Diego Stocco – Bassoforte from Diego Stocco on Vimeo.

Odds are you don’t have a dismantled piano you keep in the garden, awaiting conversion to a fantastic, imaginative electro-acoustic instrument. But that’s unlikely to make you covet the instrument above any less.

Diego Stocco is a composer, instrumentalist, sound designer, and mad inventor. Among many recent accomplishments, he’s responsible, in collaboration with Hans Zimmer, for some of the imaginative sounds that populated Guy Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes.” In many ways, he’s a reminder that the expressive potential of digital music isn’t limited to the virtual. He couples raw acoustic materials from sand to modified instruments with recording and digital processes. In the case of the Bassoforte, that means the use of IK Multimedia’s tone-rich amp models and effects in their flagship AmpliTube software. Hold a mic to something, or add a pickup, and the sound takes on a new form.

The Bassoforte’s construction was an exploration, building resonance out atop the mechanical construction at its heart with unexpected additions like a chimney cap. Then, its musical realization, too, calls upon Diego’s unique talents as a player and composer. He explains some of the process to CDM:

I built this thing by combining a bunch of different parts, including cabinet handles as bridges : )

It came out fun to play because I can interact with it in different ways, but it’s also tricky to control, because the tuning is a thing on its own.

He explains the tuning idiosyncrasies on the gallery of the instrument:

The neck is slightly tilted, so when I press a key I can push all four strings at the same time. But because the piano keys are not perpendicular to the frets, the tuning is imprecise (which I like), and can also generate in-between semitones. How strong I push the keys also affects the tuning.

It can be a little tricky to play, but overall, I’m very happy about how it came out.

The software side: an AmpliTube effect chain and amp simulation, running inside Avid Pro Tools.

He also tells CDM about how he’s relating to the instrument now that it’s built:

I’m still discovering it because I just built it, but it sounds [as if] for each [note], there’s also a secondary note that gets produced by the other half of the strings (on the side of the bell), so the higher the pitch, the louder this secondary note is. It creates these bi-chords that can sound very interesting.

The idea for the track I created came to me exactly because of that; I was just pressing the keys randomly trying to figure out what to do and then I found one very nice bi-chord, then a second one, and from there I got the idea for the rest. It wasn’t really a conscius decision to create a “Western” tune, it just happened that way 🙂

If you’re loving the track as much as I am, you can grab it on Bandcamp for $.99 in various high-quality formats, along with other albums with self-explanatory names like “Music from a Tree” and “Music from Sand.”

<a href="http://diegostocco.bandcamp.com/track/bassoforte">Bassoforte by Diego Stocco</a>

And for more information, check out the gallery Diego has posted, which includes additional notes from behind the scenes:

Real for Reel: The Amazing Sherlock Holmes Experibass, and More Winter Cinema Sounds

  • That is bloody fantastic. Great job, Diego. This sounds amazing. Makes me want to make a homemade tailpiece for my 1935 resonating mandolin since my friend is taking too long in fabricating a new one. Even makes me want to start making my own instruments as well. Wow. Thank you.

  • I need to stop watching Deigo's videos, because he just keeps making me envious. The drawer handle as bridge idea is really good, though, and gives me some ideas for a lap steel I've been wanting to build.

  • Umm, I meant Diego. Now it looks like I'm trying to insult him with a racial slur. *sigh* Any chance you could edit that for me, Peter? Thanks!

  • Is it just me or does this sound like a totally sick cover version of "Personal Jesus?"

  • It has the best analog keytar part I've seen never!

    BIG UP Diego!

  • the other nick

    sweet sweet jeebus!

    diego you are an incredible inspiration!

    gasp! AAAAAAHHHH!!!! fantastic! bravo!

  • Hey guys, thanks for your comments!
    @ Darren, don't worry man, no offense : )
    @ Nick, not to disrespect the Depeche Mode, but that song didn't even cross my mind.
    If I have to think about what are the influences that I had spinning in my mind when I was creating the track I'd say it's a combination of all the "spaghetti western" soundtracks I've heard in my life. The Fuzz sound at the end is clearly an homage to that genre : )

  • Aaron

    Very impressive, no doubt will make a ton of us envious including myself. Wonderful instrument you've got on your hands Diego. It's open-ended-ness also suggest it would be great to do some treated piano-style work on.

  • flip

    @Diego: Got an album? Love your tracks…great stuff!

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  • Scott

    Wow! Loved the video. Adore the song! I'm super inspired right now to make some music. Can't wait to see more of your creations!

  • Damon

    I love it when a plan comes together.

    Think I saw this on "CreateMusicFromDismantledPiano's.Com"

    It is one thing to come up with a fresh gimmick, and quite another to manifest it with such competent musicality. Winner on both fronts.

  • JonYo

    I'm not usually one for overused internet memes, but that's an epic win right there.

  • Ri


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  • Chris

    @ Nick – I was convinced this was 'Personal Jesus' until I read the comments above, it sounds far too similar for it to be coincidence

  • kobe

    i still say it's Personal Jesus. 😡 props to diego for rocking out with a unique setup though.

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  • seriously sounds like DM was sneaking into his head. absolutely amazing sounds. Off to bandcamp to buy it.

  • just enormous 🙂

    is this MIDI or OSC complient? 😀

  • J. Phoenix

    I have to confess, although the music I hear from Diego is stellar, what really sparks me about his work is the visual aspect of the videos.

    The act of watching the "instrument" at hand being played & recorded (whatever that may be in the video), the creative process itself is what really inspires me when I watch.

    I could have easily believed the recording was multiple instruments played by multiple people–possibly even recorded live.

    It is one thing to describe an instrument, and still another to hear a recording and try to deduce what made what sound and how, but the video aspect really adds a whole depth and dimension that would not be present or even imaginable from descriptions alone.

  • that is so damned sexy.
    i want one. gimme.

  • I think the real takeaway for me from this, and all of Diego's other videos, is to always be on the lookout for ways to be inventive and creative. A lot of people talk about how they want they're own copy of his instrument designs. For my own part, though, they make me instead want to be aware of what I have around me, what's available in DIY stores, and what's available in dumpsters or on people's front walks where they put stuff to throw out. It's not easy to learn how to pay close attention to what can be used to make interesting sounds and instruments, but I'm slowly getting the hang of it.

  • flug

    that´s the spirit of DIY…with a few basic materials make something useful-playful and totally different
    honestly I enjoy a lot seeing these things than the usual osc-touch-arduino-toys stuff..which I consider boring and non creative. Long live to creativity. Bravo Diego

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  • B.H.B. is HERE!