Fender Rhodes Piano Repair and Restoration

The iconic Rhodes Electric Piano is a cornerstone of music technology history, and we–along with many others–believe they deserve to be preserved for future generations. These pianos, while less electronically demanding than many of the instruments we service here, need a lot of meticulous care and attention to get them playing and sounding their best. 

When we repair Rhodes pianos, we focus on restoring the pianos to their original sound and feel. A neglected Rhodes piano can exhibit any number of issues, but they can be roughly categorized into four key areas: keybed, tines, electronics, and aesthetics. 


It’s important to get a piano’s action feeling the best it possibly can before moving on to any other restorative steps. Any adjustments made in this first area will affect others down the line, so it’s important to establish a strong foundation in the action and work the rest of the piano around it. The goal is to end with a keybed that feels fast, responsive, and crisp.

Below are the potential pitfalls that can get in the way of your Rhodes’ excellence and the steps required to restore it to its former glory.

Slow or sticky keys

A piano with poor action is most often described as having keys that feel slow, spongy, or heavy, and are potentially prone to getting stuck. Sluggish action is usually brought on due to some combination of swelling of the key bushing felts, rusty and/or bent guide pins, or some kind of spill onto the keybed causing a sticky mess.

Rhodes Piano Spill on Keys
Spill on keys
Spill inside Rhodes Piano
Spill under keys

Repairing these sorts of problems can involve cleaning any potential spills, removing rust from the guide pins, re-angling the guide pins, and easing the bushing felts.

Loose keys 

A good Rhodes action should feel fast and loose in regards to vertical motion, but some keys may also exhibit excessive side-to-side motion. This always comes down to the key bushing felts being overly compacted or missing entirely, creating excess space around the key’s respective guide pins and causing a wobbly-feeling playing experience. Tightening or replacing these bushing felts can make a dramatic improvement to the perceived solidity of the afflicted keys. 

Rhodes Keybed Diagram
Keybed diagram

Uneven keybed

Another common issue that is more visually apparent is a piano having an uneven keybed. Ideally, a piano’s keys will sit perfectly level, with every keycap sitting at the same elevation.

Poor levelling of Rhodes keybed
Poor levelling of Rhodes keybed

Executing this level of perfection requires replacing every key’s balance rail felt–as they have likely worn and compacted at different rates over time–and then adding the appropriate thickness of paper shim to account for the slight disparities between each key and felts’ physical height. Installing the correct thickness of shims to each of the 73 or 88 keys can be a time-consuming process of trial-and-error, but it is worth it for an end-product that both looks and feels like a professional-grade instrument.

This same process is also done to the front rail of the piano, where the keys hit their stopping point during play. The distance of vertical travel for a key’s lip is known as “key dip”, which is held to a dimensional standard of 3/8“. Establishing accurate key dip across the piano requires another set of fresh rail felts and more shimming.

Good levelling of Rhodes keybed
Good levelling of Rhodes keybed

“Miracle Mod”

If requested by the customer, it’s at this stage that we would also install the “Miracle Mod” by Vintage Vibe. The modification adds a small bump at a precise point underneath the pedestal felt of each key, which acts as a leverage point for the hammer. The result is a drastic improvement of a piano’s dynamic response and ease of play, so we wholeheartedly recommend the installation of this mod!

It should be noted that some earlier Rhodes models (pre 1972) had this sort of bump built into their key pedestals’ design. Therefore, it usually isn’t necessary to install the Miracle Mod in any piano from this era.

Tines & tonebars

If a piano’s action is an extension of the player’s physical expression through their fingers, tines are the true first point of contact that turns feeling into music. The health and positioning of a Rhodes’ tines and tonebars determine the tonal quality, tuning, and natural volume that the instrument possesses, and is therefore an area that offers some level of customizability. 

Hammer Tips

While not technically an adjustment to tines or tonebars themselves, hammer tips play more of a role in the tone of a Rhodes than the action does. Typically made of neoprene, Rhodes hammer tips come in many shapes and sizes, though these days it’s common practice to use angled tips in graduating sizes across the keybed for the most consistent strike point and tone.

Over time, hammer tips will start to wear out and develop a groove right where the rubber meets the tine, leading to a hollow and inconsistent attack. If your Rhodes has a note that sounds “doing-y,” chances are it has a bad hammer tip and needs replacing. 

Dead Rhodes hammer tips vs fresh hammer tips
Dead vs fresh Rhodes hammer tips


Escapement is the distance between a hammer tip and the tine after the key has been depressed, and it is the last action-related step in a full restoration. If a tine’s escapement is too low, hard strikes run the risk of it maintaining contact with the hammer tip post-strike, choking out the note’s sustain. If the escapement is too high, the hammer has to swing further than necessary to make a note sound at all, rendering soft strikes useless and lessening the touch-sensitivity of the instrument.

Rhodes Escapement Diagram
Escapement diagram

Finding the ideal middle ground provides the player with a response that feels true to their intended dynamics without risk of choking out. Escapement can be adjusted in broad strokes by shimming the sides of the harp to raise or lower it wholesale, or it can be adjusted per individual note by tightening or loosening the tonebar coil springs.

Strike Line

Problematic Strike Lines are a less common issue, but are worth investigating during a full restoration. The “Strike Line” is the ideal point along each tine that, when struck by each hammer, provides the maximum response for tone and volume. This is normally set well from the factory, but general wear and tear can send it out of whack and cause the Rhodes to sound underwhelming and unresponsive as a result.

If this is the case, re-establishing a proper strike line is done by testing various placements for the harp to sit, nudging it a little forward or back, introducing a slight angle to achieve the ultimate tone across the board.


Early in the repair process we’ll do a rough tune-up to get the worst offenders in line. This gives us better musical context for play-testing throughout the repair, and we can weed out any tines that need replacing in the event that they refuse to tune up or down to the correct pitch. 

Later on, we’ll perform a fine tune across the whole instrument. We default to A=440 Hz equal temperament (factory standard for a Rhodes piano), but we can offer stretch tuning on request.


There are two axes to keep in mind when voicing a Rhodes piano: timbre and volume.

A variety of tonal characteristics can be achieved by changing the angle that a tine sits at in relation to its respective pickup. A piano can be set up to sound pure and dark, bright and bell-like, or anywhere between. Once an ideal tone is selected, the rest of the tines must be adjusted to match it–a process measured entirely by ear. 

Rhodes voicing adjustment diagram
Voicing adjustments: timbre and volume

The volume of each note can be adjusted by increasing or decreasing the distance between the end of the tine and its pickup, and is another customizable dimension. Keeping the tines super close to their pickups will give the hottest output, though it’s best practice to keep them at least 1/16” away. This way, there’s still some room to boost the overly quiet tines up to play nicely with the other ones. 

Timbre and volume adjustments are done in passes to maintain perspective, slowly ironing out the tonal outliers until your Rhodes sings evenly across the board.

When to replace tines

We do our best to avoid replacing tines. Buying brand new replacements can get fairly expensive and isn’t the most environmentally friendly option, so we’ll happily do what we can to coax the ideal tone and volume from existing tines. 

However, whether due to excessive oxidation or standard wear, some are just too far gone. A truly dead tine will exhibit poor sustain, poor harmonic content, or no longer achieve its intended pitch despite any adjustments made to and around it. This is the only time we typically recommend a tine replacement.


As important as the previous sections are for determining the qualitative impression of a Rhodes, the “electric” part of the “electric piano” is what allows one to make any sound at all! Depending on what style of Rhodes you have, your piano will either have passive or active electronics.

Rhodes electronics
Passive Rhodes electronics


A passive piano, like the Stage models, doesn’t require a power source as it doesn’t include a preamplifier of any kind. Passive models only have electromagnetic pickups, volume and tone pots, and an output jack; essentially the same as any old electric guitar.

Any potential repairs done to this area would entail cleaning the pots and jack, repairing any broken pickup wires, and replacing any dead pickups. Fender used a handful of different pickup variations over the years, some with higher failure rates than others. Due to their delicate nature, it’s often best practice for us to replace the pickups rather than attempt repairing them.


Active Rhodes pianos, which include Suitcase models and the like, inherit the same potential issues as their passive counterparts, but will also include a built-in preamp and potentially power amp and speaker cabinet. The issues here are case-by-case in nature, but can go as far as rebuilding the amplifiers, repairing any broken connections, and reconing or replacing the speakers.


While having a piano that plays and sounds its best is the definitive top priority in a Rhodes restoration, getting a piano to look as good as it sounds is a great secondary objective. These are some of the steps we can take to get your Rhodes ready for the red carpet.

Basic cleaning

It’s amazing what a bit of Windex and elbow grease can do for the aesthetic value of your instrument. We’ll generally wipe the key caps while working on the action, and clean the lid, tolex, and faceplate towards the end of the repair.

While the piano is disassembled, we’ll also vacuum out any dust, grime, and other paraphernalia hiding under its keys. This will help prevent any future issues and also remove the possibility of any health risks from breathing in whatever’s accumulated over the past several decades.

Rhodes aesthetic key cleaning
Key cleaning - before vs after


A Rhodes piano’s chrome hardware (which includes the corners, latches, leg flanges, bumper glides and the like) is all prone to oxidation. We’ve found that removing these items and allowing them to soak in a rust-removing solution yields positive results, though if the rust went deep enough it’ll leave behind some pitting. 

If a truly “factory fresh” sheen is what you’re after, replacement hardware is available.

Wrapping up

Restoring a Rhodes to its former glory is a precise and time-consuming process that not only requires a deep understanding of the internal mechanisms that make them tick, but also a strong sense of how a well regulated Rhodes ought to feel and sound. Our techs have had plenty of experience playing, recording, and repairing Rhodes pianos over the years, so we know what to look for in a quality piece. We have both the know-how and the patience to iron out every tiny detail, step by step, key after key.

Additionally, the location we’ve been in since 2021 has plenty of space, allowing us to carve out a nook specifically for electric piano repairs! These instruments, especially once disassembled, demand a lot of horizontal room, so it’s great to keep a dedicated home for them that provides a safe, specialized environment.

If you have an old Rhodes that’s long overdue for some TLC, get in touch! Its glory days aren’t over.

Interested in bringing your Rhodes back to life?

Drop us a message, we'd be happy to help!