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Built your own musical instrument
Old 03-24-2009, 07:36 PM   #1
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Built your own musical instrument

Who out there has built your own musical instrument and plays or is learning to play? I'm NOT talking about a kazoo made out of plastic straw, here.

I've built an electric, solid-body lap steel, and am now trying to learn to play it. Preferably not in country-western, western-swing or heavy-metal rock, which is what all the instructors I can find emphasize or demand. Look up 'lap steel' in YouTube. Of course, it would help to have some minimal musical talent. I have also built several 'cigar-box guitars' (mine was made with small cardboard pizza boxes).
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Old 03-24-2009, 08:15 PM   #2
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Back in the 70's DH and I bought a dulcimer kit and built a nice dulcimer. While I liked the thing and learned a few basic techniques, I realized I am lacking a music gene. But we kept the thing around and our musically inclined son learned to play it and he does very well with it. He makes far more music out of it than we ever did. He enjoys it a lot and uses it in a lot of his recordings, along with guitar, keyboards and drums.
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Old 03-24-2009, 09:10 PM   #3
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One summer while still in high school I built what I thought was a medieval guitar: narrow long body with the tuning head at 90 deg. to the neck. It was a little bassy, but it played OK. Later, in college, I built a more conventional classical guitar. It wasn't a concert instrument, but had good sound. The first one survives today but with a crack. The other one didn't make it through the many moves.
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Old 03-24-2009, 10:04 PM   #4
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Well, I guess my wax paper and comb creations won't count for much in this crowd...

Thanks for posting, though, ScooterGuy. Reading up on the differences between steel, pedal and slide guitars was tonight's educational diversion.

I only saw two steel players whose name I recognized: David Lindley (great solos on Jackson Browne's "Running on Empty") and Junior Brown (from Austin).

Junior is a real kick to watch. There's a Gap commercial he did with some good close-ups of his "guit-steel", a custom-built two neck creation that's mighty cool in his hands:

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Old 03-24-2009, 10:33 PM   #5
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Being a flutist and fifer, I always thought it would be cool to build my own instrument. Alas, I have no idea where to start, though I do have woodworking skills...
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Old 03-25-2009, 09:03 AM   #6
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WOnder how hard it would be to build a trombone?
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Old 03-25-2009, 09:30 AM   #7
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I've seen Junior three or four times. Great player, but would be even better if he'd focus on one or the other. Switching back and forth between six string and lap steel, all the while singing, is impressive, but sometimes he has too many irons in the fire, so to speak...

Other steel/lap steel players of note: Sneaky Pete Kleinow, Jerry Garcia (steel on Teach Your Children), David Gilmour (One of These Days, Breathe, Shine On You Crazy Diamond), Robert Randolph (check out Clapton's first Crossroads concert video). Of course, pedal steel is used widely in country music, and dobro is used extensively in country, blues, and bluegrass. Slide guitar is also used in rock, blues, and some country, ala Duane Allman, Johnny Winter, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton...
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Old 03-25-2009, 01:02 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by FIREdreamer View Post
Being a flutist and fifer, I always thought it would be cool to build my own instrument. Alas, I have no idea where to start, though I do have woodworking skills...
I made this one with DD, it actually sounds very nice.

The Plumber's Pipe (Making PVC Flutes, Make a Flute)

Google will bring up a bunch more.

-ERD50
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Old 03-25-2009, 04:03 PM   #9
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So an old wash tub upside down, stick and some string don't count? Only sounded good as a base player when everyone was well oiled.
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Old 03-25-2009, 05:56 PM   #10
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I made this one with DD, it actually sounds very nice.

The Plumber's Pipe (Making PVC Flutes, Make a Flute)

Google will bring up a bunch more.

-ERD50
That little plastic flute sounds surprisingly good actually!
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Old 04-09-2009, 08:31 PM   #11
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Other steel/lap steel players of note...
Add Nils Lofgren to the list. I saw him last night at the Springsteen show. He played a lap steel on one song, and slide guitar on several others. For slide, he held the guitar flat or nearly flat and played the slide hand palm down, like this:

I suppose that style comes from the lap and pedal steel experience, but when you are in his league, who knows what influences what...( He played keyboards on Neil Young's After the Goldrush in 1970, at age 18!)

He also has a very interesting and unique strumming style. He wore a thumb pick for the majority of the concert, even for his lead solos. I don't remember seeing that from a lead guitarist before.

Oh, and that guy Springsteen can play, too. A very underrated guitarist, in my opinion. The dueling guitar solos on "The Ghost of Tom Joad" were outstanding.
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Old 04-09-2009, 09:07 PM   #12
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Speaking of thumbs...

Toy Caldwell and TMTB

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Old 05-20-2009, 09:32 PM   #13
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Hey HWFR, Scooter Guy:

Did you see that Cyndi Lauper played an acoustic lap steel on the American Idol finale? She wasn't a very good player, but I enjoyed the attempt.

Recognize the instrument? Or is it a custom / homemade?

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Old 05-20-2009, 11:31 PM   #14
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I suppose that style comes from the lap and pedal steel experience, but when you are in his league, who knows what influences what...( He played keyboards on Neil Young's After the Goldrush in 1970, at age 18!)

He also has a very interesting and unique strumming style. He wore a thumb pick for the majority of the concert, even for his lead solos. I don't remember seeing that from a lead guitarist before.
When the old time bluesmen from the South were touring in the late 60s early 70s I saw someone in LA at the Ash Grove who payed slide that way. He used a closed pocket knife, and held the acoutic guitar almost flat on his lap. I can't remember who it was. He wore thumb pick and those little steel finger picks too.
This isn't the guy, but this guy, Johnnie Shines came to LA like 1971 or so. One Saturday he just walked around Venice beach playing that wild slide like he plays here. He was wearing an old suit and business shoes walking in the sand. Just walked up to people and played and sang.



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Old 05-21-2009, 08:44 AM   #15
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Hey HWFR, Scooter Guy:

Did you see that Cyndi Lauper played an acoustic lap steel on the American Idol finale? She wasn't a very good player, but I enjoyed the attempt.

Recognize the instrument? Or is it a custom / homemade?

Don't watch the program... Looks like an Appalachian dulcimer, which may or may not be homemade. One can buy dulcimer kits, but I haven't.

Dulcimer Kits

Dulcimer Kits
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Old 05-22-2009, 11:47 AM   #16
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My son designed and built a solid body electric guitar. Even though he already knew how to play, he needed some engineering advice to avoid making a piece of junk.

My opinion: learn to play it first, then look into building it.
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