Making music is one of the great joys of life, and since the dawn of time people have come up with ingenious ways to get melodies out of a variety of objects and materials. Whether you became a carrot flute expert during lockdown or are looking forward to getting your hands on a 3D-printed viola, we hope you enjoy our playlist of unique and somewhat odd instruments.

1 Tromba marina

The tromba marina, also known as trumpet marine or nun's fiddle, was a popular instrument in Renaissance Europe. Women weren't allowed to play the trumpet due to the military nature of that instrument, so nuns would often substitute it with this string instrument. The unusual construction of its bridge means that the tromba marina produces in fact a trumpet-like sound when played. Don't believe us? Listen below and let us know what you think.

2 Theremin

You might be familiar with this instrument if you are a fan of Bohuslav Martinů or Percy Grainger, but even if the theremin is not a complete stranger to the concert hall, it still merits a place in our top ten due to the fact that it's an instrument you play without actually touching it. Invented by a Russian physicist in a government-sponsored research into proximity sensors, this instrument has two metal antennas that detect the player's hand movements and transform them into sound. What's not amazing about that?

3 Nyckelharpa

The nyckelharpa is a traditional Swedish instrument, although it was popular all across Europe in the 14th century. It features 16 strings and 37 wooden keys and it is played using a bow with the right hand, while pushing the keys with the left. The usage of this unique-looking folk instrument had nearly died out in the early 20th century, but thanks to the effort of Swedish nyckelharpa player Eric Sahlström, it was brought back into usage and now counts over 10,000 professional players in Sweden alone.

4 Octobass

The octobass was invented in France in the 1800s and is able to play notes at a frequency that goes below what humans can hear. The first orchestra in the world to feature this colossal instrument in its roster is the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal due to the fact that Kent Nagano wanted to fill a then-vacant range of low frequencies that only the lowest-sounding pipes of the Grand Orgue Pierre-Béique could supply. To explain how deep we are talking: the A to which the orchestra tunes vibrates at a frequency of 442 Hz, while the lowest note of an octobass does so at roughly 25 Hz.

5 Wheelharp

The wheelharp might look like a period instrument, and it indeed shares similarities with Leonardo da Vinci's viola organista, but it actually debuted in 2013 at a musical trade show in the United States. It is played by rubbing bowed strings with spinning wheels, powered by a treadle moved by a foot-controlled motor. Emmy Award-winning English film and television composer Nicholas Pike used this eerie-sounding instrument for the soundtrack of the horror film Devil May Call.

6 Jaw's harp

The jaw's harp, also known as jew's harp, scacciapensieri, mouth harp and a hundred more names, is made by a thin wooden or metal reed fixed at one end to the base of a two-pronged frame. The player uses the cavity of their own mouth to create resonance and moves the reed either by plucking it or by pulling a string attached to it. The history of this instrument goes all the way back to China in the 1800s BC, but it's still used today in folk music all across Europe. 

7 Medusa guitar

Did you ever wish that your guitar had more necks? Well, your prayers might have been answered. Canadian master luthier Linda Manzer is known for her many unique and amazing instruments inventions, but our favourite must be the medusa guitar. This 52-stringed piece, which could be considered to be six instruments in one, was commissioned and belongs to Danish jazz guitarist Henrik Andersen, inspired partly also by a drawing he made as a joke, as he wanted to experiment with new colours and tones.

8 Glass armonica

We have all experienced cleaning up after a party and having that one friend who uses the abandoned, half empty glasses to make their own symphony. Well, Benjamin Franklin took it to the next level and refined this idea by creating an instrument that made chords and lively melodies possible. This instrument uses glass bowls in the perfect thickness to achieve the desired pitch without the addition of water, or any other drink. They are tuned to notes by their varying sizes and fitted one inside the other with cork. 

9 Hydraulophone

The hydraulophone was created in 2005 by Canadian engineer and inventor Steve Mann. In order to produce sound, the player needs to block and release a steady flow of water going through a particular hole, so that a specific note will sound. The water is blown through the holes via a pump, and there are various versions of this instrument, some that even work underwater. On the concert version of the hydraulophone, the holes are arranged like the keys on a piano. Prune-fingers warning!

10 Sea organ

If water through a pipe was not curious enough, then the sea organ is the instrument for you, as it uses the entirety of the Adriatic Sea to operate. Created by architect Nikola Bašić as part of a project to redesign the coastal side of the Croatian city of Zadar, that was hastily reconstructed after the damage suffered during World War 2, it features a series of underwater polyethylene tubes and a resonating cavity hidden under marble steps. The waves interact with the organ and create harmonic, if a bit random, music.