The story

Inspired by David Hilowitz’s box instruments, as well as some ‘noise boxes’ on YouTube, I thought I’d have a go at making my own ‘box instrument’.

I started with vague ideas of a basic platform for experimental samples to turn into virtual instruments. Something with rudimentary string tuning, & a clamp on the side to attach things that go ‘boing’ & ‘screech’.

But as it began taking shape it started to look like a real instrument! Notions of grandeur ensued!

I found some old guitar tuning pegs & built a headstock. Even more instrument like! So I added a neck, the ‘headstock’ becoming a ‘tailstock’. I actually quite like the slightly archaic form it ended up taking.

The body is Cedar, some mud-encrusted weatherboard I salvaged, & the neck is Rimu from a free side-of-the-road wardrobe.

In theory it can be strung with three strings, but I haven’t dared subject it to the strain. So to record the samples I strung it with a set of guitar strings, one string at a time, & recorded a series of notes on each. I selected the best sounding notes from the six strings, which range across about four octaves, with three round-robins for each.

I should say the tuning gets a bit ropey! Especially in the low end, where the notes seem particularly prone to ‘diving’ after the initial attack. But we could possibly call that ‘character’! I’ve included an alternative version, where I tried to eliminate the most obtrusive samples, but it’s still a bit eccentric.

At some point I want to make strummed version, as that sounds quite good as well.

In the meantime I hope someone finds this interesting, inspiring, perhaps even dare I say useful!

Thanks for giving it a go!


Reviews for Cedar Box Instrument

  • Sound
  • Character
  • Playability
  • Inspiration
  • GUI

Leave a review to let others know what you thought of the instrument!

  • Quickly one of my favourites

    If you are looking for a guitar-like insturment with a different kind of sound, this is absolutely one of them. The tone provided is suberb, with superb sampling and pristine sound quality. The three round robins make it sound natural enough, and the well-designed GUI checks all the boxes. Magnificent job!

    Alex Raptakis21 March 2022
  • Pretty Good String

    I thought that the sound quality of each note was pretty good and consistent throughout the range. The dynamic control was also pretty good, although a little more range would have been nice. The UI is laid out good and the controls are self-explanatory.

    Mal14 April 2022
  • A great little 'folk' instrument

    Though not a 'traditional' instrument, the cedarbox has a lot in common in both construction and sound to the kind of simple lutes that can be found across a lot of Asia and Africa and probably beyond. The UI is simple and easy to use, and the instrument sound is good within its normal range, but obviously if you want to play 3 octaves above the instrument's real life range don't expect it to sound good. The sustain on the higher (real) notes is a little less than I'd ideally like but probably to be expected from scrap wood and again, has some commonalities with simpler folk instruments often made with whatever material is available.

    EamonSamplist 19 March 2022