We applaud anyone who takes on the challenge of learning a musical instrument, no matter what it is. New artists continue to show us that the guitar, bass, and drums are still just as powerful as they were when the early blues musicians first picked them up. However, there’s nothing limiting you to those basic instruments, either. The musical instrument world is full of wild and wonderful experiments, some of which have fared better in popular culture than others.
- Hurdy Gurdy (Wheel Fiddle) : The hurdy gurdy looks like someone took their favorite instruments and threw them together in order to create something new. However, it actually originated sometime before the 11th century A.D., and was a popular instrument by the Renaissance. The instrument looks like a fiddle with a crank-turned wheel attachedthe wheel rubs the strings to produce sound, while a keyboard on the instrument changes the pitch of the strings.
- Tesla coils (Zeusaphone): Sometime around 1891, Nikola Tesla invented these resonant transformer circuits, which can be used to produce high voltage, currents, and frequencies of alternating current electricity. AS a 2007 performance of the Super Mario Bros. theme song showed us, they can also be used to produce music. This is done by modulating the break ratte of the system with MIDI data and a control unit.
- Chapman Stick: Jazz musician Emmett Chapman came up with the Chapman Stick in the 1970s, after developing a two-handed “Free Hands” tapping method. “Free Hands” players play with both hands perpendicular to the stringsthe Chapman Stick facilitates this playing. Looking very much like a wide electric guitar fretboard (with 8, 10, or 12 strings), the Stick can play numerous notes at once, putting it more in the family of keyboards than stringed instruments.
- Daxophone: Improvisational guitarist and experimental luthier Hans Reichel is behind this unique instrument, which consists of a wooden blade fixed within a wooden block. The block also contains one or more contact microphones. The instrument is usually played with a bow on the free endhowever, some players strike or pluck the end. The blade can be swapped out to produce different timbres. For an example of this type of music, check out Dandelion Fiction’s free release You’re A Strong One, available on www.archive.org.
You’re unlikely to find many teachers for these instruments, so be prepared for a lot of trial and error if you do decide to take one up. But then again, experimentation is the name of the game here.