Electric lamellophone

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Electric lamellophones are lamellophones (struck metal tongue instruments) that have been electrified with an electro-magnetic pickup (like on electric guitars) or contact piezo pickup.

Piezo pickup lamellophones[edit]

There is a distinct difference between the piezo and the electro-magnetic pickup. Most electric lammellophones feature piezo pickups. The piezo sound contains more treble and has more problems with feedback when amplified (distorted) heavily. Lucinda Ellison produces a wide range of her Embiras, which are solid body electric mbiras with piezo pickups — a design first conceived in 1981 and finalised in 1996. David Bellinger has been making ekalimbas - kalimbas with piezo pickups - for 20 years.

The electric Array mbira.

The Array Mbira is a lamellophone with an alternate tine configuration. It is electrified by the addition of a 2-channel stereo piezo cable pickup system. A special solid-body Array mbira exists.

Electro-magnetic lamellophones[edit]

Ernst Zacharias created a series of electric lamellophones created in the 1960s for Hohner. These instruments were based on the reeds made by Hohner (already employed in accordions, concertinas, melodicas and harmonicas). These instruments were the Pianet (plucked by a foam pad), the Cembalet (plucked by a rubber pad) and the Guitaret (plucked by fingers). The idea of a struck reed tongue had been pioneered by the Alexandre brothers in their "Orgues expressifs" (harmoniums) in the 19th century, where they were called percussion stops.

The Space Harp, or Frankiphone (designed, built and played by Phil Cohran), is a famous instance of an electric lamellophone.

A range of other mbiras and kalimbas have been created by contemporary instrument makers. The African band Konono No.1 uses custom-built electric kalimbas with electro-magnetic pickups. Neptune's Jason Sanford makes electric thumb pianos from scrap in a similar tradition and Yuri Landman has made 12-TET bass kalimbas and metal tongue drums.