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Community web-links

Knock on Wood has many customers and contacts in the drumming and world music community including many bands and teachers, information pages which can be useful.

If you’d like to cross-link with us please send an email to info@knockonwood.co.uk


Djembe Weaver – Recommended online djembe tuition for John Weaver

Iya Sako – Djembe tuition from Iya Sako

Drums Agogo – Djembe tuition with Alison Lyon around Harrogate, Knaresborough, Otley

Songo – African drumming & performance around Leeds

Pennine Rumblers – African and drum circle in Dodworth South Yorkshire





Stars & Catz – Nationwide Music Tuition search website


Music Teacher Award Winner

Music Teacher Award for excellence goes to local Harrogate based company Knock on Wood


On the evening of 7 February 2014, the winners of the 2014 Music Teacher Awards for Excellence were announced at a prestigious ceremony attended by 190 guests from across the music education industry. The ceremony took place in the Barbican’s Garden Room & Conservatory. The shortlist was compiled by the editorial team of Music Teacher magazine from over 200 public nominations. The experienced judging panel then chose the 12 worthy winners. The Music Teacher Awards for Excellence are sponsored by Classic FM and Yamaha, and were presented by Classic FM’s Margherita Taylor.

Category – Most Innovative retailer

Winner –  Knock on Wood :  Knock on Wood achieves outstanding commercial service by bringing practicing musicians and experts to the forefront of its operations. As their website says: whatever you want they have ‘played it, compared it, taken it to pieces and put it back together again!’


Ianto Thornber accepts the award on behalf of Knock on Wood

How to reskin an African djembe using goat skin

We get lots of enquiries about the process of re-skinning an African djembe drum using a new goat skin. Here’s a useful link to a blog written by our own Ianto Thornber (author of The Djembe Guide, and leader of the Knock on Wood drum group) detailing how to apply a new skin to your old drum, using just a few basic tools. Please note this blog does not yet cover tuning up the drum after re-skinning.


Vinyl Treasures Rediscovered

Vinyl Treasures Rediscovered

Friends have been urging me for a while to convert my antiquated and space hungry vinyl collection to a more manageable form. I’ve been weighing up the options to do this – feed into the sound card on the computer and reexport to the ipod touch as MP3s, or buy one of the proprietary wonder machines that do it all for you at the flick of a switch. And then I thought, what the hell, I’m going to be even more radical and listen to them on the record player!

This was easier said than done, the aforesaid machine being buried deep under a pile of board game boxes, and the records corralled behind a large and unruly houseplant. Tense negotiations with close family members eventually led to the relocation of the plant and games and the re connection of the beast to the stereo system. Further frustration in the form of a perished rubber drive belt was solved by the wonders of Ebay, and three days later the first disc was ready for a spin.

Children looked on with a mixture of wonder and foreboding as the stylus was lowered onto the spinning vinyl and the rich tones of Sade’s ‘Diamond Life’ sprang from the speakers, warm and mellifluous like a long soak in a hot bath. Was it my imagination or did the voice sound crisper, and did the bongos sound, well, more bongoey?.The odd crackle added to the feeling that that the sound produced by a needle running in a plastic groove had to be coaxed and nurtured into life rather than arriving ready formed and packaged.

The kids soon lost interest and went back to Facebook and I was left to wallow in brazen and unrestrained nostalgia as I rediscovered long lost friends – Etta James ‘Seven Year Itch’, ‘Survivors’ Suite’ by Keith Jarrett and the almost forgotten 1970 release from Caravan – ‘If I could Do it All Over Again, I’d Do It All Over You’

The next few days was a self indulgent festival of memories, as records in various states of decrepitude were given their first airing for a decade – one disc was so warped that only a penny blutacked to the top of the cartridge kept the stylus in touch with its target. Another looked as though it had had the contents of an ash tray dumped on it, and then wiped down with sandpaper. I just don’t remember being so careless with these treasures – it must have been those other people I shared a house with!

In Search of the Waterphone

In late October 1981, I set off across San Francisco’s Golden Gate bridge on a borrowed bicycle. It had already taken what seemed like an eternity to get from my home in the Mission district to Ocean Beach, where the Pacific breakers were crashing in through a thin mist. Anyone familiar with the city will know that it’s not built for bicycles! But now I was poised for the big push. My quest – to track down the elusive waterphone, a musical instrument so strange and powerful that whales were said to be drawn to it.

First signs on the far side of the bridge were unpromising, with a seemingly endless succession of marinas and health food shops, but finally, beyond Fairfax, the houses thinned and the landscape became more open. Unfortunately, this coincided with a long incline which my battered bike, laden down with tent, sleeping bag and panniers, refused point blank to ascend without dismounting. Bicycles are very like mules in this respect.

Finally, conquering the ridge, I made the descent to Legunitas where I stocked up with vittles – cheese, pumpernickel bread and a couple of cans of Budweiser (in case of emergencies, you understand). A little further on the road narrowed and I was enveloped by magnificent trees – my first experience of the giant redwood forest, where I would camp, tired but exhilarated in the shadow of woodland giants.

The next day was chilly but bright and my route headed northward through dairy farm country, accompanied by powerful roadside aromas of eucalyptus, fennel and the less pleasant odour of crushed skunk. The road skirted the shore of the Bay of Tomales where pelicans, herons, cormorants and thousands of other seabirds held sway.

Finally, my goal was within sight – a house at the end of a track in the middle of orchards in the town of Sebastopol. So said the guides and, true to their word, a friendly welcome awaited at the end of the journey. Richard Waters kept his Rhodesian Ridgeback hounds at bay, plucked a couple of apples from an overhanging branch and led me through to the garden workshop. The garden itself was full of crazy musical sculptures, some of shining stainless steel, some of wood and other metals. His studio was a cluttered workshop, scrap and raw materials piled in the back porch and interesting looking instruments hanging round the walls.

Finally he showed me the waterphone – two stainless steel bowls joined rim to rim with a funnel leading from the base of one of them. Brass rods were brazed to the joined rim forming a circular forest of sounding elements. Water was poured down the funnel and the rods set to vibrate with a rosined cello bow, setting up eerie vibrations, amplified by the bowls and modified by the swirling water.

He probably knew with one look that I wasn’t a sale prospect (though I did buy a T shirt) but was courteous nevertheless, taking time to explain the designs and demonstrate the sounds. Maybe 30 years later this spotlight can be a partial payback
Waterphones are still available from Richard Waters at www.waterphone.com
and there are various copies or ‘knockoffs’ around but nothing quite like the original
Below is the card I was given on that first occasion so don’t take the details as current, though the reference to inter species communication is definitely one for another blog
When I returned to England I started the process which led to www.knockonwood.co.uk
That trip through the redwoods to the orchards was one of its inspirations

Morricone and the Spaghetti Western Orchestra

I’ve long been an admirer of the music of Ennio Morricone. Composer of music for such films as ‘Battle for Algiers’, ‘The Mission’ and Cinema Paradiso, he’s perhaps best known for his remarkable soundtracks for spaghetti western films. including Sergio Leone’s trilogy ‘Fistful of Dollar’, ‘For a Few Dollars More’ and ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’. (incidentally, I once sat through an all night showing of all three of these at a cinema in Bury St Edmunds, emerging saddle sore but happy into the early Suffolk sun).

Where most film music has been content to play a supporting role, emphasising and linking the film visuals, Morricone’s music muscles in on the action, like a gunslinger bursting into the saloon. Shouts, grunts and whistles join together with drums and soaring Mexican style trumpet to barge around the set accompanying desperadoes on the run or the blood lusting posse. In a quieter moment, the musical chime from a pocket watch sets up the tension for a final battle between the good and the bad (or is that the ugly?)
So it was with surprise and some joy to catch a few pieces from a group dedicated to reproducing this glorious sound live at the televised BBC proms. Within those few moments they had run through two dozen instruments and several scene changes to take us shrieking and hollerin’ through the Mexican desert. That group was the Spaghetti Western Orchestra and like a drunk in an El Paso bar room, I was thirsty for more.

Seemingly working their way through the entire instrument catalogue of  www.knockonwood.co.uk (you didn’t think I was going to pass up a plug, did you?), the orchestra’s instrumental arsenal includes over 100 instruments. So, being a bit of an instrument nerd, I’m going to try to count them.

Here we go – glockenspiel, vibraphone, bass drum, double bass, synthesiser, castanet, pipe organ, stainless steel pan, timpani, ocarina, melodica, snare drum, drum kit, trumpet, tam tam gong, wind gong, tin can banjo/violin, ukulele, wooden cow bells,  bar chimes (mark tree), tin whistle (Clarke’s by the look of it), caxixi, mandolin, tambourine, jew’s harp, Kat midi mallet percussion (for tubular bells), slapstick, beer bottles played like panpipes, cup and saucer, grand piano, knife and sharpening stone, claves, handled castanet, angklung, door chain, asthma inhalers, packing tape, clothes brush, utters, hammer, circus slide whistle, bells, clothes hangers, hunting horns, panpipes, wooden clog, cornflake packet, bassoon, Remo frame drum, nose flute, tamborims, seed shakers, theremin, harmonica. I make that around 55 so, including the ones I’ve missed plus multiples of some of the above, 100 sounds about right. But hey, who’s counting.

Well, I suppose I was but ignore me I’m a bit obsessive like that.

Check out their dates for a great musical night out



Weblink of the Month

We’ve been having great fun with www.noisegames.com, a series of free interactive programmes to create your own music mixes in various styles. Desktop Blues, for instance, has three lines of boxes, one for guitar parts, one for vocals and one for fills. You just click on the box to bring that element into the piece and build up your own blues track. Another couple of boxes turn the radio on or off to give you a backing track to play to. There are eleven other variations from ‘PC Punk’ to ‘Slide boy’ all with their own quirky features, but my favourite is ‘Showersong’ which simulates exactly that – singing in the shower complete with optional backing from your waterproof radio and even the sound of the running water for those who need this to hide their vocal inhibitions. Great musical games – share them with the kids. No guns, no swords, no missile launchers!



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