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Rock Out With A Homemade Electric Guitar

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Rock Out With A Homemade Electric Guitar

Brain Candy

Rock Out With A Homemade Electric Guitar

Rock Out With A Homemade Electric Guitar

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  • Transcript

Forget the air guitar solos, go electric for under $10. Sound artist Ranjit Bhatnagar, a member of NYC Resistor, specializes in building cheap, DIY instruments. He explains how to make an electric guitar from a plank of wood, some wire, a magnet and a guitar string.

IRA FLATOW, host:

Next up, Flora Lichtman is here - Hi, Flora - for the Video Pick of the Week. No silesaurus...

FLORA LICHTMAN: No.

FLATOW: ...in the video this week. Instead?

LICHTMAN: Instead, we have a video put together by our science arts producer Shelly DuBois. And it's a great one, I have to say.

FLATOW: I'm sure it is.

LICHTMAN: Yes. Let me set the scene for you.

FLATOW: Go. I'm just going to sit back for awhile.

LICHTMAN: Okay, sit back, close your eyes, relax. We're in downtown Brooklyn, in a very strange apartment building. We walk up the steps and all you hear are these boinging, (makes noise). Maybe we should hear some of that.

(Soundbite of guitar music playing)

LICHTMAN: You might be confused. What is this?

(Soundbite of guitar music playing)

FLATOW: What is this?

LICHTMAN: That is a $10 electric guitar.

FLATOW: Wow.

LICHTMAN: Apparently, this is what Shelly found out. There's this guy, a sound artist, who's name is Ranjit Bhatnagar. And he figured out how to make instruments, basically, from junk in your house. I mean, I think $10 is, like, the upper limit. That's like a really fancy - one of these guitars. But they're electric, and so he walked Shelly through how to make one of these guitars from scratch. And really, you know, people had, like brooms, that they were using as the frets.

FLATOW: Yeah, and it works.

LICHTMAN: And it totally worked. I mean, you know, the one thing that you need to buy is a guitar string, although you probably could...

FLATOW: Sure.

LICHTMAN: ...do that with a rubber band or something, too.

FLATOW: And these are electric guitars, right?

LICHTMAN: Right, yeah. This is not just like putting - strapping a string on a broom. There's actually some science involved here. So he teaches us how to make a pickup in this video...

FLATOW: Huh.

LICHTMAN: ...which is way easier than I would've thought.

FLATOW: And, you know, and - you can see the video at sciencefriday.com. You can see the video up there on our left side. And what I, you know, I was watching the video and I remember my mom sewing. And I said, you know, it's like winding a bob, and he's winding a wire, the electric pickup on the bobbin. And you said that's exactly what he did.

LICHTMAN: That is exactly what he did. You really - to make a pickup, you just stick a magnet inside of a bobbin, wind some wire around it, some particular type of wire, and then, you know, attach a connector for your amplifier and, bam...

FLATOW: Wow.

LICHTMAN: ...rock out.

FLATOW: How many strings did he have on his guitar? Were there a lot? Six, 12?

LICHTMAN: There were a lot of - so he actually teaches classes at this hacker space, which is it's kind of like nerd camp. I mean - I loved it.

FLATOW: Mm-hmm.

LICHTMAN: I'm not - it's just I don't mean that derogatory word.

FLATOW: Yeah. Oh, we do take that proudly.

LICHTMAN: Yeah. Obviously, this is SCIENCE FRIDAY. And so there were lots of people there making different types of instruments. You can see the range of what people produced. The best instrument, which is sort of featured at the end, which is what you just heard, had two strings. And I thought it sounded pretty good.

FLATOW: I know. I watched the video and I saw him - all the music he was able to get out of a couple of strings.

LICHTMAN: It was incredible.

FLATOW: It was incredible.

LICHTMAN: He was very serious about it, too. He actually had brought lots of different, little equipment. I think he even had a pick.

FLATOW: Yeah. He did. He did. And so if you want to see this video, and you can watch this to learn how to make it yourself.

LICHTMAN: And build your own, make a video, send it in, let's see it.

FLATOW: Let's see it. A high-end one costs 10 bucks.

LICHTMAN: Yeah. Don't spend more than $10. Let's see who can make the best junk guitar.

FLATOW: (Unintelligible). Yeah, let's - send us your video. You can see Flora's video - I mean, Shelly DuBois' video at sciencefriday.com. It's on there, the little, do-it-yourself guitar. Thank you, Flora.

LICHTMAN: Thanks, Ira.

FLATOW: Flora's Video Pick of the Week.

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