Monday, January 28, 2008

50th Anniversary of Legos

Google had this awesome image up on their search window this morning, reminding us that today is the 50th anniversary of Legos (or rather the 50th anniversary of the patent) ! I know that I've spent a considerable amount of my early life, and now with my kids, being inspired by Legos. Congratulations Legos!
Related Links:

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Blackbells Website is LIVE

The Blackbells company is a new company who are bringing a new version of the Hang Drum to market. Their site is now live and features a really lush flash intro. You gotta check it out.
They are taking orders for their waiting list now and it looks like it will be something like 3 months to receive a drum. I wrote to the company and recieved the following email in response to my inquiry:

"Thank you for your interest in, and we apologize for the delay in getting back to you. Currently, we do not have a specified price range. However, we are expecting a release date of around Q1 of 2008. Availability will largely depend on demand, and currently we have a waiting list of roughly 100 customers, and some of those have ordered more than one. We anticipate a typical wait time for new orders to be roughly 3-6 months, and of course, we are looking to shorten that time without compromising quality.

What can we tell you about our instruments? Well, we have approached it as a bell, which we believe it truly is. All of our instruments will be made with the highest quality materials, and will come with a certified print out of tuning accuracy. We are experimenting with various hardening procedures, but do know that playing over the years will render the instrument out of tune. As a result, we are aware that we need to offer some sort of tuning service for our customers. We are working on those logistics as we speak.

If you would like to get on our waiting list, we request that you send us an email and include the following information:

Full Name

Shipping address (we will confirm this before shipping)

A phone number we can reach you at

Valid email address

Nature of request (number of instruments, etc.)

The process will work as follows:

When we are ready to provide your instrument, we will contact you and describe the opportunity, discuss payment arrangements, etc. If you are not able to purchase the instrument, we will go to the next in line and your name will have to go to the bottom of the list. When we ship, we will ship certified, and insured for full amount – no exceptions.

We are very excited about providing you with a high quality instrument, and appreciate your interest in and support of

Note that there is now an online form which you can complete to get on the waiting list!

If you have any interest in getting your hands on a Hang-style drum, this looks like a great opportunity.

It appears that Blackbells will push new limits with the Hang-style drums. They are looking at new ways of creating and tuning the instrument, as well as new designs. Who ever said competition isn't good for the market? ;-)

They are also going to be offering services including a 'retuning' service for your Blackbells drum over time. It looks like they are serious about their "whole product" delivery, and I applaud that.

If you want to get whipped into a frenzy, checkout their online forum:

Here's the website link:

How to Build a Hank Drum

Over the holidays, I had some down time to finally build a new "Hank Drum" based on the plans by Dennis Havlena. Here's a link to the plans:

I've been in love with the Hang Drum, but alas, I haven't been able to find an affordable one to purchase yet (but you can read more about that adventure on my other posts).

Here's the story about my creation process in building my own Hank Drum.

Step 1: Purchase a brand new 20 lb propane tank. NOTE: like Dennis recommends, ONLY USE A NEW NEVER BEEN FILLED TANK.

Step 2: Remove the value. I released the air pressure inside the tank with a screw driver by turning the screw on the side of the valve. Then I used a large adjustable wrench and some leverage to move it. This will take some strength and possibly addition help to hold the drum and turn the wrench. In the picture, you'll see how I secure the drum with a crowbar.

Step 3: Remove the bracket from the bottom of the tank. This will become the playing surface of the drum. I used a 10" adjustable (monkey) wrench, tightened to the dimension of the metal on the bracket. I then worked it back and forth over each weld until the bracket broke free. After breaking off the welds, be sure to file down the weld mounts until they are flush with the surface of the 'drum head'.

Step 4: Printout the pattern from Dennis's website and enlarge the pattern on your scanner or a copy machine until it is the correct dimension. Position this pattern overtop of the "drum head".

Step 5: Trace the pattern onto the surface of the drum. I used a sharpie pen to copy it. This turned out to be a pretty good idea, as the saw scratched up the surface pretty good and I was using oil to help the cut. If I had used a pencil or a water soluable pen, the lines would have been messed up.

Step 6: Cut the tongues out with a jigsaw and metal cutting blade. Follow Dennis' advice on grinding down the blade to cut the tight radius. I went through two blades to cut all of the tongues out. Here's where I made one variation from Dennis's recommendation. Instead of drilling three small holes (my cordless drill battery is pretty shot anyway), I used a dremel tool with a cut-off wheel to start the cut, right on the line of the tongue. (I apologize that the image is sorta blurry). From here it was easy to cut out the rest of the tongue. NOTE: As Dennis recommends, make sure that you stop short on each tongue. This leaves you room to tune each tongue later.

Step 7: Tuning the drum. This is the step where you have to be the most careful. You'll need a digital tuner to complete this step. I started with the biggest tongues first. I used a hacksaw blade with half of it covered in electrical tape, to extend the cuts of each tongue until it was in tune. Note: as shown in the picture, I used eletrical tape to deaden the other tongue while I tuned a specific tongue. I also followed Dennis's advice and left the larger tonque's "open" when tuning the highest two tongue. I am still not completely happy with the tuning or performance of the highest two notes, they "sound" but they don't ring very long.

Step 8: Add a couple of rubber tie down's to the middle of the drum. This helps to dampen the ringing.

Step 9: Play your drum!

Additional thoughts:

First of all, props to Dennis Havlena for his incredible ideas! Keep 'em coming...

Second, I took a dowel, inserted it though the value hole, placed the end on the backside of a tongue and then hit it several times with a hammer. This pushed the individual tongue "up" above the surface of the tank bottom. I think that this make it more playable.

Third, I've also been playing around with the strategic placement of modeling clay on the tank bottom to help eliminate some of the overtones, attempting to get a purer sound.

Fourth: Check the "How To" link section on the sidebar of the blog for additional blog entries on Hank Drum construction.

I'll post a YouTube video once I get a moment to record something.

Join the Hank Drum Collective:

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Vegetable Orchestra

Here's an a couple of awesome videos of the Vienna Vegetable Orchestra. They make all of their instruments out of vegetables before the concert. I especially love the sond of the cabbage head.

For more information:

"This is organic music at its best" - Larry the Cucumber
"My cousin has been a featured performer several times" - Bob the Tomato

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Manu Delago Hang Music

I discovered Manu Delago's hang music. This guys plays some wonderful music on the Hang Drum.

I love this video:

Sunday, January 06, 2008

US Hang Manufacturers

Rumors abound that there may be some new US manufacturers entering the market with new Hang-style instruments. After some research this morning I discovered that at least one new US manufacturer has a website up and running and is talking about a new product release. The company is call "Blackbells". Website: Blackbells

There is another US pan drum company considering making a Hang-Drum style instrument, but no official news yet. The company is the Pantheon Steel Drum company.