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Help: What is it?

Banjoman_CO 07 Apr 00 - 11:18 AM
BlueJay 07 Apr 00 - 03:06 PM
M. Ted (inactive) 07 Apr 00 - 03:28 PM
Songster Bob 07 Apr 00 - 04:04 PM
GUEST,Jimmie 07 Apr 00 - 11:44 PM
Banjoman_CO 08 Apr 00 - 11:55 AM
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Subject: What is it?
From: Banjoman_CO
Date: 07 Apr 00 - 11:18 AM

A friend of mine bought an instrument at an auction. It dates back to the early 1900's. I've never seen anything like it. It has about a dozen strings like an autoharp, but on one side it has a single string with a slide contraption with a 'steel' attached. It works like "bottleneck". Does anyone know any thing about an instrument like this?


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Subject: RE: Help: What is it?
From: BlueJay
Date: 07 Apr 00 - 03:06 PM

Hey, Banjoman, nice to hear from you again. I've seen that instrument also, but have no idea what it is called. All I know is that in the earlier decades of the 20th century, they were prolific at turning out many unique stringed instruments. A lot of them were "Courting Instruments", designed for two players, to help keep them occupied as there were not yet any drive in movies. I don't think they were ever highly successful! Your relative neighbor, BlueJay.

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Subject: RE: Help: What is it?
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 07 Apr 00 - 03:28 PM

It sounds like some sort of zither--these novelty instruments, and there were many of them, tended to be sold by traveling salesmen of the "Professor Harold Hill" variety--either door to door, or as those pitchmen at the carnival do--the enphasis was on the fact that they were a new, technically advanced instrument, and easy to play--

So simple that the dullest child, in only a few minutes, and without lessons, will be able to heart rending tunes from the classical masters--

Professional musicians are up in arms!! These instruments may be so easily mastered that players may accomplish, in minutes, what they have labored for years to achieve. Sale of these instruments has been prohibited in the European countries for exactly this reason--The supply of these instruments is strictly limited--so get them while they are still available--

Of course the salesman could play wonderful things on it(or something that looked very much like it) but once it was home and out of the box, these instruments never got very much use--

For one thing, they almost never sounded good--for another, they were shoddily made--but by the time you realized it, the salesman was gone, unless he had fallen in love with the librarian--

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Subject: RE: Help: What is it?
From: Songster Bob
Date: 07 Apr 00 - 04:04 PM

The instrument you describe is a Hawaiian Tremeloa, one of the many zany products of the Marx Musical Instreument Co. Others included the Ukelin (sometimes labelled the Guitarlin, although that may have been a knockoff built by a competitor) and the Marxophone.

The Ukelin is a bowed psaltery with chord strings under the melody strings -- the melody strings go from the bottom end to metal loops attached along the two sides, one loop per string, and were played with a short fiddle bow. The farther from the base, the longer the string and the lower the note, but the bow will contact only at most two strings, so picking out individual notes is possible.

The Marxophone had melody strings in zither fashion, but had a set of flat metal "keys," each with a weight on the end, one finger per string, which were played by pressing down on the attached end of the flat metal, causeing the weight to strike the string, hammer-dulcimer fashion. If you held the key down, the weight boing-oing-oing bounced on the string, giving you a somewhat mandolin held-note sound (technically, a tremelo).

All of these and other Marx instruments were sold door-to-door by salesmen (at a universal price of $35, if I recall), and very little decent music is possible from them. I even hate GOOD bowed psalteries. I will allow, however, that an ensemble of Marx instruments makes for a fine novelty act.

Bob Clayton

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Subject: RE: Help: What is it?
From: GUEST,Jimmie
Date: 07 Apr 00 - 11:44 PM

I have a Ukelin (paid $35 for it about five years ago) (patented April 6, 1926) distributed by the International Musical Corporation of Hoboken, NJ. It has 16 bowed strings plus 16 strings arranged into 4 chords. Bob, it may be limited, but it sounds better than a bowed musical saw and it is way less dangerous! I also have a Pianolin from Pianolin Co., New Troy, Michigan (the label says it sold originally for $35 - I paid $20). It has 25 psaltry-like melody strings and 20 (5 chords) strings. They are easy to play but a bitch to tune. At least they are maintaining their value.

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Subject: RE: Help: What is it?
From: Banjoman_CO
Date: 08 Apr 00 - 11:55 AM

Hey guys and gals: Thanks for all your imput. It's always interesting to know where these kind of instruments come from. Thanks a lot.


P.S. Hey, Bluejay. How are things going down there. I don't hear from you too often. Keep it easy. Banjoman

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