While things like the keyboard, bass, guitar and drum kit are all well known in the music world, there are also a number of unconventional instruments that you will find as well. Here are some of those instruments, a little bit of information about them, and a bit of history as well.
1. The Hang
The hang is a completely metal hand drum, known as a hand pan, that has been molded in a way that allows it to produce a huge number of different sounds. Some new-age bands, like Lalun, have chosen to include it in their songs for the polyphonic qualities that it produces. The original hang is now out of production, but some companies are offering new and improved hand pan type instruments.
2. The Koto
The koto is an Asian instrument, used mostly in Japan, South Korea and China. It is a stringed harp-like instrument that can be combined together with newer instruments to produce interesting melodies and to bring a classical feel to music that would otherwise feel impersonal. A few bands, like the Jessica Stuart Few, have chosen to include it for a more ethnic feel to their music.
The keytar is actually just a combination of a keyboard and a guitar. The two may seem like they would conflict with each other, but in reality, they work rather well. This instrument is a guitar-style frame, with keyboard keys, allowing it to be played from an upright and mobile position. This was mostly popular with groups in the ‘80s, but a few throwback and alternative groups, like Goodnight, Sunrise, have been using it in recent years.
4. The Sitar
This Middle Eastern instrument is known for producing mournful sounds and can be heard in most Arabian music. Modern groups, like Delhi 2 Dublin, have found that including one, especially in rock sounds, brings a more soulful sound and allows a bit more fun to be had when trying to work vocals around the existing instrumental sounds.
5. The Didgeridoo
The didgeridoo is an indigenous instrument from Australia, traditionally played by men, and making a range of different pipe sounds. The pipe itself is made from native materials, and no two sound alike. This has caused a number of modern groups to look at it as a unique addition to their line-up, ensuring that no other group will be able to perfectly copy their music.
6. The Electric Violin
While including a violin in some music isn’t usually seen as too far out there, the electric version produces a sound that most people are not able to readily identify. This is because this is a rather recent development in terms of this instrument, and also because it takes a large amount of skill to play it as well. A number of genres and artists, like Dr. Draw, have found that this instrument enhances their content and adds a bit of spice to anything that they put out. Furthermore, many music schools have begun giving lessons for the electric violin as interest for this instrument has grown significantly.
7. Pan Flutes
Traditionally used by South American bands, a few groups have found that these flutes add a bit of South American flow to their music. Other groups have chosen to go with the Asian versions, making them more common than people would think in different genres. They are an easy instrument to learn and many people just pick them up to learn a few chords, making them the perfect choice for songs that just need a small change.
8. A Kazoo
Originally meant as a child’s toy, this has actually been used in a few songs. The sound that it emits makes an interesting way to set the tone for a song, and they are often used when videos need to be fun and fanciful. It is hard to see one of these instruments and take the player seriously, helping the instrument set the mood for the music video.
9. Handheld Drums
While drum kits have long held their place as the kind of percussion, a few groups have started using more traditional hand drums to punctuate their music. These drums are often made from hide or other natural materials, setting them far apart from their counterparts. Their echoing sounds and ease of use have made the exceedingly popular.
Vincent Reina began teaching piano lessons as a high school student, and has continued to do so ever since. He received a Bachelor of Music Degree in Piano Performance from Purchase Conservatory. He then earned a Masters of Arts in Teaching Music from Manhattanville College. Today, Vincent is co-founder of Music To Your Home, a New York City based music school. He’s the proud winner of many significant piano competitions, including the Westminster Choir College Artistic Excellence in Piano Award.