919noise 4/6/2010 Stochasticaster debut

For the performance at the 919noise showcase, I built an instrument based on a cross between a guitar, a kalimba, and a spring reverb tank.

no name yet

I wanted a physical sounds source as opposed to something electronic or digital. In this case, magnetic pickups with strings resonating in them like a regular electric guitar. Long loose strings for reverb type sounds, short strings for kalimba like tones. 34 strings/tines in total, 5 single coil pickups, 5 bridges. String gauge range from .09 inch (typically the high E string on a guitar), all the way down to a .106 inch string (typically low E string on a bass guitar).

Bridges were the same style of electrical panel grounding bars as I used on the Kalimbazooka.

Unlike the Kalimbazooka, this used the more flexible electric guitar strings for the tines, which made it somewhat difficult to tune. The strings were very sensitive to the exposed length, which was difficult to get right. I got it mostly at tune at one point, but it drifted quickly, and I ended up forgetting about trying to tune it to a particular set of notes. Oh well, it makes cool noise.

Built it in a week or two. Not sure I learned to play it as well as I would like, but I wanted something new and interesting. I guess with this kind of thing, the main thing to figure out is how it interacts with the amps and feedback, which I thought I had figured out.

I played first after a couple minutes of soundcheck. One of the first problems I ran into was the buzz/hum. Lots of it. The type of pickups in it (single coils) have a tendency to buzz a bit, but in normal guitars, only one is on at a time. I had 5 of them. That plus some long wires, bad shielding on the cheap donor guitar, and I had a pretty loud buzz. Could be worse, it was a noise show at least. I’ve got some ideas on how to fix it though.

Adrian at nightlight

The high noise floor made it a little hard to use as much dynamics as I would have like. Quieter things got washed away in the noise. So less subtlety was called for.

Was nervous about it as usual, and rushed stuff. Not particularly a good habit for noise/ambient/drone, hopefully it works for me. Seemed to get a good response, and folks were curious and complimentary about the instrument.

heart kalimba


I’m on a bit of a trend. This was built as a belated Valentines day gift so it was made from a heart shaped candy box. The main set of tines use a busbar, just like the kalimba’s on the kalimbazooka.


The pine sounding board and metal resonator gives it a pretty good sound. It is tuned to two octaves of a pentatonic C major scale.


Kalimbateeny A tiny Kalimba, also known as a thumb piano, designed to be worn as a piece of jewelery. The Kalimbateeny is a fully functional musical instrument, tuned to a D major pentatonic scale (D, E, F#, A, B). It’s made from purpleheart wood, and uses bobby pins for tines.




my build notes:

– laser cut purpleheart box
  – purple heart sourced at Woodcraft, ~1/8″ thick plank

  – cut in four pieces

  1.     top piece
  •         – sound hole
  •         – holes for retaining bar screws to go though
  1.     middle pieces
  •         – most of interior volume removed
  •         – slightly larger holes cut for end of screw and nut to fit
  •             – should probably be even larger for washer/lock washers to fit
  1.     bottom pieces
  •         – no holes, etc
  •         – (should have made holes through the bottom, would make assembly/disassembly easier)

– retaining bar is 1/4 inch steel rod
    – sourced at hardware store
    – two holes drilled through for retaining bar screws

      – best done on a mill/drill press but I did it with a cordless drill
    – cut to ~1.5 inches

– sound bars are 3/16 inch steel rod
    – sourced at hardware store
    – cut to ~1.25 inches
    – in theory this can be free floating on the surface, but I found

    assembly much easier after I glued them to the surface
        – gorilla glue, clamped with the retaining bar, screws, and two extra tines

    – used bobby pins
        – sourced from the pile of bobby pins in the bathroom

        – cut apart with dremel
        – used the straight part, with the rubberized coating at the end
    – (tried using tines cut from a sewer snake approx 1/8 inch wide, but these
    tines seemed to be too stiff for the small size of the box)

– fasteners

    – 3mm phillips pan screws
    – 3mm hex nuts
        – (washers and lock washers recommended if space allows)

– wood finish
    – walnut oil
        – (something a little clearer would have probably been better, to lessen discoloration of the purpleheart)

– hanging
    – slot cut though 3rd layer of wood before box assembly
        – large enough to fit some silver craft wire though to make
         wire wrapped loops on each end
    – cording created from hand-dyed silk ribbon and attached to wire-wrapped loops with overhand knots

    – overhand knots covered with cones
    – ends finished with ribbon ends

flushio=0 show review

Played last night as flushio=0 (“flush I/O equals zero”, long story…) at Nightlight as part of the 919noise showcase.

Kalimbazooka in action

I spent my free time last week building the instrument I played. I call it the Kalimbazooka. It is two kalimbas mounted to a large cardboard tube. It has a pizeo contact pickup for amplification. I added a shoulder mount for holding it, and some red LEDs because everything needs red LEDs.

The music at 919noise shows tend to be all over the map, but it’s weird, often improvised, usually electronic in nature, and weird. The Kalimbazooka and my playing of it meets all of the above requirements.

I have to admit, I spent 95% of my time building and testing it, and not that much time learning how to play it. But it went okay anyway. No one threw anything at me (though that may have been due to me holding a large weapon looking device).

I played a short set, only about 12 minutes or so of actual playing. I try to play short sets at this noise shows, typically aiming for about 20-25 minutes. It felt like I played about three times as long, but I don’t have the best perception of time when I’m nervous.


I was worried about having equipment issues, but the kalimbazooka worked great. I did manage to break on of my favourite pieces of gear (a Digitech Space Station), but I can fix it. That threw me off a little bit, since I had practised with it and was planning on using it heavily.

Crowd response seemed good, so I’m happy. I have video of it, so it may go up on youtube at some point.

Now I need to figure out what the next thing I want to build is. I have ideas. Lots of ideas ;->

annoying noise

If there is one skill I have with regards to music, it’s that I make can make some really annoying noises.

While driving home, I started thinking about what would be the most annoying musical instrument one could build. More specially, more or less “acoustic” instruments.[1]

The ideas that came to mind were mostly about building wind instruments, and attaching a large number of them to a compressed air source. Kind of like a set of bagpipes, but far more annoying.

A large pressure chamber with say, three dozen slide whistles attached to it. All slightly out of tune. Or a large number of siren whistles. Or both. Maybe a few dozen cheap penny whistles. Or a hundred kazoos.

Something else to put on the list of things to build.

[1] and not including things that are just brutally loud, like a klaxon, or steam whistle, or a Hemi powered siren, or an orchestra of pulse jets, or maybe a fog horn.