The 9 string drum guitar, or DAGR 9 was conceived out of a dream I had in late April of 2013. I was immersed in listening to and developing acoustic percussive techniques suited to my style of playing. In the dream, I was playing a guitar fitted with various drum pads. The music was so compelling and the dream so intense that when I woke the majority of the content stayed with me. Over several months of experimentation I was able to fit an instrument with four drum pads.

The 9 string drum guitar is not simply a 12 string guitar with 3 treble strings removed but rather, an instrument which endows the player with the ability to expand the instrument tonally. The bass strings are sometimes tuned in octaves as in a standard 12 string. However, they are often tuned in thirds or fourths, given the song requirements. These tuning frameworks broaden the musical capabilities of the DAGR – 9. They also grant an uncommon flavor to the instrument. These tunings continue to evolve as more is discovered about the nature of the instrument.

The drum pads are currently run through an Alesis drum module, allowing virtually any percussive sound. I am currently developing a wireless, detachable drum pad. The capability of the drum pads along with the varied tunings enables a unique sound applicable to original composition as well as cover songs.

The nature of having drum pads on an acoustic guitar demands that I think about composition and arrangement in a different way. In order to be able to play some drum patterns while playing melody and bass lines, right and left hand placement must be considered with regard to how I make sounds on the instrument. For example, in the piece Encryptions, the right and left hand must alternate between striking the drum pads and playing the strings over the neck in order to accommodate the hand speed and volume required to play percussive sounds in between and in conjunction with the production of melody and bass lines. In some pieces, these techniques are not required. The feel and music of the instrument is as different from playing a 6 or 12 string guitar as is the difference between playing a bass guitar and a lute. The DAGR – 9 truly is a new kind of instrument.

Picture of Keith Lykins 9 string drum acoustic guitar


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