Listen to the Lyre of Ur, a 4,500 year-old musical instrument


"You think you know what a Lyre looks like."

I love the fact that the website dedicated to the world's oldest musical instrument is itself made of the world's oldest HTML. [via Metafilter]

The instrument shown here is one of the three original lyres of Ur found in 1929, which are held today in the Museums of Pennsylvania, London and Baghdad as unplayable models.

It is approximately 4,550 years old and is thought to predate the construction of the Great Pyramid, and even Stonehenge in England.

They made a new one and a CD is now available.

All I'm saying is, it sounds better than bagpipes.   Read the rest

A beautiful and affordable didgeridoo


This didgeridoo is made from PVC pipe that’s been heated, warped and stained to look like wood. It has a beeswax mouthpiece that gets soft when you press it against your mouth, forming a seal. It took me a while to get the hang of playing it. Like all didgeridoos, it’s just a hollow tube. There are no reeds or holes. To play it, you make a raspberry sound with your lips. The trick is in finding the resonant frequency of the instrument and using as little air as possible to make it buzz. Once you are able to do that consistently, you can alter the sound with your cheeks, tongue, and voicebox. Another challenge is being able to play without pause. To do this, you must learn “circular breathing.”

Here’s a video on how to play a didgeridoo, and this video shows you how to make different sounds with a didgeridoo. In traditional Aboriginal culture, only men play the didgeridoo, but women all over the world now play them. Watch a woman playing a didgeridoo and bells at the same time in Carcassonne, France.

Didgeridoo with Beeswax Mouthpiece by World Percussion USA $36 Buy one on Amazon

See more photos of this at Wink. Read the rest

This is the world's largest musical instrument


The Wanamaker Organ, inside a Philadelphia, PA Macy's, is the world's largest working musical instrument.

The Wanamaker Grand Court Organ at Macy’s is a 7-story-high contraption bigger than most people’s houses, even rich people’s. The vast maze of 26,677 pipes and baffles and bellows and wires and wooden stairways lies hidden behind what many of us have always thought was the Wanamaker Organ.

(YouTube/Philadelphia Daily News, via Digg)

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"Armed man" was actually armed with musical instruments

In Tongham, England, police responded to a call about a man walking around with a shotgun. Turned out, he was carrying two didgeridoos.

"Due to the nature of the call, armed officers were sent to the scene," a police spokesperson told getSurrey. "The police helicopter was also deployed. A search was carried out and a man was located in the area. Officers established that he was in fact carrying two didgeridoos and the incident was closed." Read the rest

Pedal Genie stomp box

Pedal Genie is a Netflix-like service for guitar pedals. It's great. But my first experience was offputting. A strange generic metal box arrived in the mail with a lot of unidentified knobs. It made sort-of-distorted sounds when plugged into a guitar and amp. I wasn't sure how to use it! So I immediately issued a complaint to Pedal Genie. An email came back in response saying it was actually a “one-off,” “hand-wired” “work of art,” implying that I didn’t appreciate such a fine custom pedal. They were right. I plugged it back in and indeed learned to like the Caroline Guitar Company Cannonball that they had sent.

File alongside other consumer complaints: “My caviar tastes salty” and “My Harley is too conspicuous, loud.” Read the rest

Cool $59 pocket synthesizers from Teenage Engineering

Teenage Engineering, makers of the amazing $850 OP-1 synthesizer, have designed three nifty $59 pocket synths: the PO-12 "rhythm" drum machine, the PO-14 "sub" bass synth, and the PO-16 "factory" melody synth. The Verge has a first look.

Despite their spartan design, the synths have a host of smart features that make these devices far more powerful than they might appear. Each device has two 3.5mm ports, which lets you output audio to a mixer as well as chain all three devices together, with a master unit setting the tempo and patterns for the other "slave" units to follow. Another low-tech (but no less useful) design decision is the small wire stand on the back that lets you prop up the devices for easy use on a table. Even the power source is clever — the PO series runs on two AAA batteries, something I haven’t used outside of remotes in years.

[soundcloud url="" params="color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false" width="100%" height="450" iframe="true" /] Read the rest

How to build a 1-string cigar box diddley bow

If you like what you hear, build one. It will take practice to play as well as Justin Johnson does, but even a rank beginner can make good music with a diddley bow. (Watch Justin play a full song at the 16:00 minute mark). (Thanks, Kent!) Read the rest

Trippy Wurlitzer organ commercial (1972)

Psychedelic TV ad from 1972 for Wurlitzer's Orbit III organ: "It may just change your mind!" (via Weird Universe) Read the rest

Oral surgeon's quest to reimagine the garage-band guitar

Ben Marks, our pal at Collector's Weekly, says, "I just wrote a piece about Matt Eichen, the yarmulke-wearing, oral-surgeon founder and designer of Musicvox, whose Spaceranger guitars were used in the last Austin Powers movie. After taking an almost decade-long hiatus due to his daughter's bout with cancer (she's fine now), he's back at it, with new designs and models, all inspired by the cheap, consumer guitars of the 50s and 60s, from Danelectro and Harmony to Supro and Silvertone."

Like a lot of budding collectors of the inexpensive, entry-level guitars of the 1950s and ’60s, Eichen found himself in a lot of pawn shops. “During my residency and afterward, whenever I had some spare change I would go to a pawn shop wherever I could find one. If I was traveling to a conference in any state, when I get off the plane, the first thing I’d do is go to a pawn shop in the worst part of town and see what kind of guitars were available. Harmonys were always on my list, but then I spread out to Supros, Danelectros, Airlines, and Silvertones. Anything made by Valco or Kay. They had magical tones.”

Oral Surgeon's quest to reimagine the garage-band guitar Read the rest