You love music, and you know all about the most common instruments. You know that a piano is technically a string instrument, that the buzz of your mouth that makes a brass instrument sing is called an embouchure, and even all about those tricky and rare double-reed instruments like the oboe and bassoon. Don’t think you know it all just yet; there are still even more instruments that just may blow your mind! Perhaps if you’re brave enough, you’ll try your hand at playing one of these unique musical instruments from around the world, listed in no particular orders. Who knows what hidden talents you’ll discover?
This strange instrument originated from Russia in the 17th century. It’s a string instrument played with the fingers, but what gives it its unique quality is that, unlike most string instruments, its body is triangular. That makes it look much like a giant triangular guitar that you might consider a joke if you saw someone play it in person.
The yaybahar is a tough one to describe, so you’ll have to see it for yourself. (Check it out here.) Essentially, it’s a large setup made of drums and coiled springs. When played, it sounds electric, but it’s actually 100 percent acoustic. The coiled springs make for an interesting echo that’s somewhat reminiscent of laser guns in old space movies. This is a recent invention by Turkish musician Gorkem Sen.
It’s not really a harmonica, but it produces a beautiful sound nonetheless. This strange instrument is also referred to as the:
- Bowl Organ
It uses a series of glass bowls that produce various notes and tones based on their size. The armonica is played through friction of the fingers on the glass as the instrument spins around an axis. It was invented in 1761 by Benjamin Franklin. Take a look at this instrument in action here:
Not many instruments are played using water. Maybe you’ve tried your hand at making music with crystal glasses and water, but you probably haven’t seen anything like a hydraulophone. This bizarre instrument uses direct contact with water to generate sound hydraulically. Invented by Steve Mann, you have to see this one for yourself:
A jaw harp, also called a GewGew in England — though it goes by many other names depending on the region — is a small instrument made of metal or bamboo. Inside the small frame sits a flexible tongue that creates the vibrations you hear when the instrument is played. The performer places the instrument in their mouth and plucks the tongue of the device to produce a sound. The performer can then influence the pitch by how they form their own lips and tongue as the instrument vibrates.
The lur is an instrument made of varying materials in numerous sizes and shapes. At its core, a lur is a horned instrument without finger holes. Instead, it’s played by manipulating the shape of your embouchure. This instrument can be dated back to the Bronze Age in areas like Denmark and Germany, but it’s also been seen more recently in Scandinavia during the Middle Ages when it was made of wood. The lur can be straight or curved, sometimes reaching up to two meters, and made of wood or bronze.
As one might suspect, the Picasso guitar was named after painter Pablo Picasso who was known for taking real-life objects and painting them abstractly. The Picasso guitar is much like what you’d expect the painter to create if asked to paint a guitar. Made with 42 strings, four necks, and two sound holes, the guitar doesn’t look like it should actually play music, but it does! This instrument was originally built by jazz guitarist Pat Metheny in 1984.
The sharpsichord is an incredibly complicated instrument designed by Henry Dagg. It was created as part of a project by the English Folk Dance and Song Society and took Dagg five years to build. Once completed, he bought himself out of the contract so he could keep the instrument for himself. It contains 11,520 holes along with a solar-powered rotating cylinder that plucks strings inside the instrument.
The didgeridoo is an ancient Australian instrument said to date back 40,000 years, although the exact history of the instrument is unknown. It’s a massive wind instrument in the aerophone category. This straight tube ranges in length from one to three meters, and the opening’s width can vary. It’s played with vibrating lips and doesn’t use any finger holes. Most didgeridoo players use a technique called circular breathing to continuously produce a sound.
The Zeusaphone creates music using Tesla coils. This instrument was trademarked in 2007 and remains to be one of the most mesmerizing instruments today. Not only does it create sound, but it makes for a spectacular visual display as well. By connecting the Tesla coils to a computer or keyboard synthesizer, you can make music through electrical arcs that literally light up the stage like lightning. See the Zeusaphone in action here:
The nyckelharpa, also called a keyed fiddle, is considered to be one of the oldest known instruments still around today. It was introduced in Sweden around 1350. It’s made of 16 strings and 37 keys. Players use the keys as frets to change the strings’ pitches while running the bow across the strings. This instrument may be more common than you think, though. There’s actually an American Nyckelharpa Association dedicated to this Swedish instrument. As they report on their website, there are four versions of this instrument played today, which is uncommon for folk instruments. You can search their website for folk music events if you’d like to see a nyckelharpa in person.
The world is full of strange instruments, so if you think you’ve checked out the bulk of them, think again. Which one of these bizarre instruments would you be most interested in playing or seeing in concert?
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