Top 5 Off-The-Wall Musical Instruments In Regular Use

Categories: WTF Island

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John Cage is playing a cactus. Your argument is irrelevant.

Last year at Free Press Summer Fest, we saw Stars haul out this little thingy that was basically a tiny keyboard with a mouthpiece you could blow into. It was the first time we'd ever seen a melodica played live. Since then, Rocks Off been kind of obsessed with weird, custom instruments.

Here are five of the most unusual.


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The array mbira was invented by a guy named Bill Wesley, basing it on the design of a Zimbabwean instrument called the mbira. Did you ever run across one of those coil-spring doorstops when you were a kid and spend an hour or two plucking at it because it made such an awesome boinggggg?

Well, the array mbirra works on the same principle, with flat, rounded carbon springs bolted to the instrument and plucked in a similar manner. It kind of sounds like a snappier marimba.

Who Plays It? Imogen Heap (fast-forward to 2:20 to see her play it); Ry Cooder.


Based on the ages-old principle of filling many glasses up with different amounts of water to get a chromatic tone scale, the glass armonica is perhaps the most uniquely American instrument on this list because its standard incarnation was invented by none other than Benjamin Franklin.

Yes, just like the alpha-bro douche who hauls out his guitar at every party and plays Sublime covers to impress the frat girls, we can't help but imagine Franklin wheeling out this bizarre cross between a sewing machine and a pottery wheel and bellowing "Who wants to hear the latest Joseph fuckin' Haydn jam, bitches?" before sitting down and wailing away on this spinning column of glass bowls while nearby ladies swooned and Thomas Jefferson and John Adams rolled their eyes.

"Oh and by the way... I invented this thing. That's right." That Ben Franklin was one smooth operator.

Who Plays It? Tom Waits, Damon Albarn, one of the original authors of the American Constitution... ladieeeees.

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While it's nice to fill a wall with the instruments used, a signed piece of valuable collection or two to update the value of your wall. Visit an auction or two and keep your eyes open for the musician-signed guitars and other instruments.


I used to play musical instruments since then especially the violin. I love music actually. In fact, I can't sleep without music. By this I can reminisce the beautiful happenings in my life.

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In the past era musical instruments are very unique. They could play music even with just a leaf. Today almost all musical instruments are ran by electricity. You could see these on band concerts.

Marc Brubaker
Marc Brubaker

Mute Math calls that thing "The Atari" and it was custom made by a friend of theirs. It's not really part theremin, the neck is pressure sensitive - like the pad on a keytar - and the knobs do god knows what exactly, but are used to manipulate things like pitch & volume.

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