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Thread: Electric Phin

  1. #1
    Registered User Seter's Avatar
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    Default Electric Phin

    Not sure how applicable this is to Mandolin Cafe, but the electric phin does occupy a similar sonic territory to the electric mandolin and I imagine some may be interested; anyway curiosity got the best of me and I ordered one of those electric phins you see on eBay and Amazon, fairly pleasantly surprised considering I had no idea what to expect. The woodwork is very nice, but the bridge/tuners etc are not so great. Pickups do not align with strings, an upgrade there would probably help a lot. I'm not entirely sure what type of wood it is, a Thai friend suggested teak and one cryptic online advertisement hinted at cassia which could mean the national tree of Thailand. Still working out the best tunings and string gauges to use, any suggestions? I've tried EAE, DAD, and EBE. I am tempted to maybe just use the same sets as my dulcimer, would make buying in bulk easier. Right now it has a electric guitar G string for the low E, I think a wound D like a dulcimer might be be an improvement.





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  3. #2
    Registered User Seter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Phin

    I became interested in electric phin after hearing Khun Narin's Electric Phin Band, sort of an interesting Thai psychedelic rock band that has taken off, playing international festivals and such:


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  5. #3
    String-Bending Heretic mandocrucian's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Phin


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    Default Re: Electric Phin

    Whoa, how does she do all that....

  8. #5
    Registered User Seter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Phin

    Well that gives me one song to learn

  9. #6
    String-Bending Heretic mandocrucian's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Phin

    I got hooked on this stuff (morlam, and other southeast Asian stuff) back in the late 90's, before anything you wanted to check out, could be found on youtube. I had to go to Asian groceries in the DC beltway to buy CDs and tapes of this stuff. There was a Thai video rental place in Sterling, VA I'd get music from; it cracked up the people working there cause I was probably the only white guy to ever come in asking for stuff by morlam singers (stars) like Banyen Rakkaen and Jintara Poonlarp, and wasn't even a vet from the veitnam war.
    (btw I recorded a Thai lukthung tune on the Comando Session Vol 3 cd from 2001).

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music_of_Thailand

    Some of the Cambodian stuff was really good, but was very hard to find back then. Check out the American band Dengue Fever which is fronted by a female Cambodian singer. On the video below, the guitarist is doing all those phin-like lines.



    BTW: all those rubbery hand dancing gestures you see from the Thai, Indonesian singers etc. So much of that is actually martial arts - trap blocks, strikes etc. slowed way down the way Tai Chi moves are.

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  11. #7
    Quietly Making Noise Dave Greenspoon's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Phin

    THAT was a LOT of fun!


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  12. #8
    Registered User Seter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Phin

    Thanks for the recommendations, I'll have to check them out. The Dengue Fever song sounds good. Any idea what the coconut-like smell coming from the phin may be? I couldn't find any evidence of coconut oil being used on instruments, I'm wondering if maybe it is some other type of oil with a similar smell. Still uncertain what type of wood my phin is made out of as well. I'm from Virginia too actually, grew up in Blacksburg and went to college in Harrisonburg.

  13. #9

    Default Re: Electric Phin

    Great stuff all. Thanks for this thread!

    I found this awesome video today, title says "acoustic" but it looks to me like maybe electric phin and acoustic bass? There's even tremolo! (for instance between 6:48-7:14). It really gets cookin' about 3 minutes in and beyond:


    (or, hopefully, a direct link to 3-minute mark)

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    Default Re: Electric Phin

    This has been a most interesting thread!!
    -------
    Waiting for the thunderous applause and enthusiastic cheering. But for some reason, I only hear crickets…- Multidon

  16. #11
    Registered User jefflester's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Phin

    Dig the doubleneck!


  17. #12

    Default Re: Electric Phin

    Rasmee Wayrana is a wonderful Thai singer in the Morlam style who is fast gaining an international reputation. There are many clips of her on YouTube, including some where a very fine phin player is among the accompanists.


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    Default Re: Electric Phin

    Quote Originally Posted by mandocrucian View Post

    Some of the Cambodian stuff was really good, but was very hard to find back then. Check out the American band Dengue Fever which is fronted by a female Cambodian singer. On the video below, the guitarist is doing all those phin-like lines.
    Great clip!

    3:38 in video: looks like he has a phin
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  20. #14
    Dave Sheets
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    Default Re: Electric Phin

    Dang this is cool! You made my evening.
    -Dave
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    Way too many other instruments

  21. #15
    Registered User Seter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Phin

    Finally got around to recording something resembling a proper song. This is all electric phin except the bass of course, phin played through a Roland Jazz Chorus 2x12 (great clean amp) with most tracks on chorus setting but one of the lead tracks on vibrato. I've pretty much settled on EBE tuning.


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  23. #16

    Default Re: Electric Phin

    I recently became enthralled with this Thai instrument. I was commissioned to create one of these for an artist who also recently became obsessed, and wanted a quality phin made for him. It was hard to find information on these. There seems to be about a paragraph of a very vague description that has been copied and pasted half a dozen times across the internet. Other than an unfinished blog entry from a guy keeping track of his build project, I haven't been able to find any information about these on any american websites. Google translate doesn't do well with character based languages, so I wasn't getting anywhere with that. Luckily I have a friend who speaks Thai and was able to help me find the measurements I needed to start a build. I am totally obsessed with these now and I am currently making my third "prototype".

    I have used a variation of string gauges and I have found that the best for normal tension is 28, 18, 12.
    Most builders in Thailand use 24, 16, 11. I felt like the strings are too floppy and it doesn't feel good to me.
    The tuning that is the most common is E, A, E. You can do anything though.
    One of the major manufacturers explained to me the reason for the odd fret selection. There are three common fret selections. I prefer the traditional layout. In terms of the E string, there are no sharps except for F#, but only on the first octave. Its pretty strange at first but you can find chords and the limited note selection gives you a really specific sound.
    I plan on making a bunch of these and experimenting with different ideas that I have.

    Here are the two that I have built recently:
    this one is semi hollow
    Click image for larger version. 

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    this one is fully hollow
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Im still trying to figure out how to play these correctly, but here is a clip of #2

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  25. #17
    Registered User Seter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Phin

    Those look very nice Iain. I'd like to eventually upgrade from mine to something with more reliable electronics/hardware so I'd like to keep you in mind; I have been playing and recording quite a bit with mine though ever since I got it. For strings I used the top 3 strings from a guitar set (10, 13, 17) but as you say very floppy and once these wear out I'll try a thicker gauge. When I play I rarely play the lowest E except for playing open chords, mainly playing melodies between the higher strings. I've discovered it sounds pretty good played on the lap slide guitar-style as well. Here are two more recordings I've done since last post (the first has a bit of slide phin):




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  27. #18

    Default Re: Electric Phin

    Quote Originally Posted by Seter View Post
    Those look very nice Iain. I'd like to eventually upgrade from mine to something with more reliable electronics/hardware so I'd like to keep you in mind; I have been playing and recording quite a bit with mine though ever since I got it. For strings I used the top 3 strings from a guitar set (10, 13, 17) but as you say very floppy and once these wear out I'll try a thicker gauge. When I play I rarely play the lowest E except for playing open chords, mainly playing melodies between the higher strings. I've discovered it sounds pretty good played on the lap slide guitar-style as well. Here are two more recordings I've done since last post (the first has a bit of slide phin):



    Sounds good. They sure are a blast to play. I want to make a six string phin, 3 doubled strings. If that makes sense. Also, it would be nice to have all the frets. The first couple that I made had the traditional diatonic layout. With all the frets you can turn this into a few different instruments just by changing the strings or the tuning.

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