11 Extraordinary Musical Instruments You Didn’t Know Existed

Ever heard of the Martenot Waves or Singing Tree? Probably not.  Want to know more? Check out our list of 11 unique musical instruments!

The domain of music is not only about guitars or pianos. In fact, playing the guitar isn’t nearly as easy as ordering an essay from a custom writing service. That is why people have constantly tried to invent something new throughout their long history. A musical instrument is not just something we create sound with. In the hands of a virtuoso musician, it can heal souls and inspire noble deeds.

The history of musical instruments goes back a long way. Based on the results of archaeological excavations in the territories inhabited by different nations, scientists concluded that percussions were the most ancient instruments. The idea behind is to create a rhythm, and it is a well-known fact that a simple rhythm was the basis of music in prehistoric times.

Each stage of human evolution was reflected in musical culture. Century after century, music has become more diverse and complex. The development of music is manifested in the emergence of new musical instruments that are more melodic and versatile.

Some musical instruments went unknown, while others have improved over time, giving rise to entire families of instruments. The organ, harpsichord, piano, and flute played an important role in the development of world music culture. Even though some instruments have not become renowned, they are still very peculiar and unique.

Extraordinary Musical Instruments

1. Theremin

You probably have heard this eerie-sounding instrument in some old horror films. The theremin was designed and created in 1928 by Russian scientist Lev Theremin, hence the name. It produces an unusual and ghostly vibrating sound that most experimental musicians adore. However, exactly the way it sounds prevented the theremin from becoming widespread. To play the instrument, musicians have to change the distance between their hands and the instrument’s antennas. By doing so, you can change the pitch of the sound.

2. Banjolele

Although both the banjo and the ukulele became popular quickly, the hybrid of two, the banjolele, did not follow their success. Basically, this instrument looks like a smaller version of banjo that has not five but four strings. Banjolele produces a soothing sound, but people with big hands find the instrument challenging to play. Maybe because of that and the inconsistency its name bears, the banjolele is mostly used by niche musicians.

3. Omnichord

The omnichord is an electronic instrument created by Suzuki in 1981. When playing it, you produce sound by pressing the chord buttons and sliding your finger on a special metal plate. Mastering the omnichord is easy as pie, which is why it had every chance of being widely used, especially among aspiring musicians. But, for some reason, it didn’t. The tune from “Clint Eastwood,” a composition by the British band Gorillaz, is probably the best-known example of how this instrument sounds.

4. Electronium

This one is perhaps the most mysterious musical instrument on our list. We don’t know a lot about electronium: only that it was invented by Raymond Scott and that it looks like an ancient prototype of a synthesizer. The only electronium that is known to exist is owned by composer Mark Mathersbo. And, unfortunately, it does not work.

5. Martenot Waves

This instrument was invented by Maurice Martenot in 1928. It creates sounds similar to those produced by a violin and a theremin. The device is quite complex to use: when playing it, the musician has to press the usual piano keys and push a special ring at the same time. However, Jonny Greenwood, Radiohead’s frontman, used Martenot Waves to in their several songs to create a unique sound.

6. Nyckelharpa

The nyckelharpa is a traditional Swedish stringed musical instrument which was invented in 1350 AD. Usually, the modern nyckelharpa has 16 strings and 37 wooden keys sliding under the strings. A short bow is required to play it. The sound produced by this instrument is similar to that of the violin, but it has a deeper resonance.

7. Glass Harmonica

This harmonica is a rather unusual musical instrument consisting of several glass hemispheres of different sizes fixed on a metal axis, which is partially immersed in a box-resonator with diluted vinegar. When touching the edges of the glass hemispheres with a pedal, the performer extracts gentle and pleasant sounds. This musical instrument has been known since the middle of the 15th century. Interestingly, it was prohibited by law in some German towns since it was believed to produce a detrimental effect on people’s mental health, scare animals, cause premature birth and even lead to psychical disorders.

8. Erhu

Erhu, which is also called the “Chinese violin,” is an ancient Chinese stringed instrument created in the 17th century. It is a two-stringed violin with a cylindrical resonator at the bottom which has a snakeskin membrane. Being very versatile, it is used in Chinese opera, pop, rock, and jazz.

9. Zeusaphone

Zeusaphone (aka “musical lightning” and “Tesla coil singing”), is a kind of a plasma loudspeaker. Being a modified Tesla coil, it is capable of producing sounds accompanied by a beautiful glow of air ions in a high-voltage electric field. The term “Tesla Coil Singing” was coined by David Nunez after a public demonstration of this device on June 9, 2007, in Naperville, Illinois, USA.

10. Stalactite Organ

The Stalactite Organ is the most unusual musical instrument in the world. Located in the Luray Caves, Virginia, USA, it was created in 1956 by Leland Sprinkle, a mathematician and scientist, who for three years tried to get the perfect sound from the stalactites hanging from the ceiling of the cave. Then he attached a hammer to each of them which was powered by electricity from an organ keyboard. The Stalactite Organ covers an area of 14 square kilometers and is the largest musical instrument in the world.

11. Singing Tree at Burnley

The Singing Tree is a unique musical sculpture located in the Pennine Mountains near the town of Burnley in the county of Lancashire, England. The sculpture, which was built on December 14, 2006, is a three-meter structure consisting of galvanized steel pipes of various lengths, which, due to wind energy, emit a low melodic hum.

We hope these extraordinary musical instruments have inspired you to explore our world and discover something new every day!

WORDS: MICHAEL WARREN

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