Stu's Moondrums

Moondrums  are:
  • Inexpensive
  • lightweight
  • indestructible
  • useful at all volume levels
  • capable of a wide variety of sounds, using a wide variety of techniques

The Story of the Moon Drum

Working with Drums Not Guns, Happy Shel Weisman & I had been doing workshops in impoverished areas; housing projects, daycare centers, and libraries in communities incredibly strapped for cash. We would show the kids a little about how to play the djembes and ashikos we had brought, but when we left, we knew they would have no way to obtain instruments to go on. The year was 1995.

Enter Reid Plastics, a company that makes Polycarbonate resin containers, such as water bottles and the like. They donated almost a hundred 5 gallon water bottles to DNG, for use with the kids. We began to experiment. 

Arthur Hull had mentioned replacing the spouts with a 4 inch hole to improve the sound, so that's how we started out. We did fifty bottles or so, and they sounded good. For a series of workshops we gave the bottles to the kids afterwards. Nowadays, I don't even bother to cut the holes; the nozzles are another good playing surface.

Waterbt0.jpg (93127 bytes)
DNG volunteers cutting the water bottles.
(Click on the image for a bigger version)photo by happy shel

Time passed, and we kept the water bottles in our bag o'tricks, but also moved on to other methods, and I ended up with about 15 to 25 leftovers at my house. A few weeks later the '96 Solsticelebration was coming up, and I was asked to do an exhibit of homemade stuff, so I went back to work exploring the possibilities of the plastic. Len Barnett came over at this point with his tools, and we set out to see what all could be done.

We started with the saw. First, we lined the bottles up by pitch; some were similar, and some were lower or higher than the others. We made one headed drums of varying depths. We suspended the tops of the bottles, and glued them together facing each other. We cheated a bit and used drumset cymbal stands, but we clamped two old aluminum pipes between the 3 of them in an L shaped configuration. We hung a dozen or so of the shallower drums on this framework to explore the sounds, with some sitting face up on a bed of foam. Two of the longest ones had different pitches. I had Len cut a slit down the side of the "shell", about 4 inches, then squeezed that part together, letting the plastic overlap a bit. this made it possible to push one cylinder inside the other, and voila, the first double headed moondrum..

the fit was tight enough that the resonance was there, and the two heads made for all kinds of possibilities. One could play it like a dholak, a or a kendang, or play a djun djun part on it, with the rim as bell. When you turn it up on end, all kinds of sabar and repenique type stuff is available, muffling with one hand and stroking with the other, with  or without a stick. The instrument responds to various beaters and playing techniques, and is useful at ALL dynamic levels. There is a rough surface on some of it that responds well to a rake or scraper, like a Merengue guiro, With a small bit of imagination, one can come up with all kinds of cool modifications to add features and pitches and sounds to the instrument, but for it to have resonant integrity, it would really have to be molded, as the original bottle. Then it's free to truly vibrate integrally. I planned out and documented the development of the idea, and prepared to bring the concept to the 1996 NAMM show in anaheim (feb96) . My goal was to show it to REMO and to LP, to see if I couldn't get it licensed somehow.

Tune in next episode...i show the moondrum to Remo Belli & to Ray Enhoffer, the LP product development guy...Remo invites me the following week to his R&D department to talk about the drum. I'll tell you all about it. No I don't get a deal, not yet anyway, as of 7/2000...actually at this point, I'm more into exploring the sounds available from the already made (bottles)

thanks to fellow musician/inventor rick parrish for motivating me to continue to extend this section. more to come...

(This page was posted July 2000.)

Update for 2004

This year has seen development of the Juevon :-) also called the egg ipu, one of a series of instruments made from giant plastic Easter eggs.

Listen to the Juevon (Egg Ipu)

These eggs are quite a resource..

Confessions of an Idiophonomaniac, part 12

We had tried giant Easter eggs before with no success, because the plastic had been too soft. I have long visualized useful shapes, and an egg with a sound hole had been one of them. When I came upon these particular eggs at the beginning of February, I knew right away my hunch had been correct.

I bought the eggs, then three more, and then i bought all the eggs i could get my hands on, about 10 or 12. I experimented with placing slits and holes, both circular and non, in various places on the eggs..

The results were excellent; soon I was out of eggs. Soon all the Hobby Lobbies were OUT of them..Easter was here; soon there would be a dearth of eggs for another 10 months. Dread. Suddenly the lowly, cheap plastic eggs began to seem precious...There were cuts i still had to try. I found that i could still get more, if i bought directly from the manufacturer, but but i had to buy 60 eggs minimum...

Read more about it.


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