In this article, our aim is that you come away with a better understanding of how to EQ Rhodes piano when you come across them in your mixes.
Through the process of equalization Rhodes, you need to be attentive to all frequency ranges and use boosting and cutting according to the general idea of your track. Aside from EQing, you can apply compressor and reverb, but if possible, try to emphasize the brilliant analog Rhodes sound.
How To EQ Rhodes
When you’re EQing Rhodes, you should equally pay attention to all ranges. Within each of them, you should look for any conflicts between the instruments and balance your decisions of boosting and cutting accordingly.
When we talk about Rhodes piano, the first frequency range that we need to pay attention to is 20-80 Hz which is where boom and power live, so you can boost it if you want to make bass sounds richer. But you should remember that the same range is occupied by a kick, synths, and bass guitar, so by boosting the electric piano, you might not have a place for them.
So, you will be facing a decision about what is more crucial to your mix and what should be eliminated with a high-pass filter. And it’s pretty obvious that a lot of bass might sound rather muffled and unclear.
What is happening in the range of 80-250 Hz should be taken care of as a priority. You might consider boosting with the help of a high shelf filter within 100-250 Hz to achieve fullness and make Rhodes sound more round.
But within the same diapason, you can find a lot of boominess and muddiness, therefore, while boosting, listen carefully so as to eliminate any mud that may appear. Also, in the same range, Rhodes may be conflicting with the bottom of the guitars and snares, alongside the meat of bass guitars and kick. So, you might face a choice of making accents in this area.
Regarding midrange, you should prioritize the instruments that you want to emphasize, as a lot of other instruments, excluding Rhodes, have fundamental frequencies in this range. Rhodes can have a lot of bark and damper noises, which can create some issues, so it’s better to eliminate any that you find from the range of 800 Hz to 1 kHz.
If you need an electric piano to cut through the mix better, you should gently boost it around 1-2 kHz. Beware that over-boosting Rhodes within 1-2 kHz might take away the opportunity of boosting any high-pitched instruments in your track so that they might sound rather dull.
Anything that happens in the range of 2-4 kHz, especially if there’s too much going on, might result in listening exhaustion. So be very precise in your actions and choose wisely where you actually need to boost and where it would be better to cut. Though, if Rhodes lacks definition and it’s essential for your mix, it’s better to boost with wide Q around 2-4 kHz. But if you seek a darker tone, you should cut within the same range.
The first thing that you might want to do here would be to add more presence, you can achieve that by boosting around 5-6 kHz. Next, you can look for any unwanted and musically displeasing frequencies around 6-8 kHz that should be eliminated by cutting with a narrow Q.
To make your mix sound modern with that characteristic hi-fi sound, you should boost starting from 12 kHz. But if you need to achieve a warm and vintage tone, you should use a high-shelf filter and cut everything over 15 kHz.
What else you can do
The first thing that you need to acknowledge is whether you need to find a real Rhodes or a VST would suffice. The process of finding a real Rhodes most likely would take you quite some time, but if you are in luck, it’s better to have one as vintage never comes out of fashion. If you’re working from a tiny bedroom studio or moving from place to place, then choosing and acquiring a high-quality VST might be a better choice for you.
The process of recording Rhodes piano is a tricky one because you need to have an acoustic preamp in addition to a guitar amp and record the piano in such a way that the mic wouldn’t get any clicking of the keys or cling of the pedal. But all these inconveniences are easily solved. Compressor settings depend on quite a few factors and are dictated by the genre of the track and the role of the piano. And whether or not to apply reverb is a matter of your preferences, though the natural analog sound of Rhodes is valuable to many composers and audio engineers.
What is Rhodes piano?
In the 1970’s, Harold Rhodes invented the electric piano that was named Rhodes piano. This piano implements the same idea as a conventional piano does, it uses keys and hammers to make the sound. But what differs from those pianos is that hammers in Rhodes piano strike metal tines, which then vibrate near an electromagnetic pickup so that the signal travels through a cable when it reaches an external keyboard amplifier and speaker.
Another thing that differs Rhodes from the conventional piano is that some models may have 73 keys instead of 88. The keyboard is well-responsive to touch and designed to give you the feel of an acoustic piano. Additionally, you don’t need an amplifier to be on to produce a sound on Rhodes, but when the electric piano is plugged into the amp, it produces a way louder sound.
If you operate from a home-based studio or are constantly on the road, it’s pretty understandable that you can’t afford to move along with an electric piano. Luckily, there is a sensible amount of Rhodes VSTs on the market that will help you in achieving the same mellow sound. All of the VSTs differ from one another by the methods that were used to emulate Fender Rhodes. Although there are ways to make an electric piano sound more natural, the authenticity of the sound is what is valuable to many music producers and audio engineers. Having more than one piano emulated and endless possibilities of tweaking settings or sticking to the one recreation with a few options to control is the choice that is neither right nor wrong.
Generally speaking, to record the Rhodes piano, you have to do the same set of actions that you would do if you want to record an electric guitar, but with a few exceptions. The first one is that an electric piano requires a turned-up guitar amp to balance the low input that produces a lot more noise. To solve this problem, you need to acquire an acoustic guitar preamp.
The second one is that when you’re playing Rhodes, it produces a lot of sounds of keys clicking and pedal clanging that is easily picked by any mic that is near. That’s why in order to record Rhodes without a lot of noise, you have to keep the mic as far as possible, ideally near the exit of the room, if we talk about a bedroom-based studio.
Before applying a compressor, you should know what the role of a piano in your track is and what the genre is because different genres need different compression settings. So, if the genre of your track is pop, then the piano parts can vary from slow to rhythmic with a pinch of aggression. In this case, you might need 4-6 dB of gain reduction and a ratio of 5:1. If you’re composing something ballad-like, then you need a more subtle and full piano sound. To achieve that, you need about 2-3 dB of gain reduction and a ratio of 3:1.
The compressor settings are also based on whether the piano is a background instrument or accompaniment to the percussion part, for example. Setting a fast attack will put the piano further in the mix, while a slower attack makes the piano more punchy. Speaking of release times, it’s a good idea to keep it the same as the tempo of the track. And use a makeup gain to ensure that the piano stays at the same volume as it was before a compressor was applied.
As Rhodes piano by itself produces a dreamy sound, you don’t need to apply that much reverb on the track. It’s best not to add any space reverbs such as hall or cathedral because it’s quite possible that you won’t like what you get in the result. If your musical idea requires you to add reverb, it’s better to use a plate or spring because they emphasize natural sound the most. Whatever reverb you decide upon using, do it moderately. Keep in mind that Rhodes is valuable because of its natural analog sound, and it’s better to emphasize it in any way possible if you have a chance.