes is trying to stay hip to the silver hair dues that are currently in vogue?
Here’s the latest from our custom shop: The “Tweed Copper Top” Rhodes. This was a late 1971 Rhodes Mark I Stage Piano that we refinished in tweed with a few other cosmetic customizations. The replacement copper fiberglass lid was contracted through Vintage Vibe in New Jersey with similar construction to the Sparkletop Fender Rhodes of the 1960’s. Once again we finished off the restoration with a pair of satin cheek blocks using oak and giving it a deep honey stain.
The Piano itself is full restored with new rubber tone bar grommets and hammer tips developed by Retro Linear that restored the harp and hammers while maintaining the early 1970’s sound characteristics. The key bed was fully leveled and regulated and plays wonderfully.
This Rhodes has the classic “Return to Forever” sparkle in the treble and deep warm bass characteristic of pianos from the early 1970’s. Have a listen here:
This Rhodes is currently for sale and if you are interested please contact Max Brink at email@example.com for ordering information.
Many people were so blown away from our Tweed Two Tone Rhodes earlier this year that we were quickly contacted to tweed amplifiers and another two Rhodes in the custom finish. This one in particular has the shellac’d finish for the amber shine that we know and love from the classic Fender amps. This gives the tweed a classic aesthetic look and also prevents the tweed from getting stained or from fraying.
This is a 1975 Rhodes Suitcase from the late ’75 period with all plastic hammers. Although this period of production usually takes a little more work to regulate properly the Rhodes can sound and feel just as good as the earlier true Fender Rhodes period. The key to maintaining their classic tone is restoring them with the original cube shaped hammer tips that give them the signature Fender Rhodes attack.
When restoring a Rhodes cosmetically it’s always a tough decision whether or not to use the aging original hardware (corners, handles, logos, etc.) or whether or not to use shiny new hardware. The original hardware maintains the vintage vibes and mojo of the instrument while the new hardware completes the cosmetic overhaul for those that want a brand new finish. In this case the decision was a no brainer… The original Rhodes hardware’s patina and light rust looked way too good with the tweed and amber shellac.
Here’s a look at the latest Rhodes from our Custom Shop: The a Navy and Tan Suitcase from 1976.
The 1972-1975 period is something that I consider the best era of Rhodes production but 1976 pianos have really grown on me over the course of the past year. Although it takes a little more labor to regulate their action properly the feel and tone of the early 1976 pianos is just as solid as ’74-75 pianos. This is especially true in early 1976 when the neoprene rubber hammer tips used were still the cubed tips that were used in the true Fender Rhodes period of production.
My mother raised me not to wear navy with black but sometimes rules are meant to be broken. And the blue strands in the tan grill cloth really ties the entire look together! Have a look:
It doesn’t get much cooler than a Rhodes Piano bass!
Here’s the latest custom built Rhodes in our inventory: The Ivory Fender Rhodes Piano Bass.
This Rhodes is a true one of a kind and was hand assembled by our workshop using the best vintage components. It is a 1969 Fender Rhodes Piano bass lid, body, pickups and harp with 1975 hammers and tines. We selected all of the parts in order to give this piano bass the best warm Rhodes bass tone possible.
This completely restored piano bass is for sale for $2,699 and we promise that it plays and sounds even better than it looks! Just give Max a call at (312)476-9528 for more information.
Here’s the latest from our custom shop: The Tweed Two-Tone Rhodes Suitcase.
—And another emergence of our signature wooden cheek blocks to top it off!
This Rhodes Suitcase 73 is from the “Golden Tine” era of late ’74 through early ’75 and we knew right away that the tone was going to be absolutely gorgeous even before the restoration process began. These “Golden Tine” pianos are some of our very favorite but are from a very short lived period of Rhodes production that spanned less than a full year. For those who are unfamiliar, changes in Rhodes tines happened almost every other year and noticeably alter the timbre of the Rhodes’ voice from year to year. These changes are analogous to the differences in tone from various gauges and metallurgical makeups of guitar strings or acoustic piano strings. Aside from a pretty straight forward restoration of the Rhodes piano itself we just needed to make sure that this Rhodes looked as good as it sounds!
Have a look for yourself and share what you think on our facebook page. Here’s a look at the Tweed Two-Tone Rhodes:
…There are more custom Rhodes currently in the works so stay tuned!
If you are interested in restoration services or custom refinishing your Rhodes piano please contact Max at (312)476-9528 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s the latest Rhodes to leave our Custom Shop: The Orange Mark II. This Rhodes was inspired by the orange 44 note Wurlitzer 106 and a few vintage guitars with an orange finish. The piano was completely restored by our workshop and as always we promise she sounds even better than she looks!
This beauty is now back at Wilco’s recording loft where we will hopefully hear from it soon!
–Until then, here’s a glimpse of the custom finish: