Friday, February 9, 2018

Vintage Lap Steel with Custom Whammy Bar (sort of)

This is a custom bar that I created for my lap steel that is inspired by the levers from a pedal steel. A few things to note:  First of all, this is a non-destructive modification: The 2 bolts that hold the lever to the head go through the space allocated for the tuners, with careful consideration to leave enough room for the tuners to move and tune the strings.  Secondly, there are two bend contacts to the strings and these are adjustable to allow an upward bend on any two strings.  Furthermore, the bend contacts are made of aluminum and covered in a felt so a strong quiet bend is achieved.  The set screw is to keep the bend contacts on the desired strings.

In the past (before this modification), I would usually use an open major chord, where a Major Triad was tuned on the lower 3 strings, then the same triad an octave higher on the upper 3 strings.  This works great if you are playing major chords :).  However, when a minor chord was needed, I would have to carefully not play certain strings to avoid a major third to sound, or I would have to settle for playing a relative major and act like I am playing a minor 7th chord.  

Now I tune the lap steel to a minor chord.  If I stay in minor chords, I leave the bar up (as in the photo on the left).  This does take a level of comfort to work around the bar and get used to sliding the slide over the bar.  I considered putting the bar on the opposite (far) side of the neck, but an equally awkward muscle skill would have to be learned to reach fingers out to bend.  Besides, it really didn't take that long to get used to having a bar under my wrist.

The photo on the right shows how a major chord is played.  By pressing in the bar, it raises the minor thirds (2nd and 4th string in this case).  The bar follows the lap steel in a way that you can move it to the major chord from anywhere along the slide board.  It is also high enough that it won't interfere with the body of the guitar or scratch any part of the guitar.  The bar is made of steel and does not easily bend without a vise and hammer. 

I did not use any plans or templates in building this.  I simply followed out the idea in my head, cut the wood and bent the steel until it fit this lap steel that it was intended for. 

Friday, January 26, 2018

Yamaha CP-60M

I own my fair share of electric pianos.  I have a Rhodes 73, an ARP 16 voice, a Hohner Pianet-T, and a Wurlitzer 200A.  So why did I want to buy my friend Ben's CP-60M when I found out that he might be selling it?  For starters, the CP-60M is actually an electric PIANO, where the others, although called 'electric pianos', are more like electric music boxes or an electric celeste.  The Rhodes, Wurlitzer, and Hohner all use tines or bars to create their pitch for each key, where the Yamaha actually uses strings.  

The advantage about this over a sample of an acoustic piano is that this instrument doesn't have to be perfectly in tune.  Sometime, you want a sound where some of the keys are slightly up or down in pitch - not out of key, so to speak, but just detuned enough to add some chorus or beating to the sound.  This makes for a rich, beautiful sounding piano.  If I want something perfectly in tune, then I will reach for a sampler.  

I have also been using this with a vintage "harpsichord bar" that I bought and cut to fit the CP-60M.  This bar dangles a piece of metal in between the hammer and strings to make the piano sound like a harpsichord or "thumb tack" piano (thumb tacks onto the hammers of a piano give the same results).  The advantage of this bar is that it is easily removable so you can change back and forth from piano sound to harpsichord sound by lifting the bar.

A few more things to mention about this.  The "M" stands for MIDI and although this does not have a MIDI input and solenoids to actuate the hammers (that would be cool), it does have a MIDI out to also layer other sounds along with the piano.  Another great thing about the CP-60M is that it has a nice built in EQ to make the piano pickups sound as bright or as dull as you wish.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

My first Portativ / Portative / Portativo / Portable Pipe Organ!!!

Here is a photo of the portativ organ that I built.  The pipes were salvaged from a large organ and bought on Ebay.  Everything else was made from scratch and figured out along the way.  Originally, I had piano style keys on the keyboard, but the mechanism that I used seemed to bind the keys where they would stick open.  So I ended up just going to a simpler key.  These are simple button keys on a dowel rod that pushes a block out of the way from the pipe so that the pumped air (you can see the bellows on the back right of the instrument in the photo) can move through the pipe.  The instrument was sealed with caulking.  The first 2 times I put it together, there were leaks or problems with the mechanisms or keys.  I finally feel that it is where I would like it to be now.  The wooden pipes give a hollow steamboat sound.  The metal tabs on top of the pipes are for tuning. 

I have a second set of metal pipes that I plan to use to build a second portative organ.  I hope to use keys of some sort for that one.  If it is successful, then I may retrofit this one with keys again but for now, it works just fine.  

The downside of the buttons is that the dowel that holds them has to be pressed pretty hard and I worry about the dowel breaking if someone tried to play it and put pressure on the button at an angle.  I did see someone build a portative where there was tubing after the key and before the pipe - that method would certainly allow a more flexible key bed layout.  For mine, there is an angled piece that connects the bottom of each button to the lever on the pipe - it was rather cumbersome to make and took a lot of sanding to get things so they would not bind to the surrounding pieces.   The valve that opens and closes has a piece of cork covered in Chapstick to block the passage for air leaks.

New Studio Space Ka-boom (studio over the years part 4!)

Here are some photos of the current Ka-Boom setup.  For regular readers of my blog, Ka-Boom is the name of my studio space.  In this photo, I have the camera fairly high to try and show the height and depth of the new space.  This is the modular and mono synth side of the space.

Where this is the digital and string machine side of the space.   Below the Yamaha digital piano, you can see the top of a rack which contains a EMU E4 XT ultra, a K250 RMX, and a Roland Orchestra module and a K2000.

Studios need to be organized in order to get any work done and use the equipment.  In the photo on the right, I show my wall mount solution to many small drum machines and synths that are usually too small for ultimate support tiers, but too cool and useful to hide in the back of a shelf.   I have posted other solutions to space problems and older photos of the studio progression over the years.  Please look back at previous posts for these photos.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Pittsburgh show

I have seen the future of music and it is the SOUND OF CERES!

thank you to everyone that came out to the Pittsburgh show at Spirit last night and especially to Marty for being such a terrific host!

If you couldn't make it out to that show, drive to Columbus tonight to see us or Cleveland tomorrow!

****Show Tonight at Spacebar in Columbus OH*****

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, October 26, 2017


Here are the dates and locations that I am performing, opening for Sound of Ceres (see previous post)

Nov 7: Pittsburgh, PA - Spirit

Nov 8: Columbus, OH - Space Bar

Nov 9: Cleveland, OH - Winchester

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Sound of Ceres and Travelogue

I am very excited that Travelogue will be opening for Sound of Ceres on select tour dates in early November.  Watch this amazing video and don't miss the show!!!