Forget the tuba, guitar, piano, and bass. They are no match to these odd-looking, most unusual musical instruments. Some may look like they came from a horror movie, while others produce an eerie sound fit for a sci-fi film! So, without further ado, here are the most peculiar, strangest instruments you will ever find.
Why don’t you try the Pikasso – the guitar with multiple necks! You’ve read that right. This string instrument includes not one but FOUR necks. If that isn’t strange enough for you, this guitar has a whopping 42 strings and two holes.
In case you are wondering, master luthier Linda Manzer named this odd-looking instrument after Pablo Picasso.
The Zeusaphone is one of the most unusual instruments on our list. It is not a wind instrument, it doesn’t have strings, and most certainly, you can’t hit its surface like a percussion. And, odd as it already is, you can manipulate its sound.
The Zeusaphone is powered by Tesla coils – yes, electricity. And, you can buy this instrument.
Curious how it sounds? Watch the clip below:
What do you get if you combine percussion, strings, and coiled springs? It’s no other than a Yaybahar, an acoustic instrument of Turkish origin.
There are two framed drums, each connected to a long spring. These springs are connected to the long neck that only holds two strings. Amazingly, you don’t need to hook this instrument to a system. You can run rubber mallets on the long spring, hit the drums, and use a bow to produce a sci-fi-like cello sound.
We all know only one person plays the harp, but what if you can have two players plucking the strings simultaneously? Well, it’s no longer a regular harp; it’s a Totem Harp or Toha – a two-player harp inspired by weaver birds.
A Toha features a circular design, allowing two musicians to play simultaneously. Each side of the instrument has the same number of strings and tuning. Composer Victor Gama designed and created Toha.
The Hurdy Gurdy is another strange instrument from the string family. Instead of plucking or using a bow, you’ll use a hand-crank. When you turn the hand crank, a rosined wheel will rub against the strings, creating friction and, of course, sound.
Hear the Hurdy Gurdy for yourself in the clip above:
The Duduk is a woodwind instrument consisting of a double reed with a flared bell made of cane or apricot wood. It is a unique-sounding instrument that can be played solo or in an ensemble. So, how does it sound? It is close to a flute or piccolo.
Also one of the most unusual instruments is the Jew’s Harp, which goes by different names -Ozark harp, guimbard, mouth harp, and even trump harp. And, unlike the Duduk, playing this instrument is not easy as it looks.
You can play the Jew’s Harp by holding it between your teeth. With your lips sealed, you will then strike the trigger. It sounds simple enough, right? It’s not. One wrong move, you can knock out your front teeth!
Another wind instrument in our list of most unusual instruments is the Didgeridoo, and it’s massive.
A modern flute is around 26 inches, but the Didgeridoo can be as long as 72 inches! Contrary to common belief, you don’t blow air through the instrument. Instead, you will need to vibrate your lips continuously. You will need to practice circular breathing to ensure you produce a continuous drone.
If you think the Didgeridoo is massive, wait until you see the Nellophone. It consists of a series of pipes of different lengths (from 1.8 up to 9 meters!), and you’ll be surrounded by these tubes! You’ll be playing in the middle and hitting the pipes with a paddle.
The Marble Machine looks complicated to play, and it is! Created by Martin Molin, this instrument uses thousands of steel marbles (over 2,000 pieces) to produce sound. When using the manual crank, all the marbles will roll down through the chute and then to a vibraphone. And this isn’t the only way to play the Marble Machine. There are other switches that let you hit a cymbal or a kick drum. There is even an electric bass fitted to this steam-punk-like music box!
The Glass Armonica is a musical instrument invented by Benjamin Franklin in 1761.
This instrument has a set of glass bowls mounted on a rotating spindle. The bowls are made out of crystal and tuned to different notes.
You can play this odd instrument by rubbing a wet finger or moistened cloth on the bowls’ rims. Easy, right? It’s not like making a wine glass sing. It can be tricky to master the Glass Armonica because the glass bowls are on a rotating spindle!
Fun Fact: Some people refer to this instrument as Glass Harmonica, although it doesn’t look like one!
If you are looking for an odd-looking instrument that you can easily play and master, look no further than the Tongue Drum. This percussion instrument of Aztec origin is a one-piece circular drum usually made from steel. You can create melody lines by either hitting the tongues using your bare hands or with rubber mallets or sticks.
Unlike most of the obscure instruments on our list, you can easily purchase a Tongue Drum online or at your nearest music store.
Fun Fact: The Tongue Drum got its name from its slits.
The hydraulophone is another unique instrument. You might have probably guessed from its root word “hydra” that it involves water, and you’re right. You’ll be manipulating water to produce sound – sadly, not like a water bender!
This instrument has a curved tube with multiple sound holes and a sounding mechanism. The water will be redirected to a different sounding mechanism when you cover one of these holes. If you cover multiple holes simultaneously, you can create a polyphony.
The Hupfeld Phonoliszt Violina
The Hupfeld Phonoliszt Violina was a hit at the World’s Exhibition of 1910 in Brussels. The hypnotic instrument, which looks like a cross of church organ meets steampunk movement plays three violins and a piano at once. The contraption works through a complex series of gears and mechanisms powered by an electric motor that spins the violins against 1,300 individual strands of horsehair. It’s no wonder that the Hupfeld company, a producer of automatic pianos and orchestrions, sold this type of instrument without competition for over 20 years. To see this marvelous instrument in action, watch the video below:
The Contrabass Balalaika’s most striking feature is its triangular body. And, it’s not like your average triangle-shaped electric bass; it’s massive! But, don’t worry! You can get this Russian stringed musical instrument in different sizes, ranging from piccolo to double bass.
The Contrabass Balalaika is made out of a single piece of wood, has four strings, and is played by plucking or strumming.
The Great Stalacpipe Organ
Mr. Leland W. Sprinkle of Springfield, Virginia, developed the Great Stalacpipe Organ in Luray Caverns in 1954. Yes, it looks like an ordinary church organ. What makes it different is that instead of using metal pipes, it uses stalactites. When you press a key, a hammer strikes the stalactites. You wouldn’t find anything like this anywhere else in the world!
As this instrument’s name suggests, you’ll be using friction to generate longitudinal vibrations for sound production. Unlike a regular harp, the Friction Harp doesn’t have strings. It consists of tuned aluminum tubes.
Janko Keyboard is named after its inventor, Franz Nikolaus Jankó. Unlike a regular piano, this instrument has 264 keys – it resembles a stack of synthesizers!
The Nyckelharpa is a stringed instrument invented by the Swedish musician and inventor Anders Johansson Nyckelharp in 1780. The Nyckelharpa functions using a plectrum and fingering a set of notes on the top row of strings. When playing this instrument, it’s important to make the correct hand position for each note.
The Theremin is a musical instrument invented by the Russian inventor and musician Lev Sergeivitch Termen. The Theremin consists of a metal bar with connections to two antennae, which creates movement of an antenna to produce sound—the Theremin functions by moving one’s hand above the instrument, contributing to the pitch.
The Crwth is among the most unusual string instruments invented in the early Middle Ages. It has a similar look and appearance to a small harp. The Crwth is played by plucking the strings with one’s fingers, fingertips, or fingernails. When playing this instrument, it is crucial to make sure the bow is in contact with the strings to produce sound.
Fun Fact: Crwth was once played by plucking the strings. By the 11th century, musicians used bows.
The Chapman Stick is like a guitar but without the body. Yes, you’ll get a super long neck and the headstock with this instrument! Although it looks peculiar, you can use this string instrument to play chords and add texture.
The Bikelophone is what you think it is – a musical instrument made from a bicycle! This instrument first appeared in 1955 as The Lyle and Sparkleface Band’s side instrument.
To play the Sharpsichord, you screw a ‘pin’ into the surface of a perforated cylinder. Each pin raises a lever connected to a device that plucks the correct string. Two horns, one for the bass and one for the treble, amplify the vibrations of each pair of strings. With a keyboard, you can adjust the pitch of each note.
That wraps our list of strange instruments! Let us know which of these most unusual instruments piqued your interest.