Thursday, May 26, 2011
The first Canjo (IW#003)
I started to come across images and videos of these in my research, and thought I should probably make one. This is at the forefront of what really resonates with me about found-object instruments: accessibility. Much of the exploration that has led to the founding of SCFOIW was driven by the cult of the expensive guitar. I was in my local music shop (a great locally owned joint filled to bursting with new and vintage instruments and a couple of guys who really know their stuff. None of this cooler-than-thou pimply-faced tattooed hipster crap you see at Guitar Center), and picked up a 1960's Gibson J-45. Now, this is a beautiful guitar, and I coveted it at first sight. I played it a little, and it has that mellow sound that old Gibsons have, and it was just a joy.
It was also several thousand dollars. Too rich for my blood.
Which got me thinking about the inequities of price and about how we fetishize expensive things. Which led to IW#001 that I wrote about a few days ago. This canjo is the next step in that line, an attempt to make the cheapest and most accessible instrument possible, with a parts cost of about five bucks. The most expensive thing is the string. Also accessible to play, as it is one string only and it is pretty easy to pick out a melody on it. Fun to rock out with as well, because when you squeeze the can it acts like a whammy bar. Here is what it sounds like.
Now, a couple of people have called this kind of thing a diddley-bow, but that is built differently, and I think I might make one of those sometime soon. This is a different instrument, though, as the bottom of the can creates the sound board and the string interacts directly with it, instead of being strung across it. Although calling this a canjo is a little confusing as well, that name can apply to another instrument entirely as will be seen in my next post.