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Steve's Corner - Damper Adjustments

Rhodes dampers are like leaf springs, and it does not matter which version you have (they all functioned the same). There were three basic types: spring-loaded (like an acoustic piano, prior to 1970), individual aluminum (early- to mid-70's) and modular aluminum (late-70's/80's). This article deals with the aluminum dampers.

The flat aluminum damper has three areas, regardless of whether it is modular or individual: the spring or tension area, the adjustment area and the pad area. The spring or tension area is the section between the screw hole (end of the damper) where the damper mounts to the action rail and the bridle strap (green strap) tongue. The adjustment area is between the tongue and the pad area, and the pad area holds the felt pad. CAUTION: DO NOT DO ANYTHING THAT PUTS STRESS ON THE BRIDLE STRAP TONGUE.

Proper spring tension exists when the tension area is straight prior to mounting. Remove the mounting screw at the back end (if modular, then three screws). With an exacto knife, cut or slice any glue at the screw mount area (not the bridle strap glue) so that you can detach the damper from the action rail. The damper should just lay loose, and the tension area should be straight. If it is not, slightly bend the damper between the tongue and the back end until the tension area is straight. Re-mount the damper and make sure it is evenly aligned between the dampers on each side. The tension area should have a gentle arc to it (this is the damper tension). With your finger, push the damper pad down one inch and let go: the damper should snap back to position and not flop around. All of the dampers should respond the same way.

With the harp in the down position and the tines properly aligned to the pickups, press the key down for the damper you adjusted. The damper should start to move away from the tine just slightly after you start to press the key. At the bottom of the keystroke, the damper should clear the tine by 1/2 inch. On older Rhodes models, the high-end dampers are V-shaped (1/8 inch of "V", then 1/4 inch of solid pad). It is advised to cut away the 1/8 inch of the "V": it causes false sounds and does not improve dampening.

Before any damper bending is performed, double-check to make sure it is really needed. If the damper does not properly pull away from the tine, or if it pulls too far and lets the note over-ring, then adjust the damper by gently bending the damper in the adjustment area (do not stress the tongue). Bend up to eliminate ringing, and bend down if proper clearance (1/2 inch) is needed.

More Info

  • Chapter 2: The RHODES Modular Action
  • Chapter 4: Dimensional Standards and Adjustments
  • Chapter 8: Early Design RHODES Pianos - Action (Prior to 1975)
  • Chapter 10: Early Design RHODES Pianos - Dimensional Standards and Adjustments