As glorious as it is to attend a NAMM show and see acres of pristine, in-the-box musical gear, it's hard to escape the feeling that retailers are trying to reinvent the wheel and find new ways to separate you from your money. Maybe that tweak Evans made to its drum head design is revolutionary, or maybe that's just this year's fancy sales pitch. In any event, I took to the NAMM showroom floor on Sunday to seek out some of the more unusual offerings in the convention. Whether they're the new concepts that will help you reinvent your sound, we'll leave to you to decide.
The Wheel Harp
According to the company reps at Antiquity Music, this instrument separates itself from the hurdy gurdy with a unique bridge system. It's also equipped with humbucker pickups. Unlike the hurdy gurdy which is often handheld, the Wheel Harp resembles a piano. A foot pedal activates a pully which rotates a circular-shaped bow inside the apparatus. The player presses keys which decompress strings making a lush violin sound. Imagine Itzhac Perlman with 10 fingers on each hand.
A smaller variant of this percussive instrument, designed by musician Andy Graham and dubbed the noodle, was chosen as one of this year's best in show items. It's basically a long pipe fitted with a thin steel strip. Capable of being plugged in for amplification, the steel strip can be tapped with sticks and bent with fingers. The sound is reminiscnet of 70's era slapping and popping. Interesting trivia: Graham has had some of his own slaperoo music featured on the A&E reality show Intervention.
Rock Tips Liquid Callus Formula
This product, which hails from the great state of New Hampshire, is marketed for stringed instrument players. Many axeman tired of the pain caused by intense fretwork will dab their fingers with Super Glue to simulate callouses. The beauty of Rock Tips is that it's non toxic and water soluble. I tried a little and got a chance to play one of the guitars on hand. The solution became dried to a tacky consistency on my fingertips in about 30 seconds and stayed with me throughought the day, washing off easily. It was fun listening to a guitar teacher bending one of the reps ears and bitching about whiny students who don't want to practice because of finger pain.
Lamvin Inc. Acoustical Panels
This Oceanside company produces acoustical panelling for recording and practice spaces, but with a twist. They'll print a hi-res image of your choosing on the panel. Family photos are welcome. Of course if you're living the rock star life style and banging your harem in the rehearsal studio, you may not want the wife and kids peering at you starry-eyed from the wall.
Shred Neck: Touted as the ultimate practice and warm-up device for guitar players, the shredneck is designed for different types of axmen. One model, which looks like a portion of a guitar neck features lower frets for chord work, while another model features just the high frets for soloing. The strings can't acutally be tuned, but the tension can be adjusted.