drowsy
 Accordion

Accordion
I am not really an accordion player, but I do enjoy strapping one on.

This one came to me all the way from Malmköping, Sweden, via my Grandfather, whom I never met.

Songs:
Arms and Hands
Thanks to the Wishing Well



 Autoharp

Autoharp
This is the Autoharp I tend to write stuff on.  The strings are totally rusty, but I like the dark, dank sound so much that I'm afraid to replace them.

I attached strap knobs (or "strap buttons") to it after experimenting with various placements. If you'd like to read about autoharp straps, please read this post over on the blog.

There's also a clamp (lower right) that can hold on a contact mic.  I'm usually better off if I use a contact mic and a close room mic (probably a Shure SM57) and mix the two together -- sometimes I actually bother to do this.

Songs:
Fingers
Henry Pants
Let Me Wear Your Ring
Or the next day, at the latest
Postcard
Too Late to Sleep
Treehouse
221
When My Baby Was Mine



 Autoharp

Autoharp
Hey, here's another autoharp. This is an Oscar Schmidt OS45CE and it has a built-in electric pickup. (I still like it best when I close mic it as well, and then mix the two.) To the left is a close-up of the volume control. You can click on the pic for a full-length shot.

Songs:
Me and the Pedestal
Which Would You Rather Be?

 

 

 Autoharp

Autoharp
I kinda thought maybe you hadn't seen enough autoharps yet. This one is kind of a weird greenish-grey hue and has no soundhole. I've never used it for anything; barely even played it.

I bought it because the case looks kind of like an ice cream sandwich.

 

 

 Bul Bul

Bul Bul
This is kind of like an Indian mountain dulcimer. It has four playable strings -- all tuned to the same note -- and two sympathetic strings, which resonate but are not played directly. The four main strings are fretted by pressing a series of typewriter keys (arranged and color-coded like a piano keyboard), and then the strings are all strummed at one. Pretty simple. Actual bul bul musicians may do some more complex stuff, but I'm not sure how they would.

Sample

 

 Chartola Grand

Chartola Grand
This is the first Marx Company gadget zither that I bought and it is, to be perfectly honest, ridiculous.

On the right hand side is a series of strings, doubled (two strings sounding the same note next to each other), which is fine. On the right hand side, however, is a contraption consisting of four spring-loaded metal tabs hovering over four groups of four string chords. You pull back a tab with your thumb and release it, and it bounces off the strings and makes a clamorous SPROING! sound.

I would pay good money to go back in time and watch a door-to-door salesman try to sell this to some depression-era farming family. Sproing, indeed.

 

 Cracklebox

Cracklebox
The Cracklebox is a fun little noisemaker invented in the 1970s. It uses the human body as a conductor of electricity, and as you touch different pads with your fingers, it makes a variety of glitchy squawks.

You can read more about the Cracklebox here.

 

 

 Alesis SR-16

Drum Machine: Alesis SR-16
The SR-16 seems to be one of the most common drum machines around; there's not much "cachet" associated with it.  It's the first drum machine I got, and when I filled it up and couldn't figure out how to back up the data, I bought another one.

It's easy to use and it's the first one I reach for, although I picked up a few different machines recently and I'm consciously trying to "broaden" my "palette."

Songs:
Arms and Hands
Happy
Let Me Wear Your Ring
Me and the Pedestal
Or the next day, at the latest
Turn Off the Eyeball
221
When My Baby Was Mine

 

 Boss Dr. Groove DR-202

Drum Machine: Boss "Dr. Groove" DR-202
Sweet machine with some nice "hip hop" sounds. Bought used somewhere on the internet.

Songs:
Which Would You Rather Be?

 

 

 

 

 

 Boss Dr. Rhythm DR-110

Drum Machine: Boss "Dr. Rhythm" DR-110
This is the most adorable drum machine in, possibly, the entire world. The whole thing is about the size of a VHS tape, and it comes in a little silver case -- I just want to hug it!

It only has six sounds (Kick Drum, Snare Drum, Clap, Open Hat, Closed Hat, and Cymbal), and it's analog -- meaning the sounds are generated by circuits rather than sampled from actual drums. It sounds like this:

dink dink PSHT! dink dink PSHT!

 

 Yamaha RY-10

Drum Machine: Yamaha RY-10
I bought this used from a guy on a message board. I haven't really looked at it yet; it's not very sexy.

 

 

 

 Dumbek

Dumbek
The first place I heard a dumbek was I think on an album by a band called Saqqara Dogs, a kind of gothy late '80s group who used them on pretty much every song. I had no idea at the time that dumbeks were (or would become, I dunno) the near-exclusive property of smelly hippie kids.

I still kinda like them, though.

 

 EWI 4000

EWI 4000s
The EWI 4000s is a MIDI wind controller made by Akai. If you imagine a synthesizer in the shape of a soprano sax, you'll be pretty close.

Here is the official website.

Unless noted otherwise, I'm using the sound set by Patchman Music.

Songs:
2 Cigarettes

 

 Flute

Flute
I played flute in marching band in Junior High and a little bit into High School. I can still play it a little (especially if you ask me to play the little scale exercise).

Songs played in marching band included “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” “Centerfold,” and the Ewok celebration song, during which the flute section was expected to exclaim “yub nub!”

This flute is an Artley that I picked up in college after my original one was stolen.

Songs:
Half Empty Waltz

 

 Glockenspiel

Glockenspiel
Here’s a small glockenspiel – it’s maybe a foot long. You can tell it’s a glockenspiel because it has metal bars – a xylophone has wooden bars.

This particular one is in C, but it also comes with a Bb bar and an F# bar that you can swap in and play in, you know, whatever keys use those notes.

Songs:
Henry Pants

 

 

 

 Gopichand

Gopichand
This is a single-string instrument from Timor. The string can be tightened or loosened by turning the key at the top, and also, while playing, by squeezing the sides.

 

 

 Harmonica

Harmonica
I actually have several harmonicas; the one pictured to the left is a Hohner "Big River" in F. I have a nice chromatic as well (also in F -- a tactical blunder) and several others, mostly toys or poor condition hand-offs.

(Until I get more, the harmonica will only appear in songs that are in the key of F.)

Songs:
221

 

 Harmonium

Harmonium
Specifically, this is a Magnus Chord Organ. You plug it in and a mechanical fan starts up, blowing air over reeds. It sounds like an accordion. Tom Waits probably has, like, a hundred of these.

Emily found this particular one sitting out with the garbage in an alley, and she rescued it and gave it to me. The on/off switch didn't work, but some ill-advised poking around with a paper clip showed that it was still getting juice, so I replaced the switch and the power cord and here it it.

(I had the work done at a great little place in town called Dr. Jimmy's -- unfortunately it's out of business now. I should learn to do this sort of thing myself; I probably spent as much as it would have cost me to buy a working model off eBay [which is to say, probably not very much, but still].)

Songs:
Half Empty Waltz

 

 Kaen

Kaen
This is a Thai instrument that I bought at Everybody's Store, a general store out in the county that, for some reason, used to sell them. It’s a reed instrument that you hold between your hands and blow into; each of your fingers (thumbs included) cover a different hole, and you can play as many or as few notes as you like.

This one is about four feet long.

Here is the Wikipedia page.

 

 

 My Song Maker

Keyboard: Alaron “My Song Maker”
I bought this for a buck or two at a Goodwill and the lower half of the keyboard did not work. I took it apart and it was filthy. I cleaned it all up and it works okay. I also installed a audio out plug but placed it in a place where, once I put back the built-in handle, a jack can not actually fit.

 

 

 Alesis Micron

Keyboard: Alesis Micron
I really like this keyboard. If you're trying to decide between this and the similarly-priced MicroKorg, I would go for this one. Unless the vocoder is a big draw for you, the Micron has a much more useful palatte of sounds.

Songs:
Which Would You Rather Be?

 

 

 

 

 Anders Gustav Larssen

Keyboard: Anders
This is a Kawai of some sort, I think.  I don't remember exactly -- we put a sticker over the logo and the sticker says "Hello, My Name Is Anders."  We named it after an ex-bass player, since it pretty much took over his role. (Or, as we said at the time, because we never knew when it would quit on us.) (It's actually quite reliable.)

If you really want to know what it is, I could probably find out for you.

As the first (and for many years, only) MIDI-equipped keyboard I had, this sees a lot of action.

Songs:
Happy
Let Me Wear Your Ring
Me and the Pedestal
221

 

 Casio SK-5

Keyboard: Casio SK-5
This is my first keyboard, the Casio SK-5 Sampler (with original carrying case!).  I bought it when it was new from a department store (Target, maybe? Or Sears?) in the late '80s.

The sampling is great -- it's super-easy to use, you can do some basic manipulations, and you can loop it! If you look at the big photo (click on the small one to do that), you can see marks on the "A" keys left over from masking tape -- the masking tape was used to hold down keys to keep loops going while I went off to do something else. (Also, there seems to be something spattered on the upper-right-hand corner. I should clean that off.)

Pre-set sounds are not very good, although I do like the vibraphone -- of course, I've never met a cheap vibraphone sound that I haven't liked. The orange pads are for drum sounds -- you get a high bongo, a low bongo, a laser gun, and a lion roar! It makes perfect sense!

Apparently this model (along with its little brother, the SK-1) is much coveted by circuit benders, but the thought of cutting this fellow open makes me a little queasy.

Songs:
Turn Off the Eyeball

 

 ”Realistic

Keyboard: Concertmate-200
The Realistic Concertmate-200 is a clone of the Casio VL-Tone 1, rebranded for sale in Radio Shack stores. It is best known for its use in Trio’s song “Da Da Da”, which uses the “Rock 1” preset for its rhythm track.

For my cover of bgm’s “2 Cigarettes”, I used the “Rock 2” preset. It is different, by one, from “Rock 1.”

Songs:
2 Cigarettes

 

 Concertmate-370

Keyboard: Concertmate-370
This adorably crappy keyboard was acquired for a couple of bucks from Value Village.  It was missing the lowest black key, and I asked my dad for suggestions as to what could be used to replace it.  He actually carved a replacement key out of wood and painted it black!

There are some fun tones here, although it's hampered somewhat by its two-note-maximum polyphony and lack of any audio out (meaning you have to get a mic and point it at the speaker).

Songs:
Fingers

 

 Korg

Keyboard: Korg Poly-800
I check the local Craigslist a couple of times a day and it paid off with this: A Korg Poly-800 for thirty-five bucks. (With a carrying case -- and they threw in an Alesis NanoSynth for free, as well.) All of the voices had been erased -- the keyboard originally came with a data tape, which was missing -- but a quick search on the internet turned up the files, and now it’s as good as new.

 

 

 MicroKorg

Keyboard: MicroKorg
I love this guy. It has a vocoder feature for robot talkin' action, and it has knobs and flashing lights -- honestly, I don't know what else you would want from a keyboard. Alligator clips, maybe.

A lot of the voices are monophonic -- that is, only one key at a time will make a noise. This is great, because it means that I don't have to pretend like I know how chords work.

Songs:
Arms and Hands
Turn Off the Eyeball

 

 Kawasaki Disc Mixer

Keyboard: Kawasaki Disc Mixer
Wow, this keyboard sucks. Buzzy speakers. Crappy sounds. Hot fuschia detailing. No AC power jack -- no headphone or speaker jack -- no jacks of any kind.

There's a not-very-responsive "turntable" on the left hand side that makes hideous little "record scratching" sounds when you rotate it.

Another excellent feature is that it turns on automatically when you press any key or button. This -- combined with the aforementioned lack of an AC power option -- means that if you don't keep an eye on it, it will eat every battery in the house.

I feel nothing but distaste for this keyboard, which nevertheless does not keep me from using it. I'm thinking of popping it open and installing an output jack, at least, to bypass the awful speakers.

Value Village, six bucks. 

 Marimba

Marimba
Handmade marimbas by a woodworker here in Bellingham. It's made out of padouk and sounds great. This one is in an A minor pentatonic scale, and I have another that's deeper, in E minor.

Songs:
2 Cigarettes
When We Were Small

 

 Mandolin-Harp

Mandolin-Harp
The panel in the lower right has buttons for various notes; if you hold down a button, a little plectrum sticks out from the underside. You then move the panel back and forth (it's on rollers) and you supposedly get a sound like a mandolin. I find it awkward at best.



 Marxophone

Marxophone
This is the best of all the Marx gadget zithers.

Songs:
I Knew the Bride (cover)
Thanks to the Wishing Well

 

 Mics

Microphones
Talking about microphones is kind of boring.

Here's a list: Shure SM57, Shure SM58, AKG D-112, Studio Projects C1, and a super cheap "Cable Up" that I think came free with something.

Lately I've been using a ShinyBox ribbon mic for vocals, or, occasionally, a Copperphone.

 

 Optical Theremin in an Altoid Case

Optical Theremin
I built this myself using the plans found here.

This is a light-sensitive theremin; it makes squealing sounds that rise in pitch the closer it gets to a light source.

You can read my blog post and see a photo of the inside here.

Sample

 

 Various Percussion

Percussion (various)
I have a fair amount of little percussion things kicking around. Pictured: a sandpaper block, an egg shaker, claves, and a maraca that I bought at the state fair in Monroe.

 Phonoharp

Phonoharp
Primitive! Play three chords by running a pick along the horizontal guide -- the holes allow only the notes in that particular chord to sound. The three available chords are F, G7, and C.




 Smocky enjoys ragtime!

Piano
Here is Smocky playing his piano, an upright Kawai.

Songs:
Too Late to Sleep

 

 

 Pianoharp

Pianoharp
You can pluck a melody on the right-hand strings while playing chords on the left -- by lifting those felted levers and letting them "snap" back onto the strings. This one feels very fragile to me.






 Pling Plong

Pling Plong
This is a small music box that you can play customized songs on by punching holes in a sheet of stiff paper and then pulling it through the machine using a small hand crank.

I got mine mailorder from a clockwork toy museum in Utrecht. I notice that you can get a smaller version (2 octaves as opposed to 2-octaves-and-5-notes) for much cheaper from Think Geek (they sound much cheaper, as well).

Sample

Songs:
When We Were Small

 

 Suzuki Q-Chord

Q-Chord
The Suzuki Q-Chord combines the sounds of a cheesy Casio keyboard with the playability of the autoharp and packages it all up in a plastic case colored a striking deep brown. Yes, it's THAT dreamy!

The world's premier Q-Chordist might be Jenny Omnichord.

Songs:
When My Baby Was Mine (on the bridge)

 

 Stylophone

Stylophone
The Stylophone is a little keyboard -- although without keys, really -- with an attached stylus. When you touch the stylus to a "key," it makes a sort of buzzing noise. You can hear it on David Bowie's "Space Oddity."

You can read more about the Stylophone here.

Songs:
Too Late to Sleep

 

 Tambourines

Tambourines
MAN!! Who DOESN'T love tambourines???

 

 

 

 Thingamagoop

Thingamagoop
I bought this online from Bleep Labs.
You can go to that site to check out an awesome video of the Thingamagoop in action!

You can get the Thingamagoop in custom colors; I chose the drowsy color scheme, of course! (Click on the little pic to see a big pic!)

This is a photosensitive noisemaker. Turning it on causes it to emit a screechy electronic warble, which changes depending on how much light is shining on its nose. The antenna that comes out of its head shines a light; the tummy dial adjusts the strobe of the light. The two, uh, nipples adjust the pitch and something else -- I'm not sure what to call it -- it makes the sound more "choppy."

You might say I'm foolish to spend a hundred bucks on a little robot that makes noise, and I'm not sure that I have a convincing counter-argument.

Nevertheless it sure is cute, and I do have plans for it, so watch this space. Or right below this space, I guess.

 

 Thumb Piano

Thumb Piano
A present from Sue. Pluck the metal tines and it makes nice little plunking sounds. This particular one has a flat board rather than a hollow resonator box.

Songs:
221

 

 Tin Whistles

Tin Whistles
Perfect for Irish jigs, or, um...well, I dunno. Hornpipes?

In any event, I have several. Here they seem to be rising up like Cylons, ready to conquer the earth.

Songs:
Let Me Wear Your Ring

 

 ”Tongue

Tongue Drum
This is a four-note wooden tongue drum, although some of the notes are hard to tell apart. According to my electronic tuner, the two main notes are Eb and Bb, so that should be useful.

 

 

 Toy Piano

Toy Piano
Sue bought this for me from one of the local antique shops.  It's a Schoenhut -- after Albert Schoenhut, who invented the toy piano in 1872.

Where full-size pianos have hammers that strike strings, the toy version has hammers that instead strike metal rods.  Here is the Wikipedia entry on toy pianos.

I have no idea when this particular one was made, but it's in good shape.  It's another instrument that I make sure to never try and figure out if it's in tune -- it's close enough for me as long as I don't actually know one way or the other.

Songs:
Happy
I Gave You Lots of Presents (But You Left Me In the Past)

 

 Toy Piano (plastic)

Toy Piano (tiny and plastic)
Value Village, three bucks. Bright yellow with four multi colored keys; pressing a key causes a hammer inside to strike a xylophone bar.

I have a post-it stuck to the piano which has the notes of the xylophone bars written on it. It says: "Db (ish) - F - Ab - C". That lowest note was probably supposed to be a C as well; someone in the Little Tikes metalshop has a bit of a tin ear, I'm afraid.

 

 Tremoloa

Tremoloa
I got this from my friend Josh, who got it from, I think, Trading Musician in Seattle. It's another gizmo harp from the erstwhile Marx company.

This one has 16 strings on the left hand side, grouped into four chords of four strings each. On the right hand side is a single string, and a gadget consisting of a heavy weight attached to a thumb pick (top right corner of the pic to your left). As you move your right hand up and down, plucking this single string, the weight presses down on the string, changing the pitch as it slides up and down. (Click of the pic to the left to see a pic of me pretending to play it to get a better idea of what I mean.)

It has a pleasent Hawaiian sound to it and is one of the least ungainly of the Marx harps.

 

 Violin-Uke

Violin-Uke
The Violin-Uke is neither. It is another Marx device. It has 16 strings running up the middle, grouped into chords -- these are plucked -- and then there are 16 more strings, 8 on each side, that you play with a bow in your other hand. With your third hand, you hold the thing down.

My mom found this at a thrift store and gave it to me for Christmas.

Songs:
Too Late to Sleep (on the bridge)

 

 Xylomatic

Xylomatic
The xylomatic is a sort of automatic xylophone. Turning a crank rotates a cylinder; the cylinder has thin rods running lengthwise, attached to which are white pegs. (The pegs are slid back and forth on the rods to line up with different notes.) When the pegs reach a beater, the beater is pushed up and then drops down on the respective bar.

Although the notes are indicated along the front (A, B, C, etc.), the bars are a couple of steps off from their designations and out of tune relative to each other even on top of that. I am considering replacing the bars with some decent glockenspiel bars.

 

 Yamaha TX81Z

Yamaha TX81Z
This is a "Tone Generator" -- kind of like an electronic keyboard, but without the keys. You have to hook up another keyboard to it to control it, and then this thing makes the actual noises. I haven't delved into it much -- only used it on one song so far.

Songs:
Turn Off the Eyeball

 

 

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