7 More Really Weird Musical Instruments

Image credit: 
Harrison Krix

Folks are always inventing new ways to produce sound. At the same time, we learn of traditional instruments from all over that are unlike any we've seen before. Here are some more in a continuing series on strange and wonderful musical instruments.

1. Wheelharp

The wheelharp is a fairly new musical instrument that produces the rich sounds of stringed instruments. A keyboard controls 61 bowed strings, so one musician can sound like an orchestra- or at least the string section. The wheel harp was inspired by the hurdy-gurdy, and comes in two models: the radial model you see here, and one with a more conventional flat keyboard attached to the wheel. You can hear several sections of music played on the wheel harp at Antiquity Music.

2. Hardingfele


Photograph by Frode Inge Helland.

A hardingfele or hardanger fiddle is a violin with twice as many strings, a traditional instrument in Norway. Underneath the normal four strings are four or five other drone strings, which vibrate when the upper strings are played. The instrument resembles a violin, usually with more ornate carvings and inlays. A hardingfele player traditionally leads a Norwegian bridal procession to the church. Listen to the sound of a hardingfele here

3. Bellowphone

Leonard Solomon is the father of a bizarre collection of homemade instruments, the most popular of which is called the Majestic Bellowphone. You can see Solomon play the bellowphone in this video clip. Another instrument he created is called the Oomphalapompatronium

4. Singing Ringing Tree


Photograph by Flickr user Pigalle.

Four sculptures in East Lancashire, England, together make up an art installation call the Panopticons. One of the sculptures is actually a musical instrument called the Singing Ringing Tree. The tree, designed by Mike Tonkin and Anna Liu, is made of steel pipes of differing lengths and orientations. The music is provided by the blowing wind. Take a listen to the eerie sounds it makes

5. Gameleste

Björk commissioned the design of several custom instruments for her album Biophilia. Björgvin Tómasson built the gameleste as a hybrid combination of a gamelan and a celesta. See how the instrument was built, and hear it in action

6. Sharpsichord

Sound sculptor Henry Dagg spent five years developing the sharpsichord, a solar-powered music box, sometimes called a pin-barrel harp. Its perforated cylinder contains 11,520 holes into which an artist can plug pins in order to create melodies. As the cylinder rotates, the pins pluck strings to create the sound. Dagg describes the sound as "a cross between a harp and a bass clarinet." Judge how it sounds for yourself. Björk used the sharpsichord on her Biophilia album. It was the only one of the strange new instruments she used that was already in existence

7. Holophonor


Photograph by Harrison Krix.

In the TV series Futurama, a holophonor is a musical instrument that is also a hologram projector, but the catch is that you have to play it well to produce holographs. Harrison Krix made this fictional instrument a reality. He converted an old clarinet by adding 54 LEDs and various other parts to get the look right. You see it here displayed as being held by two robot devil hands. Check out the process of building the instrument.

"Only a few people in the whole universe can play one of these, and they’re not very good at it."

Your favorite odd instrument, if not found here, might be found in the posts 8 Odd and Awesome Musical Instruments, 8 Weird and Wonderful Musical Instruments, 8 Strange and Different Musical Instruments, Mother Nature's Music,or You play a what?

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August 13, 2013 - 3:56pm
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