Bradford Reed fights and tames the idiosyncrasies
of the pencilina, an original instrument of his own design and construction.The pencilina is an electric board zither played primarily by striking the strings with sticks; also by plucking and bowing. Bradford first created it around 1985, and has continued to refine it. (“It just keeps developing," he says.) The basic form is of two boards mounted parallel to each other on a stand, like extended guitar necks with no bodies. Listen the Amazing Pencilina
Each has a bridge at either end, and tuning machines at one end. One of the necks has six guitar strings stretched across it; the other has four bass strings. Wedged over and under the strings in each neck is a stick – an old drum stick for the guitar strings and a metal rod for the bass strings. The sticks divide each string into two segments, one on each side, which vibrate quasi-independently and so can be played separately. The sticks can also be moved to alter the effective string lengths on either side.
There are four built-in pickups: two are contact mics mounted in the bridges at one end of each neck, and two are guitar-style electromagnetic pickups which are placed under the strings toward the opposite end. In addition, there are four bells – a fire bell, a door bell, and two brass telephone ringer bells – mounted at the end of one of the necks. The contact mics pick up the ringing of the bells through the wood of the instrument. They also pick up percussion anywhere else on the wooden necks, so any spot that happens to produce a nice sound is available for drumming.