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Making Your Own

By Dennis Havlena

Hi from the Straits of Mackinac in northern Michigan.

A while ago there was a topic being thrown about on a usenet music group concerning "whirligigs" -- sort of a cousin to the bullroarer utilizing a rubber-band affixed to a light crucifix-shaped (*) frame at the end of which is a handle. The thing sounds by either whirling it while grasping the handle or by waving it vigorously up & down in any number of ryhthmic patterns. (*) In my case.

I did a considerable amount of experimentation with them and am here to describe the simple construction of what I judge to be the best.

When played in conjunction with a didgeridu (tuned to the whirligig -- I use a trombone-style d'du) the overall effect can be quite powerful.

Here's the plan :


                                     o = put rubberband here
                  ,o                Horizontal stick is 21" long
               o  Io                vertical stick is 7 1/2" long
           o      Io                handle is about 4" long
           o      Io                               H              
               o  Io                               H   
                  'o                               H
I used 1/2" x 1/2" cedar wood but about anything will work (although the lighter the better for "non-rotating", arm-swinging type playing)
I notch both wooden pieces to attach the crossarm, but anything will work
Affix handle to "boom" with loose screw to allow for free rotation
Use "office-type", 1/4" wide rubber-band
The route of the rubber-band forms a triangle but only two sides of this triangle vibrate (the band along the third side lays right against the wood)
I used a piece of dowel-rod for the handle, but nearly anything will do
By adjusting one half of the band tighter than the other, you can tune the beast to a 2-note chord. My favorite is a do-sol (1-5) ratio. I should note here that for some reason the plucked note pitches are not quite the same as the "whirled" or swung pitches (!) so the fine-tuning must be done so that the thing is in tune while in motion.
Two of these things can be used "arm-swinging/pendulum" style (the four notes tuned to a chord) to create some pretty wierdly attractive rhythms.

Dennis Havlena - W8UR

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