21 Cool Music Instruments You Might Not Know

Strings, pipes and bass. Are the sounds we call music restricted to these elements? Of course not. It’s a big world out there, which means plenty of space to grow plenty of new, unique instruments. For some you can probably guess what they are by looking at their names, for others their names are too weird to guess. In any case, as you’re reading this right now it’s highly likely that somebody out there is playing one of these instruments. So just keep calm and love music.

Today we return with a list of some really cool musical instruments that you might not know. And might just be in your local store.

Note: Some noted origins are based on popular belief

1. Musical Saw

Musical SawOrigin: United States
Image – Saw Lady
It’s a simple concept, really. Place a saw between your legs and play it with a bow. It’s got quite an intense, remarkable sound – something between harmonious wailing and an opera lady. It just amuses some players that people just stare open-mouthed listening to the sound.

2. Balalaika

Balalaika BearOrigin: Russia
It’s basically a Russian guitar with 3 strings and a body that looks like a Dorito. While its origins are still hotly debated, its prominence as a traditional musical instrument is still hotly celebrated. There’s also a lot of different types of Balalaika, where this “Dorito” differs in size and awesomeness.

3. Glass Harmonica

Glass HarmonicaOrigin: United States
Remember that sound when you gently swipe the rims of a glass? This modern armonica is the brainchild of Benjamin Franklin, and an extrapolation of what it means when glass and crystals begin singing.

4. Crwth

CrwthOrigin: Wales
Within the circle of medieval Welsh music, the Crwth is second-in-command next to the legendary harp. What’s charming is both the traditional look and sound that’s got the flavor of a violin, making it a nice fit for cultural festivals.

5. Aulos

AulosOrigin: Ancient Greece
Euterpe’s signature instrument, the double flute boasts lots of variants across different continents of the world. What makes it special is that, as you guessed, it can make the sound of 2 flutes being played together. Or just one.

6. Zither

ZitherOrigin: Ancient China
Have you ever put rubber bands on a tissue box cut with a hole? Well, that DIY instrument you made was a zither. It a whole family of string instruments, not unlike the guitar, where strings are plucked to produce music.

7. Harpsichord

HarpsichordOrigin: Europe
It’s the 18th century Mozart-era precursor to the modern piano, and thus you might be familiar with the sound. The difference here is that a piano hammers its strings while the harpsichord plucks them when you hit a key – like a harp with a keyboard.

8. Hydraulophone

HydraulophoneOrigin: Canada
It seems that music is everywhere, even in science. This fountain keyboard is something of an anomaly, because it wasnt meant to be an instrument – at least not a musical one. It was supposed to be used to monitor fluid movement in pipes and faucets. Now, it’s one of the most unique instruments around.

9. Nyckelharpa

NyckelharpaOrigin: Sweden
Known as the harp fiddle and a standard prototype for keyboards on strings, the Nyckelharpa is a pretty formidable instrument on its own. It produces sound that can rival that of its violin and cello cousins. The nyckelharpist presses the keys while stringing with his bow to make music.

10. Didgeridoo

DidgeridooOrigin: Australia
Image – Music With Ease
When you see it, you know it. The windpipe of Indigenous tribes in Australia produces a sound that’s easier to listen to than to desribe. There’s also a lot of names associated with different regional designs, but they all fall under the didge umbrella. It’s tricky to play because there’s a special breathing technique involved.

11. Bandura

BanduraOrigin: Ukraine
Image – Basilio Momako
You’ll probably have noticed the generous number of strings on this Ukrainian national instrument, which produces a pleasant sound like a guitar and a harp when its strings are plucked.

12. Pyrophone

Glass PyrophoneImage – Chalice Symphony
Origin: France
Audio Sample
It’s like the organ isn’t evil enough of a musical instrument. Powered by fuel like gasoline or hydrogen, these flaming musical pipes were the brainchild of one Frenchman called Kastner. Depending on what material (glass or metal) the flames are piped through, the organ produces a unique humming sound like a train or some oven.

13. Theremin

ThereminOrigin: Russia
Named after its inventor Leon Theremin, the best word to describe both the sound and the playing method is…creepy. There’s absolutely no contact involved – an antenna will respond by sound to the movement of the thereminist’s hand.

14. Jew’s Harp

Jew HarpOrigin: Ancient India
Image – Wikipedia
It doesn’t really have any connections to Jews or Judaism, but somehow the name stuck. A small instrument, it’s placed in the mouth and plucked to produce a kind of vibrating sound. Today it’s produced internationally, and you can bet the locals everywhere have their own names and variants for it.

15. Ocarina

OcarniaOrigin: Aztec
Made popular by Zelda, this little instrument has 12 holes buttoned on its potato belly and produces a very familiar, albeit nostalgic, sound when played.

16. Hurdy Gurdy

Hurdy GurdyOrigin: Europe
It is said to be a cousin of the violin, which is why you can still hear the violin somewhere inside this instrument they call the wheel fiddle. This time, the wheel is the bow and the embedded keyboard changes the pitch.

17. Djembe

DjembeOrigin: West Africa
Image – Danny Goldfield
Just one look and you’ll definitely know what it is and how it’s played, even though you may not know what the locals call it. That is the beauty of the simplicity of the Djembe, drawing people together with the sound of music.

18. Otamatone

OtamatoneOrigin: Japan
A fairly recent invention by the duo known as Maywa Denki, it’s a cute electronic muppet that sings like a minion.

19. Xaphoon

XaphoonOrigin: Maui
What this really is, the Xaphoon is a pocket version of the clarinet plus saxphone. It’s much lighter since it’s made of bamboo, yet produces a sound that can rival both its elder siblings.

20. Angklung

AngklungOrigin: Indonesia
This is the bamboo xylophone of Southeast Asia and in particular the Malay peninsula, a very symbolic instrument for the Indonesian people usually played for a celebration or thanksgiving ceremony and treated with proud reverence.

21. Lur

LurOrigin: Iceland
Famed as the musical war instrument of the Vikings, Bronze and wooden versions of the Lur have been dicovered time and time again from German peat bogs all the way to Denmark.

 

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