Spring Thing

From the Archives – Originally posted Nov. 18, 2007

In the aftermath of the ATG Mini project, I had a four foot piece of 1″x4″ collecting dust in the work room. So last weekend I decided to nail a spring to it and see how that sounded. One thing led to another and I ended up with this monstrosity:

Really the project was going to be a little different. I wanted to build an instrument based on drone strings, where the big spring could be plucked/beat/slammed and the vibrations would cause the drone strings to hum etc. I couldn’t find a decent way to mount and tune the strings, without investing a ton of money in tuning pegs, or compromising some of the basic goals of the project. And thus, while wandering the local Home Depot, I struck on the replacement spring aisle and decided to do away with drone strings and go with drone springs!

Things still weren’t going as well as I had planned. The new springs I bought were either too tight to pull to a respectable length, or weren’t strong enough to retain spring when overstretched. I settled on these four springs, and ended up with a surprising amount of diversity in the sounds produced.

Then I had to decide how I wanted to get the sound from the springs to the hard drive. I haven’t had much luck with springs and pickups, so I decided early in the game that I would just use a contact mic for this project. Keep it simple, and all. With that in mind, I decided to mount one end of all the springs at the same place, and have a plate under them where the contact mic can be placed. I notched out a recess for the plate and made sure that each of the mounting hooks screwed down so that it touches the plate. This ensures that the vibrations have better transfer to the contact mic, and also allows for better transmission of sympathetic vibrations.

The last stroke of inspiration came at the end. I had originally bought little hammer-on felt feet for this, but started thinking about my dwindling desktop space. I thought it would be cute to have a stand, like a cello, so I could lean it against my shoulder while sitting down, and then play it like a real instrument. In looking around the the work room, I found an old lamp stand which turned out to be even better. Now the unit can easily stand on its own, off to the side and out of the way until I need to use it. Perfect.

I’ll post sounds later. I haven’t had a proper chance to play with it, because I’m still waiting for the glue to dry on the stand.

Until then, etc etc…

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From the Archives – Originally posted Mar. 19, 2008

Some of you may remember my Spring Thing project from last fall. You may also recall that I wasn’t too pleased with the finished product, because the contact mic failed to accurately reproduce the spring sounds.

Last weekend I decided to make a few modifications to the instrument, in an effort to breath some new life into it as a performance piece. I have to say that I’m really pleased with the results.

I ended up building a resonating chamber on the back of the instrument. This performs the dual purpose of amplifying the sound of the springs for the sake of ambient micing, and also provides more bulk to actually vibrate, and thus improving the performance of the contact mic. I also took the opportunity to reinforce the stand, since it was starting to get a tad wobbly.

Close-up of the hole under the springs.

One view of the resonating chamber.

Another view of the resonating chamber.

Looking down the chamber. That’s the contact mic taped to the inside.

The stand.

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