What instrument is being played in this Rogue One soundtrack piece?
April 20, 2017 1:29 AM   Subscribe

What instrument is being played over the drums/percussion in the "Jedha Suite" from the Rogue One soundtrack? The instrument in question comes in at 0:15.
posted by EndsOfInvention to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It sounds to me like a contrabassoon.
posted by Rufous-headed Towhee heehee at 2:38 AM on April 20

It sounds like a tanpura drone to me, either digitally manipulated to have some pitch bending , or by pressing down on the strings.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 3:04 AM on April 20

The instrument comes in again briefly at 1:23. This bit definitely sounds more like a string instrument than woodwind (to my inexpert ear).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:17 AM on April 20

I think it's probably some kind of synthesizer patch, but who knows? It could even be a heavily processed guitar sound.
posted by thelonius at 4:31 AM on April 20

It's definitely a string instrument from the decay. It sounds to me like just a double bass with a rough attack, the bow really digging into the string for the first few seconds. It's not inconceivable that the papery sounds you hear around the attack are a separate percussion instrument, but I think it's just the bass being played roughly.
posted by dfan at 5:02 AM on April 20 [1 favorite]

It sounds like a string instrument to me, too -- the buzzy quality reminds me of a shamisen. (Bonus video: dude playing Star Wars theme on shamisen.)
posted by ourobouros at 5:25 AM on April 20

Not just one instrument—the main buzzy sound is reinforced and extended by a double bass section. The second bit at 1:23 is clearly bowed. To me it sounds like a bowed piano string. Here’s an example of the technique.
posted by musicinmybrain at 6:35 AM on April 20 [2 favorites]

I’ll note that the string (piano or otherwise) is being bowed only briefly at 1:23 and then allowed to resonate. At 0:15, the attack is much sharper—the string may be bowed, but in the piano scenario, somebody is probably also striking the same string or one an octave lower, either directly or via the usual action, and there may be an object inserted in the strings to increase the buzziness. This kind of shenanigans is generally known as “prepared piano.”
posted by musicinmybrain at 6:40 AM on April 20

Thanks all. Slightly disappointed it's not a "specific" instrument (rather than a sound cooked up just for this piece) so I can find more music featuring it.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:59 AM on April 20

If you like this sound, you might want to check out music featuring the didgeridoo. Here's a YouTube video that starts out with a note that has a very similar timbre to the Rogue One excerpt, but the didgeridoo is a surprisingly versatile instrument.
posted by carmicha at 7:08 AM on April 20 [1 favorite]

I mean, you can always check out Denman Maroney, who takes extended piano techniques to an extreme level and makes a huge variety of rattles, scrapes, boings, and rumbles. There are a few tracks featuring him on the Absolute Ensemble chamber group’s excellent album Absolution. Or, you might like John Cage’s works for prepared piano. Just be ready for an abrupt dive into the mid-to-late-20th-century classical avant-garde!
posted by musicinmybrain at 10:43 AM on April 20

The thing that came to mind for me was a low-pitched waterphone.
posted by that girl at 3:29 PM on April 20 [1 favorite]

Well shit, I just asked the composer on Twitter, and here it is, straight from the horse's mouth: a long necked banjo.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:02 PM on April 22

posted by carmicha at 7:09 PM on April 23

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