On the Rhodes Again
Since I’ve been in band gear mode lately—here’s a look at a way we’ve been able to accomplish a vintage Rhodes look in a couple of our other auditoriums...
This may be old hat for some and even seem like cheating to others but who said there were any rules when it comes to slaying the musical beast? This is something I had flirted with in a couple of minor ways over the years with some different bands but this time was able to carry it a bit farther.
The quest for finding a decent vintage Rhodes is sometime a bit of a challenge not to mention dealing with the necessary “upkeep” to keep them happy once you do find one. So when our youth guys wanted some Rhodes love and were very much done with the “X-stand keyboard look” they had been saddled with—building some fake Rhodes shells seemed like good timing. This can be a real help in two ways: 1) Keeps the expense outlay to a minimum as compared to finding and paying for a vintage Rhodes (or one of their new ones for that matter) and 2) Lets you continue to use an existing keyboard that is familiar to the player and has a stable audio output (this can be hit or miss on a vintage model).
As a reference—here are a couple of photos of the vintage unit we use in our main auditorium. This one has had an obvious rough life but it supplies us with enough character to make Michael McDonald proud. Rest assured we have been through this thing several times to stabilize and clean the audio connections—additionally, it enjoys nice road-trips to the shop routinely to keep it maintained—check out these pics:
Using this authentic Rhodes as a grid—I laid out a plan on my trusty marker board so Chico could fabricate the rock—COTM style. A few years ago, I had run across this great web site from some fellows up in New Jersey (Vintage Vibe) that has a diverse inventory of hardware for all kinds of vintage gear—so we took advantage of some necessary parts to round out these custom Rhodes boxes and they turned out great... Here’s a few shots of these “fakes”:
Other than their cosmetic need to be beat up a bit (trust me it will happen over time)—these look like the real deal. As for the keyboards inside them—we made the fakes fit the keyboards we were already using in these rooms. As you can see below—they look like they were meant to be there all along.
Something cool to note (and a great example of how the little things matter) is how Chico made some color copies taken from a photo of the input/output panel on the real Rhodes and used them to finish out this same panel area on the fakes...
So here is the original panel again:
And these are the fake panels (go ahead and admit it—these rock.):
Since the fakes don’t have any speakers in the speaker cabinet portion—this is where we decided we could hide the gaggle of wall-warts, cabling, DI’s and such that seem to take over most key rigs these days:
Magnetic cabinet catches were used to hold the fabric speaker grills on to the cabinet so that the audio or backline guys can easily get into them to deal with cabling and power issues or just to stand back and marvel at the awesomeness (OK—so they probably don’t really do that, but it would be cool if they did...).
Hopefully this might spark an idea on how you can do something similar that applies to your specific situation. I’m quite proud of these rigs as they look great AND more importantly, didn’t cause a drain on our staff or finances to make them happen.