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Top 10 Strangest Musical Instruments

VO: Matt Campbell WRITTEN BY: Matthew Manouli
We can't believe these actually create real music! Welcome to, and today we'll be counting down the Top 10 Strangest Musical Instruments. For this list, we'll be looking at instruments which are actually used to make music, but are unconventional and just plain strange. Special thanks to our user drewbrown  for suggesting this idea, check out the voting page at http://WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+10+Strangest+Musical+Instruments  

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Top 10 Strangest Musical Instruments

We can't believe these actually create real music! Welcome to, and today we'll be counting down the Top 10 Strangest Musical Instruments.
For this list, we'll be looking at instruments which are actually used to make music, but are unconventional and just plain strange.

#10: Hurdy-Gurdy

What's all this hirdy-girdy? The hurdy-gurdy of course. Believed to be the modern version of the 'organistrum', which needed two musicians, the hurdy gurdy was developed to only need one. It's made of two main parts –a crank and keys. The crank turns a wheel which rubs the instrument's strings to produce noise and the keys create the melody. The crank can be spun harder to create different tones as well. While it hasn't been that common in popular, mainstream music, the hurdy-gurdy's been making a comeback in recent years, having appeared in numerous songs and movie soundtracks.

#9: Octobass

If you want some deep bass in your music, look no further than the octobass. Effectively a double-bass on steroids, its 11 foot 5 inch or 3.48 metre height, means players actually have to stand on special platforms and use levers to play it. It's great if you want to produce a lower than low bass sound, even if human ears can't always hear it. There are only seven in existence, and most are in museums, however the Montreal Symphony Orchestra obtained one in 2016, making it the only orchestra in the world to include the octobass in its numbers.

#8: Marble Machine

Not many of us have ever seen a connection between marbles and music. Martin Molin is the exception. Interested in the marble machine subculture, the Swedish musician gave himself 2 months to build one of his own. He finally finished 16 months later, but the delay was worth it. It’s essentially a giant music box that uses a programmable wheel, which when cranked, causes thousands of marbles fall to create a melody using bass, vibraphone, and percussion elements. Seeing it in action is simply jaw dropping. The best part is that the marbles circulate back to the top, so there's no limit to how long you can play it, as long as you keep cranking it.

#7: Sharpsichord

Created by composer and sound engineer Henry Dagg, this pin-barrel harp took five years to finish, and was set to be placed in a sound garden with other musical sculptures, except that it wasn't suited to be kept outdoors. The 2.5-ton machine is also referred to as a pin-barrel harp, because it uses a giant metal barrel adorned with thousands of small pins. When the barrel turns, the pins hit levers and strings, producing the instrument’s soft tones. The horns work to amplify the sound... and of course, make the instrument look more majestic. The best part is, all you have to do is spin that wheel!

#6: Pikasso Guitar

In 1984, jazz musician Pat Metheny asked luthier Linda Manzer to build a guitar with as many strings as possible. Enter: the Pikasso Guitar. With 42 strings, the Pikasso definitely didn't disappoint. Its four necks, and unusually placed headstocks make it look like some kind of musical mutation, but if its mutant power is sounding this smooth, who are we to judge? Weighing hefty a 15 lbs, there were two holes placed in it so Metheny could play the guitar as it was mounted on a stand. Manzer's known for her otherworldly guitars, like the 52-string Medusa, so we shouldn't expect anything less of the master guitar builder.

#5: Earth Harp

Touted as an architectural instrument, the Earth Harp is so huge, that live listeners can literally be inside the musical device. It was built in 1999 by William Close, and while it may have taken him a while to fully master it, when he did he brought his skills to America's Got Talent in 2012, where he took home 3rd place. But his harp takes 1st place as the world's largest string instrument, with strings reaching to almost 1000 feet long. It takes a ton of work to assemble and disassemble, but while not on tour, Close keeps his Earth Harp close to his workshop, attached to a mountain in Malibu, California.

#4: Glass Harmonica

Everyone's run their finger around the rim of a glass, but it's hard to call the results “music”. In the mid 1700s, Benjamin Franklin – yes, that one – took the idea a step further, joining 37 pitched glasses together and instead of the player moving their fingers, the glasses themselves would rotate. It grew hugely popular for a short amount of time because of its heavenly crystalline sound. Unfortunately, its fragility and lack of volume made it unsuitable to play in large halls, and people gravitated towards the piano instead, leaving the glass harmonica as an endangered – but unique – instrument.

#3: Zeusaphone

This is by far the coolest looking entry so far. The Zeusaphone, or if you're more into Norse mythology, the Thoramin, are types of Tesla coils that are modulated into making music. These singing coils produce lightning and sound when they pierce the air. When merged with a MIDI interface, the coil is effectively a plasma speaker, which creates a dazzling display of melodic electricity. Soundwise, the zeusaphone sounds like a funky, old school synth, but seeing the instrument in action is another thing all together – how often do you get to see choreographed lightning?

#2: The Great Stalacpipe Organ

Heralded as one of the world's biggest instruments, the great stalacpipe organ covers approximately 3.5 acres in the Luray Caverns in Virginia. It was invented by Leland W. Sprinkle starting in 1956, when he visited the caverns with his son, and the boy banged his head on a stalactite, which emitted a hum. After shaving down rocks to get the desired notes, Sprinkle attached mallets to them and connected them to an organ console. The instrument has a range of 37 notes, and the large cave gives it a very unique sound, but you can still feel the faint echo of the cave even when listening on headphones.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:



#1: Theremin

Developed in 1920, the theremin was eventually named after its inventor, Leon Theremin. It was one of the first electronic instruments, and the first instrument played without requiring touch. The player waves one hand to affect the pitch, and the other to affect the volume. Close waves produce higher pitches, while more distance with your volume hand gives a louder note. Later joined in the horror/sci-fi department by the waterphone, the theremin was the quintessential hair-raiser back in the day, and still sounds eerie today. The lack of touch definitely adds to the creepiness, but the theremin is actually as versatile as it is novel.

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