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Q: Instrument in "The Boxer" by Simon & Garfunkel ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   2 Comments )
Subject: Instrument in "The Boxer" by Simon & Garfunkel
Category: Arts and Entertainment > Music
Asked by: tamkins-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 23 Feb 2005 19:01 PST
Expires: 25 Mar 2005 19:01 PST
Question ID: 479746
I want to know what kind of instrument is used to make the sort of
sawing, organ-like sound in the Simon & Garfunkel song "The Boxer." 
This instrument comes in near the beginning of the second verse, but
is most prominent in the verse about the boxer, where it makes a kind
of back and forth, sawing sound (like an accordion being opened and
closed quickly, though it doesn't sound like an accordion).  It has a
pretty low pitch, like a bassoon or a bass clarinet, but it doesn't
sound like one of those either.

I need a definitive answer, not guesses  :-)  Help!
Subject: Re: Instrument in "The Boxer" by Simon & Garfunkel
Answered By: tutuzdad-ga on 24 Feb 2005 10:12 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Dear tamkins-ga;

Thank you for allowing me to answer your interesting question.

The odd, choppy, boing-boing sound you hear in the background on Simon
& Garfunkel?s tune ?The Boxer? is not the result of some mysterious
unknown instrument. The sound is actually generated by a clever chorus
of instruments working together, namely guitars (played by Paul Simon
& Fred Carter Jr.), a dobro (played by Peter Drake) and most
importantly, a bass harmonica (played by Charlie McCoy, one of the
greatest Country music ?session? harmonica players in existence).

A bass harmonica (or bass harp) is big and has two rows of holes
instead of one. It looks like two large harmonicas stacked on top of
one another. It produces a very unique sound because of the resonance
between the two octaves (not unlike a 12 string guitar) and it is, in
effect, more than one instrument ? a harmonica capable of accompanying

Here?s one made by Suzuki:

Here are a number of examples by Hohner:

The unique, rhythmic ? almost Didjeridu sounding  - pump and blow that
you hear on ?The Boxer? is primarily McCoy?s low bass harmonica as he
skillfully navigates it through the song just off tempo with the other

?An extremely fascinating, yet under-appreciated, stroke of musical
genius on McCoy?s part, if I do say so myself - and that is the
definitive answer.

I hope you find that my research exceeds your expectations. If you
have any questions about my research please post a clarification
request prior to rating the answer. Otherwise I welcome your rating
and your final comments and I look forward to working with you again
in the near future. Thank you for bringing your question to us.

Best regards;
Tutuzdad-ga ? Google Answers Researcher







Google ://


The Boxer




Paul Simon

Charley McCoy
tamkins-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $2.00
Excellent!  Thanks so much - this has been driving us nuts!

Subject: Re: Instrument in "The Boxer" by Simon & Garfunkel
From: pinkfreud-ga on 23 Feb 2005 19:55 PST
I cannot prove this, but I believe the instrument you're thinking of
may be the Electronic Woodwind Instrument or EWI. The instrument is
also known as the Steinerphone, after Nyles Steiner, its inventor.

Some interesting background on the EWI and its sister instrument, the
EVI (Electronic Valve Instrument) may be found here:

Extensions Jazz

I hope someone will be able to give you the definitive answer that you seek.
Subject: Re: Instrument in "The Boxer" by Simon & Garfunkel
From: tamkins-ga on 24 Feb 2005 08:18 PST
Pinkfreud, I'm not 100% sure what an EWI sounds like, but I think you
might be thinking of a different instrument in the song than the one
I'm thinking of.  I think the one you're saying is an EWI is the one
that plays the "solo" in between verses - kind of a high-pitched
instrument that sounds a bit like a trumpet?  The one I'm talking
about has a small role in the second verse, is not heard for a while,
and then comes in pretty hard while they're singing about the boxer,
including having two hard notes on the words "cut him" in "every glove
that laid him down or CUT HIM til he cried out."  It has a quality
that is very much like a wind instrument, but I can't think of a wind
instrument that is pitched so low and is so...unmusical, somehow.

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