Bungee-Corded Bass Zither Really Slaps

Surely we’ve all played some bass riffs on a stretched-out rubber band before, right? [Nicolas Bras] found that the ultimate musical rubber bands are bungee cords, and used seven of them to build a double-bass zither that can be plucked or struck with drumsticks. Be sure to check it out in the build/demo video after the break.

[Nicolas] is what you might call a hardware store hacker. This is not his first instrumental rodeo by far; in fact, he has spent the last 15 years building instruments from stuff like PVC and other commonly-available items.

One thing in this build that’s not so commonly available is the large sound box [Nicolas] built to strap the bungee cords across. He also made custom bridges for the bungees that are topped with triangular wood, which makes them look like little row houses.

In order to actually play the thing, [Nicolas] arranged the row houses in a 2-point bridge system for dual-note strings, which sound good between the bridges and the bungee hooks, but not so much between the bridges themselves. Overall, the zither has a great, mellow sound no matter how he plays it, and we just might have to string one of these up ourselves.

Not a strings person? Then you might be sated by [Nicolas]’ PVC pipes, which play “Popcorn” perfectly.

Thanks for the tip, [Keith]!

13 thoughts on “Bungee-Corded Bass Zither Really Slaps

  1. ” He also made custom bridges … which … look like little row houses.” I think they look more like Monopoly Hotels, he should paint them red. Anyway I love this, it looks simple enough for me to build (which is saying something) but sounds good. Ten thumbs up!

    1. Hammered dulcimer and pianos are also loosely classified as zither instruments. People often assume épinette des Vosges and Appalachian/Mountain dulcimer are the only form a zither may take.

      If you accept the definition that a zither is a musical instrument with strings stretched over a flat sound board. Then a lot of things are zithers.

      If you want to say zithers must be plucked with a plectrum or fingers, then I guess harpsichord and not the piano or hammered dulcimer qualify there.

      But I generally lump the cimbalom, hammered dulcimer, tympanon, etc as a zither that is also a percussion stringed instrument.

      P.S. I own both a hammered dulcimer (Chickadee by Songbird) and Appalachian dulcimer (a poor old thing I cobbled together). I’m a better mountain player than hammer player by far. Much easier for me to find a rhythm strumming like I’m beating eggs than it is for me to find it bouncing mallets.

  2. Ocky-straps, as they’re called in AU, are really quite dangerous. Kid at my high school lost grip on one, as he was securing his school bag to his bike. Hook hit him in the temple, stone dead.

    1. Wow, it’s endlessly amazing the extremes of apparent fragility and robustness among humans, like this, or the person who trips over and dies, or the person who drops a steak knife in their lap and severs femoral artery and bleeds out, vs ppl like the guy who has been struck by lightning 7 times and the documented accounts of ppl surviving parachute failure and getting up from the ground after.

      Anything under tension or compression, being an energy store can “blow up” on you, bungees, I’ve had a fat lip from before now myself.

  3. A soundboard works better with similar wood on the bottom or open, and then not let it get deadened by setting it flat on a table. That high density particle board is good for speaker boxes but not violins. Try a cardboard box double ply of a large size for a even louder but free source material. Or go solid frame with condenser or mems mics in the frame then it can be like a harp.

    If you could make tuners the single bridge could be near the middle and a fifth note higher on the right half like most hammered dulcimers. They make this cord /in more than one thickness, I’ve seen little treble versions too.

  4. When he said he was going to get three notes per string I thought it would be a very difficult balancing act that I’d like to see. When he settled on two notes per string it seemed a better idea for what remains of his sanity.

  5. It makes me want to build a bass harp…

    It really needs a pedal to dampen the strings. Also the bridges look to have too much weight, maybe whittle them down a bit, to the point where they might almost snap If the strings couple energy to the soundboard better the thing will be louder and notes decay quicker. Then you can bring that back with some amplification :-)

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