While many of today’s electric pianos are sampled or use some type of synthesis or modeling technology, the Rhodes is a true electromechanical musical instrument invented by Harold Rhodes and first marketed in 1965. Since then, it has appeared on countless recordings in a range of genres that include hard rock, soft rock, jazz, fusion, country, R&B, blues, and, well, you name it! The design started out as a compact piano wounded servicemen could play during their recovery. In 1959, Harold Rhodes introduced the PianoBass, which operated on the exact same principle as that of the electric piano.
An asymmetrical tuning fork (now universally known as a “tine”) was struck by a felt- or neoprene-tipped hammer, with a counterbalancing resonating tone bar above the tine. An electromagnetic pickup is used on each tine and then all the signals are sent out via an output jack and amplified. In the mid-60s, when the 73-note Rhodes model was launched, pioneering keyboardists such as Joe Zawinul and Chick Corea quickly made it part of their signature sound. Within a few years, it was a staple of touring keyboard players around the world. For over a decade, Fender Musical Instruments produced and distributed the Rhodes electric piano. In the mid 1970s, the brand name was changed from Fender Rhodes to just Rhodes. These pianos are again being built and marketed because of their distinctive sound.