Looking around my house at the large collection of arcane musical instruments, it does sometimes occur to me that I may have wasted my life.
Stuff I play:
Guitar (DADEAB, DGDGBD, CGCGCD)
Tenor-Extended Treble English Concertina
Bb Baritone English Concertina
Bb/F Anglo Concertina
D/G, C/F and A/D Melodeons
Banjo (Double C and Mountain Minor tunings)
Hurdy Gurdy (Auvergnat and Borbonnais tunings)
There may well be others. I'm currently trying to figure out Tenor Sax and American Marching G trumpet. I sing a bit as well.
Stuff I repair:
As a player, it's quite useful to know how to set up, maintain and repair instruments. I've been taking instruments to bits for years and studied violin making in Cambridge. Over recent years I've been carrying out fiddle repairs for a music shop.
Stuff I've invented:
I’ve made a couple of instruments and mended a fair few now that I come to think of it. Don’t get me started on the subject though - The way I natter on about it, you’d think I was Rene Lacote. Here’s a few ideas for new instruments, some sensible, some less so.
“Loomes Chromatic” Melodeon. (sensible)
“the best system by a mile I’ve seen to attempt to meld chromaticism with a push-pull instrument.” - John Spiers
I’m currently working on a design for a new type of melodeon. The basic idea is to create a fully chromatic diatonic instrument with neither “easy” or “difficult” keys, without the wastage of continental chromatic boxes or the limited scope of a B/C box. Basically, it's 2 hexatonic scales either a 4th or a semitone apart. There are many variations possible on this basic theme including 3 row versions that are probably more useful (but obviously rather bigger and heavier). I reckon it'd be quite easy to make one out of a Garmoshka.
Descant Violin. (sensible)
...or upper octave viola? This came about after thinking of creative uses for unused 3/4 instruments. By using lighter strings (helped by a shorter scale length) and a bit of reshaping of the top plate, it’s possible to get a violin to perform well at a pitch of a 4th above normal tuning. This allows you to play stratospheric top lines without having to mess about in the uncomfortable areas above first position. I’m still playing about with ways to get it to go up a tone higher (DAEB), without the high tension ripping it to bits. As played by Edwin Beasant of Pilgrims’ Way.
Octochordeophonium. (reasonably sensible)
This fancifully named instrument is basically a long scale 8 string baritone guitar. I started designing this in order to incorporate the interval patterns of CGCGCD and DADEAB (the two tunings I tend to use most frequently). By extending the scale out by a couple of frets it should be possible to get a standard set of medium gauge strings onto the middle six adding an additional .12 on top and something like a .62 on the bass. This then allows the tuning GDGDGADE, which gives the required interval pattern in the base key of G. It will also allow the player to retune easily to GDADGADE etc for a kind of extended DADGAD if required.
Eccentrichord. (slightly unhinged)
This is a cutaway 000 octochordophoneum with fan fretting (26.5" on the bass, 24.9" on the trebles) and a banjo "5th" string. I doubt it will ever fly.
Tritone accordion. (sensible if you don’t like playing hard music)
Very simply, an accordion with all the notes transposed up and/or down a diminished fifth. This makes difficult keys easy (and vice versa) - To play in F#, you would finger C major, Ab minor becomes E minor etc. A brilliant idea, unless you already play 5 row button key.
Slightly louder than anything else at a session, the Irritaphone is designed to produce a musical scale with a tone quality based on the harmonics that one would normally consider rather unmusical. Still at the design stage, this device is intended for use in situations where one or more players are ruining the event for everyone else. You simply deploy the Irritaphone and then wait for the offending parties to go away. Details of exactly how the sound is produced are top secret in order to avoid anyone ascribing a Hornbostel-Sachs classification to it, without which it cannot be defined as a musical instrument thereby making it exempt from the “two in a bar” legislation.
The onomatopoeiaphone is exactly what it sounds like.
Stuff I've made with Colin:
Recently, I've been following the path of the guitar maker with my very good friend Colin Kendall, a superb luthier based in Bury, Manchester who has been kind enough to let me loose in his workshop.
Martin "0" pattern guitar, cocobolo/German spruce.
Teardrop mandolin, cocobolo and sitka spruce.