Sitting down and playing a song, without any musical education, without any knowledge of sheet music - Martin Kern from Buchenberg has come up with something for that. He has designed the sound board. In addition, he develops song templates. There are already 300, more will follow. From small to big, from young to old - everyone can have an immediate sense of achievement, simply make music for themselves or for others. That conjures a smile on your face and makes you happy. We have tried it out.
You can immediately play "Snowflakes, White Rocks", says instrument inventor Martin Kern in the first minutes of my visit. We are sitting in his music room in Buchenberg. The Kern sound board he developed lies in front of me, the playing pattern under the strings. I start playing; without explanation, without having practiced, I pluck the strings. It doesn't sound bad for the first try. Correct the angle of the fingers to the strings a little more, then it sounds even better. It brings a smile to my face as a music layman. The playing was fun and enjoyable.
Anyone can play the sound board
"Music has always played an important role in my life", says the trained social pedagogue Martin Kern. Through his work in special and curative education institutions the idea was born to develop a simple musical instrument that immediately conjures up a sense of achievement. Not everyone has the time or the opportunity to learn an alpine instrument like the dulcimer or the zither. It requires a lot of practice, with the hammered dulcimer the mallets must be guided precisely, the strings must be hit exactly. "Via the dulcimer I came to the sound board. To develop a similar musical instrument that would quickly lead to success was my incentive", explains the music teacher, who also teaches guitar, dulcimer, zither and clarinet. That's how the Kern sound board came about 15 years ago. After only a few minutes, anyone can play a song without having made music before. Simply pluck the string suggested by the template with your fingers from left to right. There are 22 strings to choose from, the chromatic range goes from c1 to a2. Occasionally the instrument may wish to be retuned with an electronic tuner.
Everything handmade in high quality
The trapezoidal corpus is made by son David Kern together with Helmut Mayr in the local carpentry Mayr. Allgäuer woods - mostly beech - are used for it. The raw moulds are then sent to Kern's house and are loaded in the cellar. "My wife and I sit there and assemble the 22 strings. At the very end, the important final strip is placed." And this is extremely important. It holds the playing templates, with whose score specifications only a piece of music can be played. The Kern soundboards and accessories are not available in music stores, but only in our own distribution. "It is important to us to offer high quality at a fair price. We are also pleased to have direct customer contact." David Kern supports his father in the production of instruments and distribution. Very popular are the sound board building courses, where the own new instrument is glued and assembled from the frame parts and other accessories. Afterwards it has to be tuned in a separate course and the musical experience can start.
Sophisticated game templates
Playing directly on the instrument according to playing patterns has been around for a long time. Music educator Kern took up the idea and developed ingenious reeds for his instrument. The creativity and ingenuity with which he creates a playing pattern should not be underestimated. This is truly an art. The thoroughbred musician benefits from his experience as arranger and composer. Children love to create their own individual template. "With the artist Werner Specht I have created a set of templates that children can paint. There is also the classic "My grandmother rides a motorcycle in the chicken coop", which will not be forgotten", he explains and shows me colourfully painted sheets with a grandmother on the motorcycle. Along the way, the player learns the notes, because an eighth note looks different and is played differently than a quarter note.
Music for everyone: from small to large
Since it is suddenly quite playful to make music, the interest in trying out new things with the sound board increases. Also to experiment with the instrument. Martin Kern has already written 300 melodies on the trapezoidal paper sheets. A colourful mixture of music is available: from Christmas sounds, children's songs, classical music, pop and rock to folk music. One of the most current sheets are the film music templates. "With a punk I played "Lady in Black" - he at the sound board, me with the guitar", Kern tells us with a smile. It is also possible to play in pairs on one board.
Play the „Andachtsjodler“
Advanced students practice with the 3 or 4-part templates (the 3-part devotional yodel is popular). This requires high concentration. And then there are CDs with accompanying music, a kind of karaoke with the sound board. People between the ages of 4 and 95 play well-known and popular melodies. The förDie Modelle des KernKlangbrettes Klassik: Entry-level model with classic sound hole DeLuxe: Spruce back and sound slots - stronger, more voluminous sound Premium: like DeLuxe and with fine woods (see photo) Soundboard: Model Classic with built-in pickup NEW: chord core soundboard with 5 chords for easy accompaniment Accessories: bag, stand, currently 300 game templates, music books with CDs that support the brain activity and if you play well, others will listen or sing along. It is also possible to play together with other instruments, such as guitar, flute, keyboard and with the chord sound board newly developed by the instrument inventor. Soon a children's sound board group will play together with Martin Kern on the guitar with Sonja Weissensteiner as part of the TV show "Musik in den Bergen". "I am happy to have created an instrument that goes deep, that picks people up and brings a smile to their faces".
Text: Edith Reithmann
Photos: Tobias Würzner, Dominik Berchtold, Archive Martin Kern