A Rare Breed Indeed: The Rhodes Electronic Piano

A Rare Breed Indeed: The Rhodes Electronic Piano
November 13, 2012 Max Brink
In Rhodes

You sure don’t see a rare breed like this every day! Here’s a “Rhodes Electronic Piano” from the ARP Synthesizer era circa 1983. Along with the Rhodes Chroma, also designed by ARP, this era of production was a huge departure from the electro-mechanical Rhodes pianos of the 60’s and 70’s that most people associate with the Rhodes name.

In fact, Harold Rhodes himself was reportedly furious when a Rhodes advertisement suggested that the synthesizer captured the essence of the piano that bears his name.

To Harold Rhodes’ defense, the “electric piano” emulator doesn’t come close to the sound of a piano. In fact, nearly twenty years later there still is no synthesizer or digital piano that does the Rhodes or Wurlitzer sound any justice until you account for the convenience of carrying your Nord to a gig. Regardless, it has its own charm–especially its dated 80’s vibrato circuitry.

The Electronic Piano’s final design was a curious hybrid of the Rhodes piano’s action and synthesizer technologies of the early 1980’s. As you will see in the pictures below, the keys of the piano are wood and extend through the piano to give it a much more expressive feel than the ‘sawtooth’ keys of a Moog or other synths of the same time frame.

Take a look:

Most of the issues with the Rhodes Electronic Piano were solved by cleaning the contact points of the terminal strips that connect the patches with the amplification and trigger switches. Also, some of the switches themselves were in need of better alignment.


Comments (34)

  1. Steve Coscia 11 years ago

    I used to own the ARP 4 Voice Piano. I believe the list price was about $1,600, but when ARP ran into financial trouble the retail music stores were blowing them out for about $1,200 – that was all the incentive I needed.

    For the era (1981)it was one of the better sounding electric pianos. I toured extensively with the ARP 4 Voice and rarely had any trouble with it (the ARP 4 Voice traveled in a heavy-duty road case).

    In 1988, I donated the ARP 4 Voice to local community college and the college kids ruined it within a year. What a shame. It had served me so well for many years. Many fond memories of playing that piano.

  2. Andrew Oloffson 11 years ago

    I bought this model from Midwest Music Exchange about 4 years ago. Sure is a “unique” device to play, especially when you hook up some effects.

  3. Larry Lanigan 11 years ago

    I picked up a 3363 a few years ago and even though it doesn’t have the classic Rhodes sound, it’s a beautiful instrument. Sounds more like a piano. Haven’t been able to locate a service manual or schematics for this model, any hlp would be appreciated.

    • mbrink 11 years ago

      There is a very comprehensive Rhodes manual that you should be able to find on a google search that includes service instructions for ’60’s era sparkle top models. Because of their felt hammer tips, they take a lot of skill and care to perform voicing services properly and these models are not the best models for a first time DIY restoration.

      • Larry Lanigan 11 years ago

        All the Rhodes Service Manuals that I have found online cover only tine models up through the late 1970’s. The 3363 is a completely different animal, and the technical info seems to be successfully hidden.

        • mbrink 11 years ago

          There is information on the felt hammer tips throughout the Rhodes manual. See 7-1 and 8-1 and especially 9-1 of the Rhodes manual for specific instructions for the felt tips. Most of the components will be very similar to the mark I after the felt tip itself. Once again, we recommend extreme care when servicing 60’s sparkle-top models and would love to give you an estimate for work in our shop.

          • Larry Lanigan 11 years ago

            If this instrument had hammers, the information for the sparkle top might be of some assistance. The technical electronic info for this unique model is out there somewhere.

          • mbrink 11 years ago

            Sorry for the misunderstanding, Larry. I thought this was on response to another post of ours about dating a Rhodes and that you were claiming to own a very early ’60’s model. (I only see the back end of the comments and overlooked the post source thinking this was posted on one of our more recent blog posts).

            We were unable to find any service manuals for the Electronic Piano as well and we mostly just had to clean and service the contact points so that they can function properly. We also would suggest checking the power supply to make sure that it is supplying proper voltages to the board. Those two focal points should cover 90% of any issues that you are having with the electronics.

  4. Ezraz 11 years ago

    Bernie Worrell playing my 4-voice on stage:

  5. John Dickey 11 years ago

    I just bought a 3363, and the volume is all over the place, along with some dead keys and a constant hum. It has some interesting points, but I cannot even figure out how to “raise the hood”…. any help would be appreciated.

    • Larry Lanigan 11 years ago

      Hope your 3363 comes back to normal for you. The hood should just lift up from the front, hinges in the back. Be careful that you don’t raise it too far, the ribbon cable that connects the electronics from the lid to the keyboard might pull out and damage the connectors. Cleaning the volume pot and the key contacts with DeOxit might be all you need. Good luck. If you ever come across a repair manual or scematics, please let me know.

      • John Dickey 11 years ago

        Thanks so much for the answer, I’ll keep trying to raise the hood, and get it cleaned up in there. Never seen a schematic anywhere online!!!

        • David 11 years ago

          I have one . i got the manual and surprisingly a schematics sheet with it when i got mine from someone local who had inherited it from her grandmother. Her granny bought it when it first came out to play at home and for her bridge group so she says but hardly played it because she was bedridden most of the time she had it.. i got it for 200.00 in perfect condition and was hardly ever played..

          • Larry Lanigan 11 years ago

            Would you consider sharing the schematics? I’ve been looking for about 5 years now.

          • mbrink 11 years ago

            Larry, we do not have a copy of a schematic for this instrument. If you come across one we would love to get a copy of it as well. We have studied the circuit and work on these without the use of a schematic.

          • Shane Greer 9 years ago

            hi there David.I just came into possesssion of a 3363 in suprisingly great shape.($100.00 at Goodwill)it does have an occasional VCO/electronic issue and schematics would be darned helpful.I’ve had the same bad luck finding schematics as everybody else and your post has been my only lead.If you could foreward a copy it would be greatly appreciated.Any resonable compensation for your trouble could be provided.

          • mbrink 9 years ago

            You should be able to find them on a quick google search of “fender Rhodes schematics” or “fender rhodes service manual” which is available by pdf.

          • Shane Greer 8 years ago

            hi there David.I just came into possesssion of a 3363 in suprisingly great shape.($100.00 at Goodwill)it does have an occasional VCO/electronic issue and schematics would be darned helpful.I’ve had the same bad luck finding schematics as everybody else and your post has been my only lead.If you could foreward a copy it would be greatly appreciated.Any resonable compensation for your trouble could be provided.

          • Bob Grieb 6 years ago

            Any chance you would be willing to share the schematic for the 3363? Seems like a lot of people could use it, including me. I would be happy to put it on line for everyone to get free. Thanks, Bob

        • Noe Gonzalez 8 years ago

          where you able to fix your 3363, i just bought one from an ezpawn i am trying to fix some keys that are not working…any help i would really appreciated…thank-you.

    • Mike Sherrod 11 years ago

      There are two screws on the bottom front near the corners. Remove these and the top will lift up with no problem … there should be a rod on the inside right that will hold up the top.

  6. Benji 8 years ago

    I have been playing one of these for 3-4 years now and I love it, even though the sound is by all objective standards kind of crappy. As mbrink writes, the feel of the keys are the magic. I was playing a Korg Triton LE and becoming more and more frustrated with the way the keys felt as I played them. I saw a 4-voice at a music store and traded the Korg for it immediately. Have never regretted it but I do wish I knew enough about electronics to mod it. mbrink, any idea how one could go about changing or replacing sounds on this keyboard? The “harpsichord” and “vibes” sounds on it are so bad I have never had a use for them.

    • mbrink 8 years ago

      Thanks for sharing, Benji! Glad to hear that you’re using it creatively!

  7. Noe 8 years ago

    I also have Rhodes Electronic Piano (Model 3363) there are some keys that are not woking is there any tutorial or recommendations on how to make them work. thank you. this page has been very helpful.

    • mbrink 8 years ago

      I am not familiar with any tutorials and we were unable to locate a service manual for this model. Luckily the issues were simple enough for us to solve them with a little intuition.

    • Tom D. 7 years ago

      On mine I just removed the two screws on the bottom front corners and opened it up, took out the 6 screws holding the big pc board down and lifted up the big pc board, and found the switches that are attached to the ends of the keys. Spray the switches with contact cleaner or DeOxit and work the key a bunch of times. Fixed!

  8. Noe 8 years ago


    are this the contact points of the terminal strips that connect the patches with the amplification?

  9. Stephen hulme 8 years ago

    Hi does anyone have the service manual or schematics for an arp 4 voice? Have two and hoping to get one working

  10. Mike 7 years ago

    I just had mine refurbished. Super psyched to get it back and start w it. However, my understanding is there is no sustain function on the keyboard, especially considering the mechanism doesn’t operate by something resonating like a string or tine. Friend repairing piano said there’s some kind of pedal mechanism in there. Is this sustain? Planning to use as piano in studio.

    • Benji 7 years ago

      There is definitely an input for using a damper/sustain pedal. There is no soft or sustenuto pedal inputs if you’re looking for something to truly replace a piano. Who did your refurbishing? Mine is working 90% excellently but it does have an A4 constantly ringing in the background…

      • mbrink 7 years ago

        We would be happy to help out, Benji. Just shoot us an email or give us a call!

  11. Tim Krause 2 years ago

    I have a Rhodes Electronic Piano in very good condition. Purchased new around 1982. What’s it worth? Thanks1

    • Author
      Max Brink 2 years ago

      Hard to say. They are “Rhodes” in name only, so even though they are rare they aren’t necessarily very sought after. The last two that we purchased were around $100-200, but maybe there’s someone willing to pay more than that if you’re lucky.

  12. hans 6 months ago

    Greetings from The Netherlands. Reading this discussion it’s clear that I’m not the only one looking for the ARP 4-voice-Rhodes3363 service manual 🙂
    I wondered if maybe in the mean time someone eventually found it??
    Would be of great help fixing some issues of my ARP 4-voice!
    Thank you.

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