20 of the Weirdest Musical Instruments You Need to See to Believe

July 31  / Sunday


These bizarre and unique instruments from around the world are absolutely insane! Some you may have heard of, and some probably not. Either way, we promise that they all are worth checking out.

1. Toha

Also called the Totem Harp, this instrument was created by composer Victor Gama. The Toha was inspired by the nests of an extinct species of Angolan birds, with the intent of evoking the spirit of the birds. The Toha can be played by two musicians at once.


2. Contrabass Balalaika

As the largest instrument in the Balalaika family, the Contrabass Balalaika is comparable to an upright bass. It typically is played with a large leather pick to produce a clearer sound quality.


3. Stylophone

Invented in 1967 by Brian Jarvis, the Stylophone is a miniature analog stylus-operated keyboard. The metal keyboard is played by touching it with a stylus to create each note.


4. Pikasso Guitar

Built by master luthier Linda Manzer, this guitar was made specifically for Pat Metheny. It was inspired by none other than Pablo Picasso himself, the founder of the Cubist movement and one of the most iconic artists of the 20th century. The harp guitar has 42 strings, 4 necks, and 2 sound holes.


5. Theremin

The theremin is one of the earliest electronic instruments. The instrument has two metal antennas that can sense the positions of the player’s hands, which control the volume and pitch of the instrument.


6. Cimbalom

The Cimbalom is of Hungarian descent, belonging to the Dulcimer family. Two beaters are used to strike the strings and create notes.


7. Glass Armonica

If you’ve ever tried to make music with a wine glass, then you’re already familiar with how the glass armonica works. The glass armonica consists of a series of glass bowls in different sizes and the sound is produced by the player rubbing their fingers over the glass. Fun Fact: This unique instrument is the brainchild of Benjamin Franklin.


8. Crwth

The Crwth is an archaic Welch instrument, and only four original crwths exist. There are several modern variations however, and the instrument is comparable to a violin, as is played with a bow.


9. Hang

The Hang, sometimes called a Hang Drum, is made of two sheets of steel. The Hang has various dents hammered into it which produce specific notes when tapped by the player.


10. Hydraulophone

The hydraulophone is similar to an organ. It uses a constant stream of water, in conjunction with the player’s hands, to make notes.


11. Nyckelharpa

The Nyckelharpa, or keyed fiddle, is a 600 year old traditional Swedish instrument. The modern variation has 16 strings, and there are 37 keys that slide underneath them to create notes, acting like frets on a guitar.


12. The Wintergatan Marble Machine

The Wintergatan Marble Machine is a hand-cranked music box loaded with instruments including a circuit of 2,000 cascading steel marbles. As the devices cycles it activates a vibraphone, bass, kick drum, cymbal and other instruments that play a score programmed into a 32 bar loop comprised of LEGO technic parts. The marbles are moved internally through the machine using funnels, pulleys, and tubes.


13. Chapman Stick

The Chapman Stick is an electric stringed instrument played by tapping on the strings with both hands. Devised by Emmett Chapman in the early 1970s, 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.


14. Yaybahar

The Yaybahar is a new electric-free, totally acoustic instrument. 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 an unique listening experience with an hypnotic surround sound.


15. Wheelharp

The wheelharp is known to produce the rich sounds of many stringed instruments at once. It is basically a keyboard that controls 61 bowed strings, allowing a single musician to sound like an actual orchestra!


16. Sharpsichord

This musical instrument is a solar-powered music box that is also known as “barrel harp.” It is a perforated cylinder that contains 11,520 holes into which a musician plugs pins to create melodies. These cylinders rotate and the pins start to pluck strings, creating the sound.


17. Friction Harp

A friction harp is a harp played not by plucking, but by rubbing (with rosined gloves). The friction harp was built by John Deagan in the 1920s using hollow pipes.


18. Zeusaphone

Probably the most intimidating instrument on this list, the Zeusaphone is a special type of dual-resonant solid-state coil, or DRSSTC. It is distinguished from old fashioned Tesla coils in that it uses modern high-power transistors to pulse electricity through the primary coil instead of using a physical air-gap. Since the power switching functions are electronically controlled, you can introduce a musical signal to play music through the range of frequencies that it is capable of pulsing power at. Frequencies of up to 900HZ are possible. The lightning-like arcs vibrate the air at musical frequencies, which produce the amazing sound you hear!


19. Pyrophone

Be careful not to burn yourself with this one! The word pyrophone literally means "fire sound." The instrument is a series of pipes much like an organ, but the sound is made by applying combustion to the pipes, usually with propane or gasoline.


20. Bikelophone

The bikelophone takes spin class to a whole new level of sonic exploration. Using a loop-based recording system and outboard signal processors like reverbs, delays, and pitch shifts, unique sound compositions are built in layers.