Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Unusual Instruments Trio in the Bay Area

The Unusual Instruments Trio is performing next week in the SF Bay Area. The group focuses on the artistry of Bart Hopkin and Jaron Lanier. Alan Tower joins them in this trio.

Bart Hopkin has been a influence of mine for many years, since he is known as one of the key instrument builders of the last 15-20 years. Bart was a key resource behind the Experimental Musical Instruments site.

Jaron is a multi-instrumentalist and a specialist in many unusual musical instruments, especially the wind and string instruments of Asia. He maintains one of the largest and most varied collections of actively played rare instruments in the world. Jaron’s musical talents and sonic explorations are vast, including pioneering the use of Virtual Reality in musical stage performance. His recent book, You are Not a Gadget (you gotta check out this book), makes an overall argument about digital experience that is spiritual, or metaphysical, in nature.

Alan composes for the Huaca, Hang and Sound Egg. His work is about reviving resonance as a way of life.

Two shows:

WHEN: Friday November 12th, 8:00 PM to 11:30 PM
WHERE: The Dance Palace Community Center in Point Richmond
PRICE: $12, $10 for seniors

More Info:

WHEN: Saturday November 13th, 7:30- 9:30 pm
WHERE: Kosin Loft Space, Besler Building, Oakland, CA
PRICE: $15 Presale, $20 at the door


Additional Links:

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Pantheon Halo Hang

I got the chance to play a Pantheon Halo yesterday at a flute circle event at Mary Youngblood's house. It was the first time that I've seen and handled a Pantheon Steel Halo with my own hands. I was definitely impressed with the quality of construction, the sound and the playability of the Halo. Now I can't wait to get my hands on my very own Pantheon Halo. I am still on the waiting list, and I just sent another email to Pantheon to check on my status in the queue. I'll keep you guys updated on my trek to obtain my Halo, and you'll be the first to see and hear it, once I have the opportunity to become an owner. In the meantime, here's a youtube video to entertain you:

Friday, May 28, 2010

Amplitude iRig

I just (pre) ordered my very own iRig from Amplitude. I am really enthralled by the design that Amplitube has pulled together here. As an occasional bassist and guitar player this looks like a great solution to providing portable amp modeling. I travel a lot and this should be a great device to practice playing. Note that the device won't let you play along with songs on your iPhone since they learned that it created too much latency, although that was the original intention of the design. They are also offering 3 different versions of the iPhone application, one free and two higher levels with additional functionality, including more amp models.
UPDATE (6/8/10): I just saw a twitter post from IK Multimedia that the iRig is scheduled to be released on 6/7/10. (9 days from now).
I've used Amplitude on my studio computer and it's amazing. I'll post a review once I receive the actual unit. Until then, enjoy a couple of youtube videos highlighting the product:

Amplitude iRiq Features
IKMultiMedia YouTube Channel

Friday, May 21, 2010

Maker Faire, San Mateo, 2010

Anyone out there going to the MakerFaire this weekend in San Mateo? I am planning to attend this weekend with my kids and check out all of the great exhibits.

What: Maker Faire
Where: San Mateo Faire Grounds
When: Sat, May 22, Sunday May 23, 2010

For more information:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Pocket Picker

Now here's a unique practice device for all you stringed instrument players out there. It's called the "Pocket Picker", and it's designed to exercise your right hand in all of those situations where it's inconvenient to practice your instrument. I am not sure if it's practical, but's definitely innovative. Out of all of the devices, I think that the bass guitar is likely the most useful, since practicing the finger technique for your right hand on the bass is crucial to your sound. The device is a small board with a course of strings aligned like an actual instrument. In the case of the bass guitar, there's actually a small part of the fretboard included so that you can practice your slap technique.

There are several different models, including one for steel string guitar, classical guitar, bass guitar, banjo, mandalin. I think that they need to add one for shamisen and go after the Japanese market...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Empty School with Ben Meyers

Here's an awesome "Found Music" video, produced by 17 year old Ben Meyers.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Museum of Making Music

The next time that I get to Carlsbad, CA, I am definitely checking out the Museum of Making Music.

What is the Museum of Making Music?

Founded in 1998 under NAMM’s organizational umbrella and with its sponsorship, the Museum of Making Music explores the multifaceted history of the American music products industry from its beginnings in the 1890s to today. Housed at NAMM Headquarters in Carlsbad, California (north San Diego county), the Museum tells stories of hard work, challenge, inspiration and pioneering innovation, and reveals the profound relationship between the industry, popular music, and global culture. The Museum serves as a resource for the community of NAMM members through the preservation, interpretation and sharing of the industry’s collective history in a public museum context. In addition, it reveals the unique and often unknown story of the music products industry to the general public. And, through intimate concerts, films, discussions, hands-on workshops, volunteer opportunities and programs for underserved youth, the Museum opens doors to enable people of all ages and walks of life to find their way into the richly kaleidoscopic world of music making.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Guitar player Ronnie Moipolai

Here's an awesome video of a unique guitar player. I love the way that he has his guitar setup, whether it's intentional or not, he has the 5th string removed, so that he can really wail on and emphasize the bass line.

"Ronnie Moipolai from Kopong village in the Kweneng district 50 km west of the capitol Gaborone. He is 29 years old and goes around the shebeens selling and playing his songs for 5Pula each (80dollarcents). He learned guitar from his now late father, has 3 brothers that also play guitar"

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

FootBass Stomp Box

Check out the FootBass Stomp Box. I in the market for a stomp box and stumbled onto these guys. I don't own one, but it looks really cool. Apparently you can only buy them on ebay, so you'll need to search for "footbass" to buy one.



Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Marranzano World Festival

I was just recommended this video of the Marranzano World Festival, held in November, 2009, in Catania. The video includes some excellent footage of a variety of world instruments.

Here's the link to the YouTube Channel:

Here's the link to the Marranzano Festival site:

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wireless Microphone Ban by FCC

If you own or use a wireless microphone or wireless musical instrument interface, it's important to know that the FCC has banned all wireless microphones which operate in the 700 Mhz range. The ban goes into effect starting June 12, 2010.

If you're curious whether the brand of wireless mic which you own is included in the ban, you need to check the FCC website:

If your model is listed on the table, it is a 700 MHz wireless microphone and can not be used after June 12, 2010.
If you can find your manufacturer’s name and your equipment is not listed, then you may continue using your wireless microphone because it does not operate in the 700 MHz Band.

If your manufacturer is not listed, please contact the FCC for additional assistance to determine if your wireless microphone operates on the 700 MHz Band.
You can also contact the FCC’s Consumer Center for more information aboutwireless microphones or other communications issues by calling1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) voice1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322) TTY1-866-418-0232 fax; or writing to:
Federal Communications Commission Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division 445 12th Street, SW Washington, D.C. 20554.


Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Electric Berimbau by Paulo Nenflidio

Wow, check out this electric berimbau by Paulo Nenflidio. This opens up a whole new range of tonal variations with the berimbau, and moves it from being simply an acoustic instrument to accompany capoeira to a respectable rock band instrument. I love how Paulo demonstrates some of the modified sounds that are possible with the electric, amplified signal from this new electric berimbau. I can't wait to hear what the likes of N. Scott Robinson are going to do with this instrument once they get into the recording studio.


To buy one ($1000USD):

Other interesting Paulo links:

Monday, March 01, 2010

Jazari - Midi controlled musical robot

Wow. Check out these video of Jazari, a midi-controlled musical robotic ensemble. Patrick Flanagan created the software to manipulate the musical robots with a Wii Remote. It's an amazing demonstration of a convergence of technology.


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Gibson Dust Tiger

Check out the latest "robotic guitar" by Gibson.

This puppy does everything but play itself...
It tunes and retunes itself automatically.
The third generation, Gibson Dust Tiger features color coded tone and tuning banks, with a total of 98 user preset positions for sound and 99 preset positions for tuning available.
It comes with a pretty big price tag, but like they say, if you have ask how much it costs, you can't afford it...

Friday, January 29, 2010

Having trouble deciding which scale for your Pantheon Steel Halo Drum?

Here's the latest details:

Kiavara Halo by Pantheon Steel

I love the sound of this one. Definitely middle eastern sounding. Would go great with a middle eastern rhythm.

Ake Bono Halo by Pantheon Steel

Of course the Ake Bono has that Asian feel to it. Would go great with a Koto or Shamisen, or a taiko drum.

Xiao Xiong Diao (XXD) Halo by Pantheon Steel

This scale has a slightly different Asian feel to it. More questioning and unresolved in it's feel.

Blues Halo by Pantheon Steel

Given my recent resurgent interest in blues music, this scale would be awesome for a blues jam with bass and guitar

For the complete picture, check out the Halo Channel on youtube:

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Monochord Sound Chair

Bored with your normal therapist? Give the sound chair a spin (or should I say sit...).
Interesting marriage of massage and soundscape. I'd like to try this out, or maybe I'll build one for myself.

If you want to buy one, here's the link:

If you have an extra $7000 laying around you can buy this one from Hammacher-Schlemmer:

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Unprofitable Instruments

Talk about obscure instruments! Wow. Kate Buehler-McWilliams has a taken on a mission to resurrect a whole branch of instruments lost in time. Definitely worth the time to browse her site.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

How to Make a Monochord

What is a monochord?

According to Wikipedia: A monochord is an ancient musical and scientific laboratory instrument. The word "monochord" comes from the Greek and means literally "one string." A misconception of the term lies within its name. Often a monochord has more than one string, most of the time two, one open string and a second string with a movable bridge. In a basic monochord, a single string is stretched over a sound box. The string is fixed at both ends while one or many movable bridges are manipulated to demonstrate mathematical relationships between sounds.

Here's a "how to video":

Another vidio:

One more:

Monday, January 25, 2010

ZenDrum LT

From the ZenDrum website:

"The Zendrum Laptop (ZLT) is ergonomic, ambidextrous, worn with a strap orheld in a snare drum stand, on a desk, or in your lap. Same electronics andprice as a Zendrum ZX, with one extra trigger. Only 18" wide.
Standard accessories shipped with the Laptop include custom LT gigbag, strapwith straplocks, power supply/heavy-duty merge box ("Brick"), 15' and 3' MIDI cables, plus 1 extra MIDI cable (15' or 45', your choice), adapter for use on snare stand and instruction manual. International Merge Bricks are shipped with interchangeable power supply adapters for universal power requirements.
Zendrum Laptop Physical Specifications:

ZLT Dimensions:

W18" X D10" X H3.5"

Gigbag with Laptop inside: L19" X W14" X H~4.5"

Laptop shipping carton: L30" X W15" X H7"

Weight: 6-7 lbs, varies with wood used

Sunday, January 24, 2010

ZenDrum Zap

From the ZenDrum website:

"The ZAP is a compact stationary MIDI controller designed with a smaller footprint specifically to fit in tight spaces and studio environments. Four adjustable threaded feet customize the playing angle for desktop workstation beats. It can be mounted to a snare stand (via optional universal adapter) for live playing situations. Solid heavyweight wood species were chosen for beauty and lasting value as well as for density and trigger isolation, even in the toughest onstage playing conditions. The ZAP features 19 triggers in five offset rows in a hexagonal cluster which can be played as a single instrument with many different articulations, or used as separate voices to be expressed individually or together with a minimum of physical effort. The ZAP is even more adaptable as a melodic instrument with the Zendrum default note map scales suggesting many pplications, playing techniques and creative possibilities. The ZAP uses the same proven electronics and trigger components as the Zendrum ZX and LT, with 3 extra 1/4" trigger pedal inputs and a 1/4" sustain pedal input for "drummer-friendly" footwork as well as the Zendrum momentary sustain button on the top that acts as a "choke" for longer sounds and MIDI effects.

Standard accessories shipped with the ZAP include direct-connect 12vdc power supply with locking connector, 15' MIDI cable, and instruction manual.

Current production time for the ZAP is 2 weeks from date of order.

ZAP physical specifications:


W12" by D10.5" by H2.5"

Weight: 7 lbs

Cost: $999

The ZenDrum Zap is

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Wernick PercPad

The Wernick PercPad is the world’s first electronic pad designed specifically for hand percussionists.

From the Wernick website:

"Its Ash wood playing surface combines the warm organic feel of an acoustic hand drum with all the capabilities of electronic music. It’s based on the successful Notepad, using the same patented Wernick Percussion System technology to achieve unrivalled levels of sensitivity and range. The PercPad isolation system starts with the playing surface which sits on free floating suspension mounts inside a rugged ABS tray.
On the back there’s a foam mounted steel housing for mounting the PercPac on its frame. There’s also a locking XLR connector there too ensuring that the plug can’t come loose even under the hardest playing conditions. The PercPad isolation system is finished off with two simple T Nuts ensuring thePercPad is in minimum contact with its frame.PercPad Iso Frames are available to fit two and four PercPads. They have further isloation features including a free floating collar piece and are finished in bright chrome. They fit standard drum hardware. PercPads also fit our standard Frames which are available to fit one, two, four, six and eight Pads.
The PercPad can be used with any commercially available drum brain with trigger inputs and also with Wernick Musical Instruments upcoming Trigger to MIDI converter unit. With high specification brains such as the Roland TD-10 or ddrum 4 the levels of expression and layering capabilities can be awesome.
The Wernick PercPad is not an electronic conga or bongo. It’s a new kind of musical tool for hand percussionists giving them the opportunity to make great music with the tap of a finger. "

Wow. This is cool. I want one!

No prices yet.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Wernick Xylosynth

I just discovered this interesting musical instrument, the "Xylosyth" by Wernick.

It looks like a very interesting mix of classic Xylophone with the electronics to provide the output for the modern electronic musician.

I don't own one, but it just went on my wish list!!!

The Xylosyth is avialable in either Burbinga or Birth keys.
It provides MIDI output.
Unique for this intrument is a transpose pedal, which allows you to transpose the instrument in real-time! Wow, that's cool.

If you want to read the manual for the Xylosyth, here's the links:


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

NAMM 2010 Best in show

Here's a sample of the new products which got "Best in Show" and the 2010 Winter NAMM show this last week:

Rhythm Tech "Stickball":

This looks like a great solution for kit drummers who needs to have that shaker sound from behind the kit.

Link: Stickball Shaker


I love this idea for bands that need a solution to performing without disturbing the neighbors too much. I am sure that my mom would have bought this for me in heart beat for the garage band that I had in high school...

JamHub GreenRoom
JamHub GreenRoom Silent Rehearsal Studio
JamHub BedRoom

JamHub BedRoom Silent Rehearsal Studio

Daisy Rock Guitars

I bought my daughter the Daisy Rock, Beginning Guitar book a few years back. Now the Daisy Rock product line has expanded.

Link: Daisy Rock Debutante Junior Miss Acoustic Bubble Gum Pink Guitar Starter Pack


Why tune one string at a time? This looks like a great solution to the quick tune:


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Youtube video of finches playing guitar

This is an incredible improvisation on guitar by a flock of finches:

Here's another video, not such great resolution:

I'd love to hear/see more videos of animals improvising on any musical instrument.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Dispersion of Sound Waves in Ice Sheets

I discovered this incredible recording of ice sheets cracking.
It was recorded with underwater microphones. The article describes how the sound waves are propogated.


Here's an updated post:

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Eigenharp Pico

This is the Eigenharp Pico, a smaller version of the Eigenharp Alpha.

Here's a couple video's introducing the Eigenharp Pico:

Friday, January 15, 2010


Check out the Eigenharp, by Eigenlabs.

The Eigenharp is a professional level instrument which allows the musician to play and improvise using a limitless range of sounds with virtuoso skill. The unique design of the keys makes this the most expressive electronic musical instrument ever made. The Alpha can play and record loops, change scale and key, transpose, alter tempo, program beats, create arrangements, switch and layer multiple sounds, all while the musician is performing live on stage.

The Alpha requires a Mac computer to run.

Here's a Youtube video of the Eigenharp:

More information:

The Moog Guitar Model E1-M with MIDI

Check out this supper cool and innovative Moog synthesizer guitar.
For all of you guitar players out there, you can now compose electronic music without leaving the fretboard.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Saturday, January 02, 2010

How to Build a PVC Flute

I stumbled onto a great site that highlights the design for making simple flutes from PVC pipe. This is a great design if you want to organize a flute making workshop for kids, adults or others and emerge with a workable design.

Here's the link: