My plan is to start with a few that are simple but reliable instruments that can be used in a live setting without fear of it falling out of tune or snapping in half, or snapping in half and then falling out of tune.
As some of you may know I have been working on an album with a band called Fembots. We have been recording for about a year now and getting some great results. Over that year I really had the opportunity to see the instruments in action. This has helped refine what I was building, or rather Brian telling me it was crap helped refine what I was building. In the studio there is much room for error. Often I found myself banging away on an instrument for five to ten minutes only to watch Dave cut it down to about ten seconds and make it into a loop. I would ask Dave about this and all he would say is that I needed the practice. He reminds me of my piano teacher I had as a small boy. She was a most evil cow. The point is that in the studio little bits can be added here and there, things can be altered and fixed up, live on stage is another matter all together. As I say these new instruments have to be reliable and sound good. For the next few months I am going to build things around the album with the idea of touring in mind. I may rebuild old instruments that we used in recording, or I might just try to build new to get a sound we already have, this time without the aid of a computer and sound technician.
I am looking forward to what this year will bring.
Having said all that I can now finally get to the Electric Chicken Cooker Thumb Piano, and it’s extremely simple construction. Maybe after you build a certain amount of thumb pianos from junk the universe give you a little break and make it just a bit less frustrating. I think that was the case for this instrument. Thumb pianos have always given me a hard time. There are a great many thumb piano carcasses in the spaceroom right now as I speak. It is the mounting of the tines that always makes me snap. This time though I used a mount that I recovered from a junction box. It has threaded screws already in place and a pre-drilled hole you can use to attach it to what ever face plate you like. I have a thing for chicken cookers so I went with that. The tines are from a street sweeper that Dave had collected so many years ago. They are strong and flexible, but thin. For years I was using rake tines, but they are a bit too thick and everything always sounded a bit flat. The back end of the tines has been swirlafied which slightly changes the sound if you pluck it from behind. I might experiment with this further I think it warms the sound up a bit, but I don’t want to chance it on this piece.
Inside there is a simple contact mic, a volume knob and a three quarter inch jack. All of it is very simple in its construction, but extremely effective in its sound.