Flexiphone Rises from the Ashes of Broken Instruments

The mechanics of an old Rhodes Piano, and a set of chromatic saucer bells rescued from a reed organ. What do these two things have to do with each other? If you’re [Measured Workshop], they are the makings of a new instrument. The Flexiphone is a transposable instrument with a piano keyboard and interchangeable sound source.

The Rhodes is a great stage instrument. Unlike a piano with strings, it uses tines mounted above the key mechanism. It is also relatively compact for an analog instrument. This made it perfect as a donor for the Flexiphone’s keyboard. [Measured Workshop] cut they mechanism down to 30 keys, just under 2 octaves. The key mechanism was also cleaned up and restored with new felt.

The sounding portion of the Flexiphone is a set of chromatic saucer bells. The bells are mounted on a felt covered threaded rod, which itself sits in a wood frame. The bell frame sits on top of the base in one of three slots. Each slot is a halftone transposed from the last. Simply moving the bells allows the player to transpose the entire instrument. The bells and their rod frame can also be completely removed and replaced with any other sound source.

The Flexiphone sounds great — sometimes. As [Measured Workshop] says, bells contain many harmonics. playing single or double notes sounds rather sweet, but chords can sometimes become a shrill assault on the ears. Still, it’s an awesome hack with plenty of potential for future mods.

If you liked this hack, check out a toy piano modified into a synth, or this instrument made from wind chimes and dry ice.

7 thoughts on “Flexiphone Rises from the Ashes of Broken Instruments

  1. What an enthralling construction video.. absolutely lovely!
    I’m far happier churning out metal swarf and generally loathe making sawdust but this actually made me feel like doing some woodwork, was how interesting it was.
    Great HaD article, Adam, thank you.

  2. A couple of notes in the lower end are off, hence tonal color. Brass that old gets inter-granular corrosion or something like that and changes shape and tuning. It is likely A-435Hz not A-440Hz so a little flat to modern tuning. If you add dampers, add a pedal too to lift them all. It will sound celestial. Find a junk grand and use a real action with repetition lever from the top end, the Rhodes is like a eighteenth century piano.

    The flexaphone was a sax reed mouthpiece, a length of garden hose, and a funnel. Sounds like a cartoon joke. I heard explained and played on a jazz radio show years ago. It is capable of mimicking the human voice in wailing anguish like for real.

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