Aluminum Piano Plate - Other Aluminum Instruments

Other Aluminum Instruments

As soon as aluminum was available in the late nineteenth century, people began experimenting with making new or improved musical instruments, but it was not until the 1930s that companies began to consider mass producing them. At that time Joseph E. Maddy, founder of the Interlochen School of Music, (now the Interlochen Center for the Arts), requested that Alcoa experiment with manufacturing an aluminum violin and string bass. As a band director, Maddy was looking for durability in musical instruments. He wanted an instrument that could handle the abuse it received from his students as well as from atmospheric changes, since many of his rehearsals were conducted outside. These instruments, however, were not popular, and Maddy’s business venture did not flourish. Other products using aluminum were manufactured in the 1930s including Laurens Hammond’s electric organ created in 1935. Some instruments were more successful than others, such as the vibraphone or vibraharp. The vibraphone, a percussion instrument consisting of a series of bars with tubes below to help resonate the sound, was created in 1921 by the Leedy Manufacturing Company. It got its name from the vibrating fans below the bars that could be turned on an off electronically, giving the instrument a vibrato effect. The Vibraharp, created in 1928 by J. C. Deagan, is the same instrument, but created out of aluminum instead of wood or steel. Due to its success, Leedy began manufacturing their vibraphones with aluminum in 1929, and they are still made of aluminum today.

In the mid-1930s, the Blüthner piano company built a lightweight aluminum alloy piano for the airship Hindenburg.

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