THE BUREAU: Part Three, "Assessing Others" — with a Metasonix D-2000 Vacuum Tube Drum Machine

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.

A fantastically fun looper pedal cover of The Cure's "Close To Me"

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's new flagship polyphonic synthesizer

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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Make your own 'bagpipes' with a garbage bag and recorders

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 introduces three new pocket synthesizers

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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This synthesizer for preschoolers looks like fun for all ages

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

How to play Muddy Waters on a cigar box guitar

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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Enjoy the heavenly sounds of the glass armonica, invented by Benjamin Franklin

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.

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.

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Guitarist demonstrates beautiful tonal differences in "The Four Seasons" Guitars

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

Sesame Street: How a saxophone is made (1983)

Wonderful 1980 video of Sesame Street's visit to a saxophone factory, complete with a free jazz sax soundtrack. (via Laughing Squid)

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Guitarist takes an in-depth look at Nick Drake's unique tone

I'm not a guitar player (though I did take lessons in my youth), but I am a huge Nick Drake fan and have always been haunted by the very unique, dark, and moody guitar tones that he achieved. In this fascinating video by YouTube guitar teacher, Josh Turner, he presents and demonstrates his theory for how Nick got his signature sound.

Spoiler Alert: He identifies these four characteristics that he thinks are the most significant contributors:

1. Small-bodied guitar (probably) 2. "Dead" nickel strings 3. Medium-length fingernails, long thumbnail 4. Classical guitar-style hand position with bent wrist and thumb angle (and playing over the sound hole)

At the end of the video, to demonstrate the sound, he launches into the first part of Things Behind the Sun. It sounded so beautiful, it made my eyes want to roll back in my head. And made me immediately run to the original as soon Josh's video was over.

If you are also a fan of Drake's, you'll want to check out Remembered for a While, the the lovingly curated scrapbook of all things Nick that his sister, Gabrielle Drake (perhaps best known as the purple-haired Lt. Ellis on the cult-fave 70s British TV series, UFO) put together. Here's the review I wrote of it here on Boing Boing. Read the rest

Comparing a $100 bass to a $10,000 bass

In this video, UK-based YouTuber and bassist Davie504 plays a solo on a $100 bass, a $700 bass, and a TEN-THOUSAND-DOLLAR bass* to compare them. I watched the video five times and still can't hear that much of a difference. Admittedly, I'm not the best judge of these kinds of things.

*"Lindo" P-Bass ($100), Fender Jazz Bass ($700) and a Fodera Emperor Deluxe ($10,000)

(digg) Read the rest

How astrophysicist and Queen musician Brian May made his own guitar

Brian May, the lead guitarist and composer for Queen, is a multitalented guy. A Guitar World readers poll ranked him as the 2nd greatest guitarist of all time. He also has a PhD in astrophysics from Imperial College London was on the science team for NASA's New Horizons Pluto mission. He also made his own guitar with his father in the 1960s, which he called The Red Special. Hackaday has the build notes.

Every part of the Red Special was a process of trial and error. This is the true hacker spirit behind the guitar. Most trials didn’t work the first time, but Brian and Harold iterated until they reached their goals. An example of this is the pickups. Brian’s experimentation with pickups started with his Egmond guitar. He bought some Eclipse Magnetics button magnets from the local hardware store. These formed the core of the pickup. Harold then helped him build a coil winding machine, which allowed Brian to manually wind thousands of turns of fine copper wire around the pickups. It even had a wind counter built from a bicycle odometer.

Brian didn’t have an amplifier yet, so he plugged into the family’s radio. The pickups worked! They were very bright sounding, but had one flaw. When bending notes, Brian found there would be an odd sound as the string moved across the pickup. He attributed it to the North-South alignment of the disk magnet poles. Cutting the magnets was beyond the tools he had, and custom magnets were out of the budget.

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Grab it now: clip-on guitar/uke tuner for $5.59

Amazon has a lightning deal on this clip-on tuner. It's just $5.59 for the time being. I bought one. Read the rest

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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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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