Before I hand off one of my Leviaphones I bought it into the studio to get Rich to play around on it, here's the video!
This instrument is a quick prototype that could lead to some much bigger ideas.
In a lot of my droning machines I need to place the motors as far from the pickups as possible to avoid interference/noise being generated from the moving parts. With this instrument I've used that noise/interference to my advantage to generate a dirty-synth sounding tiny machine.
Using a small variable resistor to control the speed of the motor you can get different pitches of noise/interference when that motor is next to a pickup. Add a simple switch and you can get results like this:
Very very basic stuff, it could be replicated using two motors sat next to each other too instead of the transformer I used as a pickup in the prototype.
For my 101st post I'm giving you another incredibly simple instrument that you could build yourself in a matter of minutes.
With just a stick/bolt/pole going through a can/pringle tube/anything you can use a small cupboard hinge as a bridge/whammy bar hybrid.
You could have it one stringed or just simply loop the same string around and have a 2-stringed version.
Play with the hinge to alter the pitch, pluck it or bow it, easy peasy!
This is my 100th post on this here website and so I give you my first public outing with some of my instruments!
Recorded at the cha cha cha cafe in watford as part of a creative networking evening run by the very amazing Kick Up The Arts.
A special thank you to Stephen and Debbie for having me do a talk when they had no idea what I'd be talking about!
This instrument came about from a conversation with experimental sound artist Phil Julian. He was after something percussive that would sound very large but also transportable! From my recent experiments with The Leviaphone I came up with the idea of having a few big chunky springs stretched close to a pickup (in this case was some long forgotten innards of a pump). The results of this simple configuration I think work very well...
I demonstrated this instrument recently at my talk in Watford and got a great response from it, I'd be happy to recreate/redesign similar pieces for those who'd be interested!
I sometimes forget I have a website, I'm mostly active on the twitters. So I really should mention that I'm doing a talk/demo next Tuesday in Watford. I'll be bringing a bunch of instruments that you'll be able to play around with too.
Full details are below. I'm joined by some very talented people also showing off their works and there will be music and it's all free.
This instrument came about from a Eureka moment on my long and dull commute into work. It's to replace the failed Dronemachine I built for Christopher Campbell.
It uses Piano wire, the springs from an anglepoise lamp, the circular insides of an electric fan motor and a bunch of hardware to act as a DIY tuning machine. It has a hefty iron rod to act as a form of truss-rod to withstand the massive tensions that piano wire can create.
The results are surprising, massive, and quite fun!
As part of my commission for Christopher Campbell I created a fretted Dronemachine. It used circular washers, the shades from desk lamps, my usual circular pickup from an electric fan, bits of shower rails and various bits and bobs.
The idea was nice and simple, the method of play was much like my other machines except that the washers acted like frets that you could shorten each wire with ease. In practise though, it proved very very difficult to build, and once the wooden base had warped slightly, it put all the frets out of place and messed up all my careful measurements!
I'm not one to hide the failures, if anything they're very good things to learn from... So here is the failure in all it's glory!
BUT, fear not, for I have come up with an even better sounding machine with which to replace this one with. Which is all very exciting.
My latest commission is one of two Dronemachines for composer Christopher Campbell.
It's made from 100% reclaimed materials. The Circular cog acts as an adjustable bridge that you can change the pitch of the strings by rotating it slightly. An unexpected result of the design was that when the bridge is turned, one half of the strings go up in pitch while the other half goes down! it sounds like this:
The second machine will be ready shortly which has a slightly different playing mechanism! Be sure to check out Chris' label Innova Recordings
I have 2 commissions coming to a close in the next few weeks, but in the meantime I'd like to share with you this tool I created.
Now the maths and physics behind surface resonance and bridge placement in instruments is complicated. Especially if your instruments are a but special, like mine. That's why I came up with this simple tool for finding the sweet spot!
It's simply a piano tuning pin (which I can sell you!) and a little bolt for an anchor. It works thusly:
I often have far more bits of things in stock than I could ever possibly use, which is why I've decided to sell them on to you good readers.
I don't have the time to set up a proper shop at the moment, so I will simply be updating THIS PAGE with what I have and how much I'd be willing to part with them for. I intend to add quite a variety of unusual/hard to track down bits and pieces that would be helpful for odd instrument makers like myself!
Also on the page I've added a few rough commission prices for the most commonly asked about instruments, so have a gander at those too.
This is an instrument made from an old heating valve Actuator casing, a strip of wood and a bunch of Piano Tuning pins. There's not much more to say about it!
I've been a bit slack with the Blog lately, I've got tons of JUSTABOUT finished projects coming up though. If you're interested in what I do, the best way to stay up to date is with Thee Twitters
I've finally made a how-to on the Tennis Racketar that I made all those years ago, I've put it all up on Instructables for your viewing/learning pleasures.
I did another video too, although the playing skills are really no different!
This is a quick how-to on how to build yourself the easiest/quickest tunable stringed instrument in the world out of bits you probably have lying around your house.
The wire I used was from the inside of a washing line, however you can use a plethora of other types of wire/fishing line/old guitar strings etc.
The button is used to prevent the plastic lid from splitting, you can use buttons, or a nail, toothpicks, a pencil. Anything that will spread the tension of the wire so that the soft plastic doesn't rip/tear.
If you or your kids or your class end up making one of these, I'd love to see the results!
The brilliant, hugely influential and wonderful team at MAKE have included my post on DIY Tuning pegs onto their Blog, which is probably how most of you came across my website in the first place!
Many thanks to Michael Colombo for making it happen.
I was commissioned to create a hollow-bodied version of the moustache shaped guitar that I auctioned off for November last year. This was a tricky build but worked out well, all the wood was reclaimed. I also included a small resonating tin inside the hollow body which is connected to the sound board via two shortened nails, this was to give it a more tin-like sound rather than just the softer wooden tone...
I've recently been really enjoying Tuvan music and the philosophies and views they have on music. All of their instruments are made from things they find in nature, wood, bone, hides etc. Their music too is a form of mimicry of their surroundings, often the rhythms are akin to horse hooves, the throat singing resembles the wind in the rushes and the 'deepness' of the mountains. It's really amazing stuff!
Their instruments are often adorned with carved horse heads, the horse being a very significant animal in their culture. Inspired by the Tuvans, I thought I'd try my hand at carving a skull to adorn a neck. The rest of the build was partly inspired by the Tuvan instrument the Igil. A 2-stringed fretless bowed instrument.
The neck of my Igili-ish creation was taken from the leg of a piano stool. The back and sides and soundboard are from an old cupboard. Tuning pegs are salvaged from an old piano and the bridge I found on the floor!
It's going to take me some time to practise before I can get any good sounds from it, I've not played bowed instruments that often in the past. So for now you'll just have to enjoy the images!
I've just finished a commission which has taken me a good few.months to complete. So it felt right to work on something that would materialise much much quicker.
I looked around my bits of scrap that I keep for the 'just incase' times. I found this grill from a small electric fan that sounded fun when you hit it. 20 minutes later the Fanhorn Harp was complete!
It's impossible to tune as the tension warps the rim of the fan grill.