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.
THE BEST Musical Instruments
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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’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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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