L. Shankar | Essays | Videos

10 Instruments You Didn’t Know Existed

Sep 30, 2018

Music plays a large part in our everyday lives. While music can bring an emotional experience little thought goes into the instruments creating the music. Inspired by our upcoming concert with L. Shankar, a virtuoso Indian classical musician who originated the 10-string double violin, we’re highlighting ten other instruments you probably haven’t heard of.

1. Rumitone

The rumitone is a spinning percussion instrument. As it turns, the musician can play different parts with mallets, bows, or even their own breath. The giant rumitone has a metal platform at its center and is big enough for two dancers.

2. Hurdy-Gurdy

Mostly heard in folk music around the world, the hurdy-gurdy is a stringed instrument that produces sound by a hand crank-turned, rosined wheel rubbing against the strings. Single notes have been compared to sounding like a violin, however most hurdy-gurdies have multiple drone strings, giving a constant pitch accompaniment to the melody that results in a sound similar to bagpipes. Because of this, the hurdy-gurdy is often used interchangeably with bagpipes.

3. Sea Organ

Sea Organ is an architectural sound art object located in Zadar, Croatia and an experimental instrument that plays music by way of sea waves and tubes located underneath a set of large marble steps. The Sea Organ was made by architect Nikola Bašić as part of the project to redesign the new city coast and was made public in 2005. Since then, Sea Organ has drawn tourists and locals alike.

4. The Wheelharp

The wheelharp is a musical instrument with bowed strings controlled by a keyboard and a foot-controlled motor. Created by Jon Jones and Mitchell Manger, the wheelharp debuted in 2013.

5. Baglama

Sometimes referred to as saz or the “cura”, the baglama is a stringed musical instrument, similar to a lute, that is used in Ottoman classical music, Turkish folk music, Iranian music, Azerbaijani music, Kurdish music, Assyrian music, Armenian music, and parts of Syria, Iraq, and the Balkan countries. Fans of Kayhan Kalhor may recognize the baglama from when he brought longtime collaborator and baglama musician Erdal Erzincan to the Schimmel Center stage last spring.

6. Duduk

The duduk is an ancient double reed woodwind instrument made of apricot wood and comes from Armenia. The duduk has a long history dating back to the fifth century. Today, it has a prominent presence in scores for video games, television, and film. Some notable soundtracks include Avatar, Hotel Rwanda, and Pirates of the Caribbean.

7. Glass Armonica

The glass armonica (also known as “glass harmonica”) refers today to any instrument played by rubbing glass or crystal goblets or bowls. It’s ancestor is the glass harp or musical glasses, an alternate instrument consisting of a set of wine glasses (usually tuned with water).

8. Cajón

The cajón is a box-shaped percussion instrument originally from Peru, played by slapping the front rear faces with hands, fingers, or sometimes various implements such as brushes, mallets, or sticks. Cajones are primarily played in Afro-Peruvian music, as well as contemporary styles of flamenco and jazz.

9. Laser harp

The laser harp is an electronic musical user interface and laser lighting display. Made popular by Jean Michel Jarre, the laser harp has been a high profile feature of different concerts since the 1980s as well as public art instillations.

10. Kantele

A kantele is a traditional Finnish and Karelian plucked string instrument belonging to the south east Baltic box zither family. It has a distinctive bell-like sound and while a small kantele will have between 5 and 15 strings, a modern concert kantele can have as many as 40 strings.