A Brief History of the Waterphone
The waterphone was invented by, and named after the musician and musical instrument maker, Richard Waters, in the early 1960s. It was based upon three other musical instruments: the kalimba (African thumb piano), the nail violin; and the Tibetan water drum. The nail violin and the kalimba are both classified as idiophones, which are musical instruments that are made from various materials having their own innate sound characteristics such as glass, metal, wood, ceramics, etc.
The kalimba is an ancient and traditional African instrument that consists of a wooden resonating board with tuned metal tines attached, and is played by plucking the the tines. Originally the tines were made of wood. Varying regions of Africa have different names for the instrument including the mbira, mbila, mbira huru, mbira njari, mbira nyunga, marimba, karimba, kalimba, likembe, and okeme.
The nail violin was invented in the 1700s by a German violinist who accidentally drew his violin bow over a nail and noticed that it produced a resonant sound. The nail violin consists of a wooden resonator box with metal nails or tines that are tuned to a chromatic scale.
The Tibetan water drum is a modern musical instrument and is a flat bronze drum that is filled with water, and when played creates echoed, bending and percussive sounds. Older types of water drums have been used in Native American, African and Southeast Asian music and were generally made from wood and clay.
The waterphone produces hauntingly ethereal sounds similar to the calls of humpback whales or the creepy sounds produced by a theremin. Because they are atonal they are easy and fun to play. They can be played either as a bowed instrument or as a percussively. The AquaSonic waterphone is based on Richard Water’s design, but was specifically designed with ergonomic improvements. Because it is extremely lite and has an elongated neck, it makes it much easier to hold while playing. The AquaSonic has been in production for over 20 years.
Watch Master Silversmith, Martin Bläse, build a silver Waterphone!