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Top 11 Most Unique Musical Instruments From Around the Globe

Top 11 Most Unique Musical Instruments From Around the Globe

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?

Contrabass Balalaika

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.

Yaybahar

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.

Glass Harmonica

It’s not really a harmonica, but it produces a beautiful sound nonetheless. This strange instrument is also referred to as the:

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  • Armonica
  • Bowl Organ
  • Hydrocystalophone

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:

https://youtu.be/eQemvyyJ–g

Hydraulophone

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:

https://youtu.be/GWmiBVndVMY

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Jaw Harp

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.

Lur

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.

Picasso Guitar

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.

Sharpsichord

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.

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Didgeridoo

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.

Zeusaphone

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:

https://youtu.be/eXsfGVVGb-Y

Nyckelharpa

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.

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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?

Featured photo credit: Shutterstock via shutterstock.com

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Jennifer Paterson

President of California Music Studios

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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