Tuesday 11 June 2013

Lo-fi Studio Tour Featuring the Bamstick Twin Neck Fretless Bass and Diddley Bow.

So a couple of years ago I very stupidly sold my vintage Dynelectron longhorn bass guitar and immediately regretted it. Without the funds to buy a replacement the only course of action open to me was to make one. Fortunately I was studying at art college at the time and had access to the workshops and some nice bits of wood.
The instrument which I have affectionately dubbed the 'Bamstick' (a Scottish word for a mad/bad person) is made of a single plank of ash with brass bridge and nut, undersaddle piezo strip pickup and flatwound shortscale strings The body is mild steel sheet and a piece of dowel. Standard guitar machine heads and a steel tailpiece. I was pretty amazed by how well it worked and I've used it on tons of recordings with great success. Looking at it I realized I could push the idea a bit further and create a really hybrid instrument. As a result of researching homemade instruments I settled upon the idea of a diddley bow or one string guitar, the most basic melodic stringed instrument. Mine is made out of a broom handle and sports a round piezo pickup under the threaded bridge bolt. Hot glued into position, (same with the nut) and wired straight onto the jack socket along with the other strip style piezo from the bass. My diddley bow also has two strings instead of one for a slightly phatter sound and a bit chorusy when detuned slightly, strictly speaking it's 1 course of 2 strings. Amazingly it all works terribly well and now with the addition of my Electro Harmonix flight deck pedal combo mounted at waist level I can set up loops and basslines and play melodies and create drones with the diddley bow. It's great having the combo of high and low end sounds to play with and also with the added benefit of never having to plug and unplug different instruments. I've also modded the EHX Hazarai by adding an external footswitch to capture the loops and adjust timing which means I can have all the knobs at a height where I can adjust them on the fly without the drag of having to stoop down (at my age this is a definite boon). So there you are. I'm still getting to grips with the sonic possibilities of this setup but it's so addictive, I have to get a fix everyday. I like the fact that I can record it onto tape too, it sort of fits right in with the DIY ethic and besides I really like the sound. By the way I've discovered that if you record onto all 4 tracks in stereo in one go (my machine allows this) you get a pretty big fat sound for a cassette, I guess that's because it uses the whole width of the tape for just 2 tracks. I'll post up some more once I get to grips with the rig properly.