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Amber
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27th June 2013
Old 27th June 2013
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Instruments worth having...

I'm looking to get a few instruments to play around with.

I don't have a ton of space or money but I've been browsing eBay and come across a ton of 'ethnic' things made of wood but wonder if they'll just end up not being in tune and just being a pain etc.

However, I've come across a fairly cheap (£169) Lefty lap steel guitar with P90 pickups. I've read a few people mention using these and they seem like a great tool for drones, textures etc and I like the fact I don't need to mic it. I thought about getting one and putting some thick strings on it on the bass side (I wouldn't play it as a normal lap steel)

Anything else within a reasonable budget that is a no brainer? I have electric guitars, bass

I've looked at the cheap chinese electric cellos as well. Maybe just for a human element to my music and some experimental stuff like long slow bows (I don't play but maybe I could learn what I need?)
#2
27th June 2013
Old 27th June 2013
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Truthfully,

I have a mid-range sitar that blows everything you'll find on ebay out of the water, if the ebay find is playable at all. I had to call in some favors and have it brought over from calcutta. I ultimately paid the same price for a MUCH higher quality instrument. I've also played with a cheap chinese violin, you definitely get what you pay for. The local violin shop calls those "VSOs" Violin-shaped objects. I've played some cheap Tablas as well as nice ones, same thing.

The lap steel is a good idea, you'll want to get a volume pedal for the biggest impact to the effect (you'll be able to mimick SOME pedal steel techniques this way) On a cheap lap steel, you'll either wind up replacing the tuners or constantly adjusting them and you'll probably get some hum off a p-90.

The only thing I've gotten "cheap" that I've been happy with is my plywood upright bass. It doesn't quite sound like a carved instrument but for pizz jazz lines, it sounds fine.

Remember that most "ethnic" instruments you see on ebay are tourist-grade and really meant to be stuck in a corner as decoration, not as playable instruments.

There's ultimately about 4 grades of all of this stuff, tourist, student, intermediate and concert grade and with each grade, you're going to have a jump in price.

It's just like guitars, there's sub-squier, squier, mexican fender and american fender. (depending on the year, I put the japanese ones in line with the american)

Also, remember that instruments are all unique and most "ethnic" instruments take a long time to get good enough to even make simple recordings of yourself playing with moderately good tone.

That being said, you can get a good quality mountain dulcimer pretty cheap, you can get a passable Mandolin (passable, not great, don't beat me up mando players) so long as you stick with well-known names that aren't Rogue. Djembes and Cajons can be had pretty inexpensively, and you can't go wrong with a good set of castinettes, shakers, rain sticks, maracas etc.

The real trick is this: if it's pretty, it's crappy. The real student grade stuff is not very fancy in terms of ornamentation, the tourist grade stuff is ornate to a fault.
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27th June 2013
Old 27th June 2013
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I never thought of a sitar.

The lap steel has two P90s so shouldn't have hum with both selected I think.

I've been wanting a dulcimer for a while after seeing Cyndi Lauper playing Time After Time on TV with one once. Thanks for the reminder.

I had a feeling all the cheap ethnic stuff on eBay was just crap.
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27th June 2013
Old 27th June 2013
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Sitar is a beast to play. I'm a guitarist primarily and adjusting to this "most of it's done on 1 string" is wild. They're also considerably larger (and lighter) than you'd expect. My Sitar in the case stands about as tall as my upright piano (not a spinnet piano)

The thing with dual-pickup setups in my opinion is I tend to not love the tone when both are engaged. I love my tele's neck pickup and bridge pickup but combined doesn't really do it for me.

Remember that there are two kinds of dulcimers. There's a hammer dulcimer and you'll spend a lot to get a good one of those and then a mountain dulcimer which you play kinda like a lap steep except you fret rather than use a slide.
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27th June 2013
Old 27th June 2013
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I'm seriously considering getting a chinese Les Paul Custom copy (I'm lefty so it's always hard to find half decent second hand instruments) and taking the frets out and modding the bridge for a bowed guitar.
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27th June 2013
Old 27th June 2013
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I've been down that road, get an ebow.

The problem with guitar is that you can't really get the neck and bridge radiused enough to effectively bow.

If you're looking to bow chords, sure, but melodies, you're going to have a pretty bad time.

I've run the gamut of learning instruments. Space is less of an issue for me in my home so I get to have lots of cool toys, real piano, organ, claivnet, upright bass (acoustic and stick), drum set (acoustic and electric), nice trombone, sitar, 20-something guitars (including basses from 4-6 strings and an ashbory), the list goes on...

What I realized though is that I only have time to maintain proficiency on a couple so I play the sitar as a hobby, maintain my guitar chops and I've backed off the bass as I haven't been gigging as much and been playing the piano.

The only thing I'm *KINDA* hot sh*t on is guitar and even that, I'm certainly not the best. I've built the collection for for sessions than anything else. I'm not a great piano player but I can bring in a great piano player and I'll get a better result than if they play MIDI keys and I try to use Acoustik piano or some other sample set. I also have a wife that totally indulges my habit and gets just as psyched for a new piece of gear as I do (except for our stereo for some reason...)

The bargains really aren't on ebay, that's for sure.
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27th June 2013
Old 27th June 2013
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I thought about having the 6th and 5th string on one side and the 1st and second on the other and leave out the 3rd and 4th. Wasn't into the idea of doing elaborate melodies, mostly just root notes etc and maybe some simple stuff on the high strings and experiment with open tunings and using a glass or steel slide across the strings.

I'm not really interested in a lot of instruments, I'm not a synth lover, I don't like drums apart from big low sounding ones. I basically like anything that sounds cool with delay, reverb etc and I love musical feedback which I haven't figured out a way to make reliable yet in the sense that I can control it and get what I want fast.
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27th June 2013
Old 27th June 2013
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I hear ya, I'm into all of it, it's a problem lol.

I have some rack-mount synths, a DX7, a Kurzweil ribbon controller...

I know where you're coming from but if your experience is anything like mine, it's going to be "cool, got the drones, now I want to do melodies" so I'm always thinking in the future.

If you're into droning stuff, you might like an indian Tanbura (Tanpura). The ebay ones are probably fine though you'll need to get some carpenter's chalk to get the pegs to not slip and you may need to really research how to cut the bridge to get the cool overtones.

Musical feedback is the holy grail for noize guys. It's hard to do. I like my ebow because that's basically the sound.
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27th June 2013
Old 27th June 2013
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I love me some of the feedback here at the start.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_rvtB--XIIs

If the wah wasn't so harsh it'd be perfect.

Do you put foam on your ebow to stop the plastic touching strings sound?

I'm not sure if I still have one, will have to get another if not.
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27th June 2013
Old 27th June 2013
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For the (basically) non guitar playing / non drumming composer :

Danelectro Baritone with flat wounds.
Small body 000-18
Guitar set up for slide
Maybe a resonater if you''ve got the $$$.

3-4 staples.


Lots of shakers, rattles, pods, tambourines, etc. Maybe some frame drums.

Bongos.


When it comes to instruments, the old addage - you get what you pay for - comes to mind. Less & better = more. I saved and looked for years to find the right 000-18, and it will be used the rest of my lifetime....
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27th June 2013
Old 27th June 2013
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I'm a guitar guy primarily and like the all purpose teisco strats. I use lap steel sometimes, too. I always forget how cool they can sound.

I also collect cool little percussion instruments, ethnic flutes, ocarinas and greek/ethnic string instruments like little bouzoukis that double up as cool sounding dulcimers if recorded and played correctly.

I like peppering my tv tracks with nice live percussion like light shakers and guiros. They, to me, are essential.
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27th June 2013
Old 27th June 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Amber View Post
I love me some of the feedback here at the start.

Swervedriver Duress -Live at ICA- - YouTube


Do you put foam on your ebow to stop the plastic touching strings sound?
You could definitely do that with an ebow.

No, it takes a lot of practice to get an ebow to not sound clanky as you change strings, but it's totally doable, working on arpeggios helps a lot. I find you just have to be very deliberate with it and man-handle it a bit. Then, you go through the "pushing too hard" phase where the string you're resonating clacks against the plastic. It's a signal to noise ratio though, you really have to spend the time to find the sweet spot on the pickup.
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28th June 2013
Old 28th June 2013
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- Ukulule. It's cheap and has been used more and more in advertising music for the last 5 years. Next year there will be no other that ukulele-music in ads if it keeps going like this.
-Glockenspiel. Easy to play. Fits with lost of different styles.
-Recorder. Not easy to play, but cheap and you can use it for the "human element"
-Shakers.
-Maybe finnish Kantele?
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28th June 2013
Old 28th June 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by miskaseppa View Post
- Ukulule. It's cheap and has been used more and more in advertising music for the last 5 years. Next year there will be no other that ukulele-music in ads if it keeps going like this.
-Glockenspiel. Easy to play. Fits with lost of different styles.
-Recorder. Not easy to play, but cheap and you can use it for the "human element"
-Shakers.
-Maybe finnish Kantele?
The Ukulele music in commercials is driving me insane. It seems 90% of tv commercials, at least here in the UK, follow the same instrumentation - Ukulele's, glockenspiel and whistling. It all sounds the same!
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28th June 2013
Old 28th June 2013
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Ukulele's, glockenspiel and whistling.
That formula is gold!
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28th June 2013
Old 28th June 2013
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Check out Sansola, german version of a kalimba. They only play in one key but they sound great and they can do kind of a wah wah thing.
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10th July 2013
Old 10th July 2013
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a composers tool box can vary, but move towards what turns you on and inspires you.

some composers I know collect various electronic stuff, circuit bent 8 bit stuff, cheap toy synths, etc.

not that you will know hearing it, or hear it at all in their work as it may be heavily processed beyond recognition, or even replaced down the road. so sometimes, the choice are for inspiration.

others I know collect varied string instruments for tonal variation and inspiration... mandolin, uke, hammer dulcimer, resonator, lap steel, pedal steel, etc.

there's no one way to compose, and there's no one tool box. I know one composer who has had custom tuned anvils made... another composer I know has, as a primary instrument, a one of a kind french art installation piece and steel drums.

guitar players can have dozens of different types of guitars for different feel and tone.

it also depends on the medium. composers writing for tv tend to have more utility tools because they have to work fast. composers writing for film can approximate and demo stuff and get to hire real players to execute.
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