Multitimbral Rhodes


#1

Hey everyone!

Years ago a friend saw a beat up old Rhodes in the window of a curtain shop as he was walking down the street. I went immediately and bought it. I had to do a fairly thorough restoration job: rebuilding the electronics (recapping, changing the transistors, a lot of work with the psu and power amps), re-felting, changing out the hammer rubbers, fixing the action, stuck keys, re-aligning, etc.

I’m finally at the point where I need to tune it up, but I had an idea.
If you look at the service manual here: http://www.fenderrhodes.com/org/manual/ch4.html#4-7
You can see that by adjusting how the tine aligns with the pickup you can adjust the relative levels of the fundamental and the harmonics.

I’d like to sample the Rhodes with round robins, velocity layers, and changing timbres. Obviously since this is a pretty big job I wanted to ask the community if y’all have any suggestions of anything I’m not thinking of.

I’ll describe my process:

  1. I’m going to use take the pickups straight into a tube preamp I built rather than using the instrument’s electronics. I think it sounds good, but this seems like a quieter and more bullet proof approach, and I can’t figure out how to practically include the use of the the vibrato.
  2. I plan to record each velocity layer 3 times and try to get a range from a finger nail barely pressing the key to really hammering it. This process would repeat for each position of the tine relative to the magnet. I was thinking of trying to get 4-5 positions: pure fundamental, pure harmonics, with two or three intermediate positions.

Should I record key by key? Recording the round robins and velocity layers for each magnet position and then move on to the next key?

Is there anything I’m not thinking of?

Thanks for any advice, and I look forward to being able to share this instrument with the community!

J Starx


#2

Key by key would certainly be a luxury, but if you’re planning on doing a ton of different timbres it would be much easier to do something like whole steps or thirds


#3

If we may start at the end, it depends on your purpose.

For those of us like me who have nothing to sample, which I consider of interest to anyone else, if I may be really honest, many of the sample sets on piano book have been underwhelming. Nice experiments, but nothing that compares with commercial libraries, and I am unlikely to use them.

It takes a while to invest time and effort and interest to download, unzip and test each of these sample libraries. I tried out one recently which was over 1GB in size, and was really expecting something interesting, but was quite let down by what I heard.

At the heart of any published work is the unwritten relationship between you and the end user, either commercial or otherwise.

I think you should consider the quality of the end result as probably the most important.

Regard sample sets as an investment in your time, at the very least you’d like to invest in something that will be good enough to stand comparison with what is available out there - free or commercial.

I therefore suggest doing this in two stages.

Stage 1 is experimentation, so you can refine your workflow - i.e how you go from sampling to an instrument and all the intermediate steps in between. What’s important is to share with those who will use this, is the intention, so those who use it understand that this is clearly a work in progress.

Stage 2. is the final product, where you can be far more focussed on quality - higher sample rates, and bit depth, and velocity levels…You decide if you want to sell or keep this free.

I think the most important element is time. Your time and the time of your “customers”…

The most valuable use of time, is an instrument that will be used, a lot, and give the user a lot of pleasure, as a musically or sonically relevant virtual replacement for the real thing.


#4

Thanks for your replies!

Obviously I want to do the best possible job, so I’m not in a hurry and have been playing with how to best approach the process.

I sat down to figure out how many velocity layers I could get. I’m not a keys player really, so it’s going to take me a while to learn to be consistent. Also, I forgot I detuned every tine when cleaning them, so I need to go through and tune it first.


#5

I had something to add, cos for a few weeks, I have been using a really well sampled electric piano - Electric V by Production Voices.

I also had the opportunity to use a variety of other great sounding electric pianos, from products like SampleTank 2, Velvet by AIR, and the Electric 88 from Waves…

I have a theory, based on what I hear in all audio which I noticed ever so much more having played a few electric pianos over a few weeks. Note this theory applies also to other sounds such as acoustic pianos.

The human ear does not like a scientific perfect sound. e.g a sine wave without variation. Something about perfection says to the ear - there is no human feeling behind this.

With reference to electric pianos in particular, I was shocked to find that most of the enjoyment in an electric piano comes not from the fundamental sound of the piano itself but from the modulators - phasing, distortion, chorus, amp saturation of speaker, microphone if recorded via a speaker, etc, etc, and of course ambience…

When we listen to electric pianos on commercial recordings, so much of what we hear are the excellent modulations, after the fact that have been adopted over many years, to give the electric piano sound the much needed interest…

Without this embellishment, the piano player has to do a lot more work with their playing style to create this interest. In my experience.

So do not be too disappointed with the initial results of your sampling, if you do not sample using modulation effects during the capture stage (there are two schools of thought - do you sample an electric piano with effects or not ? - if sampled with effects e.g vibrato - this effect is baked into the sound, and cannot be changed after the fact but that is not a bad thing, only a design choice, for those who want flexibility post sampling, of course it is better to sample without effects)

So you have a choice of approaches.

  1. Sample plain without effects - no vibrator, chorus, nothing - and leave it up to the end user to add their own effects. But this needs knowledge on the part of the end user. And they need to be well informed of the strategy behind this intention, The pure samples are not the most inspiring, especially when compared with products which have had effects added or included in the samples., but can be a bonus cos the end user has a lot of flexibility.

  2. Sample plain without effects, but provide some in-built effects using the features of your sample engine. I am not an instrument creator, so while I can easily state what I’d like to see - I cannot help you with achieving this in any sample engine product e.g Sforzando or Kontakt…

Vibrator, Compression, Reverb, Distortion, Wah Wah, Flanging, Tremolo, Phaser, Rotary Leslie, Chorus are examples of the kind of effects. It is such a huge topic, with so many possibilities - too many options, when you also consider in what order the audio should flow through these effects.

  1. Sample with effects - This approach does bake in the effects in the sample and may sound more authentic than digital effects in a sample engine. It is an option and there are electric piano sampled products which adopt this approach, but the end result is not as flexible for the end user. On a positive note sometimes the complexity of the most endowed piano sampled library products can be a distraction. Imagine sitting at the cockpit of a large passenger aircraft and being asked to fly it, At one extreme, some sample libraries are cogs in the wheel of progress - leaving too many doors open to experimentation, doodling and wasted creativity.

Ultimately every user of music instruments has to decide, where their focus lies

  1. To create a unique sound as a key contributor to their end result

  2. Or to focus more on the composition, and arrangement, rather than having a one-in-town instrument. Case in point - the instruments of the orchestra have not changed much if at all, in the last 100 years, yet there is so much good and satisfying music made every day from the same instruments…

So in designing an instrument, you must decide who is this for, an arranger/composer who just needs a decent patch as a starting point with no too many options, or a tweakhead who values lots of control. Or somewhere in between.

Please enjoy your design process and I look forward to trying out your results.

Kindly post here on this thread so I am notified when you have something I can listen to or tryout myself.