Music is completely subjective. Not everyone has to like a certain song to understand how quality the composition is. In the same regard, not every instrument requires traditional craftsmanship in order to produce beautiful and engaging sounds. In fact, some of the most incredible instruments ever made have never been heard of by the majority of music lovers.
That’s why we’re shining a light on eight of the most inconceivable musical instruments our readers never imagined, with this collection of eye-popping videos. Seriously, some of these are so beyond a basic trumpet or bass guitar, there’s no way the concept could’ve crossed someone’s mind. Someone who’s not a recluse, instrument-making mastermind, that is. Frankly, these fine-tuned pieces of audible art deserve more than YouTube love.
Whether it’s an experimental homemade instrument or something more fancy that actually requires power, each one of these invigorating devices has an impressive innovation story and will surely leave you wondering why bands don’t get more creative when picking their members.
If the concept of playing drums ever seemed overwhelming, wait until you see the Chopstick Piano in use. Assembled by Tokyo-based composer Sami Elu, this impressive apparatus is made completely from recycled instruments. Albeit a bit rough around the edges visually, the beauty in the Chopstick Piano is how it offers both percussion and string sounds in one device. They can be played separately, or together, if you’re a musical and multi-tasking genius. Complexity aside, the sounds this thing can make are euphoric.
The Marble Machine might look like the cover from Jay Z’s Blueprint 3 album come to life, but the sound it produces is far from hip-hop. Fueled by a huge crank that triggers manually programmed melodies with highways of marbles, this masterful invention from Swedish musician Martin Molin takes the old game Marble Madness to new heights. Watch the video for “Marble Machine” from Molin’s band Wintergatan above and keep in mind, a Marble Machine 2.0 is in the works, according to their website. Hello.
There are a few videos online about the Zeusaphone and they all look insane. Named after the famous Greek god Zeus, this lightning bolt hurling instrument makes music through Tesla coils — whatever the hell those are. Apparently, wild-eyed musicians can hook up a MIDI-based synthesizer or computer to the base device and the Zeusaphone will spit out music with a shocking delivery, along with an accompanying light show to boot. Pretty wicked.
First off, I could watch the first five seconds of this Photoplayer video demonstration from California’s Gold with Huell Howser, at least a hundred times in a row. From the moment Huell finally gets to utter the phrase, “Hit it Joe!” and Joe Rinaudo begins to conduct his massive Photoplayer, magic is in the air. Featuring more levers than an auto factory and a piano that somehow manages to play itself, this magnificent concoction of contained chaos was originally used to make music for Disney cartoons, which is blatantly obvious when you hear the instrument being played.
As the story goes, Björk went to M.I.T. in 2010, in search of someone to help her build “a new instrument that would harness the force of nature.” That’s where she met Andy Cavatorta, a sound and robotics sculptor who jumped at the chance to help her build what would become the Gravity Harp, a massive harp fueled by the movement of pendulums. Despite being 20 feet high and weighing a total of 800 pounds, this one of kind instrument still managed to tour the world as part of the Icelandic singer’s Biophilia tour, adding rich and vibrant layers to her avant-garde pop tunes. Hate to be her roadie.
Pipe Guy kind of blew my mind. This bearded street musician turned YouTube sensation simply took a bunch of PVC pipes and cut them in various lengths to get different pitches. Then he twisted them together into something he can carry around on the subway and voila, he’s flawlessly reproducing Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” beat with his hands and a flip-flop. Sure, Pipe Guy might’ve gotten the idea from Blue Man Group and his set up might not be as elaborate, but he’s doing so much more with so much less.
The Alphasphere might look like a futuristic Nerf toy, but this digital fireball actually packs quite an arsenal of sound. Just hook it up to a CPU, pick your MIDI instrument and start playing the pads. They’ve each got give, offering various styles of sound, depending on the pressure sensitivity. Instead of a traditional piano layout, key patterns can be placed in user-generated patterns along the AlphaSphere, allowing owners to easily play perfect fifths from dueling pads or make custom-mapped instruments. Plus, this bad boy can be used as a sampler, to boot. If you’re holding your credit card and foaming at the mouth, click here to buy the AlphaShere for your own studio.
The Majestic Bellowphone is a lot of things, but majestic is not necessarily one of them. First off, this eclectic eyesore looks like a future bazooka with balloons tied to it. More importantly, the vibe this makeshift musical instrument produces is more fitting for a 3-year-old’s birthday party than anything with a truly majestic setting. The Bellowphone makes Johannes Brahms’ Hungarian Dance #5 sound like a speeding clown car. Still, you simply can’t be mad at someone for making this crazy looking monstrosity, then taking so much pride in it.