THE BEST Musical Instruments

The Baroque Theorbo

The Baroque Theorbo

Here’s an unusual musical instrument we never heard of before now. Created in the 17th century, the enormous baroque theorbo is basically a lute on steroids. Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and lutenist Elizabeth Kenny explain the history of the theorbo, and provide a sampling of the sounds that it produces.

Popsicle Stick Kalimba

Popsicle Stick Kalimba

The kalimba is a small musical instrument that’s played by thumping your fingers on its springy metal keys. But the same idea can be DIYed using a bunch of popsicle sticks, screwed in place at varying lengths along a board. Mr. Mash shows off his homemade instrument, along with an abridged version of his how-to video.

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Typewriter Orchestra at Home

Typewriter Orchestra at Home

Typewriters have gone the way of the dinosaur, rarely used by anyone but the most hipster of writers these days. But the Boston Typewriter Orchestra continues to get use out of these mechanical office relics, even when forced to work from home due to their in-person concerts being canceled.

Klavins Vertical Pianos

Klavins Vertical Pianos

David Klavins builds musical instruments unlike any other. Combining design elements from upright and concert grand pianos, he builds modern, vertically-oriented instruments, including the world’s tallest piano, measuring 15 feet tall. Great Big Story went inside of Klavins’ workshop for a demo of these impressive pianos.

World’s Horniest Truck

World’s Horniest Truck

The yellow machine you’re looking at is “Le Mécanophone,” otherwise known as a 1935 Citroën truck, equipped with 42 different car horns. But this thing doesn’t just beep, it’s basically a calliope on wheels. We want one of these just so we can honk at traffic all day long.

Burger + Fries Musical Instruments

Burger + Fries Musical Instruments

Made by Japanese toy company Kiko+ and gg, this beech wood burger and fries are designed for kids, but we’d be happy to play with our food too. The cheeseburger clacks like a castanet, while the fries make the sounds of maracas. We want one of their telephones for our desk too.

offGrid Music Controller

offGrid Music Controller

This pocketable, palm-size gadget is a real-time performance controller for MIDI- or OSC-compatible music software. It has two backlit, velocity sensitive pad grids, an accelerometer, gyroscope, and a joystick for adding expression to your digital music. Pairs with iOS, Android, MacOS, and Windows via Bluetooth LE or USB Type-C.

Playing Other Instruments on a Violin

Playing Other Instruments on a Violin

You’d think that a violin could only sound like a violin, but OddViolin proves that wrong by making his sound like a flute, harmonica, cello, and even bagpipes. Previously, he convinced the string instrument to sound like animals and make various sound effects.

The Plantyflutsizer

The Plantyflutsizer

Artist and musician Bichopalo makes unusual electromechanical musical instruments which incorporate organic shapes and plant life. At the center of the magical Plantyflutesizer is a spherical birdhouse, where his avian pals Pico and Verdi take up residence and enjoy a soothing ambient tune.

MIDI-Controlled Pipe Organ

MIDI-Controlled Pipe Organ

With help from the Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago, musician Rob Scallon got to check out how a pipe organ works, and noticed that the one they have is capable of outputting MIDI signals. After a bit of experimenting, he figured out its keyboard and pedals can also be controlled via the digital music protocol.

Making a Literal Steel Guitar

Making a Literal Steel Guitar

There’s a musical instrument called a steel guitar, but it’s named for its metal slide, and not the material it’s made from. But metalsmith Paul Pinto decided to actually make a guitar out of the weighty metal. Watch as he cuts, welds, forges, and grinds a steel plate into a beautiful chrome-plated instrument. Now how does it sound?

Making a Sword Lap Guitar

Making a Sword Lap Guitar

Scrap wood City wanted to make a sword out of wood. But rather than just build a weapon, he created a funky musical instrument instead. The three-stringed electric lap guitar features brass and copper hardware, and can be played with a slide like a steel guitar.

LEGO Microtonal Guitar

LEGO Microtonal Guitar

Musician Tolgahan Çoğulu shows off a unique instrument he put together after his son Atlas gave him the idea. The acoustic guitar uses LEGO studs all along its neck, allowing for microtonal positions throughout the fretboard. The trick was to build a custom 3D printed baseplate for the LEGO bricks to click onto.

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Jamstik 7 Guitar Trainer

This high-tech training tool helps anyone learn to play guitar. The digital instrument features real guitar strings, and works with a companion app to play sounds and provide feedback on your performance. Available in righty and lefty versions. Save an extra 15% with code HAPPYHOLIDAYS (exp. 12/25/19 at 11:59pm PST)

Light-up Banjo Ukuleles

Light-up Banjo Ukuleles

Colorful, see-through Little Gem banjo ukuleles are fun to play and super fun to look at, especially the new light-up model with three LED settings, including sound-activated. It’s plastic but it’s a serious instrument, well-built with a maple neck, sealed tuners and USB charging cable. A NAMM “Best in Show” winner.

BOSS SY-1000 Guitar Synth

BOSS SY-1000 Guitar Synth

This amazing gadget for guitarists takes the analog sounds of your instrument and layers them with thick synthesized enhancements. The Boss Synth SY-1000 pedalboard gives guitars a whole new range of capability, with its sophisticated sound engine, and the ability to produce a mix of rich acoustic and electric tones.

The Anarchestra Revisited

The Anarchestra Revisited

A few years back, we learned about musician and artist Andy Thurlow’s collection of unique musical instruments, known as The Anarchestra. Documentarian Daniel Wolverton of Special Head returns to visit with Andy and check out some of the strange and wonderful noise makers he’s built in the past few years.

Orba Musical Instrument

Orba Musical Instrument

Artiphon’s Orba is a unique instrument that is sort of the musical equivalent of a fidget spinner. It combines a synthesizer, looper, and MIDI controller all in one, and is small enough to hold in the palm of your hand. It’s great for tinkering around with all kinds of sounds whether you’re bored or working on your next great composition.

Expressive E Osmose Keyboard

Expressive E Osmose Keyboard

Expressive E’s keyboard gives musicians an incredible amount of expressiveness, with each key capturing subtle movements that influence pitch, loudness, and many other attributes. It works in concert with a robust sound engine by Haken Audio to produce amazingly warm and enveloping sounds. It also works as a MIDI controller.

36-String Bass Solo

36-String Bass Solo

A while back, musician Davie504 performed a solo on a crazy 24-string bass guitar. Now, he’s back to blow up his prior record with an even more insane instrument – a bass with 36 strings. You’re gonna need some extra fingers next time, Davie.

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Zoom V6 Vocal Processor

Zoom V6 Vocal Processor

Are you a singer? Zoom’s foot pedal gadget offers up a ton of useful performance features, including a variety of vocal effects, from tweaking octaves, to adding harmonies, to pitch correction, to reverb, chorus, and a formant pedal for adjusting vocal texture, It’s also got a built-in looper for up to 3:30 of recording.

Jew’s Harp Orchestra

Jew’s Harp Orchestra

With its twangy mouth sounds, Jew’s harp (aka “jaw harp”) is one of the stranger instruments out there. For the most part, it’s an instrument that’s played by one musician at a time, but this ensemble of 30 or so harp players in Russia occasionally gets together to perform as a group, and the layered sound they make is wild.

Sansula Master

Sansula Master

Percussionist Conny Sommer is an expert at playing a variety of instruments, including the kalimba and the sansula, both of which are playing by plucking metal keys with the fingertips. We’re amazed by the finesse he’s able to get out of such a simple instrument.

How Zildjian Cymbals Are Made

How Zildjian Cymbals Are Made

Go on a fascinating journey through Zildjian’s Norwell, MA factory, home of the world’s most sought after cymbals. Watch as metal castings are flattened, trimmed, hammered, milled, and gradually worked into the ideal shape for producing the perfect sound. We love that they didn’t cover up the factory sounds with music.

Lekholm DM48 MIDI Harmonica

Lekholm DM48 MIDI Harmonica

Like a real harmonica, Lekholm’s musical tech senses its player’s breathing both in and out, but it outputs those modulations as MIDI signals for controlling synthesizers. The example performance is Cole Porter’s You’d Be So Nice to Come Home to, using a Yamaha VL70-m acoustic sound module.

The Smash-Proof Guitar

The Smash-Proof Guitar

Sandvik created what it believes is a nearly indestructible guitar. Its body was 3D printed out of titanium, while its neck, fretboard and hub were milled from stainless steel. They let prolific axe wrecker Yngwie Malsmsteen put it to the test.

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