Everyone has heard of guitars, pianos, drums, trumpets, and other common instruments that you see everywhere. But did you know there are well over 1500 kinds of musical instruments in the world? That means there are probably a lot of unique, beautiful instruments out there that you haven’t heard about before! So today, let’s take a look at some instruments you have likely never heard about.
The first instrument we will take a look at is the kalimba. It is a small hand-held instrument that originated in Africa, and it sounds like a music box when played. It is relatively simple, being a wooden box with metal tines that are meant to be plucked with the thumbs. Because of that, it is also often referred to as a “thumb piano”.
Kalimbas are relatively easy to learn, as the music has a tab system much like a guitar. It is possible to purchase one and learn to play simple music the day you buy it.
Personally, I am a bit biased towards these; I own one myself and it is an absolute delight to play! The sound that comes from these is so unique and if you have even just a slight interest in these after watching videos of them being played, you won’t regret picking one up. The one I purchased as my first kalimba is this one, and it has performed very well for me.
Aztec in origin, tongue drums are very different than what you would normally think of as a drum. It sounds much more like a piano, and is not used the same way a “typical” drum would be used. The steel variants of these instruments are a very recent invention; these drums were originally made of wood, and were more rectangular or log-shaped than the circular shape on these more recent drums.
This is another relatively easy instrument to learn if you pick up a steel one, because most of them also use a tab system that corresponds with the numbers on the drum; though it is read a bit differently than guitar tabs.
The didgeridoo is a wind instrument that was created by indigenous Australian people. They were originally made of bamboo, and are played by blowing into the top of the instrument. Didgeridoos may look easy to play, but it actually takes a very specific technique to get the sound that comes out of the instrument, and it is something that takes practice. These instruments, in their traditional forms, hold a lot of significance in the cultures that use them and they are often used in cultural ceremonies.
The dulcimer is an interesting string instrument. There are a few types that are played in different ways, but we are going to talk about the hammered dulcimer. This instrument consists of a wooden body with strings that you tap with a small “hammer” to play. Modifying the hammers can completely change the sound of the instrument.
These instruments were very popular in the Middle Ages in some European countries, and you can still find them today.
Here’s an instrument you have likely heard somewhere in music but have never had a name for; the Japanese biwa. This string instrument has a very unique sound that many people will associate with traditional Japanese music and storytelling immediately upon hearing it, and that is because that is exactly what it is used for!
This instrument is heavily based on the Chinese pipa, but it is played slightly differently in that the strings are plucked with a bachi, which you can see in the video, while the pipa is played with the fingers.
What are your thoughts on these unique instruments? Would you like to play them yourself?