Samuel Burt built his first daxophone in 2011 consulting with and using the plans of inventor Hans Reichel who first recorded his instrument in 1987.
The daxophone is based on the principle of bowing tongues of wood. The daxophone clamps the tongue on a sound board amplified with piezo elements on the inside. The length of vibration of the tongue can be shortened by moving the dax across it. Bow location and pressure allow for many dimensions of control.
You should consider building your own. It's not so hard. Feel free to get in touch with questions. Samuel Burt builds them for people who do not have the time to build their own.
The body of the daxophone fits three legs that hold it at an angle towards the player. It has a clamp on one side to hold on a tongue. A thin piece of wood is glued on top, hiding two piezo microphone elements that attach to the quarter-inch jack.
The legs of a traditional daxophone fit snugly into holes in the body. My new daxophone design uses a design that allows the legs to screw in. My daxophone legs termiate in rubber feet.
Each tongue is a unique work of art, with its own density, grain, and shape. Bowing the tongue in different locations will cause it to vibrate based on the length of the segment.
The dax is a large teardrop-shaped piece of heavy wood. It is placed on the tongue, flat or at an angle, to change the length of the vibrating segment of the tongue. Moving it back and forth and rolling it allows for continuous changes in pitch, like an unfretted string instrument. The dax also has a fretted side. When rolled over the tongue, the frets act to change the vibration of the tongue in discrete steps acting more or less as notes in a scale.
DI Box: for instances where a longer line is needed, a direct box can remove ground hum, converting the quarter-inch line to a balanced XLR cable.
Volume Pedal: a volume pedal is useful not only to bring down the level when its too strong but to also silence the daxophone while swapping out tongues.
Reverb Pedal: a nice, tastefully controlled reverberation pedal can give the daxophone a little more sustain.
Compressor Pedal: a well-chosen compressor pedal can help control some of the strong spikes of direct signal that the daxophone can generate in some circumstances.
Amplifier: a good keyboard amp or acoustic guitar amp will provide sufficient clarity for the daxophone. A powered PA speaker works, too.
DIY Styrofoam Resonator
You don't really need complex woodworking skills to play the daxophone. Simply clamp a tongue to a large recycled styrofoam container. Find a styrofoam shipping container from a restaurant or grocer who buys large fish. Great amplifier, no electricity needed!
Samuel Burt has constructed 20+ daxophones, shipping globally. Keep in mind that each daxophone is a work of love, and wood is an unpredictable living material, so if you order a daxophone, be patient. It might take a month or two to complete. Half the price is due up front. Shipping is included to anywhere in the continental United States.
Buy | $650
The Unfinished Kit includes a finished dax, 3 tongues, and legs. I make all the precision cuts on the body and clamp, but it is unfinished. You get to know your instrument as you sand, solder, assemble, and stain the body.
Buy | $800
The Complete Kit includes a finished daxophone body, sanded and stained. You get a dax, 3 tongues, and legs. You do the easy final stage of checking the soldering and glueing the top on yourself. Air mail has caused some parts to come loose during shipping, so its better for you to do one final test before the top goes on.
Buy | $150
Some guitarists have requested just a dax to use on their instrument. You get a heavy, polished, fretted dax. I make mine from Argentine Lingum Vitae, one of the densest woods on the planet, which also means it is rare and expensive.
Buy | $60
Add another tongue to your order or buy them for your instrument. Each tongue is a unique piece. There are families of shapes and woods that are somewhat predictable in their sounds, but density varies from tree to tree. For a single tongue, multiple tongues might be made and tested.