The “Gypsy String Trick”

By Sonya Kitchell

I first saw this in the film Latcho Drom, which detailed the migration of gypsies from India to Spain.

Years later, I witnessed my friend Brad Barr cast a spell over an audience by somehow miraculously playing the air. He had done the same things the gypsies had done with their violin strings, but with his electric guitar, using pedals to sustain the sound. The effect was mesmerizing.

It’s my favorite little guitar magic trick.

Sonya Kitchell is a Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter and guitarist. She has also performed with Herbie Hancock, Ben Harper, Indie.Arie, and Los Lonely Boys.

3 comments to The “Gypsy String Trick”

  • Don Meador

    Oh yeah! I’m gonna remember that! As I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, the key to any magic but in particular sympathetic magic is in whether or not the performer and the audience buy in. In the case of the 1st video, I was totally mesmorized. Thank you for a fun trick.

  • Peter

    I first saw this technique used by Fred Frith in a performance in 1979, though he performed it more as a perverted medical experiment on a wounded guitar laying on a table than a blues. And just one of a kaleidoscope of unorthodox approaches to the guitar he used that night which blew my mind.
    But I love Brad Barr’s vid. I’m thinking that the tackle box guitar really lends itself to the sound and the technique (and the “Tackle Box Guitar” should be a “Secret Room Trick” of its own).
    I saw Latcho Drom at Film Forum NYC back when it was fresh… that was a long time ago; I’m so happy that people still watch films like this.
    Needless to say the string against a loose pulling string has been used in in less (or not so less) refined ways by Sonic Youth, Neil Young etc. it can be what you do after you’ve broken one or three and still noising it up or down.

  • Victor

    Sorry but I just don’t get it :) . Whwre is the string tied ? To the base of the string he is fretting ? And if so how come that sound is still present once he’s not doing it anymore ? If you listen towards the end of the video is putting the loose string back in the box and the sound is still there. Also, any idea what material the string should be ?

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