The Pencilina is a unique 3rd bridge electric stringed instrument that was conceived and built by multi-instrumentalist and luthier Bradford Reed in 1985. The instrument is constructed like a pair of slim connected zithers, one tuned like a guitar while the other is tuned like a bass and can be plucked, strummed an played with sticks or a bow. It also has four different types of bells for added texture. According to Bart Hopkin, author of Orbitones, Spoonharps & Bellowphones, the Pencilina is “is completely idiosyncratic” but full of possibilities.
The pencilina is an electric board zither played primarily by striking the strings with sticks; also by plucking and bowing. Bradford first created it around 1985, and has continued to refine it. (“It just keeps developing,” he says.) The basic form is of two boards mounted parallel to each other on a stand, like extended guitar necks with no bodies. Each has a bridge at either end, and tuning machines at one end. One of the necks has six guitar strings stretched across it; the other has four bass strings. Wedged over and under the strings in each neck is a stick – an old drum stick for the guitar strings and a metal rod for the bass strings. The sticks divide each string into two segments, one on each side, which vibrate quasi-independently and so can be played separately. The sticks can also be moved to alter the effective string lengths on either side. …The instrument, as you may guess, is completely idiosyncratic – and yet within its idiosyncrasy lies a world of possibilities.
Live from the Howl! Festival in New York City 2004:
Video from a 2008 show in Philadelphia:
From January 2016: