Makin’ Sweet Music with Weird Musical Instruments
February 20, 2013
Dance, groove, and sway to the tunes of… a kazoo? Weird musical instruments have always been a sight for attention and a guessing game for the ears. You might know many people who play an instrument, and you might know some people who play a really cool instrument (upright bass, we’re looking at you!), but how many people do you know that can confidently say they’ve mastered the unknown art of the musical ruler? Plus, you can’t deny how impressed you are when you witness others creating a head-bopping beat using items meant for other purposes. The “Whirled Beat” video of a kid playing drums on a washing machine is a perfect relevant example. And though some might argue that “musical talent” like mastering the spoons isn’t a talent at all, we beg to differ: one still needs great coordination, an ear for melody, and a passion to play above all. If you’re jealous of those of who can play multiple instruments, read on, because we’ve chosen some of the simpler, offbeat musical instruments for you to try your hand (and ear) at!
Soundgarden once popularized this weird musical talent in the mid 90s with their song “Spoonman”. Playing the spoons was once called “playing the bones” because sheep ribs were used instead of the concaved utensils. Though spoons don’t have the prestige of, say, a cello, they more than make up for it with accessibility (just go to your kitchen) and a lack of musical education (no lessons to pay for). And it’s surprisingly easy: watch this video and you’ll see why the percussion and easy startup compels us to ignore all work and concentrate on the lesson… well, almost:
I think my professional name would be Spoonie McSpoon. Oh yea.
A what? The musical ruler is just what you think it is. This unexpected musical instrument features metric measurements and musical scales so you can, well, make accurate lines and then play “She’ll Be Comin’ ’round the Mountain”. Advertising exec Dan Wieden of famed Nike slogan “Just Do It” created the musical ruler– for what purpose, we know not– and the musical instrument simply sits at the end of a desk and table with one hand for stability and the other for snapping the end to create a twangin’ note. It includes an instruction booklet describing finger placement, scaling, and sample songs. We love its ingenuity, quirkiness, and portability– let’s face it, you can’t toss an accordian in your laptop bag, now can you?
Watch this video of someone playing a ruler to a Queen song. Though it’s not a musical ruler, it still demonstrates the potential found in a plastic grade school tool:
I think my professional name would be Tina McTwang. Jus’ doin’ ma thang.
January 27th was National Kazoo Day (what?! How did we forget that weird holiday??), but that won’t stop us from featuring the debatable musical instrument on today’s post. Like the other musical instruments here, the kazoo requires no previous musical lessons, no precise skills, and no expensive equipment to purchase. If you can hum, you can play a kazoo. Which is why some think it’s not really an instrument at all, similar to how Auto-Tune’d “singers” aren’t really singers at all. The kazoo merely creates a high-pitched whirring sound that might annoy more than delight. Still, we love the careless, goofy fun found in playing a kazoo
In 2008, a world record was set for the largest kazoo ensemble from the same population that brought us the Christmas card and the typewriter. Just try to keep a straight face while watching the performance here:
I think my professional name would be Kazoo Mc… Kazoo… I’m running out of ideas here.
Probably the most unfamiliar musical instrument on this list, the jaw harp (or Jew’s harp or mouth harp) is one of the world’s oldest instruments and uses resonations created with your mouth and a small tool with a reed. Though it might seem that plucking the reed will produce different tones, the key lies in controlling the air flow in breathing and openness of your mouth. The jaw harp can be rather ornate and has festivals and even a guild dedicated to preserving the instrument. Like most musical instruments, the jaw harp requires careful attention to detail and a lot of patience, making it a more challenging instrument to master. But don’t let that deter you; check out this video and listen to the depth of distinct tones and whisps that this tiny and inexpensive instrument can create:
I think my professional name would be Mouthy Mc… forget it, I’ll stick to writing.
Musical instruments need not be bulky, shiny, or complicated. Expression through song can be a beautiful thing– and sometimes it can be silly, too. Try mastering an unusual musical instrument like the ones here and you might find you’re a natural– even if it is weird!