One of my favorite things about writing film music is creating evocative, unusual sounds that can enhance the movie. I'm always looking out for new instruments, especially acoustic instruments that can create sounds that are familiar without being instantly recognizable. I was super excited when my assistant found this video on vimeo:
This has huge potential for film scoring, and I wanted my own!
We decided it would be easiest to build the instrument in three separate pieces (the drums (resonators), the stringed portion, and the middle piece to hold everything in place once we attached the springs).
For the drums we used a 14'' and a 10'' frame drum. Having two different sizes, one connected to the drone string and one to the melody string, should give two different tones and a great stereo image when each was miked up. We attached the two drums on a block of wood by drilling holes in the bottom of each drum and using a power drill to bolt them tightly in place. We then placed small holes in the center of each drum and placed a tightly fitted bolt for the springs to attach on to.
Realizing the the tension from the springs might be too much for the screws to handle, we decide to use rope to pull back on the drums creating tension in the opposite direction. This allowed us to create as much tension as we wanted without the drums moving or falling off their base.
The next piece we built was the stringed portion. Once we had all the wood sanded and the body constructed. we coated the fretboard in polyurethane. After we figured out how the strings would sit on the instrument, we built a headstock out of a smaller piece of wood, drilling large holes to fit the tuners (we used electric bass tuners). We also used an electric bass bridge on the bottom end of the body to hold the strings in place.
We then needed to figure out a way to attach these two pieces so the instrument would be free standing. The idea was to build something that could be detached and nicely stored away in my studio.
We settled on the idea of using one long piece of wood to connect the drums to the stringed body. We bolted two steel levers to one end of the wood as a way for the body to fit nice and snug. Two holes were drilled in the bottom of the body so we could bolt it to the levers. This allowed us to tighten the body in place and then easily remove it for storage when were done. On the drums side, we connected two flat, narrow pieces of metal to each side of the drum base. We were then able to fit the middle portion between the two pieces of metal and then tie a rope around it to keep in in place.
Once we had the basis for our Yaybahar, we added a few "accessories" for make it more suitable for recording. First, we added a humbucker guitar pickup for amplification, which gives the instrument a nice full tone without too much noise, as an option to mix in from the microphones on the drum heads. Then we built a bridge out of a bent piece of metal to keep the springs resting on the strings without them sliding or moving around, and cut the spring in half to make it more convenient to attach and remove it from the bridge. Last, we gave the instrument frets using thin black zip ties, which makes it much easier to play.
The finished yaybahar sounds unreal and I love it! Here is a video, enjoy!
Parts we used:
remo thinline frame drums 10" and 14" - thinking of changing them to 16" and 14"
jazz bass bridge & tuners
steel cello strings