Friday, December 5, 2014

8-string electric guitar conversion

Adding 2 extra strings (Chikari) to an electric guitar as an adaptation for Hindustani music.

As my first experiment, I chose a $15 Goodwill special (First Act) just to see what the results would offer.

I cut off most of the old headstock at a 15 degree angle and grafted some grain-matched maple in the same way I would on a custom guitar neck. It creates a very strong neck, as the wood grain runs parallel to the headstock (instead of at 15 degree angle) and therefore more resistant to breaks.
 When done correctly, you can barely see this joint!

I always laminate a veneer on the top, in this case Brazilian Rosewood. This dresses it up, and adds a lot of strength to the joint (not that it needs it):
I used the stock black tuners for the 6 playing strings, and two spare Gotoh's I had for the chikari. For a higher-end job, where appearance is a concern I would use matching tuners. Since there are 8 strings involved, nice mandolin tuners would be an option.

For the bridge, the fixed-bridge they had on there turned out to have enough room to drill to small holes, spaced just right from the bass string, to run the two chikaris through. All that was left was to make a small bridge (out of steel 1/4" stock) to hold the chikari's about 2 mm above the plane of the melodic strings:

This is somewhat crude, and I may look into developing a seventh adjustable saddle bridge, or look into ordering custom 7-string bridges as replacements on higher-end jobs. But it works...

On the nut end, I just created a nut that extends about 3/8" past the bass end, and left it so it could be shaped to hold the strings (again) about 2mm above the plane of the melodic strings (that comes from my friend who plays sarod in the Shah-Jahanpur gharana- they have their chikaris about 2-3mm above the main strings):
 A pretty straightforward conversion, with lots of room for adding tweaks to make it more adjustable, extra strings, tunable by capo, etc. etc.

I will upload a video someday if I get the time! Contact me if you have any questions on this process.

Note: Cut your guitar up at your own risk!!!
'Crafting a nut' and 'grafting a headstock' are terms I'm using lightly- it took me about 8 years to get my chops up on that stuff building custom instruments, and I wouldn't necessarily recommend for the DIY'er unless you have a lot of experience!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Pterocarpus Erinaceus

Pterocarpus erinaceus: wood used to make musical instruments in West and Central Africa. Used for, among other things, djembe and mbira. The native Shona word for this tree is mukambira.

I had noticed that the wood on many mbiras I saw was similar to many of the djembes I have seen- but did not resemble any hardwoods I am acquainted with. Turns out most are made from this tree.

It also turns out P. Erinaceus is part of the legume family, as are the rosewoods that are so desirable to luthiery as tonewoods. Also in the legume family are acacias (incl. Koa), locusts, bubinga, wenge, and purpleheart, among others.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Kid Kalimba Month!!!

SPECIAL HOLIDAY NEWS! and Holiday donations &
Kid Kalimba celebration

A friend posted this video online, which I found incredibly inspiring. Maggie Doyne did something I think we all at some point wish we could do: give our lives over to the betterment of others. But I found her amazing story so refreshing and inspiring:

Maggie Doyne — Why the human family can do better from The Do Lectures on Vimeo.

So I decided to DONATE 10% OF ALL SALES TO BLINKNOW.ORG through January 2014.

At first, I thought, I should move the family somewhere we can devote our lives to helping others. Sure it would be a major disruptive change, but it is the right thing to do.

But then I realized, despite the best intentions, we are not all meant to do service work. I could give you a dozen reasons why that would be a horrible idea, for me personally as well as my family. Is this a copout? Not really. I intend to volunteer (and encourage my kids to) on occasion for any projects that I can find throughout my life, but that is not the main fulfillment of my abilities and passions as a person.

I also realized, that in my own way, I CAN help people directly- by donating money I make doing what I love, and doing what I am good at, I can devote my life's work- making musical instruments- (at least in part) towards helping people.

So to celebrate, this is KID KALIMBA MONTH!
These instruments are made for kids, make great gifts for the holidays, are crafted from local sustainable materials, and part of the proceeds go towards helping children!!
Buy One Now

Buy as many as you can for the kids you know, and tell your friends about them as well!

Happy Holidays,

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Jarana Veracruzana repair

This instrument is interesting in many ways. It is made of a nice smelling pine-like wood most likely endemic to the region:

The entire back, sides, neck and pegbox are carved from a single solid piece. The only glued on parts are the soundboard and fingerboard!

In this shot you can sort of make out how the sides were carved out before the soundboard was added:
And here you can see the back, neck all as one piece. It may look like a glued joint, but it is one continuous piece for the entire thing!
The other interesting thing to note, is that although the strings are separated at the nut into 5 distinct courses, for fretting chords, at the bridge all 10 strings are equally spaced:
I think the intention of this design is to have an even sound strumming across all 10 strings. There would be little melody playing done on an instrument like this.

In jarocho son music, the rhythmic strumming is very important. This type of instrument provides rhythmic strumming, and chords, while other instruments and singing would provide the voice.

I love seeing how instruments are built suited to a particular style of music.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Drumroll please.... here (hear) is the sound of the Esraj with mylar head! Kishan Patel does an amazing job in this performance:

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Esraj final

One portion of the rim epoxy came loose after gluing; the job was salvaged by heating and molding the shape of the mylar over the rim, and gluing it completely around the edge with a 3M adhesive, Super 77. The stuff was very gooey and gross to work with, but did the trick- strong tack and fast, durable bond.

Here we are tuning and setting the bridge position:

And it was just in time! Here is a photo from a few days later, in concert with Arijit Mahalanabis, Samir Chatterjee, in the very able hands of Kishan Patel

Monday, June 24, 2013

Esraj head gluing

Here she is stretched on a frame:

and now with epoxy and clamps and weights (I eat heavy peanuts):