Thursday, March 21, 2013

Playing Piano (IW#054 and #055)

IW#054 Mountain Slide
IW #055 Mountain Tenor

I wrote here and here about a project that I have been working on with Washington, D.C.-based company Dance Exchange.  Part of this project entailed taking parts off of a piano made by the William Gaehle company, which was active in Baltimore in the early to mid 19th century.

For this show, the cast and the choreographer and I wrote several songs, which in rehearsal I had been accompanying on instruments that I had already made (the very first slide I had ever made and the Pete Seeger Tenor).  It was important to me that I make the instruments that I play in the show out of this old piano we had.  I also play the piano in the show, playing the strings themselves with mallets at one point, with a pick and a slide at another point, and then going nuts on them with shotgun shells on my fingers, which is a trick I learned from a washboard player Newman Baker, who is the hottest damn washboard player I have ever sat in front of.  He plays with the Ebony Hillbillies, and if you are within a hundred miles of New York City and you don't go see them, that's your own fault.  They are cookin'.

The box for this one is the same size as IW#001
So I made a three string slide and a tenor guitar out of the parts of the piano.  The tenor came out of one of the legs, which you can see in the video below, and for the slide I built a box like I did for the ukes.  I made the slide the exact same size and shape of the #001 slide as a reference for myself.

The tops are spruce that came from an abandoned building here in town that got gutted, so the tenor has a couple of oxidized nail holes that look pretty great I think.  The spruce is a great tone-wood, and I braced them with maple.  Not sure if it is the maple bracing or what but these puppies both have a LOT of sustain, which is quite lovely.  As you can see in the video, they are both "stick-through" style.

You can see the nail holes toward the top of the guitar body.

They both sound great.  While I was in D.C. we had a couple of song circles, and I got to finally take the chains off of the tenor, and it really stood up to some hard playing.  Sounds good loud or soft and it is a joy to play.  I think it is going to become a "go-to" instrument around here.

Here is a little process video.  The background music is made on the tenor, and it is one of the songs we wrote for the show.