This has been an ongoing project to create a self sustaining stringed instrument that I am also able to physically perform through exciting and preparing the strings.
My initial prototype consisted of one string mounted on a long piece of plywood. To excite the string I connected the left and right outputs of a power amplifier to each end of the string and placed a strong magnet underneath. I then ran a simple one oscillator synthesiser through the system. The audio signal running through the string interacts with the magnet creating vibrations in the string.
I began developing this prototype into a four stringed instrument, my aims were to create an instrument with a larger sonic palette than my prototype whilst also focusing on design and playability. For the structure of my instrument I repurposed an old kitchen chair, removing the seating section and drilling the front and back of the frame together to create a solid, flat structure. To secure my strings I had to further modify the chairs structure sinking guitar machine heads into the wood of the instrument.
To excite the strings I connected them in series, with magnets placed individually beneath each string.
Connecting the strings in series reduces the current being received by the farthest strings so the next step is to play around with ways to get an equal amount of current sent to each string.
As I’m still prototyping this project I’m having a lot of fun finding different ways to play the instrument. The frame of the chair provides a great resonator which allows me to physically play the instrument without any amplification. I use small drum beaters to strike the strings and have also experimented with using the vibrations from a speaker to vibrate the instruments structure and strings. I use these techniques as well as augmenting the instruments range with feedback loops and the inbuilt effects of a connected mixer.
Next steps: paint the instrument, permanently attach magnets to the instrument, devise a more convenient way of connecting strings to the amplification device and allow each string to receive equal amounts of signal.