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Musical instruments for looking at. Updated 11/11/15
To hear me playing these harps, click here and find the Water Kelpie by Dread Liam. I play a variety of harps and one of the compositions is original.
I went through a musical instrument phase and still offer my services to the public as carver of harps and designer of ...anything I have not yet tried. Here will be found wind, percussion and strings alone and in combinations up to all three.
(right) A favorite patron of mine ordered something completely different. "I want a harp with an ancient Egyptian feel, but I also want a small pod of dolphins on the peak of the arch. Okay so here we have a desert theme with dolphins. How do you achieve harmony with that? You tell me if I got close. One of the sound hole rosettes is of an Egytian Bull with sunrise between horns with three pyramids in the background.
Here we have an entire playing center, with the not so light weight of the harp being bore by the egypt inspired, but highly stylized stool/stand. True celtic harps are a wee bit on the heavy side and every assistance helps. The angle on this set makes for easy playing without back fatigue.
(left) One day I saw a celtic harp up close. That was enough and I knew if someone can make these then I also may. By the way, so might you. This first lovely sample is a close replica of the harp that Mary Queen of the Scotts played while awaiting death at the hands of her sister. It has been my most popular true celtic harp, with many examples from different wood combinations, string layouts and sizes. All come with a choice of three different sound hole rosettes, and a removable back. Mary only comes with metal strings as did the original. These ring out like beautiful magic and sustain for almost as long as you like.
(right) Phineas is the Irish equivilant of Britain's court wizard Merlin. I was first commissioned to create this piece for one of our local patrons of the arts. When I played it for her she refused to take ownership of the instrument. "It will never recieve the respect here that it deserves as it will never be played." And I took it back fully paid for. I still play it more than any other. For a nylon strung 29 note harp, it has a suprisingly full sound and will gladly play itself in the lightest breeze.
Only this example with Phineas visage on it's front was ever photographed. It has also been produced with a grimmacing viking warrior, complete with axe, round shield and conical helm. Also produced was one female wizard from myth named Aoihbin carved in bust, and one native American warrior as figureheads. The sky is pretty much the limit.
The hammered dulcimer is as ancient as harps and forms are represented in almost every culture. Hitting stuff just seems to come naturally in music. The strings are steel or brass alloy and the triple courses of strings cresendo as no other instrument can. Shirt sleeves are used to regulate the sustain except in the biggest dulcimers which have regulating pedals like unto a piano. Small wooden or metal mallets are used to loosely strike the strings as a drummer plays a jazz snare, allowing the hammers to bounce making a sound like a mandolin.
These are what I call accompany instruments. The kalimba is African in origin and is played with the thumbs. Volume is regulated by the angle the instrument is held. The tongues which make the tones can be metal or wooden. In my case, all are old lawn rake tines cut to length.
With it are a North American native cedar flute with howling wolf fipple, a beautiful ebony transverse flute which refuses to play unless you are prepared to pass out, and a slide whistle. I give these to children whose parents tick me off.
I went through a small stringed thing thing. If it could make music with wires, I was there.
What you see here are a door harp and a rennaisance era psaltry(silent p) which were used extensively by those who could little afford a harpsichord or a door chime.
The psaltry is plucked with the fingers or in some examples a rosined bow was used for extra sustain. There is a fine line of distinction between harps and psaltries and many are so similar that it can be confusing. Harp strings penetrate the soundboard whereas in the psaltry the strings lie parrallel to the soundboard. The door harp is fastened to the door and the hammers rattle against the strings when the door is jarred or opened.
This is a musical drum commonly called an Aztec singing drum. It is a hardwood xylophone type instruments which were most commonly made from carved logs. This one is of spruce on the side and bottom(sound board) and maple as tone generators. In this case the tongues are struck with a pair of glorified super balls.
This next piece is a free form rip-off of an ancient greek style lyre made for the low budget off L.A. cable access movie show, Pandora's Box©. It is made from rosewood, maple, birch, and oak. It became a regular prop in the main set, appeared in an episode of the much better show, Dumpsterpiece Theatre© and was even swiped by other shows which ran out of the same studio.
It was played several times while music was played over the din, and it was never meant to be played seriously until the day that the kid showed up who did not know it couldn't be played. It had a distinctly eastern sound because of the metal strings and after he "tuned it" we agreed that it must come from India. It is still available for tv appearances, Shakespeare festivals, big fat ancient greek weddings, etc., is about 50cm tall by 25 wide, 15 deep, and weighs in at a hefty 1/3 of a stone.