More prepared guitar

For some reason the idea of using a bicycle spoke as a guitar preparation entered my head yesterday, so i decided to sit down and record some improvisation. i was going to just stereo mic the guitar, but as i was watching the spoke vibrate like crazy whenever i hit a low note, i thought… why don’t i mic that? So I dug out two of my contact mics and put one on the body of the guitar and one on the spoke. This was a lot of fun, within a couple minutes I had found a few different ways of getting the spoke vibration to “accompany” my guitar playing, and as I continued to record, I found it quite easy and fun to utilize the spoke in various ways.

Recently, as I’m sure is evidenced by the way this blog has been of late, I have really been enjoying improvisation. I always sort of improvised. I could never really play anything in the classical sense and there’s very little that i’d want to play, that I actually could. So at some point, I sort of decided that if I were to continue to play the guitar, I had to come up with an approach and stick with it. I have always liked the idea of slow playing. Like Harold Budd but with a guitar and not as “pretty” or Derek Bailey, but painfully slow, and later as I would find out… Loren Connors at his least “traditional”. But I didn’t really want to play like any of those people really. I would just sit leaned back with the guitar and randomly pluck strings, bending them into tune and pulling rattley drones off with my thumb. Putting the guitar in odd tunings, just by ear, and almost never tuning it proper.

Of course, for the most part this was all a bit of fooling around. Some nice self amusement when I was bored. There was a point though when I began to really like that, and I was afraid to tell people, that I LIKED that. That I would record it and listen back to it myself for pleasure. I sort of made excuses for it… hid it. My mind was still sort of locked in this idea that “music” was supposed to be a certain way, and it was for other people to say that it was good and worth-while and nobody was going say that about what I did. But since I’ve started this blog and joined forces with Al, I’ve sort of gotten over that, and since then I have really been falling for Improvisation. I find it as difficult as learning to play “right”, but in a different way, and every time I play that way, I feel like I learn something. It’s also very freeing and fun… almost a serious form of fooling around. Anyhow, enough babbling…

This was recorded with two contact mics, direct to protools. No edits were made. reverb was added; 400ms at 25%. Enjoy!

- Woke up In a Strange Place

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12 Responses to “More prepared guitar”

  1. I <3 Improv « Startling Moniker Says:

    [...] <3 Improv While you’re waiting for me to do something incredible, go check out Of Sound Mind’s entry about falling in love with improvisation. It’s one of the nicest things you’ll read today. Don’t miss the gratis mp3, [...]

  2. Jake Says:

    I dig the hell out of this. How did you get the weird bowing sounds?

    Look for me to start using a prepared guitar in the near future…

  3. howsthatsound Says:

    thanks a lot man! the wierd bowing sounds are in fact bowing. i made myself a simple bow based on a design from an instrument building book, and it’s one of the best bows i’ve ever used. you can get great sounds out of almost anything. bowing has become one of my favorite sound making techniques of late. some of the less “guitar-like” sounds were made by pulling the string off the fretboard with my fingers and then bowing is at various places.

  4. Jake Says:

    Oh man! That’s awesome. I’ve got a lot to learn… I’ve been using my sister’s violin bow, but I still don’t feel comfortable using it. What was the name of the instrument building book?

    Also, I was wondering if you could be of assistance. I am trying to book an East Coast/New England tour for the end of May and was wondering if you could point me in the direction of some experimental-friendly venues. Coffeeshops, small venues, etc. Any info would be wonderful!

  5. Jake Says:

    I suppose I should clarify my last request: venues in your area, not just anywhere. :)

  6. howsthatsound Says:

    the book is called “musical instrument design” by bart hopkin. it’s really great, and pretty much all of the matterials save a few that he mentions can be bought at your local hardware store. i in general scavenge as much as possible, so my bow is made from an oak plank i found in my back alley. I’ll email you about venues and stuff.

  7. Admin Says:

    A friend and I are non-musicians that would like to experiment with turning a bike into a musical instrument. Would you care to elaborate as to what exactly you did with your bike? Was a piezo electric pick-up involved?

    Cheers!
    – dez

  8. howsthatsound Says:

    I didn’t do anything with my bike per-se. I just took a single bicycle spoke and stuck it through the strings. it was contact miked though. for bike experimentation, you may want to check out the portland bike ensemble.

  9. Lemon Mahler Says:

    “After I had been studying with him for two years, Schoenberg said, “In order to write music, you must have a feeling for harmony.” I explained to him that I had no feeling for harmony. He then said that I would always encounter an obstacle, that it would be as though I came to a wall through which I could not pass. I said, “In that case I will devote my life to beating my head against that wall”
    ~John Cage

    Your of the same bloodline man. Your a genius clawing back the dogmatic form of other so called “virtuoso” musicians. Keep it up. You’ve really made my day.

  10. howsthatsound Says:

    I love that quote. Thanks again for the kind words.

  11. s.borges Says:

    Is this blog still up? If so, I would really like to hear the mp3 – but they seem to not be working.

  12. howsthatsound Says:

    s.borges, i tested them today, they work for me.
    as for the blog, i won’t be updating it anymore. i have started a tumblr on a similar theme, which i’ll post about soon. cheers!

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