Musical instruments cunningly disguised as household potteryware

At a pottery fair in Pittsburgh, I ran into Kimberlyn Bloise, who makes handsome musical instruments that are also mugs, vases and pendants. They sound and look wonderful, and have the strange quality of something both charming and haunting, like remnants of a vanished culture. You can order them from her online shop.

I put a lot of testing into my instruments, but none of them plays a full scale, and none are traditionally tuned. The clay changes so much from when I begin to working with it to when I have the finished product. It shrinks and expands, and the pitches change along with it. What I have been able to do is figure out where to place the holes in relation to the size of the resonating chamber (the hollow handle) so that the notes all sound good together on each individual piece. The flute mugs all play parts of a blues scale! Could I figure out traditional tuning on all of them? Probably. But it would take so much planning and effort, and my prices would have to reflect that. I'm sure you've noticed that "real" instruments are quite expensive, and I don't want to make mine that pricey! Plus, I don't intend for anyone to play the flute handle in any professional capacity, so I don't sweat it too much.

Here's a flute hidden in a mug handle:

The large horn vase:

Here is the "complaining husky" horn vase:

And the bouncy udu:

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Two new 3-string guitars from Loog

Our friends at Loog, makers of beautiful 3-string guitars, are Kickstarting two new models: the Loog Pro & Loog Mini. The Pro is electric and the Mini is just $79.

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Upright guitar stand for under $9

I have a Fender Telecaster but no case or stand. It usually sits on a couch. I finally broke down and bought the ChromaCast CC-MINIGS Universal Folding Guitar Stand with Secure Lock for $8.96 on Amazon. It's got a 4.5-star rating on Amazon with over 1,200 reviews. Read the rest

Amazing balloon-powered pipe organ made of paper and cardboard

Papercraft master Aliaksei Zholner made this exquisite pipe organ entirely from paper products. Here are his build notes, written in Russian.

(via Laughing Squid)

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“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” played on a 1929 Theremin

Dan Colman of Open Culture says, "Watch Peter Pringle perform on the theremin “Over the Rainbow,” the song originally written for 1939’s The Wizard of Oz. Read the rest

The $10,000 Moog Model 15 Modular Synthesizer is now a $30 iPad app

The Moog Model 15 App runs on iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. It's $30 and judging by the track below, it's worth it!

The Moog Model 15 App is an iOS version of the iconic 1970’s instrument. It is designed to evoke the joyous experimentation and sonic bliss of it’s predecessor’s vintage hardware, the Moog Model 15 App meticulously recreates the look, feel, and sound of its highly expressive analog namesake.

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Roland TR-909 drum machine made with HTML5

You can buy a 1980s era Roland TR-909 drum machine on eBay for about $4,000. Or you can just go here. Read the rest

Snark clip on tuner for guitars and ukuleles

My 12-year-old daughter recently picked up my long-neglected ukulele and has gotten pretty good at it in a short amount of time. I lost my ukulele pitch pipe, so she's been using an online tone generator to tune it, which is not convenient. So I got her a Snark SN-5 Tuner for $8 on Amazon. There's no microphone - it clips to the headstock to pick up vibrations. This is a good thing because you can tune the instrument in a noisy environment. When you pluck a string, it registers the note without a noticeable delay. I'm sorry I didn't get this thing sooner! Read the rest

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

Why violin makers adopted the f-shaped hole

Why did violins slowly develop f-shaped sound-holes? Because it makes them more acoustically powerful than their ancestors, which had holes shaped liked a circle -- as a team of MIT scientists recently concluded.

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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.

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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

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