Specimen Instruments Tiple Touring 2012 Fiona Apple/Blake Mills

Fiona Apple returned to the stage at SXSW last week. Her first tour in 5 years, she is backed by a quartet of amazing musicians including Blake Mills who is also opening up for Fiona on this tour. Blake plays Specimen’s Electric Tiple, a 10-string instrument about the size of a baritone uke.

The Tiple was made out of a sense of curiosity and enchantment with the concept of double-triple-triple-double courses and until Blake called its fate remained uncertain as it is a rather bizarre instrument. I’d like to suggest that Blake’s mastery of the negative space in his music has contributed to his ability to tame this crazy thing. A lot of players just ‘rip the licks’, but Blake has a special talent to integrate rather amazing runs and chord bends into the music. It’s like the sounds are underneath and not on top of the song. He certainly put it to good use at the show we saw in Chicago last Sunday. So far the tour is receiving rave reviews: Rolling Stone, Chicago Tribune

Video of Fiona Apple’s SXSW show on the NPR stage at Stubb’s BBQ