playing techniques

This section includes aspects of direct control over the instrument. The way the strings are hit or a skin resonates is of course crucial for the outcome. Although this project was not meant to look for extended techniques or instrument preparations, we think that an open attitude towards the instrument and the playing itself can be beneficial when looking for new forms of expression. Investigating techniques can be more satisfying than learning to control any sort of music gear.

Sonic Youth, a (’80s-’90s) rock band from New York, is considered to be pioneer in the experimental use of effect pedals. Even though their pedals seemed to be sculpting the sounds rather than the instruments, they extensively investigated their response to prepared guitars (for instance, the use of drum sticks on guitars).

Things that we liked to use during the project were: bows, ebow, brushes and handheld fans. These tools are used to sustain sounds on string instruments. and have in common that they overcome the characteristic decayed sound of a plucked/hammered string. Generally speaking, these tools replace the picking hand and enhance the natural harmonics of the strings. A special feature of using a bow or ebow is that we can get rid of the typical attack of acoustic string sounds. Demonstration:

Preparations for guitar/piano: Different timbres can be obtained by using different kinds of metal, wooden or even foam rubber objects such as springs, rattles, fishing sinkers, alligator clips, paper clips, screwdrivers… For more of this matter, the book Nice Noise – Modifications and Preparations for Guitar by Bart Hopkin & Yuri Landman is recommended. 

For drummers/percussionists, it is seen as part of their basic practice to be searching for different playing techniques. This is because of the basal way how a drum set creates sound: a skin is hit and thus creates vibration. There is a standard collection of different kinds of objects to hit the drum with: sticks, brushes, broomsticks, mallets,… Looking at the tools developed for these means is a good starting point to broaden the ways of playing other acoustic instruments, because they cover a large spectrum of different sounding attacks and textures.

Note to self: for an objective pair of ears, the playing of the acoustic instrument itself will gain most attention and interest at all times. Its tradition involves concepts of authenticity, meaning and recognition. Hence, when an acoustic sound is pleasing on itself, there is no specific need to use electronics. We never think of it as a necessity, rather as a possibility.