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Appalachian Virginal

Keyboard-operated banjo
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The musical instruments used in traditional American music are mostly appropriated from other cultures, e.g. guitar (Spain), mandolin, fiddle and double-bass (Italy), accordion (England or France). Even the so-called "Appalachian" (or Mountain) Dulcimer is based on a Central European zither. The only folk instrument which can truly be said to be all-American (with a healthy amount of input from Africa) is the Banjo.

Banjo technique is difficult to learn, and players of the instrument often subject to undue ridicule ("his eyes are very close together..."). What is required is a banjo which uses widely-existing playing technique. 6-stringed "guitar-banjos" already exist, but have the disadvantage of still looking embarrassingly like a banjo.

A better idea is to make a harpsichord whose soundboard is replaced by a stretched vellum or Mylar membrane. This will produce the familiar twang while retaining the anonymous dignity of a piano. The name "Appalachian Virginal" not only nods to the so-called "Mountain Dulcimer", but also to off-color jokes about hillbillies...

butterfingersbeck, May 27 2007

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       I've no idea of what you're talking about but it deserves an audience, I'm sure...   

       unless you're UnaBugga in disguise, of course
po, May 27 2007
  

       //accordion (England or France)// Can we just be very, very clear that the French invented the accordion? I don't see why the English should have to share the blame.
MaxwellBuchanan, May 27 2007
  

       What about the autoharp? I am pretty sure that is native Appalachian technology.
Galbinus_Caeli, May 29 2007
  

       No, it's a German variation - disputed between a German immigrant and a German inventor - of the folk instrument Zither [tzee-tah].
jutta, May 29 2007
  

       Well if you want to be picky all musical instruments boil down to one of three stone age inventions. Pounding on a log, blowing through a reed, and plucking a string.
Galbinus_Caeli, May 29 2007
  

       //And driving a pulse along a delay line with feedback.//   

       Well, that goes without saying, now doesn't it?
Galbinus_Caeli, May 29 2007
  

       //but have the disadvantage of still looking embarrassingly like a banjo.//
I don't understand the *embarrassment* here...
<mumbles> nothing to do with mountain oysters
xandram, May 29 2007
  

       Welcome to the Halfbakery [butterfingersbeck]. I like your style, it reminds me of a halfriend that no longer frequents.
methinksnot, May 30 2007
  

       // make a harpsichord whose soundboard is replaced by a stretched vellum or Mylar membrane. //   

       Ain't never had wun o dem harp-si-cord thingums, but hain't yu never dun stuffed a pianner with news-sheet? It comes all banjoy-like, and don't cost atall. And yer don't gotta read the paper, neither!
lurch, May 30 2007
  

       I'm afraid that one of the probable inventors of the accordion was none other than the famous English scientist and pioneer of telegraphy Sir Charles Wheatstone (February 6, 1802 - October 19, 1875). Several other free-reed instruments including the Concertina can be directly attributed to him, although the Accordion itself is a matter of some dispute. Incidentally, Wheatstone was also the first to try "driving a pulse along a delay line with feedback", inventing something akin to a mechanical reverb unit.
butterfingersbeck, Jun 23 2007
  

       I wasn't aware that there were any virgins left in Appalachia.
noncompliance, Jun 23 2007
  
      
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