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KaBar2

Making Your Own Musical Instruments

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Since I started trying to learn how to play the banjo, I've gotten interested in making some. They're really pretty easy to make, easier than a guitar, a lot easier. I found a lot of websites on the net about making your own instruments. There are places you can buy a kit, but fuck that, that's just putting together somebody else's work.

 

I found one website that has a "fret calculator." It tells you exactly where to place the frets for a twelve-tone musical scale for ANY INSTRUMENT that uses frets. You just plug in the length of the string from "nut" to "bridge" (the "nut" is located the fartherest away from the body of the instrument, the "bridge" is usually on the body of the instrument) and it tells you where to locate each fret, both ways--depending on how long the string is supposed to be. Look at a guitar or a banjo--the frets get closer and closer together the farther up the neck they are.

 

I'm gathering materials dumpster-diving now to start making my own banjo. I've already got some wood that will work great, but it's pine. I really would prefer some hardwood, like ash, maple or even oak.

 

Punch "making your own banjo" into your browser. Check it out.

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I know somone who did this. He made a banjo out of an old drum and some hardwood, ash I think.

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Can of Worms

 

I thought of that too. If I ran across an old snare drum, I might try it. The plans I've seen so far call for the rim (the body of the banjo) to be glued up from short pieces of board in a sort of hollow octagon shape. You glue three or four layers of these octagon shapes together, alternating the joints. Then, when it's a more-or-less solid block of wood, turn it down on a wood lathe to a round "pipe" shape, like a drum with no head on it. I've also thought of finding a piece of aluminum pipe with 1/4" thick walls about 11-1/2 inches in diameter, and using that. The neck can basically be made out of any kind of wood. Banjo necks have a steel reinforcing rod inside. They are actually glued up out of two pieces of wood. The "neck" has a groove in it--you glue the steel rod in the groove to make it rigid--and the fretboard is glued on top of that. They use a kind of woodworker's glue called "Duco" cement. I never heard of it before.

 

Inside the rim, there is either two threaded steel rods that attach to the neck to support it, or a wooden support. Professionally-made banjos usually have a turned brass "tone ring" that the banjo head is actually stretched over. That's why top-quality banjos are so heavy. Outside, holding the banjo head down against the tone ring, is the notched tension loop. Threaded bracket hooks hold the tension hoop down tight against the hoop of the banjo head. If it's a resonator banjo, the hooks are usually anchored in the "resonator flange," which is a lightweight sheet-metal circle that fits around the ewooden rim of the banjo body, and that also supports the "resonator body." I'm planning on building a banjo without any resonator ("old style") so I'll need to come up with some sort of metal brackets for the bracket hooks. They will be bolted through the side of the wooden rim itself.

You can actually "roll your own" banjo heads from some sort of animal skin. They used to use lamb or goat skin, years ago. I don't think I'm down for that. It would be a lot easier to just buy an inexpensive Remo Weatherking banjo head for $15 from a banjo website.

 

The whole challenge, to me, is to build a cool-sounding banjo from DUMPSTER-DIVED materials. If it works out, I might build several.

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Guest BROWNer

kabar, if you have a second, check google for

a guy named Harry Partch.

he was this hobo composer that had a massive influence

on american music in the early-mid 1900's and he made a ton of fucked up

instruments and invented new scales and stuff.

there is probably pictures of his instruments around the net if

you're interested.

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Guest BROWNer

here's a link to some photos of his instruments(with wav. to hear them):

http://www.eyeneer.com/CCM/Composers/Partc...ch/Instruments/

 

this would be only a small fraction of how many he made..

i have a booklet that came with an old record of his, and its got dozens and

dozens of photos of his instruments, all made from various hunks of detritus.

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Re: Can of Worms

 

Originally posted by KaBar2

banjo from DUMPSTER-DIVED materials. If it works out, I might build several.

 

if your lucky enough to find a snare drum, use it. If the skin's intact it'll be perfect for a banjo. Also bare in mind that a snare drum is a very good accoustic chamber.

you gotta post a picture on here when you've made your banjo, I want to see it :D

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Originally posted by KaBar2

I found one website that has a "fret calculator." It tells you exactly where to place the frets for a twelve-tone musical scale for ANY INSTRUMENT that uses frets.

 

You're gonna want to do some research into 'scale length'... It can affect the playability and tone in a couple different ways... Just off the top of my head I can give 2 easy examples to compare in the guitar world... Fender Tele's and Strats (and most others Fenders) run a 25 1/2 inch scale length, while Gibson Les Pauls and SG's (and most Gibson models) run 24 3/4 inch scale...

 

It would be my guess, for a banjo, that you want a longer scale... longer scale offers more tension and that produces 'crispier' notes and a snappier sound...

 

Go on down to a music store and try out a Gibson and a Fender, you'll be able to feel and hear the difference better than I could explain...

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Ever heard of the band neptune? They make all of their instruments out of scrap metal (the band was originally started as one of the guys' art projects). Theyve got some pretty gnarly stuff. The drummer runs around a cymbal set of table saw blades.

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Smart, what's your opinion on the fender jazzmaster ?

 

one time i made this twanging wire thing by screwing a thin wire into the arm of my chair. yeah, more of a thing a retard would do than anything resembling an instrument.

 

i need to try this dumpster-diving thing.

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Originally posted by ARCEL

Smart, what's your opinion on the fender jazzmaster?

 

I like it, seems to be seeing a resurgence in popularity these days, still possibly the most versitile platform Fender offers and plays well...

 

or maybe I'm thinking of a Jazzmaster, still, basically the same but I mean the one with more pickups and switches...

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Originally posted by Harpo Marx

Ever heard of the band neptune? They make all of their instruments out of scrap metal (the band was originally started as one of the guys' art projects). Theyve got some pretty gnarly stuff. The drummer runs around a cymbal set of table saw blades.

 

neptune is amazing. and amazing isn't even a good enough word to describe them. they're playing again near me soon, and i can't fucking wait.

 

harpo marx, you should email me, i'm sure we have a lot in common... if for some reason you don't see this, maybe i'll drop you a line in a few.

 

take care

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Originally posted by Smart

or maybe I'm thinking of a Jazzmaster, still, basically the same but I mean the one with more pickups and switches...

 

maybe the Jaguar ?

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i hate fenders. i've been a gibson fan all my life. my father has a 67 reissue fender strat... and it's a nice guitar if you like playing jazz or blues... which i like.. but i also play a lot of good old school rock and roll... and i think the sg is a more versitalle guitar for what i like to play. just my opinion.

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Banjo neck almost finished

 

I made it out of a piece of oak about 3x3, shaped it with a hand-held Sears circular saw, a rasp, a coping saw and sandpaper. For my very-first-ever banjo neck, it looks pretty good, I think. I need to get a digital camera up and running so I can post pics on here.

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once when i was little i made a musical instrument out of a shoebox and rubber bands. does that count

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Bozack

 

Sure, it counts. Everything counts. Why not?

 

I have been corresponding online with this guy who makes his own instruments out of shit he finds or people give him. He told me he made a whole bunch of instruments out of one couch he dumpster-dived, because the frame was made of some kind of light-colored hardwood. So, I went right out and dumpster-dived a nasty old love seat. It's great, all kinds of hard wood inside. I think it might be a cheaper grade of maple. My next purchase is gonna be a draw knife. I think i'd love to have a bandsaw and a wood lathe, too. Making banjos has turned out to be pretty fun.

 

C-clamps, yellow carpenter's glue, draw knife. Things are rockin'.

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