Rattling Bass

As you might know at the moment I’m recording some music – guitar based music, to be exact. I’m using a very simple, almost back to basic version of my studio: a digital multitrack recorder, a small mixer, some pedal effects, 3 microphones (1 condenser, 2 dynamic), and a bunch of instruments, mostly stringed (but not necessarily: my soprano cabasa is working extra time) For the piano and organ parts (live, strictly unsequenced) I have an old Emu rack module attached to a master keyboard (directly via MIDI), but not to the computer. I’m also using the computer to play samples or small rhythmic integrations (with Reason) and to mix the songs (with Logic).

So my studio looks like when I did my first demo (1985): plenty of cables, effect chains, microphones, bongos, guitars, etc. (Fortunately I have a separate bedroom now). What’s more, I’m always looking for new sounds, or rather ancient ones. Such is the case with the prepared bass that you can see below, in a picture taken about one year ago.

This is the Machachara Precision Rattlophone™. You can make one very easily: take a bass and secure a Machachara to the top with a guitar capo – et voilà. What’s a Machachara? It’s a metal resonator used in various ways throughout Africa. Notable uses are with the Mbira and Djembe, but also the Kora and other instruments often have it. It produces a rattle that creates a very lovely and elusive contour to the sound itself. You can buy Machacharas online or in shops, but I’d ask any of your african friends. (What? You don’t have african friends? Go out and make some right now.) Alternatively you can make one yourself, using a tomato can and keyrings: that’s how I had always seen them made before finding this one in a shop.

PS: in order to record an instrument prepared this way you will have to use a (close) microphone just for the resonator.

Q: Do you have a midget walrus as a Pet?
A: Yes, his name is Asta and he’s 37 years old.

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