When you think of musical instruments you likely imagine a guitar or piano, but those are just the basics. In fact, the world is full of unusual musical instruments that have been crafted and perfected over centuries and are instantly recognisable in their respective regions. However, within mainstream music, it is rare that these instruments ever get the attention they deserve, and many of them look like alterations of flutes or combinations of other instruments found in the western world.
So with that in mind, we take a look at the lesser-known instruments from around the world. We aim to show you the finest selection of instruments and explain just what they offer. Below you will be able to discover the most unusual music instruments that are found throughout different cultures and whilst all of our products are unique, these ones that I have selected are by far the most different.
An extremely unique stringed musical instrument from India. This one is similar to the guitar but features only 1 string that can be adjusted whilst playing to create something out of this world. As the pitch can be adjusted by the wooden dowel, this allows for some intense creativity. Whilst plucking the string you can create some natural phasing sounds that is amplified by the bottom chamber to create resonance. We have assorted gobijeus in a variety of colours, each one is finished in a hand painted dot design.
This multicoloured Indian instrument is fantastic for sound designers that work in TV and film, but also for music producers who are looking for something unusual for their next hit single. Stand away from the competition and do something different! Not just for professionals, these are a great instrument for general fun. Kids and beginner instrumentalists will love experimenting with it and will enjoy exploring its capabilities. A gobijeu is made from thick bamboo, wood, rope and recycled plastic.
The Erhu is a type of violin but looks very different from a conventional model. It features a drum resonator on the bottom of the instrument, usually made from a snakeskin membrane, and it can be played as a solo instrument or used as part of a small or large orchestra.
The hand carved Peruvian Tarka flute is an unusual woodwind instrument that is made by the tribes people of Peru. Each flute is colourful and has a different carving. The flute is easy to play but difficult to play well. The word ‘Tarka’ is of Hungarian origin and translates in English to ‘accurate’.
This is a word used to describe the traditional way of making the instrument. It is one of the weirdest block flutes. In fact, it is more of a recorder, although it is much shorter than the regular type which means that it will require more breath to play. The sound is darker and more penetrative, this is one of the smallest Tarka flutes but they do come in many sizes.
4. Shime daiko
The Shine Daiko is a small drum with broad drum heads. This drum is played with Bachi. The drum heads are taught thanks to the construction process where they are stretched over iron hoops, then the body, then bound to each other. As a result, this produces a much more high pitched sound to the traditional Taiko.
This retro Indian brass bulb horn is somewhat a classic, it has a vintage look and when squeezed sounds like one of those horns that come from a clowns car, or nose. It may feature a unique look in your music video or perhaps the sound will take you to the circus. It would suit a festival scene or school music class. The horn from India features a rubber handle and solid metal frame.
The classic horn is cheap to buy and is a replica of an old classic. Making a loud noise with these is simple, just squeeze the balloon shaped rubber handle. You could use this instrument as a sound effect in your music. The source of where you get your honky horn is very important, as there is a cheaper copy of this item online that is defective. With customers complaining that it doesn’t make a noise. Our honky horn is the best and we always test it before sending it out.
The Dizi is a traditional Chinese flute that has been played in the Chinese orchestra for centuries. This flute is often carved from white or coloured bamboo and has a tissue-thin membrane made from reed. This instrument has been around in Chinese culture for over 9,000 years and remains a popular, lightweight instrument for the Chinese population to learn to this day.
The Ruan is a type of lute with a fretted neck, a circular body and four strings. This instrument was initially made with 13 frets and silk strings, but the modern Ruan is made with steel strings and 24 frets with 12 semitones per string. The traditional Ruan has an ivory fretboard, but this has been swapped for steel in more modern models.
You're probably thinking I have heard of an xylophone, what is special about this one? Well, this one features stunning hand-painted flowers on top, and underneath it has resonance chambers made from naturally carved gourds. The word Rindik is a Balinese word that literally means tool, Bunga means strong connection but can also be relevant to the Bunga deity that was worshipped throughout Asia.
This is a rare to find unusual musical instrument that would make a great gift for the passionate music person. To play the Rindik Xylophone use the beaters provided and simply struck each note to a melody. Alternatively you can struck multiple notes at a time to play a chord as you would with any other instrument. We sell these at a great price. The Rindik Bunga is suited to many styles, and can even be used for orchestra style music.
These cute little woodwind instruments are handmade from clay and comes in hand painted designs. This one is small in size and is best suited for children over the age of three. In fact, the ocarina started off as a toy in Italy but was transformed by Giuseppe Donati from Budrio, into a musical instrument.
The original ocarina had a somewhat submarine style shape but this one is more rounded and the thing that makes this one look unusual is its Peruvian inspired design. This specific instrument is suitable for a beginner. Kids love it because it can be worn as a necklace and be blown as a whistle. There are many guides and resources online as well as videos of the instrument being played to give you a rough idea of what to expect.
The Koto is a half tube zephyr instrument and is regarded as the national instrument of Japan. These instruments usually have 13 strings and several moving bridges. However, they can have 17 strings in some cases. These instruments are typically made from Paulownia wood, and musicians will tend to pluck three strings to make melodies.
The Shamisen is a three-string instrument that is often used to support the kabuki. It has a small soundbox, a long, thin neck with no frets and traditional models would use dog and cat skin for the resonating body. However, more modern instruments tend to be made from plastic. These instruments are often used during puppet shows.
The cha cha shaker is a natural bracelet that is worn on the wrist or the ankle. It is made of nuts and colourful beads in Peru. They are great for parties, festivals and any occasion that is suited to making noise effortlessly. The sound is made by the nuts clanging together and sounds like pebbles clashing together in the sea water. Elasticated and will fit most wrist sizes.
The sonajas shaker is made from straw and metal. The Peruvian shaker comes in many colours and is slightly weird looking. Its design features a big closed hoop for a handle, which is perfect for a child over the age of three to grip onto and give a shake. In Spanish sonajas and sonajero translates to rattle.
This is a chordophone instrument that is helped for the lute and the arched harp. It has a large, hollow body, four melodic strings and three auxiliary strings and is played with a mixture of plucking and strumming motions. It can produce sounds on a three-octave range and is usually made from gourd or jackwood. However, more modern models are made from fibreglass.
A sarangi is a short, bow and stringed instrument which has the innate ability to mimic the human voice, producing truly unique melodic sounds. This instrument is carved from a block of red cedar wood and has three hollowed-out resonance chambers, each producing various sounds that get progressively deeper.
This Twist drum from India is similar to a monkey drum in the way that you play it, only it can be done in one hand instead of two. Featuring striped assorted colours. The damaru is one of the smallest Indian drums. The next size up would be a dholak, then a dhol and finally a fancy drum.
This double reeded Japanese flute is revered as a sacred instrument and usually features in Shinto wedding ceremonies. It is crafted like an oboe but sounds more like a clarinet due to the cylindrical bore and bamboo. The sound of this instrument is regularly described as 'haunting'.
The Tonkori is a plucked string instrument that is constructed in the shape of a sword. It has a long neck with no frets, five strings, is made from Jezo spruce wood, strings made from deer tendon and during construction, a pebble is placed within the body cavity of the instrument, granting it a soul.
Hear the thunder roar. This is not your usual drum. The thunder drum is not played the same way as other drums. It consists of a tubular shape made from hardened cardboard with a metal spring in the centre. The bottom features recycled PVC which amplifies the sound when knocked.
To play this instrument simply hold it up and allow the spring to move around creating the fascinating sound effects of thunder. Looking at the instrument it is difficult to comprehend the sound. This is a must have instrument for any sound designer and uses a similar concept to the spring sound that brought you Star Wars.
A Pipa is a stringed instrument modelled after the lute and is often called the 'Chinese Lute'. This instrument can be crafted in many ways and can have anywhere from 12 to 31 frets. This instrument is played by plucking the various strings and was played in modern music by bands like Bjork and Incubus.
The Gujin, or 'the instrument of the sages', is a long, seven-string, plucked instrument played in ancient Chinese culture. This instrument is without frets but has a movable bridge underneath each string. This instrument was showcased at the Beijing Olympic opening ceremony, and a version of this instrument called a Song Period was sold for $22 million in 2010.
The Sanxian is another lute style instrument with a substantial, fretless neck, three strings and a small body commonly made from snakeskin. This instrument can be strummed or plucked and has a sound that is not too dissimilar to a Banjo.
The Yangqin is an instrument that will remind readers of a much larger, more complex xylophone. You also use a beater or hammer to play notes traditionally with bronze or silk strings to play this instrument. This instrument has a soft timbre and is also popular in Pakistan, India and Iraq.
The Xun is an egg-shaped instrument traditionally made from clay or bone and has been present in Chinese culture for over 7,000 years. The instrument is played like a flute, with a blowhole at the top and six finger holes around the instrument's body. This was an instrument that was used to play ambient music in palaces.
The Liuqun is known as the Chinese Mandolin, comes in three, four and five-string variants. This instrument is very similar in size and shape to the Pipa and is commonly made of Willow wood. It was prominent within Chinese Opera and had a lower tone than the Pipa.
A caxixi shaker is a hand woven basket shaped music percussion instrument filled with small pebbles and seeds. Usually made from rattan and originating in Ghana, Africa. The bottom of the African instrument is traditionally made from a naturally dried gourd. The percussive instrument sounds similar to a maraca only it is a lot more bright and colourful in comparison to others that you may find. When it is shaken it works the same way as an indirect struck idiophone
The Suona, otherwise known as a Lada or Haidi, is a double seeded horn. This is typically formed from brass or copper and can produce a distinctive high pitched and loud sound. This instrument is suitable for Chinese folk music and military purposes.
The Banhu is a distinctive looking two-string lute style instrument that looks like a key thanks to its long neck and two protruding tuning keys at the top. The body is commonly made from coconut shells, is played with a bow and is most commonly seen in Northern China.
The Gong is easily the most recognisable Chinese traditional instrument. This is a large hanging cymbal typically made from bronze or brass that are played by the musician striking the metal disc with a hammer or mallet. There are sixteen varieties of traditional Chinese Gong in existence, and the instrument dates back to the sixth century.
The Huqin, or the Chinese Spike Fiddle, is another member of the bow-played instrument family. This instrument has a small octagonal soundbox and two strings. The three types of Huqin are the Erhu, the zhonghu and the gaohu.
This is another bowed stringed instrument that has two strings, a small, round soundbox, and a neck made typically from hardwood and is commonly adorned with a dragon head ornament. This instrument is most commonly associated with Cantonese music and Opera.
We begin with the instrument that most of you will be aware of: The Sitar is a plucked instrument that originated in the 16th century. This instrument usually has 21 strings, two bridges, is often made of Teak and has featured in popular western music, such in songs by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
Tabla is a pair of hand made drums, one smaller than the other. These are commonly made of wood, clay or metal, and the smaller drum is used to create tonal and treble sounds, whereas the bigger drum acts as the bass drum. These are often personalised with rings and wooden dowels, which can help adjust the tone of the drums.
The Tambura is a long-necked string instrument that is similar in shape to a lute or a banjo. This instrument is somewhat similar to bass in that it doesn't produce melodies but instead produces drones or harmonies that support the vocalist in musical performances. This instrument has four strings, no frets and usually has metal strings.
The didgeridoo was originally developed in Australia, 1500 years ago. Now it is used worldwide and comes in many different styles and designs, our didgeridoo for example is made from suar wood and is hand painted in a dotted design. It is not the easiest instrument to play and will require you to practice circular breathing techniques. This will allow you to get the right sound. Didgeridoos are also known as Didjeridu, yiḏaki, mandapul and mago.
They have a rich history and are suited to many genres such as jazz, rock, blues, hip-hop, funk, punk, rap, electronic, dance, trance and world music. Most didgeridoos are long but this one in particular is spiralled making it more space efficient, allowing you to put the instrument away when not in use. For beginners a lot of practice is needed. The didgeridoo can be used by music producers to produce backing tracks and yoga practitioners who are skilled can use it for leading a group to promote healing. This specific instrument is tuned to the key of C/D and the frequency range is between 50-200hz.
The Dholak is not too dissimilar to the above entry. This musical instrument is also a drum made with a mix of buffalo skin, goatskin and mango wood. However, the larger drum head is played with a stick making this one slightly different and offering a deeper sound. It is combined with the smaller drum head that produces a high pitched noise.
You might know what a guiro is but what about a guiro rasp? Very different to the traditional guiro, made from bamboo, and comes with an attached bamboo stick. It’s long, and by definition it is a musical instrument with a serrated surface which gives a rasping sound when scraped with a stick. The term rasp also describes the shape or the instrument which looks similar to the metal hand tool that is used to shape wood.
The Mridangam is a long percussion instrument not too dissimilar to a bongo. This drum originated back in ancient times, is often made with hollowed-out jack fruitwood and is often accompanied by instruments like the Ghatam, kanjira and morsing.
Then you have the Dhol drum, which is another drum that offers a middle ground between the Dholak and the Tabla. This drum offers a heavy bass sound and has animal hides for drum heads, and these skins can be stretched or loosened with a tightening mechanism to change the drum's tone. These drums can be made from wood, steel, plastic or fibreglass.
The blessed shamanic drum is suited to rituals, spiritual healing and gatherings around the fire. It can be used in dance, for birthing or to improve sleep. As the dream is beaten, it will take you on a music journey. If the drum is used correctly, it can put you in a trance like state and can have many benefits to health. A shaman means ‘one who knows’ and it is someone who perform a function based on their religious beliefs and cultures. These include healing, leading a sacrifice, fortune telling and preserving the historic tradition through storytelling and music. These drums come plain, painted or in a tribe style. Each one comes with a rustic wooden drum beater.
Shamanic drums are popular all over the world and whilst ours are made in Indonesia, they can also be found throughout australia. We also have shamanic rattle shakers that are suited to the same occasions and will complement well, although these are a lot less effective than a drum. Unfortunately, these are built the traditional way using animal hide and therefore are not vegan friendly. If you want to use these drums to lead a group of people for healing purpose you will need to take a training course which will also teach you many playing rhythm techniques. It is also advised to protect your framed drum in a protective case if possible.
A Shipibo Shaker is a tribal shaker from South America. More specifically, made in the Shipibo region. Each instrument is handmade by the Panoan people of Peru living near the Ucayali river valley. It sounds like any other shaker with a slight grittiness to it. It has been rising in popularity over the past few years, and this is put down to the unique depicted designs of animals, hummingbird, and abstract designs as well as the natural sustainability of this shaker.
A Bansuri is a bamboo flute that is played sideways and is often heard within Indian classical music. This instrument can have six or seven finger holes, cover two and a half octaves, and offer deeper, lower tones than other traditional flutes.
The Ghatam, otherwise known as the Water Jug, is a percussion instrument synonymous with Punjab music. This clay pot has a narrow mouth, even walls to make the tone consistent and an outward-facing ridge with copper or iron fillings. These pots are filled with water to change the pitch of the pot when struck.
The Kanjira or the South Indian Frame drum is a form of tambourine with a single pairing of jingles and is often played to support the percussion of a Mridangam. The Kanjira is usually made from Jack Fruitwood and often has a drum head made of lizard skin.
This instrument is a two-sided terracotta drum with one large drum head and one tiny one. The heads are often made from cow or goat hide and are triple-layered with rice paste, glue and iron. This instrument is most common within the Bengal region and is played with the palms and fingers.
This music instrument is an end-blown flute traditionally made of bamboo. This instrument was popular from the 7th to the 10th century and had a renaissance in the 15th century. This instrument is tuned to the minor pentatonic scale and is considered superior in tonal quality and volume to other flutes of the region.
The Biwa is a pear-shaped, lute styled instrument that is commonly used to accompany narrative storytelling. The Biwa tends to have four or sometimes five strings and originated in the 7th century. This instrument is also usually played with a Bachi instead of with fingers.
Taiko is a broad term for any traditional Japanese drum. These drums are meticulously handcrafted and can take years to manufacture. The drum base tends to be made from a dried-out trunk of a zelkova tree, and then the drum heads are usually made with cowhide. These are usually played alongside vocals, woodwind and string instruments.
Nohkan is another Japanese flute that is made from bamboo traditionally. It was first seen in the 15th century and was synonymous with Kabuki theatre. It is constructed with a mix of tapered smoked and burned bamboo to improve the acoustic sound, and the instrument has seven finger holes.
This extraordinary lotus clacker features a handle and three parts that have been carefully crafted, carved and hollowed. When hit by a stick the sound is unusual, the instrument as a whole is strong. This instrument gives you a truly remarkable sound from Vietnam.
The most unusual thing about it is how it looks, and as you take a closer look it becomes even more strange. Making a sound is easy, but you will find instructions on how to play the instrument properly on YouTube. The woodwind instrument is not currently for sale as it is out of stock but it will be back in soon.
The Shinobue is another Japanese flute that is best known for its unique high pitched sound. It is traditionally made from bamboo or hardwood, has seven finger holes and can be played as an ensemble or solo.
The Tsuzumi is an hourglass-shaped Japanese drum with two drum heads and a series of cords that can be pulled tight or let loose to alter the drum's tone. The base is traditionally made of cherry wood, while the drum heads are made with horsehide.
The Sanshin is often referred to as the Japanese Banjo, and rightly so. The shape and design are very similar to the mainstream instrument, and the sound is similar too. However, the instrument only has three strings, commonly has a resonating body made of snakeskin from a Burmese Python. The wooden frame is usually made from an Okinawan Ebony tree.
The Kakko is a traditional Japanese drum often laid on its side, supported by two stands. The drum is played with beaters known as Bachi instead of the palms and fingers of the hand. This drum varies from a traditional Taiko as the skin on the drum head is always taut to produce a consistent sound.
55. Wooden fish
The wooden fish is a percussion instrument also known as a temple block used by monks in east Asia. It was mainly used for religious ceremonies and scripture reading and would often be used as a metronome for those partaking in Sutra chanting.
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