Planet Earth is made up of many different traditions, beliefs and cultures. A product of this varied world is the musical instruments, and the unusual forms in which they come in. To define such instruments, I’ve researched to find the ones that show uniqueness in appearance, sound and craftsmanship. Prepare to have your mind blown.
#1 Glass Harmonica:
The Glass Harmonica, also known as the glass harmonium, is a crystallophone made up from spinning glass disks that create musical tones from friction. The disks (or bowls) graduate in size, meaning that the larger ones produce a lower note and the smaller creates a higher note. This is essentially rubbing your wet finger along the rim of your wine glass to create a hum – on a larger and much grander scale. The sound produced by these instruments is hauntingly disorienting and puts you in a dream-like state from listening, so it had to go first on my list.
#2 Jaws Harp:
The Jew’s harp is a unique little instrument that is often considered to be one of the oldest musical instruments in the world. It’s usually crafted with a bamboo reed, which is then placed in the mouth of the performer. It’s then flicked, plucked and strummed with the fingers to create tones. The player can create different overtones to the sounds by changing the shape of their mouth and varying the amount of air contained in the mouth.
Using liquid to create music is always something that fascinates me, so a Hydraulophone had to make it onto this list. It’s a tonal acoustic instrument that creates musical tones through contact between jets of water and the player’s fingers. The water is blown into the Hydraulophone with a pump, and the pressure between the fingers and the jet of water creates soothing and blissful tones – think of it as an aquatic flute!
Sticking with the elements theme, the zeusaphone (or the singing Tesla coil) definitely fits to the title of this article. It’s a form of plasma speaker, and combines low-voltage with high-frequency currents, creating a bizarre sound that you can achieve simple chords with.
The digeridoo is a classic, and has always intrigued me. The wind instrument originating from northern Australia has a deep earthy tone that feels haunting every time I hear it. Sometimes described as a natural wooden trumpet or ‘drone pipe’, they can measure anywhere from one meter to 3 meters. The general rule is that the longer the instrument, the lower the pitch. Though the exact age of the didgeridoo is not known, I love the simplicity and raw nature of this classic instrument.
The Russian stringed instrument – the Balalaika is crafted from a triangular body and three strings. There are many variants of the Balalaika family, but they all have the three sided bodies. I like to think of it as a Russian three stringed ukulele – with its inviting and innocent tones. Similarly, it’s played with a pick or strumming motion. However, the contrabass style is my favourite of all, due to its size.
#7 The Hang
The Hang is a UFO looking drum that was created in Switzerland. Sounds are created when in the performers lap and vibrations are passed through. It has eight ‘tone fields’ hammered around the center, providing different notes and tones as the player taps on the drum. The sound is extremely similar to the sounds of a steel pan – I could listen to it for hours!