Home                    Electric violin               Contact microphone

Drums for early music, Electric violin
and Contact microphone.

Why this unusual combination of instruments from my workshop?

This natural question is in fact easy for me to answer. The instruments I am working with are those I wanted myself but where I have had difficulties in finding good enough ones. I have seen the need and possibility for development. During a couple of years in the early 80th I also made some early woodwind instruments like shawms, kortholts and curtals.  I liked the work but there where so many builders making so good instruments that I realized I had nothing extra to offer.

My first drum was built in 1976. My former music group was lacking good percussion, and we weren't alone. It appeared to bee difficult to buy drums one could call "authentic". As I always have been working in wood I got the task to do some research and then build a drum for the group. The oldest drum I found on museums was early 1700th sentry. Consequently it was impossible to make a copy of an existing instrument. 

In the literature I soon found there were three different techniques to choose in between. To steam and bend, hollow out or to make wooden casks. All three techniques were available and well known during the medieval/renaissance periods. No advanced tools are needed. I chose wooden casks. The technique suites me and I, who at the time didn't have a work shop, could mainly build the drum in my apartment. No noisy work disturbed my neighbours as I at the time used pre fabricated slats. The result compliments the other instruments in the renaissance ensemble in respect to both appearance and sound. This first drum is still in use.
New rope and drumheads a couple of times during the years have been all to keep the drum alive.

How about the electric violins? How come an early musician like me work with these instruments? First of all the first instrument I, as a child, learnt to play was the violin. I had also built a number of acoustic violins. Thirdly a former neighbour of mine, a guitarist/violinist, often talked about the problems to amplify the violin. Apart from the difficulty to get a good sound it was the acoustic feedback and the noise resulting by just touching the instrument that annoyed him. He wasn't satisfied with the electric violins he had played on. They didn't sound violin. I also wanted an electric violin but, as said, we couldn't find an electric violin with a real violin sound. 

In the middle of 1990th I made, for a start, a large number of experiments with different types of microphones. After a while I got to think of the Swedish guitar builder  Georg Bolin and his Tone board
I took the idea and reversed it. I let tone wood bee membrane in a microphone. After still more experiments I realized this was the way to solve the problems. A small acoustic part including a microphone was the solution. In this way I could create an electric violin sounding like a violin, an electric violin with a sound not more distorted than an acoustic violin with a good microphone.

At last the contact microphone.
Talking to a friend and guitarist he began to describe the problems he had with his contact microphone. I soon got the idea it must bee possible to make one starting with the technique of 
my electric violin microphone. The idea was to use tone wood for distributing the instrument vibrations, all the way to the transformation to electrical signals. Not plastic or aluminium which is the traditional way to construct contact microphones. A long period of testing followed. It turned out to work well.
When I worked with the microphone I had a steel stringed guitar in mind.
However, it appeared to work well even with nylon stringed guitars. When my friend started to play the double base he attached the microphone on his new instrument. He was very satisfied with the sound of the double base as well.