Assuming you have your “portable pirate radio to go” figured out, along with enough deep cycle batteries and charge controllers plus solar panels to preserve the fading memory of rock & roll as we described last time around, it’s time to move on to the acoustical instruments that you might find in any studio..instruments that will be useful when Lights Out shows up..
Here, we find some particularly poor choices.
For one (overlooking the need to put a new string on the electric guitar) the “:carrying power” UN-amplified of the electric guitar pales in comparison to the better acoustic guitars.
The best way to find a really great one is to go into Sweetwater (or whatever the loc al music emporium ios) and bring a sound meter. For $18-bucks at the Zon, hard to go wrong with a BAFX ProductsÂ – Decibel Meter / Sound Level Reader – W/ Battery.”
Bring a measuring tape, too. When you are running the testing, use a pick (eliminates another variable) and then use the meter’s Peak/Hold function to see how loud each guitar you’re interested in measures at a specific distance like 6-feet. Make sure to do this test from the same position because as you move around the store, there will be “room bounce” to contend with.
What’s more, you can also use the meter for other things. Like, oh, comparing the noise of a standard Glock 17 (120.6 db) with an AK-47 (126.9 db FMJ, Russian round) and to see how well the subsonic rounds plus a taped-on pop bottle quiet things down. (We’d never do this, since such a move – even with a pop bottle as an improved silencer – would run afoul BATFE rules on suppressors – but we’d guess you could drop things down to the 76-90 db range, depending on duct tape and number of pillows used…)
Back in the aisle at Sweetwater, though, we’re really looking at instruments that a) don’t wear out (or already have, like that blown-out tambourine that Elaine shakes and jiggles like a gospel singer. There’s nothing to wear out (well, except Elaine, and near as I can figure, she’s immortal...) so that one passes muster.
Ignore the box of software on the floor…unless you’re “living the dream” of unregulated pirate radio for the leftovers of civilization.
Ah, what’s this next one?
A harmonica! Perfect instrument. Fairly indestructible – for which reason seamen used to play them on ships – and their sound has a good carry value to it. Which explains why seamen used to…oh, never mind…
If you mutter “Semper fi!” in your sleep a lot, try a Hohner Marine Band Harmonica, Key of G for $30-odd bucks. Nice build, loudish. Like…er….. But, since carrying a tune will come second to telling a story with music, a less expensive ($28) Hohner Piedmont Blues Harmonica Set might be in order.
If you’re a rich Marine, then hold out for the $150 set: Hohner MBC Marine Band 5-Piece Harmonica Set G, A, C, D & E. Form a band with four of your most soulful friends and strike ’em up. One of you is bound to trip over the right note, once in a while…
Speaking of which, a pitch pipe is useful for civilization-ending parties. Even if you can’t carry a note, you will look the part hauling out your $14.40 Performance Plus CP-C Vocal Chromatic Pitch Pipe Key of C to C with Carrying Bag. Should someone notice you can’t carry a song with a forklift, acknowledge them gently but explain you’re singing the blues version whatever song it was. Besides, what do they know about soulful music, anyway, let alone where the groove is?
Back to the home studio (again, things that don’t break easily since I’m a klutz)…
You have know idea how many mornings a column almost didn’t appear due to slamming for hours on these bad-boys. Scotch may be an anesthetic, but with daylight comes pain…
Drums – and how well they carry over distances – have been a remarkable series of personal investigations because in my book (Dimensions Next Door: Hacking Space-time) – which you’ve been too busy to buy and read – gets into how there’s a likely link between other dimensions and the “usual here and now.”
Bongos are great: A little bulky to carry (inventing a good set of folding toms would be nice, huh?) but they carry for a ways. Something larger (oh, look, the toms!) would be great, but you see why a folding drum set would be the cat’s Whiskas…
Percussion is always good. Any idiot can do percussion. Works for the end of the world nicely – since banging on things (including people) will be the major pastime.
Two drums, with separated notes, easily translates into Morse Code. I mean if you think this stuff through…
(Whew, hard work, all this prepping stuff!)
Flutes and other winds instruments are great. Lower pitches have more carry value but because the resonant column of air is larger, so is the instrument. A little work and you too could be Zamfir. Fiddy-bucks at the Zon gets you Pan Flute 15 Pipes Tunable Natural Bamboo From Peru Case Included Item in USA…
Why, in no time, you’ll be playing along with Cusco doing Inca Dance, better known to ignorante nortes as the Coast to Coast AM theme.
We don’t much care for reed instruments (oboes, clarinets, sexyphones, and such. Where are you going to get reeds, unless you’re in the deep South?
Brass? Now, there’s a different story: Hard, fairly resistant to damage (assuming you don’t spit acid) and the mouthpiece will last centuries.
Thing is, brass tends to be expensive, if you hadn’t figured this out from your career as a marksman/range ammo reloader, right? A Glory Brass Bb Trumpet with Pro Case +Care Kit, Gold, No NEED TUNING,Play directlly. More COLORS Available ! CLICK on LISTING to SEE All Colors will set you back almost a hundred bucks. We’re also not sure about them fancy gloves in the afterglow of civilization or where to get trumpet oil…Adapt, improvised and above all, B-flat….
There are some simple ranch-spun rules about musical instruments: The more they weigh, the more you pay. And the lower the frequency, the higher the dollars.
Therefore, if your idea of the acoustic End of the World is a tuba do9ing Amazing Grace, a note that sounds oddly like the whistle of the Queen Mary, run to this link with $869 in hand to order your very-own Glory Brass GTU3 3 key B Flat Tuba, Gold finish, with Mouthpiece,Case and Glove,Click to check more choices.
So, what have we learned, so far?
Acoustical instruments are neat. My friend Gary Garritan has traveled the world collecting samples for Garritan World Instruments (which are incredible if you’re working in a studio setting and know how to use VST plug-ins and you need just that one thing no one else will grok to polish a tune…).
We haven’t talked much about bowed instruments, but some Japanese examples here have an almost West Virginia feel, except that it’s more West Honshu feeling to them…
The Shamisen, for example is a three-string instrument that we happen to keep on the wall here for those “just in case” moments. Ever try to find strings for one, though? Yee-gads..still looking.
If you’re not into Tsugaru-Shamisen, or, you’re on the receiving end of the Divine Wind, you might find the re-tuned Chinese version of the instrument of greater interest. Or, if you have $400 bucks to pop for a totally unique gift for someone, might we propose Amazon’s offering of a Traditional 3 Strings Chinese Sanxian Shamisen Guitar — Chinese Shamisen (3 strings guitar Chinese style)proves our theory that Amazon will eventually have EVERYTHING.
While it ain’t Queen, the skilled play of the Shamisen is pretty impressive.
Perhaps from the reconstituted End of the World of modern music we will hear more of it and other Asia acoustics (if we haven’t blown up the remnants of the land bridge). And if someone doesn’t finally get a solid folding drum kit rolled out.
On the other hand, here’s a great video on how to make a performance-level steel drum…since time will be in plentiful supply at the end of the world…we’re not too sure about the air hammers, but we have an old body-metal set ofg hammers…
So, back to my didgeridoo lessons.
Getting properly ready for the acoustical End of the World‘s a fair bit of work…
Write when you get on key,