Rub Rods, Square Tubes, Chromatically Tuned

Rub Rods, Square Tubes, Chromatically Tuned

(Aluminum Harp, Tuned Rub Rods, Singing Rods)

Purer sound and a bit drier. Played by pinching rods and sliding down. Gloves with rosin are used for friction. Vibrato can be made by waving hand up and down above rods.

Model No.
Singing Bars
Price/Day $

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Rub rods are sounded by using the friction of gripping between the fingers and pushing down or up on the rods. They are modeled after the J.C. Deagan Company's "Aluminum Harp". Both sets of rub rods (one with square tubes and one with round rods) are chromatic and one-octave in range.

Emil acquired them in the 1970s, when an aerospace industry worker from San Diego got in contact with him and came up to Los Angeles to show him these new instruments which he had fabricated. Although the craftsman had used powdered rosin on his fingers to create more friction on the rods, Emil decided to use bass bow rosin, as it was less messy and could be applied directly to the rods. Emil also wore gloves when playing, which helped produce the friction needed and avoid the stickiness of the rosin. Vibrato can be produced by shaking the hand above the rods after they have been sounded.

Overall, the round rods have more complicated overtones, while the square tubes produced a purer sound.

This instrument is traditionally written for 1 octaves below where it actually sounds.


  • In this excerpt from The Karate Kid (1984), composed by Bill Conti, high rub rods play a delicate role.

  • Quick demo of square-tube rub rods.

  • The rub rods help bring some otherworldliness and punctuate a new phrase in this clip from Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979).

Please note: these are just examples, as playing technique and mallet/stick choices often have a great effect on the timbre.

These sound excerpts, to the best of our knowledge (unless otherwise noted), include this actual instrument from our collection. To hear the instrument yourself, or to let us know of any errors, please contact us.