A small South American stringed instrument, with five doubled strings, and a soundbox crafted from the body of an armadillo.
A tenor version of the charango, tuned a fifth lower, but with a wooden body not involving any animal carcasses.
A Greek stringed instrument, popularized there in the 20th century, with 3-4 strings. Despite its relatively modern age, it’s great for giving a cue a bit of a historic ethnic tone.
A Turkish string instrument with three double-coursed sets of strings (6 strings total), the Tambur has a surprisingly rich tone with a resonant bite. Though it is traditionally plucked, I bow it to get a uniquely harsh sound for Hell on Wheels.
One of the more unusually shaped electric guitars in the group, this “reverse” Gibson is one of the go-to options for shredding.
A lute-like instrument from central Afghanistan, it looks like something pulled out of a Dr. Seuss book. It has a rattle to it, which lets me use it as more of a rhythmic instrument. When it has the melody, it has a dusty, barren sound which is crucial to constructing the mood for Hell on Wheels.
The Appalacian Dulcimer is a great option for cues that require a steady pulse, as well as melodies and effects. Played with hammers (with or without felt, depending on how much I want it to cut through the mix), this 31 double-stringed instrument is a pain to tune, but sounds so good that it’s well worth the effort.
A steel stringed guitar that’s perfect for getting that old-school western sound, this instrument has five strings, the bottom 3 of which are double-stringed. Where the “cuatro” in the name comes from, I have no idea.
A two-octave chromatic harmonica, this is another great option for an unusual organic sound that allows for a surprising amount of expression.
This is the quintessential dusty Western guitar sound, characterized by its metal resonator integrated into the body, and often played with a slide.
As the name suggests, an electric version of the Guitarviol. It has a solid body, as opposed to the hollow-bodies of the acoustic Guitarviols.
The Guitarviol is a cello-like instrument, but with 6 strings and frets like a guitar. You’d think that would make it easy for a guitarist to pick up and play, but the truth is that the bowing part of the equation actually takes a lot of work to make it sound good.
This instrument gets a lot of use on a show like Hell on Wheels, from playing sweeping melodies to pizzicato grooves. Very versatile, and with a sound similar to cello but unique at the same time.
A classic electric guitar, good for playing jazz, blues, rock, and just about anything else too.
One of the newest additions to the collection, the guitaron is the bass instrument in Mariachi bands. Not only does it work well playing bass lines (sounding almost double-bass like at half the size!), it makes a great percussion instrument too, with its fat wooden body doing
Dusty Strings Hammered Dulcimer
The Hammered Dulcimer is a great option for cues that require a steady pulse, as well as melodies and effects. Played with hammers (with or without felt, depending on how much I want it to cut through the mix), this 31 double-stringed instrument is a pain to tune, but sounds so good that it’s well worth the effort.
1920 (The) Gibson H-2 Mandol
The far less-well-known bigger cousin of the mandolin, the mandola is tuned like a viola