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Easy-Access Musical Instruments

I am writing a piece about easy-access musical instruments and would welcome your input. Over the last decade a range of new instruments and innovations on existing instruments have appeared which sound great and can be enjoyed immediately. This is an exciting time as it offers more people simple ways to get in touch with their creativity, especially those who have felt excluded from the musical world.

As founder of Music Another Way and co-developer of the M1 Shruti Box I am looking at what other instruments fall into this category and why. There are a number of questions that I wish to explore e.g., Can the instrument be played pretty much immediately and/or with the minimum amount of tuition?; What are the possibilities for expression: does the instrument have enough scope to maintain our interest and support musical development?; Can it be used as an accompaniment for the voice?; Does it need to be tuned and if so how easy is it to tune?; Does the sound inspire you to make music?.

Here's just a few instruments which I feel can be classified as true easy-access musical instruments. I look forward to hearing which instruments you feel fall into this category.

Tongue Drum
Singing Bowl
Shruti Box
Frame Drums
African Balafon

07 Jul 2010
Tobias Kaye

Sounding Bowls are an obvious instrument for inclusion in this list.

1. Their visual beauty draws people in.
2. Their tonal purity and resonance draws people in
3. Many Sounding Bowls have few strings, meaning even the musically timid can accompany others with confidence and enjoyment
4. Many Sounding Bowls have pentatonic tunings which makes music making easy, non threatening.
5. Sounding Bowls have a rich resonant response to the player’s own voice, this becomes a fascinating inducement to explore the sounds of the instrument itself. This is often experienced unconsciously and many people have found that clients that will not play another musical instrument will ask to, or reach out spontaneously to play a Sounding Bowl.
6. Open stringing makes them non complex and more inviting for the inexperienced.
7. All these reasons combine into a simple experience confirmed over and over again: People in a huge variety of extreme human experiences who may have found musical instruments difficult to approach have made a relationship with Sounding Bowls quickly easily and with profound results.

25 Aug 2010

I'd like to add the hand pan family to the list of instruments.The HANG was the first of this family, and remains an extraordinarily beautiful and powerful tool for meditation, and whose sound can be released by anyone within a few minutes of familiarity. Unfortunately the enormous worldwide demand for theHANG has far outstripped the ability of its creators to supply, and this situation has created a "black market" , as well as triggering a great deal of speculation and misinformation on the internet. However there are alternative instruments in the "hand pan" family. I have played, and can personally recommend the HALO , produced in America by Pantheon Steel. There is also the BELL, by BELLART in Spain, which I hope to sample soon. The CAISA is another candidate, although it must be approached as an instrument in its own right, and not just as a HANG substitute. There are also many steel tongue drums, which look similar to the HANG, but can be distinguished by the fact that they have their individual notes cut out so that they resonate free from the surrounding metal, and thus do not have the range of subtle harmonics of the HANG or the HALO. These vary widely in quality. I have tried, and would recommend the ECLIPSE, but have not yet encountered others of a similar quality. Barry Mason

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