Hi All,

I have been chipping away at restoring and customizing a ’69 Student Rhodes Piano for the past two years and I am finally done! I have been meaning to share the project here for some time now, but my life is way too busy for my own good.

So Ill dive right into it. Ill let the pics do the talking and narrate as I go….

Piano exterior is in decent shape but the guts needed some love as you will see…

Felt hammers had be trimmed down, rendering the entire hammer assembly unusable…. the long hunt to find a replacement hammer assembly begins

Lil bit of rust and gunk, to be expected…

Lovely gold label…

Disassembly begins in earnest at this stage…. the particle board that the piano was mounted to had been drilled into so many different places that it had cracked in a number of places. I had to glue and clamp the board back into a solid piece.

After glue, the board is now solid and stable. Here is my lil helper putting some elbow grease into the project… lets get those pins clean!

New 73 (old) hybrid hammers… installing bridal straps, getting ready to glue tips on… I got lucky scoring a set of these at a reasonable price.

Installing a ’69 Peterson pre amp is part of the plan, which means I need to rethink the control plate… the og student piano amp will become a new bookend.

New design for the custom control plate…

New hammers, damper felts, new tips, new bridal straps…

Harp supports had been secured to the particle board at two places with screws drilled in at an angle. Over time different length and diameter screws had been used causing the particle board to break. I secured the supports from bottom….

Moving on to the harp. Luckily no bad pickups… so it is was a matter of disassembly, and a thorough cleaning. Squared off tines, removed rust, shined everything up. New felt grommets in the tone bar assemblies. Painted the harp support gold. Added gold audio connectors.


New felts for the keys. Keys got thoroughly polished and cleaned… these keys had a ton of burn marks and dents… love marks 😉 . Supposedly this piano was owned by one of the JB’s. I would have loved to hear those jams.

Putting things back together now…

New faceplate came out nice… mirrored stainless

And here is the faceplate after flatbed printing….

As far as the electronics go the plan was to power a Peterson with an external power supply that Peter Hayes was so kind to supply me with, in conjunction with a 100w class d mini amp. All these components plus a surge protector fit somewhat nicely into the cavity of the piano, where the old Student Piano amp used to sit. In order for this to work, I had to make a slew of custom cables.

Here are all the electronics before being stuffed into the cavity

Now, the Peterson pre amp does not fit perfect into the cavity… that would be too easy! So I had to sit it perpendicular to the face plate and run wire from the preamp to the pots that get mounted to the faceplate. I plan to shorten these wires soon, or perhaps use a shielded cable as I am getting some unwanted noise… bearable, but not ideal. Next project.

Now something I can’t really show is the strikeline adjustments, voicing, tuning… but all of that took a lot of patience and love. I needed to shave off quite a bit of wood from the harp supports to get the everything to line up properly. Had to replace a number of tines. The tines are a pretty mixed bag. All notes sound good. Some of the notes in the upper octave could be improved, and that will be tackled in the next phase.

Cut and drilled some plexi for a bottom panel with the external speaker jacks and a jack that ties directly into the harp input which allows me to use any amp of my choosing. Also wired up a power switch.

The Student Pianos lid cavity can resonate the keyboard sounds due to its size. So… I took some adhesive backed sound absorbing foam and lined my lid to dampen the internal noise. Works great

Ok, all together now…

And a lil impromptu vid :

Lil Rhodes ditty with my lil one at the vid helm. #rhodes #fenderrhodes

A video posted by Esteban Chavez (@chavezechavez) on

And that is that. Next up…. might paint it something sparkly… not really sure. For now I am really enjoying having it in the studio.