Other west African instruments, like balafon, ngoni etc.
By treecritter
Since I was a very little girl I have always LOVED things that made noise, some things much more than others........ like the kitchen pots and pans that we used to bang for New Years eve, the blades of grass that we learned how to use as a reed between fingers for honking noises, my whistling skills are exceptional..... yep, just about anything.

Now that my taste has been refined and finding myself enjoying the djembe so much I have found that some of my other "toys" are less than satisfactory, one of which is my tourist style shekere and I have decided that I would like to create my own. :mrgreen: I am wondering if there are other artists here that have created their own shekere and if I can pick your brain a little bit.

I have acquired beautiful bottle gourds and am in the process of preparing the gourds. I'm working on the interior of the gourds now..... have been using small course garden rocks to swirl around inside to remove as much as possible. Did this first dry, then rinsed and softened interior and ran the rocks again. It seems to be working pretty well but the interior surface is still not as clean as if I could physically scrape it. Does anyone have any hints as to how this might be done as cleanly as possible? I plan to use polyurethane to seal the interior once it's cleaned up to try to keep the tone as rich as possible.

Any hints, suggestions or links to help me with this project will be greatly appreciated, thanks!!

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By Beerfola
I use a few tools that I made out of metal BBQ skewers. You can bend and sharpen them with files to scrape the insides out. I even attach them to a cordless drill. But go slow you don't break the gourd. You can find similar tools at http://www.caning.com
By treecritter
Had a chance to browse this link you shared, excellent and thank you! Definitely gives me a couple ideas that should help me get on to my next step. I got a couple pictures of the 4 gourds I have to work with yesterday, will try to share series of pictures as I go through this process.

I know that each gourd will have it's own voice so I'm figuring that out of 4 I should get at least one that makes me very happy. Have created a few instruments in the past and those that I've made myself have always held special meaning to me and I hope that this experience will mirror those from the past.

Exterior is cleaned up, still working on interiors:

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By e2c
Great-looking gourds - I do hope you were wearing a mask while cleaning them.

There's plenty of good info. available on the net re. keeping your respiratory tract safe while processing gourds. I don't have links handy at the moment, but would be happy to find some if you'd like.

fwiw, I have never seen - or played - a shekere that was treated with polyurethane as you describe. My thought is that it might really mess with the tone, but probably best to connect with others who have made shekeres re. that. I can understand why you might want to use it as a sealant, but I personally hear a big, big difference between cajons - and wooden "bones" - that have been treated with polyurethane and those that have been finished with other products. The polyurethane seems to kill the tone, and I've heard a difference in instruments where I've sanded off the varnish. (Or let it wear off naturally.)
By treecritter
I have been using google to help me out so far with this project and nearly every "How to make Shekere" suggests sealing the interior to produce more clear tones. It made sense to me since the interior is so soft and seems like it would act like a natural sound dampener. This is something that can be done after finishing bead work so I may consider leaving this possible step until last to see how well it sounds without. I prefer to NOT use any chemical products if possible so this is an easy option for me to at least try.

The gourd dust...... yes, definitely used mask for general clean up work and when shaking the rocks completely plugged the neck of gourds with towel to keep the nastiness inside. This little fact about how dangerous it is to work with gourds and their resulting dust is not shared on several faq sheets online..... too bad and I agree that the safety should be priority when working with these gourds.

It's been crazy busy for me at work this week so haven't had a chance to work anymore on these for the last couple of days, working outdoors after the sun sets isn't as much fun as on a sunny day.

Most shekere are made with plastic beads, something about glass beads being too "harsh" sounding and abrasive in drum circles. I'm having a hard time reconciling with this...... I want to use glass but haven't decided one way or the other yet. My little tourist shekere has natural seeds and I love the sound it produces, hmmmm:)

Thanks for keeping your eyes on me here guys, I sure appreciate it.
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By e2c
Glass - or even super-hard plastic - seems to be big with people who play (mainly) in salsa bands, since the shekere has a *lot* of other sounds to cut through. And I agree that glass can sound very harsh.

am sure you've thought of stringing them up with different kinds of beads, or even using a mix... could be very interesting!

As for inside finishing, I have one that probably came from Brazil that has something black and a tad tarry inside. (When I 1st got it, you could pick up a distinct smoky smell from the interior.) It's a small one, with a high, cutting sound (strung with Job's Tears seeds - called Our Lady's Tears down there), but that is literally the only one I have owned that was finished inside in the way you're describing. All my others have been/are either African-made or made by Americans who took workshops in making West African-style shekeres.

I have a very small one - strung with glass beads - that was manufactured/sold by Latin Percussion a shade over 10 years ago. Unlike the others, the gourd is completely intact, so really, it's more of a tiny rattle than a shekere per se. Still, it was nicely strung and has a long tail, so it's possible to get a nice variety of sounds from it.

I wonder what wooden beads would sound like... or ceramic, for that matter. Earthenware vs. stoneware vs. porcelain? Hmm...
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By e2c
treecritter - Earlier today, I read a discussion on glass beads for a shekere vs. plastic, and one of the people involved has a large shekere strung with small glass beads. Apparently, this is much more subtle-sounding - and allows for much greater control of tone and volume - than is the case with plastic.

That makes complete sense to me; so do the comments there (I need to post a link but am on the wrong computer at the moment) on plastic beads breaking.
By treecritter
I have located perfect tools for cleaning the inside: http://www.welburngourdfarm.com/gourdma ... ball1.aspx Funny thing is that this the farm where my daughter went and picked out my gourds for me. I had no idea they had so many other gourd craft tools there or that they are well known for their gourds too. I now have these sanding bits on order. They should make a very nice clean surface on the inside of the gourds and I'm betting that will help more with the tone than sealant would so am definitely going to cut out one chemical process.

I'm very interested on learning any more regarding plastic vs. glass beads, and even the size of beads. Eventually I'm hoping to make shekeres as gifts from my heart and hands to my grandchildren...... there's 7 of them :mrgreen:
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By e2c
Right you are on the thorough cleaning! The small Brazilian one I mentioned above has a surprisingly big, boomy sound for its size (about 5 inches in diameter) when struck or tapped on the bottom.

Thanks for the link, too! Will see what I can rustle up...