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11 Unusual Musical Instruments With Weird Names

We all know the names of common musical instruments, but this list of 11 unusual musical instruments with weird names will show you that there are some out there you’ve never seen or heard about.

As you can gather from the title of this article, we will be delving into the realm of sheer weirdness. Of course, if something is weird it does not make it bad, as you will find out in our list. On the contrary, the musical instruments that made our list are really very cool and you just might end up developing a sense of appreciation for these oddities yourself. There are lots of uncommon musical instruments such as the Balalaika a stringed instrument from medieval Russia that basically looks like an oddly shaped guitar. We also have The ektara a single bowstring folk instrument used primarily by wandering bards in India and Bangladesh. However, these instruments pale in comparison to what we are talking about on this list. If you are looking for unusual instruments to learn, which is a great way to stand out from the crowd, then you should try the bagpipe, the hang drum or even Bassoon. You will find classes to learn these instruments, however the instruments that made our list are so unique that you might not find a class where you can actually learn to play them.

The thing is any musical instruments you come across are going to be cool musical instruments in their own way. Take the cello-horn, for example,  the name is self-explanatory as it’s an instrument that combines the cello and a horn in one. The sound of bowing strings comes out of a metallic horn instead of the wooden body of the cello. Or take a look at the hydraulophone, a musical instrument where music is produced by contact between jets of water and the player’s fingers. We’ll definitely elaborate some more on our list, with this one. A few musical instruments that have every right to be on the list, but did not make it due to their names not being that weird, are the Chapman stick, a guitar like instrument that is used to play bass lines, melody lines, chords, or textures, and also the 12 neck guitar, the creation of Japanese artist Yoshihiko Satoh. As you can imagine, it is basically as the name says; twelve guitars morphed into one awesome guitar with 12 necks.

Pixabay / Public Domain

Pixabay / Public Domain

To come up with such a list we had to do a lot of digging. Thankfully, we did find quite a few remarkable websites that are dedicated to such musical instruments. Websites like CmuseMental FlossPhrontistery and Odd Music spend their time too looking for unusual instruments. There were a lot of really unusual instruments listed there, but we knew we were looking for instruments that had to fit the bill perfectly, meaning it had to have a weird name and also weird way of operation to match. We eventually found what we have been looking for, and we are ready to share our findings with you. We did not rank our list, since we could not come up with a method of ranking weirdness so to speak, so we just listed the instruments we found to be weird. If this article leaves you feeling creative, then you should check out the 10 Easiest Musical Instruments To Make At Home as well.

Brace yourself for a brief journey into the world of wild creativity and wonder with this list of 11 unusual musical instruments with weird names. If we left out your favorite weird musical instrument from the list, do let us know in the comments section. 

11. Sharpsichord

The first unusual and weird instrument in our list is the Sharpsichord. It was created by Sound sculptor Henry Dagg, and is a solar powered musical instrument made up of a perforated barrel and strings. The artist can plug any number of the 11,520 holes on the cylinder with pins that in turn plucks the strings to produce melodies. It is sometimes referred to by its literal name which is pin-barrel harp.

10. The Majestic Bellow-phone

When it comes to weird and unusual musical instruments, Leonard Solomon is no stranger to them. He likes to make his own unique musical instruments using common household items and terming them into something really extraordinary. Perhaps the The Majestic Bellow-phone is his most popular and unique creation. He has been a lifelong performer and an avid music lover. The Majestic Bellow-phone combines his passion into one unique device and that’s why it’s on our list of  unusual musical instruments with weird names .

9. Gameleste

If you are familiar with Björk’s music, then you already know that Björk is no stranger to weird musical instruments. This musical instrument was actually conceived by Björk and she commissioned Björgvin Tómasson to build the Gameleste for her. She used this instrument in her album Biophilia. This instrument is a hybrid combination of a gamelan and a celesta, and though the idea may sound a bit weird, the melody it produces is truly amazing.

8. Hornucopian Drone Pipe

Often, the difference between weird and creepy is hard to separate. The Hornucopian Drone Pipe sits comfortably somewhere between totally weird and totally creepy in our opinion. It is an entirely 3D-printed instrument designed by, Eric Goldemberg and Veronica Zalcberg with musician Scott F. Hall. It is very dystopian looking as was intended by its creators. It’s also a part of an art display consisting of similar 3D-printed instruments. However, the Hornucopian Drone Pipe is fully functional.

7. Octobass

So far all the musical instruments that made this list of  unusual musical instruments with weird names were rather modern creations. But the Octobass was designed and produced way back in 1850 by Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume a talented French violin maker. His intention was to come up with an instrument that would add a low-end rumble to any large orchestra. However, what sets this particular instrument apart is its sheer size and bulk. The player has to stand on a platform to be able to play the thing. The Octobass is huge, and probably the largest string musical instrument.

6. Hydraulophone

We touched on Hydraulophone briefly in the intro section, and here are the details. The Hydraulophone, as the name suggests, takes advantage of water pressure to produce music. The player can interact with water-jets with his/her finger tips to manipulate the flow of water and in turn create beautiful melodies. It was invented by Steve Mann, it is in primarily used as sensory exploration instrument for people with low vision, and of course to create music.

5. Theremin

We are half way through our list of 11 unusual musical instruments with weird names, and at number 5 we have the Theremin. It is one of the earliest musical instruments to use electricity to create music. The device was invented by Leon Theremin a notable name when it comes to weird musical instruments. This instrument was used in many science fiction movies, but perhaps the most notable thing about a Theremin is that the musician can play the instrument without ever touching it.

4. Zeusaphone

If the name reminds you of Zeus, the sky and thunder god in ancient Greek mythology, then you are on the right track. This device uses lightning bolts, to generate music. It may not be the most melodious instrument to hear and not the safest, but it is something novel and definitely deserves a spot on our list.

3. Glass Harmonica

The idea of being able to produce music by water tuning wine glasses has been around for quite some time. But Benjamin Franklin wanted to be able to play more glasses than 2 at a time and also wanted to do away with water tuning each time. To do this, he literally invented radically new arrangement of the glasses in 1761, which is the version we are talking about. This arrangement has been in wide use around the world, and it is still used today to produce beautiful melodies. Now, let’s see the top two unusual musical instruments with weird names on our list.

2. Wheelharp

The wheelharp is a relatively new keyboard instrument that gives the player the ability to simulate an entire string orchestra by themselves. There are 61 keys on the Wheelharp’s keyboard that allows the player to control 61 strings. The instrument sounds almost like there is an orchestra playing rather than a single person. The shape of this musical instrument, as you can imagine is rather weird, and so is the principle behind its operation.

1. Didgeridoo

The Didgeridoo is definitely the oldest musical instrument to make our list, and possibly the oldest aerophone in the entire world. It is believed to be originated from the aboriginal people of Northern Australia, and some consider the instrument to be invented about some 40,000 years ago. Along with its very unusual name, the melody that it produces is also quite different than any other musical instrument.

This wraps it up for our list of 11 unusual musical instruments with weird names.