The World’s Most Unusual Music Instruments

Most aspiring musicians pick up traditional instruments such as the piano, violin or guitar. But others consider those instruments as “too mainstream”. Here is a list with some of the most unusual music instruments ever created, including some you probably never heard of before:

26. The Yaybahar

The Yaybahar is a new electric-free, totally acoustic instrument designed by Istanbul-based musician Gorkem Sen. The vibrations from the strings are transmitted via the coiled springs to the frame drums. These vibrations are turned into sound by the membranes which echo back and forth on the coiled springs. This results in a unique listening experience with a hypnotic surround sound.

25. The Chapman Stick

The Chapman Stick (The Stick) is an electric musical instrument devised by Emmett Chapman in the early 1970s. A member of the guitar family, the Chapman Stick usually has ten or twelve individually tuned strings and has been used on music recordings to play bass lines, melody lines, chords, or textures. Designed as a fully polyphonic chordal instrument, it can also cover several of these musical parts simultaneously.

Chapman Stick Unusual Music Instrument

24. Hydraulophone

A hydraulophone is a tonal acoustic musical instrument played by direct physical contact with water (sometimes other fluids) where a sound is generated or affected hydraulically. It was invented by Steve Mann and has been used as a sensory exploration device for low vision individuals. Here the video to hear an example.

Hydraulophone 45 jets unusual music instrument

23. Theremin

Is an early electronic musical instrument controlled without physical contact by the thereminist (performer)? It is named after the westernized name of its Russian inventor, Léon Theremin, who patented the device in 1928.

theremin unusual music instrument

22. The 12 Neck Guitar

Japanese artist Yoshihiko Satoh takes mass-produced goods and alters or multiplies them to “unleash the energy residing in their function and shape”. Or, simply speaking, he multiples them by awesome. His guitar sculptures above are by far his most impressive works, however, he’s also experimented with exaggerated length in irons, toy trucks, and even functional mopeds.

12 neck guitar
Yoshihico Satoh

21. The Vegetable Orchestra

Worldwide one of a kind, the Vegetable Orchestra performs on instruments made of fresh vegetables. The utilization of various ever refined vegetable instruments creates a musically and aesthetically unique sound universe.

vegetable orchestra vienna music instrument
The Vegetable Orchestra

20. The Great Stalacpipe Organ

The Great Stalacpipe Organ is an electrically actuated lithophone located in Luray Caverns, Virginia, USA. It is operated by a custom console that produces the tapping of ancient stalactites of varying sizes with solenoid-actuated rubber mallets in order to produce tones. It was designed and implemented in 1956 over three years by Leland W. Sprinkle inside the Luray Caverns near Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, USA.

the great stalacpipe organ unusual music instrument

19. Symphonic House

Symphonic House, a 6,200-square-foot, $2.4 million concrete and wood structure with Scandinavian and Japanese touches. It not only emphasizes natural sounds but is an instrument in its own right, from windows that can be adjusted to let in the wind’s song to the huge “house harp” in the living room. Read the whole story in the New York Times. 

symphonic house unusual music instrument

18. Zeusaphone

The zeusaphone or thoramin, is a form of plasma speaker. It is a variation of a solid-state Tesla coil that has been modified to produce musical tones by modulating its spark output. The resulting pitch is a low fidelity square wave-like sound reminiscent of an analog synthesizer.

zeusaphone unusual music instrument

17. Wired Fence

The Australian musician Jon Rose is a “fencologist” who has played music on all types of fences – from barbed wires to army fences – worldwide. Whether it was playing the old 1967 border between Syria and Israel or the Strzelecki Desert, Rose, for the past 30 or so years, has been playing the fence with a bow.

music fence kronos quartet
Kronos Quartet playing music from 4 fences.

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