Five Intriguingly Unique Musical Instruments

Posted in: Instruments by CHAN LEE PENG on February 7th, 2008 | 13 Comments

Here are some unique and peculiarly odd musical instruments that all have interesting stories and traditions behind them.

Australian Blowpipe: Didgeridoo

This musical instrument originated from the indigenous peoples coming from the northern part of Australia. It is called a “didgeridoo”. It was first created using the trunk of a eucalyptus tree which had had its inner plant cells completely eaten by the ants, so that it would create a mysterious buzzing sound when blowing through it. Most musical scholars believe that this is the most ancient musical instrument. Its origin can be tracked back to nearly 40,000 years ago.

When blowing through this instrument, one trembles the lips and mouth in order to make the traditional sounds. Its sound brings to mind an in-depth resonance of the earth if it is played properly. Modern research has revealed that blowing through this instrument can help in the treatment of snoring and shortness of breathe, as it is found to be very useful when used to exercise the related respiratory muscles.

Glass Piano

This odd musical instrument was invented by Benjamin Franklin in 1761. He once declared: “In all my inventions, this glass piano satisfied me a lot.” He had the idea to invent this instrument when he found that friction at the mouth of the glass bottle with water inside it could create some unusual musical sounds. Franklin then took advantage of this principle by inventing a glass bottle that could be rotated by his legs while he used moist hands to “play” the bottles, creating unique musical sounds. It is alleged that Mozart liked this type of instrument so much that he specifically composed two songs for the glass piano.


This instrument was invented by Greek shepherds about 2000 years ago and is made with goat’s skin. It shrinks to become a flat mat when it is not inflated, but when blowing through it, it will expand to its full size. It has a short tube used to play with the mouth, while the other part is a wider tube with holes for the fingers. Unique melodies and musical tones are created when playing this traditional instrument.

Hand Drum

Eight years ago, the Swiss invented this unusual instrument whose outer appearance somehow resembles a strange UFO flying saucer. It is made of metal and the sound is created when the fingers and palms are used to hit percussively against the instrument. Its tone can change in accordance with the force of the hands. Some have said that this instrument can sound like an additional performer on the stage.


This is one of the legendary Java musical instruments said to have been invented by the Sang Hyang guru 230 years ago. This instrument is played by hitting two rows of alternately arranged and tuned drums with each drum creating the different musical notes. The sound of these drums are somewhat similar to bells or chimes.

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13 Responses to “Five Intriguingly Unique Musical Instruments”
  • Judy Sheldon February 7th, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    Chan this is a wonderful and intriguing article about musical instruments I have never heard of or seen before. Fascinating. I’d learned much from this.

  • valli February 8th, 2008 at 12:37 am

    Fascinating article, Chan. Really I have never heard of these peculiar musical instruments.

  • IcyCucky February 8th, 2008 at 8:21 am

    It’s a wonderful article, complete with music too. Thanks

  • Darlene McFarlane February 8th, 2008 at 8:59 am

    Very interesting, Chan! This is an informative and fun article and I had fun reading it.

  • Alexa Gates February 10th, 2008 at 9:38 am

    i never knew of any of these instruments!

  • markb120 February 12th, 2008 at 11:41 am

    I reposted it in Russian here –

  • lanne February 12th, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    Fun and informative article Chan.

  • The Elder Dan February 12th, 2008 at 6:53 pm

    The glass piano is frequently also referred to as a glass harmonica. After hearing about it in college, I always wanted to see one, and finally did in 2001 – the musical instruments collection at the Kunsthistoriches Museum in Vienna, Austria has one on display. Just beautiful. But a difficult instrument to become good at, apparently: the constant vibration of the glass under your fingertips eventually produces carpal-tunnel-syndrome symptoms.

  • John February 12th, 2008 at 10:54 pm

    This is a nice collection of musical instruments. Having the sound video adds a great deal, thanks. The Swiss hand drum is a rip off of the Jamaican pan which has been made and used in the Caribbean for 50 or more years.

  • Kevin February 14th, 2008 at 3:09 am

    For the Bonang’s when paired with other javanese instruments, it could be called a Gamelan orchestra. It’s a staple of javanese musics for centuries now…

  • Jake85 February 18th, 2008 at 4:53 am

    Great article man, very funny too!

  • Pat August 27th, 2011 at 12:19 am

    Franklin’s instrument is called a “Glass Armonica.”

    I had the honor of listening to a concert, including “The Flight of the Bumblebee”.

    The concert took place in 1998? at the Calgary Piano Museum.

    The gentleman who owned his homebuilt Armonica played for Linda Ronstadt on one of her albums.

  • steve January 5th, 2012 at 11:13 pm

    i agree this article is very good i am famiular w almost all of the insterments u posted . the only one i had not had the pleasure of hearing was the one from greace very nice keep up the good work. stephen oldwolf

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