The Waterphone Mystery

In the 80’s and 90’s, most synths seemed to have the preset “Waterphone” tucked away somewhere down the list, in the twilight zone between musical patches and sound f/x. It produced an eerie, slightly discomforting sound that seemed to be somewhat dissatisfied with the world as a whole.

Years went by, and numerous waterphone impressions that failed to be useful for anything else than a novelty spook for newcomers to the studio. I personally never considered the thought that the ubiquitous waterphone would be an actual instrument, I just sort of assumed that it would be some kind of invented sound effect with a name that somehow had stuck to the minds of synth patch designers.

And then, years later, I stumbled onto an actual demonstration of a waterphone. And yes, it is an instrument, and yes, it has found its way onto numerous suspense movie soundtracks.

I stand corrected.
I stand even more corrected now. According to Wikipedia, mr. Richard A. Waters is credited as the inventor of the Waterphone. A comment was left by a Richard Waters, pointing this out to me, so to recover some possible ill effects of my poor research, I offer a link to mr. Waters site here where numerous sound examples, as well as an introduction to the eerie but strangely addictive instrument can be found.

In all fairness, I will leave the video of the other waterphone example as well. There are differences in timbre and modulation between this and mr. Waters examples, but not being fluent in waterphonique, I will not stretch as far as calling it “a cheap imitation”. You be the judge.

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One Comment

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  1. What your video shows is a waterphone knock-off – a cheap imitation of my instrument the Waterphone.

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