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date: 22 November 2019


  • Hugh Davies
  • , revised by Laurence Libin


An instrument invented in 1967 and patented in 1975 (US patent no.3,896,696) by Richard Waters and manufactured individually to order by him, formerly under the company name Multi-Media in Sebastopol, California. Various sizes have been produced; the earliest (‘Standard’) had a resonator 17.8 cm in diameter. In 2011 the ‘MegaBass’ (40.6 cm in diameter) was popular. The Waterphone combines the principles of the nail violin and a water-drum. The Standard model consists of a stainless steel bowl resonator containing water, the dome-shaped top of which opens into a vertical unstopped, cylindrical tube that serves as a handle. Current models (‘Whaler’, ‘Bass’, and ‘MegaBass’) are constructed from flat, stainless steel pans. Around the edge of the resonator are attached between 25 and 55 nearly vertical bronze rods, which (depending on the model) are tuned in equal or unequal 12-note or microtonal systems. The rods can be struck with sticks or Superball mallets or rubbed by a bow or the hands. Movement of water in the resonator produces timbre changes and glissandi. The Waterphone has inspired many imitations and further developments. It has been played in a wide variety of musics, including rock, jazz, and compositions of Tan Dun and Gubaidulina, and has been featured in many film and television soundtracks. It is also an important element in the Gravity Adjusters Expansion Band founded by Waters in ...

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