Gaboon Vampire

A headless chest-worn 5-string electric viola, inspired by the design of the Mark Wood Violins Viper, with strandberg guitar tuners on the custom-designed tailpiece and locking hinges on the wings for additional adjustability.
A Custom-Made, Chopped, Rock'n'Roll, 5-String Electric FrankenFiddle October 23, 2022, my son, Nate Dickson, professional musician, located in Madison, Wisconsin approached me with the idea of creating an imitation, the sincerest form of flattery, of the Mark Wood Viper, with the tuners on the tailpiece for better balance. I started studying the Mark Wood Viper from the pictures and videos posted on-line. As nothing on the instrument is square, I mocked-up a model out of cedar wood. Because I had no precise measurement of the angles, I decided to use locking hinges for adjustment of the wings. A little over 5 months later, I flew from Coastal Mendocino County, California to Madison, Wisconsin to deliver the first prototype. The instrument began with the locking ball joint for the paddle and an off-the-shelf 4/4 Stradivarius standard 5-string student-quality violin neck and fingerboard. It is a big instrument -- 16.5 inch string vibrating length. And the Mark Wood-styled angled tailpiece requires extra-long viola and 1/8-scale cello strings. After placing the neck and bridge on the body, it was obvious that the off-the-shelf fingerboard was not wide enough. I built a CAD model (STL file) of the fingerboard of the correct specifications and had it 3-D printed in Nylon at Shapeways. I have had a love for musical instrument making, specifically violin making since the 1980s. Even though this was just a prototype, I could not resist adding a piece of black walnut on the end of the chopped-off pegbox and plastic panels on the wings with snakeskin textured surface. Just the still pictures of the finished prototype have received good response on social media. The name, "Gaboon Vampire" (an oblique reference to the Viper) was an answer Soupy Sales gave to some question on "To Tell the Truth" in the 1960s. Nat, the luthier at Taft Violins in Madison and my son, Nate both like the sound of the instrument, which has basically a makerspace-style cigar-box guitar transducer. I think the difference is that it is well attached to a high-quality 5-string viola bridge.

Side story "Obnoxious noise" -- a quote by a member of the University of Delaware Music Department during my first installation of the Electroacoustic Monochord in the Music Building atrium. Like the "Definitive Biography of P.D.Q. Bach" chapter: "Such a Horrid Clang." The second installation was in the State of Illinois at Chicago Building, newly built in 1985 by Helmut Jahn for New Music Chicago 1985. A couple years later, I installed a plywood Fresnel Zone Plate array in a resonant configuration. There was a screening of "Koyanisquaatsi" and afterward, I saw a man singing "Koyanisquaatsi" inside the piece.

Frequently Asked Questions
What inspired you to do this?
My son Nathaniel texted me: "Any interest in making a knockoff Mark Wood Viper? I want to make an amazing electric viola..."
(October 23, 2022)
How long did it take to make it?
5 months
How long have you been doing things like this?
I studied violin making in the library in the 1980s.
How much did this cost to do?
Have you done other things like this?
My "Undergraduate Thesis" project was a new electroacoustic musical instrument which was subsequently published in "Perspectives of New Music" (1981-1982) and U.S. Patent 4,248,120 (1981)
What did you wish you knew before you started this?
Viola parts are really rare, compared to Strad. standard, school-quality violin parts.
Viola parts, particularly 5-string violas, extended downward a fifth, are even more rare.
Mark Wood Vipers have extra-long strings, because of the angled tailpiece. Strandberg guitar tuners add to that.
Are there plans available to make this? Do you sell this?
This is the first prototype. I am making "as built" drawings and CAD models for the next iteration. Https://
What’s next?
There will eventually be a Gaboon Vampire 1.0. Nate is also interested in resurrecting the Electroacoustic Mono/Polychord project.

Stewart Dickson : Maker
The maker Stewart Dickson
Tourette's. I had cards printed "Art & Technology" in 1982. I got glazed looks from people I gave my cards to. My influences are the Billy Kl├╝ver/Robert Rauschenberg "Experiments in Art and Technology" (E.A.T) of 1962+. The best way to beat swords into plowshares is to subvert the tools of the Military-Industrial Complex into making Art.

Connect with Stewart Dickson
How I can help you:
I'd like to be able to offer instruments with my custom tailpiece design.
How you can help me:
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