10 of the Weirdest Musical Instruments in the World (With Videos)
This article will show you some of the weirdest instruments ever invented, from organs played by sea waves to odd musical hybrids, without forgetting some electronic wonders too.
There are way more strange instruments than we could summarize in this short guide, but we made sure to include the oddest, funniest, most surprising ones you have ever heard of.
Are you ready for the craziness? Let’s dive in!
More than just a Japanese toy!
Is this a toy or an instrument? We could probably conclude it is both.
Very fun and easy to play, the otamatone was developed by a Japanese toy company in the Nineties, but it is now going through a new wave of popularity because of several YouTubers employing it in their cover videos.
The otamatone is a small synth coming in the shape of a quaver, somewhat resembling also a tadpole. You can obtain the sound by squeezing the mouth of the tadpole, choosing the pitch through the controller on the stem.
The weirdest aspect of the theremin is probably the fact that you play it by not touching it.
The very first electronic musical instrument ever invented, in 1928, the theremin works through two different antennas, one controlling pitch and the other one controlling volume. The closer you get to the first one, the higher the pitch. The closer you get to the second one, the lower the volume.
The spooky and ethereal tone of this instrument made it the best choice for soundtrack compositions throughout the Forties and the Fifties. It is still used in contemporary classical music and it can be spotted even in some rock anthems by Led Zeppelin (Whole Lotta Love) and the Rolling Stones (Between the Buttons).
3. Hyperbass Flute
You can’t get any lower than this!
You wouldn’t expect a flute to emit seriously low pitches, right? Well, think again! The hyperbass flute has a playing range that goes four octaves below the flute and one octave below the lowest C on a standard piano, reaching frequencies commonly believed to be unheard by the human being (around 16 hertz).
The hyperbass flute was created in Florence in the Eighties for the avant-garde flutist Roberto Fabbricciani.
4. Pyrophone organ
The functioning of this instrument is quite weird in itself as it requires combustion in order to work.
Usually activated by propane or gasoline, the pyrophone organ developed in the XIX century, when the principle that a flame in a pipe can produce not only light but also a sound was discovered.
More than just a big harp
An acoustic 46-string harp activated by a pin-cylinder, the sharpsichord was invented by English composer Henry Dagg.
The gigantic instrument is far from being easy to play, but its ethereal sound makes it a great choice for avant-garde artists such as Björk, who featured it in her Biophilia tour.
6. Cello horn
Invented in the Thirties, this hybrid instrument simply combines the principles of two very different instruments to obtain a unique sound. You play it as a regular cello, but the sound is amplified by the horn on the body, a fact that alters the “wooden” nature of the regular cello sound to make it slightly more brass.
7. Cheese drums
A delicious instrument
This is quite self-explanatory and straightforward: artist Walter Willems thought of substituting several pieces in a drum kit with cheese. The idea was adopted by Dutch drummer Han Bennink, who played the instrument at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art in June 2005 (employing some delicious Gouda, of course…).
Not your usual kind of brass!
Another hybrid instrument, unifying elements of the flugelhorn and the tuba, the fluba was invented by Jim Self, a popular recording artist, who worked with great contemporary composers, such as John Williams.
The sound of this huge brass instrument is mellow, delicate, and truly different. Being quite big, however, it is not the easiest to play!
9. Sea Organ
When nature becomes a musician
What if the player is not a human being but a huge mass of seawater? Located in Croatia, the sea organ is a truly weird instrument emitting pitches and sounds through tubes activated by the waves.
This sound installation is not the only one of its kind since it compares to the Wave Organ in San Francisco and the High Tide Organ in Blackpool, Great Britain.
10. Great Stalacpipe Organ
The biggest instrument ever invented
The largest musical instrument in the world, the great stalacpipe organ is something truly wonderful. Located in Luray Caverns, in Virginia, this instrument can be played like a regular organ. The only difference is that, being connected to a series of controllers that action rubber mallets in different areas of the cavern, the whole cave becomes an instrument in itself, offering an ethereal sound, somewhat resembling a xylophone.
The best aspect of these instruments is that they were often built by the musicians themselves, as in the case of the fluba or the cello horn.
So if you’re tired of playing your old regular piano or guitar, you too could come up with an exciting new idea to obtain a truly weird, unheard sound. We hope this list will give you some inspiration!