About 15 years ago I got a plastic ukulele (The Fluke). It cost under $200 and sounded as good or better than any uke I'd ever heard. I also have a $5 plastic Hohner harmonica that I think sounds as good as a metal and wood one. So I'm not surprised to find out that there are other kinds of high quality musical instruments made of plastic, like these pTrumpets. They are made from ABS plastic (the same kind of plastic that Lego bricks are made from) and they are great for students because they are cheaper and more durable than brass instruments.
You can even get them plated in metal, if you insist:
[via Core 77] Read the rest
The Jankó keyboard, named for inventor Paul von Jankó, compresses the standard 88-key piano layout into a thinner, four-row field of 264 keys. If this sounds like a solution to a different problem than the one addressed, you wouldn't be alone, but...
The Jankó Keyboard caused a stir at the time of its invention, in large part due to its unique look and the intelligent design behind the keyboard. American piano manufacturer Decker Brothers put the keyboard into production around 1891, and the Paul de Janko Conservatory of Music was established in New York around the same time. There was even a manual written by W. Bradley Keeler called How to Play the New Keyboard.
Despite all this, the Jankó keyboard never achieved wide popularity. Music educators were not convinced that the benefits of the new keyboard were enough to challenge the traditional keyboard. Few performers were prepared to relearn their repertoire on a new keyboard with entirely different fingering. Both reasons left keyboard instrument manufacturers afraid to invest in a redesigned keyboard which promised to have only marginal commercial success.
In the video embedded above, Paul Vandervoort demonstrates the Jankó. Read the rest
The Theremin, an electronic musical instrument that you play by not touching it, celebrates the 100th anniversary of its invention next year. Smithsonian looks at the history of the first successful electronic musical instrument that New York Times critic Harold C. Schonberg described as sounding like "(a) cello lost in a dense fog, crying because it does not know how to get home." From Smithsonian:
Theremin was a radio engineer with the Soviet military in 1918 when, while building a powerful transmitter-receiver, he noticed odd feedback sounds coming from it. He said in a 1995 interview, “it turned out that when the capacity changes at a distance of the moving hand, the pitch of the sound also changes.”
He had happened on heterodyning, a process that combines two frequencies to shift one frequency range into another, new frequency. It makes for a change in pitch and volume.
Other radio engineers in Europe at the close of World War I had noticed the same effect but Theremin was the first to play with that feedback or heterodyning effect in a musical way. The new sound pleased the inventor. Fully committed to Soviet nationalism, (Metropolitan Museum of Art musical instrument curator Jayson) Dobney says, Theremin “tried to find a musical sound that was modern, forward looking.”
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Founded in 1623 in Turkey and now based in Norwell, Massachusetts, Zildjian has manufactured cymbals continuously for almost 400 years. This is how they do it now.
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Reviewing the CraftSynth 2.0 for Engadget, Terrence O'Brien calls the small synthesizer "fun and a little bit flimsy."
It's strange to hold Modal Electronics' CraftSynth 2.0 in your hands knowing what's underneath the hood. It's unassuming, and frankly, it feels kinda flimsy. Once you plug it into a decent set of headphones or speakers, though, it comes alive. The fact that these sounds come out of something that weighs just 12.5 ounces when loaded with three double-A batteries is amazing.
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Master maker Tim Jacobs created a fantastic business card that's actually a Stylophone synthesizer complete with MIDI capabilities. It's based on the original 1967 Dübreq Stylophone, a small synthesizer played by touching a built-in stylus to the metal keyboard. The Stylophone was famously used on David Bowie's "Space Oddity" and Kraftwerk's "Pocket Calculator."
From Jacobs' project page about his StyloCard that ended up costing a bit more than $3 each:
Printed Circuit Boards as a business card are a great gimmick. I'd seen ones with USB ports etched into them, which enumerate as a keyboard and then type a person's name or load up their website. It's just about possible to build them cheap enough to hand out as a business card, at least if you're picky about who you give them to.
A couple of years ago I took a stab at making one for myself, but I didn't want it to be pointless. I wanted it to do something useful! Or at least entertain someone for longer than a few seconds. I can't remember quite how I got the idea of making a MIDI-stylophone, but the idea was perfect. A working midi controller, that's unique enough in its playing characteristic to potentially give some value, while at the same time costing no more than the card would have done otherwise, since the keyboard is just a plated area on the PCB, as is true on the original stylophone.
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Reddit user marc_urzz posted this photo of the fantastic sink in his step-uncle's bathroom. A little web searching then led me to the tenor horn urinals below. It would also be fun to use a trumpet as a shower head! What instrument would make a good toilet?
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Welcome back to The Bureau. This week will be a holiday segment. Read the rest
Your supervisor would like to speak with you today at 10:53am. Good thing you have a great tasting sandwich to deal with that unreasonable feedback.
I've been researching looper pedals for my 12-year-old guitarist son and happened upon this video of Mick Bishop using his Boss RC-300 Loop Station to create a very fun cover of "Close To Me," perhaps my favorite song by The Cure.
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Moog is finally releasing a new polyphonic analog synthesizer, its first polyphonic model since production stopped on the Memorymoog in 1985, and a direct descendant of the iconic-yet-monophonic Minimoog Voyager released in 2002. Above is the only image released so far of the new Moog One. It's priced at $6000 for the 8 voice model and $8,000 for the 16-voice model. From Sweetwater
Powered by a sound engine with the most advanced architecture ever conceived for a Moog synth, Moog One is available in 8- and 16-voice versions that can simultaneously articulate eight or 16 voices, depending on the configuration of your instrument. The Moog One tri-timbral architecture lets you easily assign, split, layer, and stack voices with up to 48 oscillators in Unison mode...
Clad in a handcrafted ash cabinet, the Moog One aluminum front panel is fitted with 73 knobs and 144 buttons, welcoming hands-on interaction with all the sound-sculpting and performance controls. Extended on-screen functionality is accessed via More buttons (one for each module) that serve up additional parameters in the center-panel LCD to deliver the most intuitive and efficient synthesis experience possible.
Via Moog Music, a couple fine uses of the prior Moog Polymoog Synthesizer released in 1975:
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Maybe you don't want to shell out a heap of cash for real bagpipes.
Or maybe you just want to make a trash-bag instrument.
Whatever the reason, I'm not here to judge you or what DIY projects you jury-rig in your spare time. Source your bag and recorder and head on over to this 2009 Instructables tutorial to learn how to make your own bagpipe-like device today. (Spoiler alert: It won't sound like a real set of bagpipes.)
Thanks, Don! Read the rest
Teenage Engineering, maker of the very cool OP-1 keyboard synthesizer, introduced three new pocket synthesizers.
With "PO-33, sample any sound source using line in or the built in microphone. Melodic mode lets you play chromatic melodies and drum mode lets you play drums. sequence it all and add effects on top.
Unique to "PO-32 Tonic [drum synthesizer and sequencer] is its wide range of sonic capabilities. Users can even use the standard desktop version of sonic charge microtonic to shape sounds, generate patches and pattern data, and have that transferred wirelessly back to the PO-32 tonic.
"PO-35 speak, vocal synthesizer and sequencer with built-in microphone for 8 different voice character sampling.
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Blipblox is a deceptively simple-looking toy that lets young kids experiment with sound design and music.
Presales start this spring, according to the description:
The Blipblox is a fully functional synthesizer beatbox that has been simplified and optimized so everyone, including children as young as 3 years old, can enjoy synthesizer audio exploration. This video will give you a taste of the wide range of fun sounds you can create on the Blipblox. Ships with a Learning Toolbox to help older kids (and adults with no synth experience) dig a little deeper.
My personal policy is never to give children's gifts that make any kind of noise, but if there's someone in your life with a high tolerance for kid-produced sounds, maybe their little creative person would enjoy this.
Here's another test drive at NAMM 2018:
• Blipblox studio session (YouTube / Blipblox Explorer Channel) Read the rest
Shane Speal, the king of cigar box guitars, has a great tutorial on how to play Muddy Waters' music on a three-string guitar tuned to open-G.
Here's part 2:
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After seeing people make musical tones by rubbing their wet fingers around the rim of a wine glass, Benjamin Franklin invented the glass armonica in 1761. Today, there are very few glass armonica players. Chris Funk of the Decemberists went to visit one of them.
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Dean Shostak is one of last true masters capable of playing the glass armonica – an enchanting instrument lost to time. First devised in 1761 by Benjamin Franklin, the art of “playing glass” began to fade in popularity as musical fashions changed. Today, there are only eight glass armonica players left in the world. Along with the revival of the armonica, Shostak is also reintroducing an entire family of glass instruments, including the glass violin, the crystal hand bells and the French Cristal baschet.
Master luthier John Monteleone created a series of four archtop guitars, one for each season. Anthony Wilson of The Met shows how and why each sounds different than the others. Read the rest