70+ Weird Musical Instruments from All Around the World

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    70+ Weird Musical Instruments from All Around the World
    Published: April 3, 2023

    Everybody knows your basic instruments like the guitar, the piano, the violin, and many more. However, there are countless unique and uncommon instruments in the world, some of which are truly a sight to behold!

    We’ve gathered a list of some of the craziest, or most interesting instruments we can find, with a video of each one in action so you can hear what it sounds like and learn a bit more about it.

    Enjoy, and let us know if there are any other cool instruments we should add to this list by leaving a comment at the bottom of the post!

    1. Theremin

    An early electronic instrument, the theremin is played without physical contact. The musician manipulates the electromagnetic fields around two antennas to produce eerie, otherworldly sounds.

    2. Glass Armonica

    Invented by Benjamin Franklin in the 18th century, the Glass Armonica is made of glass bowls mounted on a spindle. The musician plays it by rubbing the rims of the glass bowls with wet fingers, creating a haunting and ethereal sound.

    3. Pyrophone

    Also known as the “fire organ,” the pyrophone uses combustion to create sound. By igniting fuel in a series of resonating tubes, the instrument produces a wide range of pitches and timbres.

    4. Waterphone

    A type of percussion instrument, the waterphone has a series of metal rods attached to a resonator filled with water. By striking or bowing the rods, the musician creates haunting, ethereal sounds that can be modulated by tilting the instrument to manipulate the water inside.

    5. Otamatone

    A Japanese electronic instrument, the Otamatone is shaped like a musical note with a cute face. It produces synthesized sounds by pressing the stem while squeezing the “head” to create vibrato.

    6. Yaybahar

    A one-of-a-kind, acoustic stringed instrument invented by Turkish musician Görkem Şen. It features coiled springs connecting two drum-like resonators and a long, fretless neck. The musician can play it with a bow, mallets, or their fingers, producing a wide range of ethereal sounds.

    7. Hydraulophone

    A water-based instrument, the hydraulophone uses pressurized water to create sound. By blocking the flow of water through various holes, the musician is able to produce a range of pitches and timbres.

    8. Hang (or Handpan)

    A steel percussion instrument created in Switzerland, the Hang is shaped like a UFO and played with the hands. It produces a melodic, resonant sound reminiscent of a steel drum and harp combined.

    9. Hurdy-Gurdy

    A stringed instrument that uses a wheel to bow the strings instead of a traditional bow. The musician turns a crank to activate the wheel and presses keys to change the pitch, creating a sound similar to a bagpipe.

    10. Didgeridoo

    An indigenous Australian wind instrument made from a hollowed-out tree branch or trunk. The musician blows through one end, creating a deep, resonant drone sound.

    11. Mbira (or Kalimba)

    An African thumb piano made of a wooden board fitted with metal tines of different lengths. The musician plucks the tines with their thumbs to create melodic patterns.

    12. Aeolian Harp

    A stringed instrument designed to be played by the wind. The harp’s strings are set in motion by the natural airflow, creating random harmonic sounds.

    13. Wheelharp

    A keyboard instrument that operates by bowing strings with a spinning wheel, similar to the hurdy-gurdy. The musician plays the keyboard to create a sound reminiscent of a string orchestra.

    14. Jew’s Harp (or Jaw Harp)

    A small, handheld instrument made of metal or bamboo. The musician places the instrument in their mouth and plucks the flexible tongue, creating a twanging sound that can be modulated by changing the shape of the oral cavity.

    15. Cristal Baschet

    A unique, French instrument that consists of metal rods and glass resonators. The musician rubs the rods with wet fingers to create eerie, otherworldly sounds.

    16. Cigar Box Guitar

    A homemade stringed instrument that uses an empty cigar box as a resonator. It often has a simple neck and can be fretted or fretless, with varying numbers of strings.

    Note that Bo Diddley popularized the cigar box guitar, with his being known as “The Twang Machine”.

    17. Chapman Stick

    A unique stringed instrument with a long fretboard that combines elements of a guitar and a bass. The musician taps the strings against the frets, allowing for complex polyphonic music.

    18. Daxophone

    An experimental wooden instrument invented by German musician Hans Reichel. The musician bows or plucks a thin wooden strip while manipulating its pitch and tone with a wooden block.

    19. Earth Harp

    Developed by experimental musician Willaim Close, the Earth Harp is an enormous stringed instrument that uses the architecture and landscape as its resonating body. The strings are attached to a central chamber and then extend outwards, spanning large distances and creating deep, resonant tones when played.

    20. Bowed Psaltery

    An ancient stringed instrument shaped like a triangle or an elongated diamond. The musician bows the strings, producing a sound that is similar to a violin or cello.

    21. Serpent

    A bass wind instrument made from wood and brass, invented in the 16th century. It has a serpentine shape and is played with a cup-shaped mouthpiece, producing a deep, rich sound.

    22. Kora

    A 21-stringed harp-lute from West Africa, with a large, gourd-like resonator covered in cowhide. The musician plucks the strings with their fingers, creating a melodic and soothing sound.

    23. Anklung

    A traditional Indonesian percussion instrument made from bamboo tubes. The tubes are attached to a frame and are played by shaking them, creating a unique, harmonious sound.

    24. Claviola

    A small, hand-held reed instrument with a keyboard, invented by Hohner. The musician blows into a mouthpiece and plays the keys, producing a sound similar to an accordion or harmonium.

    25. Gameleste

    A custom-built instrument that combines elements of a gamelan and a celesta, created specifically for the experimental artist, Björk. The musician strikes metal bars with mallets, creating a percussive, melodic sound.

    26. Contrabass Balalaika

    A massive, triangular, three-stringed Russian folk instrument with a distinctive shape. It belongs to the family of balalaikas and has a deep, resonant sound.

    27. Ondes Martenot

    An early electronic instrument invented in 1928 by Maurice Martenot. It uses a keyboard and a ribbon controller to create a wide range of expressive sounds, reminiscent of a theremin or a string instrument.

    28. Cajón

    A box-shaped percussion instrument from Peru, played by slapping the front face with the hands. It serves as both a seat for the musician and a versatile drum, producing a range of tones.

    29. Bandura

    A Ukrainian plucked string instrument that combines features of a lute and a zither. It has a tear-shaped body and numerous strings, which create a rich, melodic sound.

    30. Viola Organista

    An unusual string instrument invented by Leonardo da Vinci. It combines features of a viola da gamba and a keyboard instrument, using a spinning wheel to bow the strings when the keys are pressed.

    31. Octobass

    An extremely large and rare bowed string instrument, similar to a double bass but much larger. It was invented in the mid-19th century and requires a musician to use a system of levers and pedals to play the notes.

    32. Pikasso Guitar

    A custom-built guitar with multiple necks and a harp-like array of strings. It was designed by luthier Linda Manzer for jazz guitarist Pat Metheny, and allows for an extensive range of sounds and techniques.

    33. Sheng

    An ancient Chinese mouth organ with multiple bamboo pipes, each with a metal reed. The musician blows air into the pipes while opening and closing finger holes, creating a harmonically rich sound.

    34. Stylophone

    A small, handheld electronic instrument invented in the 1960s. It has a metal keyboard and is played with a stylus, producing simple synthesized tones.

    35. Nose flute

    A traditional wind instrument found in various cultures, such as the Pacific Islands and the native peoples of North America. The musician blows air through their nostrils to produce sound, while modulating pitch by opening and closing their mouth.

    36. Guit-Steel

    A custom-built double-neck guitar that combines a traditional six-string guitar with a steel guitar. Invented by musician Junior Brown, it allows him to quickly switch between the two instruments during performances.

    37. Whamola

    A single-stringed bass instrument that uses a lever to change the tension of the string, thus altering the pitch. It is often played with a drumstick and was popularized by musician Les Claypool.

    38. Ugly Stick

    A traditional percussion instrument from Newfoundland, Canada, made from a mop or broom handle adorned with bottle caps, tin cans, and other noisemakers. It is played by striking and shaking it, creating a rhythmic accompaniment.

    39. Nyckelharpa

    A Swedish stringed instrument that resembles a cross between a fiddle and a hurdy-gurdy. It has a set of keys that press tangents against the strings to change the pitch, and sympathetic strings that resonate with the played strings.

    40. Cimbalom

    A large, hammered dulcimer found in Eastern European folk music. It has a trapezoidal soundboard with strings stretched across, and the musician strikes the strings with mallets to create a percussive, melodic sound.

    41. Gopichand (Ektara)

    A single-stringed instrument from India, often used in traditional storytelling and folk music. It has a split bamboo neck and a gourd resonator, and the musician alters the pitch by applying pressure to the split neck.

    42. Tonbak (Zarb)

    A goblet-shaped Persian drum made from wood or ceramic, with a goatskin or synthetic head. The musician plays it with their fingers and hands, creating intricate rhythms and accents.

    43. Sitar

    A plucked string instrument from India, featuring a long, hollow neck and a gourd resonator. It has numerous strings, including sympathetic strings that resonate with the played strings, creating a rich, shimmering sound.

    44. Lujon

    A percussion instrument invented by American composer and musician John Lujon. It consists of a set of tuned metal bars mounted on a wooden resonating box. The musician strikes the bars with mallets, creating a melodic, metallic sound.

    45. Water Drum (Jibara)

    A traditional percussion instrument found in various indigenous cultures, including those in Africa and North America. It consists of a water-filled container, often a gourd or clay pot, with a membrane stretched over the opening. The musician strikes the membrane to create a deep, resonant sound.

    46. Berimbau

    A Brazilian single-stringed percussion instrument, often used in the martial art of capoeira. It has a wooden bow, a steel string, and a gourd resonator, and is played by striking the string with a stick while manipulating the pitch with a coin or stone.

    47. Cuíca

    A Brazilian friction drum, used in samba music. The cuíca has a stick attached to the drumhead, which the musician rubs with a wet cloth while pressing on the drumhead to create a distinctive, high-pitched squeaking sound.

    48. Callioforte

    A custom-built instrument that uses a set of bellows to force air through a series of brass pipes, similar to an organ. The musician plays the instrument by pressing keys and manipulating the bellows, creating a unique, breathy sound.

    49. Hapi Drum

    A type of steel tongue drum with a distinct UFO-like shape, played by striking the tuned metal tongues with mallets or fingers. It produces a soothing, melodic, and resonant sound.

    50. Zendrum

    A MIDI percussion controller designed to be worn by the musician, allowing them to trigger drum and percussion samples by tapping the instrument’s touch-sensitive pads with their fingers.

    51. Ocean Drum

    A frame drum with a transparent head on one or both sides, filled with small metal or plastic beads. The musician rotates or shakes the drum, creating a sound that resembles waves crashing on the shore.

    52. Marovany

    A stringed instrument from Madagascar, similar to a zither or a kora. It has a wooden box resonator and a series of strings stretched across the top, which the musician plucks with their fingers.

    53. Fujara

    A large, Slovakian shepherd’s flute, typically made from wood. It has a long, curved body with three finger holes and produces a deep, haunting sound when played.

    54. Lithophone

    A type of percussion instrument made from a set of tuned rocks or stone slabs. The musician strikes the stones with mallets, creating a melodic, bell-like sound.

    55. Uilleann Pipes

    The Irish version of bagpipes, which are quieter and more melodic than their Scottish counterparts. The musician uses a bellows to supply air to the pipes, while the fingers play the melody on a chanter.

    56. Alphorn

    A long, conical wooden horn used by Swiss shepherds to communicate across valleys. It has a natural, harmonic overtone series and produces a rich, resonant sound.

    57. Diddley Bow

    A single-stringed instrument from the American South, often homemade from a plank of wood, a wire, and a glass bottle. It is played by plucking the string with one hand while using a slide or a bottleneck with the other hand.

    58. Gayageum

    A bamboo ring flute from Indonesia, played by blowing air across the open end while covering various finger holes. It produces a soft, airy sound and is often used in gamelan ensembles.

    60. Jouhikko

    A traditional Finnish bowed lyre with two or three strings, played by plucking or bowing the strings. It has a simple, resonant sound and is used in Finnish folk music.

    61. Ravanahatha

    An ancient bowed string instrument from India and Sri Lanka, made from a coconut shell resonator, a bamboo neck, and horsehair strings. It is played with a bow and produces a raw, haunting sound.

    62. Taepyeongso

    A Korean double-reed wind instrument with a conical, metal body and a wooden mouthpiece. It has a loud, piercing sound and is used in traditional Korean music and processions.

    63. Rainstick

    A hollow tube filled with small pebbles or seeds, often made from cacti or bamboo. When the tube is inverted, the pebbles fall through the interior, creating a sound reminiscent of rain.

    64. Kalumbu

    A single-stringed musical bow from Zambia, made from a wooden stave and a string, with a gourd resonator. It is played by plucking the string with one hand and changing the pitch by altering the tension of the string with the other hand.

    65. Gheychak

    A traditional Iranian stringed instrument with a pear-shaped body, a long neck, and four strings. It is played with a bow and has a raspy, haunting sound.

    66. Stroh Violin

    An unusual stringed instrument with a metal horn instead of a wooden soundboard. It was designed to produce a louder, more directional sound than a traditional violin, making it more suitable for early phonograph recordings.

    67. Kouxian

    A Chinese jaw harp made of metal or bamboo, with a flexible tongue that the musician plucks while holding the frame in their mouth. The musician can manipulate the sound by changing the shape of their oral cavity.

    68. Stumpf Fiddle (or Devil’s Stick)

    The Stumpf fiddle, also known as the stump fiddle, pogo cello, devil’s stick, or hobo fiddle, is a percussion instrument typically used in American folk and jug band music. It consists of a broomstick or similar wooden stick with a resonator, such as a tin can or small drum, attached at the bottom. Various other noisemakers, such as jingle bells, tambourines, or washboard ridges, are often attached along the length of the stick.

    69. Khene

    A bamboo mouth organ from Laos and Northeast Thailand. It consists of multiple bamboo pipes, each with a metal reed, which are played by blowing air across the reeds while covering finger holes.

    70. Tubon

    A Swedish electronic instrument from the 1960s, designed to be worn like a strap-on keyboard. The musician plays the keys, controlling the volume and expression of the synthesized sound.

    71. Musical Saw

    The musical saw, also known as the singing saw, is a unique musical instrument that involves playing a standard hand saw to produce melodic sounds. The saw is typically played in a seated position, with the handle held between the musician’s knees and the blade pointing upwards.

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