A multi-disciplinary designer’s journey in field recording, sound design, and music.

Underwater Bowed Metal

Posted: March 4th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: found sound objects, gear, sound design
Bow, Wok Lid, Hydrophone

Horse hair, water, mic, and wok lid. Now we're cookin'!

My last post featured teensy finger cymbals being dipped in water while resonating, recorded with a submerged hydrophone. This time we go a bit bigger.

Bowed cymbals are one of the classic clichéd horror movie sounds…clichéd because they’re awesome! (coincidentally, just yesterday, Chuck Russom posted some great examples on his blog.) I recorded some a while back, borrowing some cymbals from a friend at work who keeps his drum kit at work. During that session I also realized that the wok lid from my kitchen made similar sounds, but with a different timbre: More groany, throaty, less musical, but with a quality I liked.

So, I played the wok lid with a violin bow as I moved it into and out of a tub of water, again with the trusty Aquarian H2a-XLR hydrophone tracking to a Sound Devices 702.  The H2a can be overly bright on some material, but for this stuff it was pretty good! (Next time I should record the above-water sound to a second channel with a small condenser mic for more mixing flexibility.)

The recording below is 100% unedited except for some slight compression and normalization.


[Aquarian H2a-XLR hydrophone into Sound Devices 702 recorder]

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7 Comments on “Underwater Bowed Metal”

  1. 1 tim said at 6:35 pm on March 4th, 2010:

    it would be interesting to know if you can bend between two notes, on a tuned piece of metal? eg hold bowing a pitch, then bend two semitones & hold… could be a unique instrument!!

  2. 2 Chuck Russom said at 6:40 pm on March 4th, 2010:

    That is very, very cool. Bowed cymbal to the next level!

  3. 3 Nathan said at 7:30 pm on March 4th, 2010:

    @tim: Don’t make me go out and buy a musical saw! :-)

    @chuck: Much respect, man, glad you enjoyed it!

  4. 4 john said at 4:32 pm on March 5th, 2010:

    great idea. maybe I’ll try it with a musical saw (I’ve got a small collection).

  5. 5 George Spanos said at 7:40 pm on March 10th, 2010:

    Great idea… must.go.purchase.hydrophone.

    I thought my contact mic was cool but this breathes new life into sonic exploration. Really cool sounds, Nathan.

  6. 6 Michael Maroussas said at 8:15 am on March 26th, 2010:

    very cool sound, may well have to get one of these judging by some of these results…..

  7. 7 JED said at 5:56 pm on April 19th, 2010:

    I love your stuff and your cymbals. Water is an awesome natural acoustic filter!


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