Below, starting with the most recently posted, are writings on musical instruments, acoustics, and related topics by Bart Hopkin. You can scroll through to find subjects that interest you, or use the search function in the menu bar above (magnifying glass icon) to search on key words of your choice.
If you have fooled around with the making of pitched percussion instruments from available materials, perhaps you’ve encountered this situation. You find something that produces a nice tone when you strike it – let’s say, a length of steel conduit which you’ve...
For the last decade I’ve been serving as one of the curators at a the Window Gallery, an exhibit space for new instruments and sound art. It’s a project of the Center for New Music in San Francisco, housed in the Center’s location in San Francisco’s Tenderloin...
Most musical instruments have a primary vibrating body that serves as the main determinant of the frequencies we hear – think of the string itself in a string instrument, or the bar in a marimba. And then, most of those instruments have additional components which...
This essay is designed to accompany a video called Membrane Reeds which can be viewed here on Youtube. In it you can see and hear a variety of membrane reed instruments, but the video doesn’t go into much detail on how to build the instruments, nor does it address the...
Some time ago I posted on this site an essay under the title “Orientation of the Oscillation.” In it I talked about the importance of the direction of the oscillation in an instrument’s main vibrating bodies (strings, bars, tines or whatever): how the orientation of...
What-a-Shame is the name of a musical instrument I designed long ago, and this article tells you what you need to know to build it. The article is not a step-by-step how-to; rather it outlines the underlying ideas and provides the necessary information while leaving...
Around the same time this article was posted, I uploaded this Youtube video showing in action the sound instrument called Wood & Butter. The video doesn’t include descriptions of or additional information about the instrument. That’s the purpose of this article:...
I recently uploaded YouTube a video showing some hocketing instruments. This post provides a bit more detail on the instruments used in that video for anyone who may be interested. The term "hocketing" refers to music making with rapid alternation between members of...
This article is written to accompany the video called "Tubular Chimes, Altered", which you can find posted online here. The video shows several modifications you can make to simple tubular chimes to create more varied and interesting chime sounds. The descriptions in...
Most musical instruments are designed to work with one or the other of two types of vibratory movement: transverse or longitudinal. Very Loosely speaking, transverse vibration typically involves cross-wise movements in the vibratory medium; it is what we normally see...
Coil springs can make very interesting sounds, and a lot of experimental instrument makers and sound seekers have worked with them. This article looks at some of the sound possibilities that coil springs present.
Simple home-buildable music machines.
An exploration of the sonic world of scrape, and description of a battery of scraped instruments analogous to drum set.
From Routledge Press, a newly released collection of articles from the late great Experimental Musical Instruments journal.
The components in the photo on this page make up a musical instrument called the Speaker Driver Instrument. The elements of it, you can see, are an inexpensive little electronic keyboard, a stereo amplifier, a speaker driver minus its speaker cone, and a scrap of...
Hooray for through-and-through originality: It’s wonderful when a newly conceived musical instrument presents a whole new musical landscape to explore. On the other hand, there’s also value in presenting a new instrument idea with at least some familiar elements –...
In this post you’ll find a description of a potentially very interesting idea in string instrument design. But as you’ll see as you near the end of the post, my attempt to exploit the idea wasn’t terribly successful. Still, it’s an interesting enough concept to...
A melodic friction drum set
A video featuring an ostinato machine and lots of animation.
Two events-per-second instruments: Savart’s Wheel and Musical Siren, with a focus on how to tune for just and equal-tempered scales on instruments of this sort.
Floppy bands of spring steel can be the produce wonderful sounds. This post describes several musical instruments by Bart Hopkin which use such bands.
Sample Libraries from SoundIron featuring instruments made by Bart Hopkin
Four musical instruments using freely suspended stainless steel resonators.
Schmeary Glissary is an 84-tone Equal-Temperament Tubulon
Perfectionism in music-making brings exquisite music into the world. But un-perfectionism brings another sort of richness.
I have been exploring the idea of creating animated videos to accompany music made on my instruments …
Making home-made wind instruments: creating register holes, shaping the “lay” of a single reed mouthpiece, and more.
‘Moes are wind instruments which have a pitch-control system involving an open slit and a magnetic strip. This article discusses recent work developments in the ‘Moe family.
Most instruments produce sound by taking advantage of a natural springiness in things. Far fewer are instruments which create a forced oscillation at specific frequencies.
Does it matter if a new instrument sports a catchy name? Does it matter if it is attractive to the eye?
The making of a very crude beating reed organ.
Most acoustic sound sources produce many frequencies simultaneously, resulting from multiple modes of vibration present in the vibrating body. This article addresses the question of which of these are likely to be most prominent in the tone and to be recognized as the defining pitch.
Getting the impedance relationships right: for many types of musical instruments, this is one of the less appreciated, less understood, and more important aspects of instrument making.
Selected Instruments of the Hopkin Instrumentarium are now to be sampled and released in a series of sample libraries. This is a new filed for Bart, the instrument maker, and in this post he talks about first impressions.
(The Only Article On This Website That’s Not About Musical Instruments.)
An article about magnetic pickups and how best to utilize finite pickup footage space.
Musical strings made from elastic materials bands make an appealing sound. This article discusses the ins and outs of putting them to use, and the various types of elastic material that can serve. It then describes some elastic string instruments that the author has made.
Broad spectrum sounds filtered through tubular air chambers with well defined resonance frequencies: this idea can produce very interesting musical results. This article discusses several instruments that work this way.
Taxonomony is typically one of the first topics addressed in Organology 101. Here’s my take on the subject.
An overview of different ways of creating friction vibrations, a discussion of principles and techniques pertaining to the making of friction instruments, and short descriptions of several friction instruments I’ve made.
Thoughts about the terminology used in talking about the multiple-frequency blends that make up musical and non-musical sounds, and how that terminology relates to the underlying physical reality and the ear’s ways of perceiving such blends.
The second of two articles on making and tuning simple disk gongs. This one describes an approach to tuning that is more sophisticated than the rudimentary approach described in the first article, and addresses the underlying acoustics more than the previous one.
The first of two articles on making simple disk gongs. This one outlines the simpler approach; the other takes on acoustics and tuning questions in a more sophisticated way.
An overview of systems that can be used for controlling pitch in wind instruments, from familiar an conventional to unusual and far-out.
An interactive public sound installation.
Thoughts on the search for quiet in a noisy world.
Depictions of apparatus created in the late 19th century for experimentation and demonstrations in musical acoustics.
With many new instruments it’s both more fun and more musically fruitful not to try to become a virtuoso, but rather to keep an exploratory attitude that lets the instrument take you where it will.
Notes on the Over-Under scales, on a complementary pair of just scales used in a couple of recent instruments.
Notes on the question of patenting for new instruments. (Is it worth it?)
Notes on different sorts of overtone recipes within musical tones, and the ear’s responses to them.
What is it about some sounds that gives them clear pitch, while other sounds come across as pitchless noise?
As a matter of effective design, for some types of instruments it’s worth thinking about the direction of excitation and the orientation of the resulting vibration.
When oscillating systems go nonlinear …
Artifice or Nature?
Looking for meaningful harmonic and melodic relationships in the overtone relationships inherent in different sounds, both harmonic and inharmonic.