07 October 2014

Musical Instruments Addendum

After last Friday’s tribute to Brian Russell and others who work to keep music in the lives of disabled musicians (Left-Handed Saxophone), I ventured off and found a handful of unusual musical instruments I thought were especially cool. Though none is new, they were to me and maybe to you, too.


Talk about awesome. The Eigenharp is basically a portable controller, played by keyboard, tap-pad and mouthpiece, which can generate a phenomenal range of sounds from stored software. Different versions of the instrument offer different levels of flexibility and capability. (Video of 2010 demo: www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9qPf31xYnY)

Alpha model of Eigenharp by Eigenlabs. (www.eigenlabs.com/)

Have we got strings for you. The Wheelharp offers a full chromatic scale of 61 bowed strings, played by a keyboard and foot-controlled motor. (Video of 2013 demo: www.youtube.com/watch?v=MT4OxLLI4m4)

Wheelharp by Antiquity Music. (antiquitymusic.com/wheelharp/)
Hapi Drum

The Hapi Drum--“Hapi” is an acronym for hand activated percussion instrument--is like a well-tuned, lap-size steel drum. Its melodic tones are created by tapping vibrating steel tongues with hand or soft mallets; each tone being accompanied by resonant harmony. Hapi Tones offers different size drums tuned to different scales. (Video of 2012 demo: www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHL9HgfVkeI)

Hapi Drums by Hapi Tones (hapidrum.com/ or www.hapitones.com/)

If you’d like something unique in a percussion instrument, it would be hard to beat…sorry, you should try a BeatBearing. Placing ball bearings in different holes gives preselected types of percussion with visual feedback from a CRT display. What’s really special is that you can build it yourself--and many have--following plans the inventor, Peter Bennett, published in MAKEzine. (Video of 2007 demo: www.youtube.com/watch?v=wreP8FMupyM)

BeatBearing from demonstration video. (www.beatbearing.co.uk/)

When I and, I think, my daughter were growing up, ocarinas were quite common. Now that we, well, she has a smartphone, she can add an Ocarina app. Smule designed an app for iPhones that converts the phone into either a keyed-only ocarina-sounding instrument or--more ocarina-like--a keyed instrument that converts huffing and puffing into sound intensity. Other companies offer ocarina apps for Android devices. (Video of 2012 demo of Smule’s Ocarina 2: www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbg6GRRamNQ)

Ocarina 2 from video by Smule (www.smule.com/apps)

I doubt you’ll find this “instrument” in your local music store or possibly anywhere, but being a fan of exercise, I couldn’t resist including the hipDisk, created in 2007 by Danielle Wilde of Australia.

The instrument consists of two large polypropylene disks, each of which has 12 switches spaced along their circumference. Bringing a pair of corresponding switches in contact completes the circuit and plays one of 12 notes of a chromatic scale.

One plays the hipDisk by wearing the two disks--one on hips, one above waist--and bending, twisting, stretching or otherwise contorting oneself to get the correct disk edge locations (i.e., switches) to touch. (Video of demo: vimeo.com/32954581)

hipDisk in action from video. (www.daniellewilde.com/dw/hipdisk.html)

Primary link for most of the instruments featured:

Links to articles on interesting musical instruments:

Additional links for instruments featured in the addendum:
Wheelharp (Kickstarter campaign video)

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