(Frequently Asked Questions)
Q. Did you (Richard Waters) invent the Waterphone?
A. Yes. Q. Do you have a patent on the Waterphone?
A. Yes. Q. If I turn the Waterphone upside down will the water fall out?
A. Yes. Q. Are the bronze tonal rods hollow or solid?
A. Solid Q. Would you explain the hows and whys of Waterphones?
A. When the tonal rods are sounded some of the fundamental tones and/or harmonics are sympathetic to the bottom & top diaphragms. When the attitude of the Waterphone is changed from vertical to horizontal and all in between the water is being moved on and off the bottom diaphragm as the tones are being sounded. The water acts in 2 ways - (1) to bend tones via the weight of the water on the bottom diaphragm which lowers the tone when the Waterphone is in the vertical position and raises the tone when in the horizontal position and (2) creates acoustic, schiziosonic, modulations as in pre-echoes via the motion of the water and the relative speed of sound in water, air and metals. Q. Are Waterphones tuned to a scale?
A. Only in the broad sense of ascending-decending but if you mean a conventional scale then the answer is no. I create a micro-tonal scale split into two diatonics - one ascending as the other is decending. I tune the tonal rods against the prime tone of the diaphragms, the resonator & each other and in this process I reduce the amount of dissonance/conflict which reinforces the overall sound making it richer. Rather than thinking of the tonal rod arrangement on the Waterphone as a scale, I think of it more as a hybrid between a score and a scale as it has elements of both. Though the tones on the rods are "fixed" the water allows for unfixing them as in tone bending. Q. Would you be willing to tune a Waterphone to a conventional scale?
A. No. This is because it's too limiting in terms of the sound palette and defeating in terms of the Waterphone resonators. Aside from the increased cost to the consumer it would be boring for me to approach the Waterphone from such a level. I am an artist/musician hand making one of a kind type instruments and not a production factory turning out identical items. Q. How do composers use them in sound tracks and recordings?
A. In different ways but if you mean relating the Waterphone tonalities to conventional tonalities/scales some composers find tones on the Waterphone that correspond to the conventional scale and they indicate what each tone is with a small piece of tape placed on the waterphone behind the corresponding tonal rod or the tips of the tonal rods are color coded with a permanent marker. After these relating tones have been mapped out on the Waterphone the composer writes a piece utilizing these tones and the Waterphone player records a track or two of these corresponding tones. Other composers write so that there are spaces in which the Waterphone player improvises. One of the reasons that the Waterphones are utilized so much on movie/tv sound tracks is that the schiziosonic water sounds and the tuning(s) represent the Strange & Unknown: other world - alien beings, drugs, ghosts, physic experiences, death, etc.) and the sound of the waterphone is frequently used to indicate this. Q. Can Waterphones be re-tuned?
A. Yes, but it takes some time/tools/patience. It is a process of slow subtraction with lots of listening in-between. Changing one tonal rod can affect several others. Q. Can I play a melody on the Waterphone?
A. Everytime you play it there is a melody but if you mean a conventional tune then those tones that are predominant in the melody that you want to play must be represented on the Waterphone and the chances of that are alittle remote but possible. However, with the range and special effects like tone bending and pre-echoes and the manipulation of these, a Waterphone player can create a haunting melody or a sizzling improvisation - all beyond western (and eastern) scales. Q. Your Waterphone prices are considerably higher than the imitators and knock offs from around the world. Why is that?
A. It is because what I make is highly superior to any of the knock-offs. Bear in mind that I am not only the inventor of the Waterphone but I have also been making them for over 40 years and during that time I have accumulated a lot of information in terms of the best materials, the best way to construct them, and how to tune them for optimum sound. I am a fourth generation metal worker and know how to select the very best materials. In addition the resonators are TIG welded which none of my imitators are doing. I space the tonal rods much closer so there are more tones on each of my Waterphones. After years and years of trial and error I have learned things about tuning a waterphone which makes my Waterphones more harmonious, wider in range, and fatter sounding. These things are what make my instruments the best in the world and why symphonies, recording studios and touring musicians continue to buy my Waterphones and other instruments. Q. Would you talk a little more about the tuning process?
A. I spend more time on the tuning of each Waterphone than I do in the preparation, assembly & finishing. The process is sounding/listening and consequential rod adjustment, and again and again etc. At the end of this process I want each Waterphone to be rich sounding with minimal conflict and have as wide a range as possible so this is what I tune towards. I have made many Waterphones over the past 30 years and have learn much in the processes of making these. As I also perform on my instruments I have an insight into how they should be tuned which is tuning against the prime tones of the diaphragms and the resonator. Between the resonators all sounding different and the unique tuning of the tonal rods each Waterphones is a one of a kind - they may look somewhat identical but sound different. Q. What are some of the other attributes of the Waterphone?
A. It is easily portable and can operate either as a stringed instrument or as a percussion instrument with a wide range of sound in either mode and the player can move back forth between these 2 modes very easily and quickly. Also, Waterphones are accessible to a broad spectrum of people - both those that have musical training and those that do not. Playing the Waterphone is basically an eye, ear, hand coordination that is easy to learn but like anything the more you do it the more you develop. And lastly, the fact that the Waterphone could be taken into the water and played and would attract whales and other Cetacean expands the environments for interspecies communication as well as for recording and performance. Q. Do you have any advice for Waterphone players?
A. Yes, read the Waterphone information. Learn to play the Waterphone without water as it will improve your skills. When you do introduce water pay attention to the water levels as they make a difference. Part of the beauty of the sound of the Waterphone is the long duration of the sound (sustain/decay) - allow that to happen and at other times dampen the sound with the bow hair, fingers, mallets or your body. This along with other variation in attack, motion, and attitude shapes the sound and the music. Encourage silence to punctuate the non-silence. Above all - Listen...