Harold Rhodes originally created his “Army Air Corps” electric piano to provide music and physical therapy to recovering WWII soldiers. Unable to source enough acoustic pianos, he created his own portable instrument that became the Rhodes electric piano that we all know and love. Ray Manzarek of The Doors was a popular user, his Piano Bass was always propped up on top of his Gibson G-101 or Vox Continental combo organ.
The Piano Bass was basically the lower 32 keys of the Rhodes electric piano. A physical hammer would strike a thin metal tine causing it to vibrate, the tone bar above it helped give it more fullness and resonance. A transducer would pick up the vibration in the same way a guitar pickup would hear string vibrations.
The tone bars on earlier units were thick, square bars that created a ‘thud’-type dynamic. Later ones used the more standard Fender Rhodes type tines that were flat and bent into a curved unit.
The Rhodes Piano Bass has become quite the collectible that sells well into the thousands. We have quite a few units here at EMEAPP, including a rare Extended Range 54 key piano bass in silver sparkle.
Written by Drew Raison, photography by EMEAPP