Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Weird Instruments 5 - The Lap Skate Guitar

Take a skateboard deck. Add some strings, frets, tuning pegs, and a pickup, and you've got a manbearpig... er... a lap skate guitar.

It looks and sounds like this:

Here's a write-up, including an "OMG" headline which I'm too proud to reproduce: [LINK]

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Weird Instruments 4 - The Sapeh

Today we have a traditional lute from Borneo... the Sapeh.

(Or sape... Or sampet... Or sampeh... Or maybe sapek... in this case the spelling seems so informal as to be accidental)

At first it looks just like any other lute, but upon closer examination you'll notice some unique features:
Sapeh front, side, and back
(click to embiggen)
  • Only one of the strings is fretted. It's the only string used for melody. The other three strings are drones. The frets themselves are tiny, just extending across the one string.
  • There's no sound hole. That's because it doesn't need one.  The instrument has a hollow back, and the whole thing is carved from a single bole of wood.
  • For such a heavy instrument, it sounds light and ethereal. The resonance chamber opens away toward the body of the player. 
  • It has electric pickups. As it turns out, these things are very easily converted to electric use.
  • The tuning pegs are rudimentary dowels.
  • The strings are of different physical lengths, and each has its own nut. They're fed through holes in the head to the tuning pegs.

The Atlas of Plucked Instruments (did you know there was such a thing?) surmises that this instrument was devised by boat builders, which may account for its odd design.

There's a site on Angelfire where you can actually buy your very own finely crafted beast. However, if you were to carve one yourself, you might want to note the tuning, which should be as follows:
String 1: Tune like the middle C of the piano
String 2:Tune like C one octave lower than middle C
String 3: Tune to A, a minor third below middle C
String 4: Tune to F, a perfect fourth above middle C

And now that you've had the nickel tour, here's a playlist of sapeh music to keep you busy: