Musicians who play instruments that are rare or uncommon or who play instruments in unusual ways have always added a lot to the diversity of music. From the bagpipes to the accordion, the timbrel to the triangle, many instruments, both modern and antique, can be found being played by different musicians. We also have here five unique musical instruments everyone should know about:
- Jaw Harp – Perhaps the earliest musical instrument ever invented, the Jaw Harp is a stringed instrument that you play by moving your jaw. The most famous jaw harp tune is “Yankee Doodle,” which was composed by George Washington before he became President. Most of the music that was ever played on this curious instrument was played by the most powerful man in the world.
The jaw harp (also called the Jew’s harp, jawbone, mouth harp, or lingual harp) is a musical instrument of the family of brass instruments used for music. It is plucked with the thumb and finger and played by blowing air across the opening. This causes the flexible metal tongue or reed to vibrate and produce a note.
- Cajon – A Cajon is a percussion instrument similar in appearance to a box and is used in many music styles, such as Cuban, Flamenco, Brazilian, and American pop music. A typical Cajon measures about 13” long, 13” wide, and 13” high. The box feature a top made of two pieces of wood glued together with a snare, and the box is covered with a soundhole. The Cajon can be played in a variety of ways. The musician can strike the top of the front side of the box, the backside, or both sides with hands or with a drum stick.
- Balalaika – The balalaika is a traditional Russian instrument with a triangular body and three strings. Originally from Ukraine, this plucked stringed instrument has been used for centuries in Russian folk bands and orchestras. It is also the national instrument of Russia and the first musical instrument to be recorded in outer space by the Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. Though the balalaika has been used in many genres of music, it is closely associated with Russian folk music and Vaudeville.
The balalaika’s body is a long, rectangular wooden box with a flat top and a flat back. The body’s top and back are traditionally made from resonant or laminated spruce wood, while the front is often made from a harder wood, such as maple or birch. The box’s resonant cavity is, in fact, an integral part of the instrument’s design. It is not merely a hollow space.
- Singing Ringing Tree – What do you get when you cross a tree, a bell, and a bunch of metal strings? The singing ringing tree, a unique musical instrument that can produce sound from the vibrations of the metal strings that run through it and the vibrations of the tree’s trunk itself.
The inventor of the tree-turned-musical instrument was the British pioneer of electronic music Trevor Wishart (who I recently interviewed ), in the late 1990s. He wanted to create an instrument that sounded like it was being played by nature itself. He accomplished his goal by inventing an instrument that works similarly to a hurdy-gurdy, in which the wheel, with a handle, is used to change the pitch of the strings.
- Hydraulophone – is an unusual musical instrument that uses water to create sound. It is made up of three tiers; the bottom tier is a bellows, the top tier contains the actual musical tubing that is struck, and the middle tier is the water chamber that contains the water. Invented by Steve Mann, this instrument is played by direct hydraulic pressure.
When a musician strikes the tubing, water from the water chamber is forced out into the air, creating a unique percussive sound. It is capable of imitating sounds from a wide range of instruments, from a violin to a drum, although it is most commonly used to emit a variety of deep moans and growls.
It’s no secret that music and instruments go hand in hand. As a musician, you don’t have to be a master of every instrument. You just need to know which ones are most appropriate for your style of music. From rock to pop to jazz, every style of music has its unique instruments and sound.
So, what kind of instruments do you need for the music you make? If given a chance, would you like to learn how to play the above-mentioned instrument?