The 8 Strangest Musical Instruments In The World

The 8 Strangest Musical Instruments In The World

Discover 8 Of the World’s Strangest Musical Instruments

If you’re lucky enough to have seen the incredible musical Stomp, you’ll know that it’s possible to make some kind of music with pretty much anything. Brooms, metal dustbin lids, plastic waste storage drums….in the magical hands of the Stomp cast, they are all instruments.

Even if you haven’t seen Stomp, but you have a small child, you’ll know that music really is all around us. Give a toddler a wooden spoon and a saucepan and you have an instant, pint-sized Phil Collins wannabe. Watch a child run a stick along a metal fence and you have a (very) rough tubular bells-type rendition.

And if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that we’ve all used car dashboards to bang out the odd drum solo while on a road trip. Or that we’ve tried, usually with embarrassingly bad results, to play haunting pan pipe melodies by blowing across the mouths of empty beer bottles.

Music moves us, as a race, in some deep and inexplicable way. And by “move”, we mean spiritually as well as physically. Most people find it really difficult to sit completely still when listening to music. We have to tap our feet, drum the palms of our hands on our thighs (or dashboards, or bar counters) and play endless air guitar while throwing our heads around.

This deep love affair with the creation of melodious sound is what inspired us to invent musical instruments in the first place. The date and origin of the first true musical instrument are sadly unknown. However, the oldest object referred to as an actual musical instrument (a flute) dates back almost 70 000 years. Many early musical instruments were made from animal skins, bone, wood, and other non-durable materials. There is thus precious little evidence left of these original instruments.

#8 – The Great Stalacpipe Organ

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Throughout the world, people have been searching for music hidden in the most unlikely “instruments.” Take the Great Stalacpipe Organ, for example. This incredible musical instrument – arguably the world’s largest – is located deep underground in the magnificent Luray Cavern in Virginia.

Electronic engineer Leland Sprinkle used a tuning fork and a small hammer to find stalactites in the cavern that sounded beautiful. It took him a full three years, but he eventually had a range of stalactites that, when struck, played in tune. The Great Stalacpipe Organ plays 37 different notes and has a somewhat haunting, peaceful sound.

Source: Christian Doyle, Flikr

#7 The Chapman Stick

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This is a far more recent musical instrument that is definitely real! Devised by Emmett Chapman in the early ‘70s, the Chapman Stick is a member of the guitar family and can play melody lines, textures, chords or bass lines. Unlike a normal guitar, it has either eight, 10 or 12 strings, and can be used to play classical, rock, folk and jazz.

Photo from Stick.com

#6 Cheese Drums

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So who says cheese doesn’t keep you awake? This, well, cheesy drum kit was created specifically for world-famous Dutch improvisational jazz drummer, Han Bennink, who is renowned for his ability to drum on any surface. It actually consists of two drum kits – one that uses rounds of real cheese, and one that uses the plastic cheese replicas usually found in window displays in typical Dutch cheese shops.

You’d imagine that these drum kits are quite fragile, made, as they are, from cheese. So, if you’re thinking of investing in one, best play it, ahem, Caerphilly.

Photo from Classic fm

# 5 The Singing Ringing Tree

This striking, three-metre-high structure is located on top of the Pennine moors near Burnley in Britain. It relies on the prevailing westerly winds blowing across the end of its pipes to make a variety of haunting (and some say, discordant, sounds). The tree is not only recognised for its music. In 2006, it won a Royal Institute of British Architects award. In 2015 it was named as one of the 21 landmarks that define Britain in the 21st Century.

Photo from Wikipedia

#4 The Theremin

No list of unusual musical instruments would be complete without mentioning the Theremin. It’s probably the granddaddy of weird instruments, most notable for the fact that you play it completely hands-free. That’s right – no touching necessary! This amazing instrument has two antennae – one vertical and one horizontal – protruding from it. One controls volume and the other controls pitch.

When you bring your hand close to the vertical antenna, the pitch gets higher. When you approach the horizontal one, the volume decreases.

The theremin takes its name from its inventor, Leon Theremin, who brought his creation to the States from Russia in the early 1920s. The instrument features in many movie soundtracks, including The Day The Earth Stood Still, Spellbound and The Weekend.

Photo from Wikipedia

#3 The Musical Road

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Well, you’ve heard of the Yellow Brick Road, and Country Roads, so why not a road that’s a musical instrument? The road just outside Lancaster in California is not really an instrument in the traditional sense of the word (funny, that), but it does play Rossini’s William Tell Overture!

Honda, who made the road, used a kind of rumble strip to create melodic sounds. The spacing of the strips give the road its unique melody – close up ridges create a higher note, while those further apart give a lower note.

Photo from CNN.com

# 2 The Cat Piano

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Yes, you did read that correctly. A Jesuit scholar named Athanasius Kircher documented this fantastical instrument in the 17th century. It consisted of a row of boxes, each of which contained a cat. The cats’ tails were inserted into narrow sheaths, then pricked by hammers (much like the hammers on a regular piano). The cats would then cry out in varying pitches, according to their age and gender.

Allegedly, the purpose of the cat piano was to enliven the spirit of a melancholy prince. There is, fortunately, however, no actual evidence of its use. It remains an unusual, but thankfully largely imaginary, musical instrument.

Source: Wikipedia

#1 The Vegetable Orchestra

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As far as real instruments that are being played in public go – number 1 really took the cake. And while we’re on a food theme, the members of the Viennese Vegetable Orchestra sure know their onions! Also their carrots, and pretty much any other fresh vegetable they can get their hands on. Founded in 1998, this incredible orchestra plays to packed audiences all over the world, rewarding them with fresh vegetable soup at the end of the concert!

Depending on what veggies are available at the time, the orchestra’s sound runs the gamut between electronic, contemporary, House, jazz and dub music.

Photo by Mathias Friedrich, courtesy of the Vienna Vegetable Orchestra

All these instruments are genuinely fascinating, and although they’re not made from butternut, we do have a range of interesting instruments, like our NEAT Microphones range of studio microphones inspired by bee’s, our classic Epiphone Dove acoustic guitars inspired by, you guessed it; doves. Looking for something more orchestral, check out our pTrumpets, fully functioning, and great sounding trumpets made from plastic.

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