Wednesday, September 9, 2015

"Manilow's Lap" - Make Your Own Instrument (Second Assignment)

For the assignment, we are supposed to use found objects to make a playable instrument. I didn't want to make something percussive since that's the easiest thing to do so I decided to try my hand at making a banjo.

I'm going to use an old tennis racket for the frame and neck, a basket for the resonating chamber, Barry Manilow & Johnny Mathis records to seal the chamber, and a Homeward Bound VHS tape as the drum head. I'll have to buy strings as well.

As of today, I've finished the instrument. I call it "Manilow's Lap." It has evolved a bit from my original idea. The VHS tape drumhead didn't work out so I used the Johnny Mathis record sleeve for the head and put Barry Manilow's face on top. I used a combination of old acoustic bronze and nylon strings. The tennis racket stayed out of shape so I used a bunch of zip ties to hold the resonating basket in place and to keep the racket's handle a specific size to attach the guitar neck.

I had to take off a guitar neck from my existing guitar in order to tune the strings and have a real neck. Miscellaneous wood pieces I cut on the band saw act as the bridge and holds the neck up. The bottom of a Pepsi cup keeps the instrument laying relatively flat on a table but it's easier to hold in your lap.

It's very delicate and seems like a one-and-done instrument. Using a Corona beer bottle neck as a slide is optional. It is tuned to open-G with a D in unison.

I'd like to say that it sounds good but I think the strings are too far away from Barry to have any real resonance so it sounds like an electric guitar without amplification. It's fun to play though and I'm glad I was at least able to make any sound with it at all after two weeks of work on it.

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