4 Strange Musical Instruments You Didnt Know Existed

Chances are you know what a piano is. But have you ever heard of a Bazantar? In this post, I will show you some of the strangest instruments currently in use around the globe. If you dont know them, dont feel bad. If you do know them, well, I would like you to come guest post for me some time.

Please note, these are not in any particular order, I just picked out a few that I found interesting.

The Great Stalacpipe Organ

Located in the Luray Caverns of Virginia, this instrument is currently considered the largest in the entire world, covering over 3 1/2 acres of space. It was created in 1958 by Leland W. Sprinkle, and electrical scientist from the pentagon. Although not truly an organ, this instrument is definitively incredible. It functions using dozens and dozens of rubber mallets located throughout the 3 1/2 acres. Leland was careful to select stalactites that would resonate at the correct frequency so, when a key is pressed, the corresponding note is played. Although it only takes up three and a half acres, it can be heard throughout the 64-acre cavern.

The Bazantar

Although this may look like a cello at first, it is much more then that. Mark Deutsch invented this over the course of 6 years. It is a five string double bass with 29 sympathetic strings. The sympathetic strings are not bowed or plucked, but simply resonate with the other strings, producing a haunting, and beautiful, sound.

The Hurdy-Gurdy

This one sounds something like a  cross between a fiddle and bagpipes. It has a crank at one end that is turned to draw a bow across the string. A keyboard is used to allow the player to change the pitch of the strings through use of what are called tangents. The hurdy-gurdy has drone strings that produce a constant pitch, which is what make it sound similar to bagpipes.

The Glass Armonica

If you watch the video, you will notice that this version of The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy sounds strikingly like what you would hear at a performance. Tchaikovsky originally called for this instrument, but changed it in favor of another the celesta. Invented by Benjamin Franklin, this instrument uses the same concept as rubbing a wet finger over a wine glass to produce sound. The music produced is so eerie, that it is claimed that it has caused performers and listeners to go mad.

You may have thought these were strange, and you would be right. But there are hundreds more awesome instruments waiting to be discovered. Just Google it!

The 4 Step Guide to Learning Any Instrument

Picture this: you have finally decided that you are going to learn an instrument, perhaps you have even decided which instrument you wish to learn. But you are not exactly sure how to go about it. Perhaps you know that you need to find a teacher, but your not sure what you should be looking for. Luckily for you, Im here to help. This four step guide will set you on the path to make that desire become a reality.


Make no mistake, learning to play any instrument well is no easy task. Whether it be something as simple as bass guitar, with its 4 strings, or as complex as an organ, with its different keyboards, foot pedals, and dozens of stops. Its a long road to become really good at it. But it is a road you have to want if you want to be successful in the field of music.

1. Decide which instrument you want to play

This is perhaps the most important part. There is no one in this world that does not have an instrument they would find difficult to learn to play, no matter how musical they are. You need to find the instrument that is right for you. This step is absolutely crucial. You may think that you arent musical. But I personally guarantee that there is an instrument out there that is right for you. But you are the one who has to find it. Do you have an excellent sense of rhythm? Perhaps percussion is your field Its up to you.

When people think of learning an instrument, people will generally think of some of the more mainstream instruments. Guitar, piano, drums, violin and the like. Although there is absolutely nothing wrong with learning these instruments (in fact Piano is an excellent beginner instrument), perhaps you want to learn the harp, saxophone, or french horn. The choices is yours, and trust me, there are a lot to pick from. And yes, voice does count as an instrument.

2. Buy the instrument

If you want to learn to play an instrument the very best investment you can make is to buy that instrument. Although you can rent an instrument, I will guess that you will not feel nearly as motivated to learn it. Its not yours. Its someone elses that you are using. Its easy to put it down and be done with it. But if you own it, its yours! You cant put it down, youve invested in it. It doesnt have to be a particularly expensive or fancy instrument, but I would not suggest a low quality one from stores like Target or K-Mart. Go to your local music store and see what they have to offer. You will not regret it I guarantee you.

Perhaps you cant afford a brand new instrument. No worries, you have good options. Sites like eBay and Craigslist will have good quality instruments for low prices. Im sure you can find the instrument that you are looking for for a low price somewhere.

3. Find the right teacher

If you are an amazing prodigy or highly motivated and can teach yourself to play an instrument well, then you may skip this step. But, if you are like the rest of us, Then a teacher can be incredibly beneficial. The internet these days has become a great source of information. But it will never be the same as a flesh and blood teacher. Perhaps you can learn from someone over the internet, but it will not be the same. If you play something obscure, perhaps this will be your only option. But, in most cases, you should be able to find a local teacher. Even if it is only 30 minutes a week, it will be worth it.

But you cant just pick any teacher. There are some excellent musicians out there who are not good teachers. And there are some excellent teachers who were not meant to be musicians. You have to find the intermediary. Someone who knows the instrument and music well, but also knows who to come to your level and show you how its done. The ideal teacher will be different for everyone but, in general, a teacher should:

  • Know the instrument well
  • Be friendly and want to help you
  • Enjoy a style of music that you enjoy
  • Not just tell you, but have you figure it out sometimes

4. Practice

Although it is a cliche, it bears repeating: Practice makes perfect. You absolutely cannot learn to play an instrument without putting time and energy in outside lessons. I do not care if you are just a average guy off the street or August Rush. You will need practice. An instrument is a wonderful thing, it craves your attention. You just have to decided to give it what it needs every once and a while.

If you are playing an stringed instrument, play until your fingers hurt (trust me, calluses will grow). If you play a wind or brass instrument, play until you cant blow any longer. If you play percussion, play until the people in your house are driven crazy. Perhaps not every day, but occasionally this is a good thing to do. Try to give it 5-6 hours a week, it is amazing what you can accomplish.

I guarantee that, when you start, you wont be very good. But perseverance is the key. You think The Edge started off playing the way he does. Well guess what? If you do, you are wrong.

I hope this helps you out, let me know how it worked for you. Leave a comment below sometime in the future.

A Few Pointers on Performance

If you want to perform, and perform successfully, then there are a few things you need to do. If you walk up there, play the songs, and walk off, there is no way that you will be going back anytime soon. They audience wont like you. Read this, you might learn a few things

1. Dont Suck

This goes without saying, but you cannot perform if you cant even play music. Far to many people show up looking for a place to perform, but cant even play music. If you want good examples of what not to do, go watch the auditions for American Idol, X Factor, Britains Got Talent, or any of the other shows that showcase talent (although not all of it is music), and you will see plenty of people who think they can sing, or play guitar, but cant. And trust me, you dont want to hear boos from the crowd.

2. Engage Your Audience

This is perhaps the second most important part of performance behind not sucking. Your audience is there not just because of the music, but because of you. An unengaged audience is a bored audience. And an audience that is bored will not come back for seconds on a later date. You want your concert to be memorable. I would suggest watching some of the more experienced bands who do it best, take your cues from them. Also, it is fine to change what you are doing based on the audiences reaction. If you are making bad jokes and the audience doesnt like them, save yourself the trouble and stop making this.

3. Figure Things Out Before Hand

Obviously your set list is incredibly important and should be decided before hand. But you cant expect that to be enough. Engaging your audience frequently means doing more with the music then just playing things the way you recorded them. Music should be modified, you should plan things out that will make your fans happy.

One band I listen two likes to stop playing in the middle of a song and completely freeze, every single one of them, in whatever position they happen to be in. This obviously gets the crowd really into it, and they cheer all the louder. But it has to be timed perfectly. Figure things like this out before hand. And Practice them!

Unfortunately, far to many bands miss these, and this is no good. If you want people to really like you, do these things. Dont expect to be great at them all at once. But trust me, you will get there.

First Week of BlogX Done

What a week! You may have noticed some changes that have come to Sound Called Music. More posts, an optimized about page, and a complete restructuring of the URL system (long URLs are no longer so long), and way more posts.

Why am I doing this all? Tentblogger, an awesome blogger who blogs about blogging (now you try to use blog four times in the same sentence) that I respect very much is running everyone (or, at least, everyone who wants to) on his forums through a 90 day blogging bootcamp to get us in shape. We call it BlogX (inspired by an exercise program)  Its going awesome, and I wanted to share some of the things I am learning.


Main Takeaway Just Write

Ive had to write a lot this week to post the amount that I have. Im not to good at just writing. Not adding media, nothing, just writing. Theres time for everything else later. It worked quite well and I am happy with the results.

One thing I really love about this program is the focus on content. I love writing content, but I never got around to doing it. This first week showed me that I could get posts out everyday, and that they didnt have to be short little pathetic posts that didnt teach you anything. They could be good posts that you liked and enjoyed!

What I Hope to Learn and See Happen

There is a difference between what I wish for, what I hope for, and what I expect. I wish for several hundred views a day by the end of this. I hope four a couple hundred, I expect around 100.

I also expect to learn a lot from one of the ones who does it best. Already I have realized that there is a lot that I dont know about blogging that will help me become a successful one. I dont expect to earn a living from blogging, but it would be nice to make a few bucks on the side if you know what I mean.

I have to say, I have absolutely no complaints about this program (so far at least). Sure this may sound fake to some people but hey, I cant talk to you in real life. If you are a blogger, I highly suggest checking this guy out, he can help you a ton.

And tomorrow, we will be back to our regularly scheduled posts.

What iCloud Means For Your Music

You know, Im a bit of an Apple enthusiast. I try to learn about every new product announcement as it is happening, I own a iPod touch, wish I had a Mac, and use iTunes excessively. Needless to say, when Apple made their keynote presentation on Monday to kick of the annual World Wide Developers Conference, I was paying close attention. And what we heard was quite something.

The Moscone center being prepared for WWDC, image credit Apple Insider

The banner in the image above shows three different iCons (see what I did there?). The first represents the newest version of the Mac operating system Mac OS X 10.7, a.k.a. Lion. The second one indicates the newest version of iOS, the software which runs on iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches. The third represents iCloud, the new service which Apple announced which is getting everyone so excited. But why?

Imagine this scenario, you have an iPod touch and you want to buy a song, app, or video. Now imagine that you also have a computer with iTunes and an iPad that you wish to get this song, app, or video onto. Up until this point you have had to buy the song on your iPod, sync (short for synchronize, basically means to make sure both computer and iPod have same data on them) your iPod with iTunes to get the song on the computer, then sync your iPad with your computer to get it to the iPad. Pain in the rear right? Well, this is no longer.

With iCloud, syncing is no longer required. Now, whenever you buy a song on one of your devices, it is automatically downloaded to your other devices free of charge. No more bothersome syncing. This is awesome. I love this idea. There are currently 3 iDevices, plus a computer with iTunes, in my house. This will make things easier for me. Not only this, everything that I buy from iTunes is automatically backed up online. What this means is that if my iPod were to lose its data for some reason, I could get all that data back without touching the computer. I think this is awesome.

It just works

Steve Jobs 2011 WWDC Keynote Presentation

Apple also announced iTunes Match. Free iCloud backup is limited to things you have bought on iTunes. For someone like me, whose iTunes library is only about 10% purchased from iTunes, this is not very helpful. iTunes Match costs $25 a year and allows you to back up everything in your library. What is great about this is, because Apple has almost every song on the planet already in their database, you dont have to upload it to their servers. It scans your library, makes a record of everything you have, and uploads anything which is not in its database (of which there is very little). I will surely be using this when it becomes available.

But what does this mean for your music. Well, for one thing, your music is always available wherever you go. In other words, you cant lose it. Hard drive crashes almost always end up happening some day. And if you havent backed up you will lose a lot of data. My music is some of my most precious data. This will allow me to cheaply back it all up without uploading it. If I were to upload everything in my iTunes library to a remote server it would take over two days. With iTunes match, this process will take minutes to complete. This is completely new in cloud storage, and I think it is a wonderful idea.

Many people though have concerns about this. Is that data in the cloud really yours? If someone else owns a computer, do they own everything on it? This gets tricky. I would think not. If this is true though, I dont own this post anymore. Its Hostgators. Darn it, all that work for nothing.

Apple is taking a big step here. It is a huge game changer in the space of mobile storage.

Question: What are your thoughts on iCloud and iTunes Match? Will you use them? Why or why not?

How To Write the Greatest Song Ever

This title of this blog is slightly misleading. Its almost like the kind of title that you would find on a one page ad site. You go to the site, and there is a single page with a very compelling sales pitch and lots of testimonies. Just Learn This ONE Simple Trick to Lose Weight, Speak Spanish Using Only 137 Words! Then it tells you to buy something for a cheap price, without mentioning that it was ALWAYS at that cheap price. This is not what this blog is about.

Let me start by telling you that I do not have a miracle formula for writing music. I have never wrote the greatest song ever, or I would not be writing this to you. I do not have some secret trick that, if learned, will make you a killer song writer over night. Its OK if you are dissapointed.

But right now I want to define the greatest song ever for you.

The greatest song ever is whichever one you want it to be.

Have you ever heard the saying Beauty is in the eye of the beholder? Well, it is very true. And it not only applies to art, but nature, music, and just life in general. So, what this means what you consider great is different from everyone else. So, if you consider a song to be the greatest song ever, then it is, in fact, the greatest song ever.

This means that, if you write a piece of music, no matter how simple, or basic, or poorly written, and you consider it to be the greatest song ever, it is. Because you want it to be. So dont hesitate to write a piece of music. You are not aloud to say its going to be terrible. Cause guess what? We all got to start somewhere. And, by simply writing that first piece, you will have taken your first step towards writing even greater music. Unfortunately most people (including, up to this point, myself) do not take that first step, and much talent that could have flourished, simply dies.

Write that song, and, if you feel comfortable, share it with me. Id love to see it.

Busting Out: How to Find New Music

I sincerely apologize for the lateness of this post. If you were eagerly anticipating this, refreshing my RSS feed every 20 seconds, forgive me. I owe you a soda.

You know, people can become rooted in their habits. This is particularly true with music. We find our artists, buy their music, and listen to it. Once we get to a certain point, we no longer go searching. Then, when we do eventually get tired of some of our music, we arent sure how to go about finding more. This can be a problem.


We know the scenario. You get on your iPod, choose a playlist you love to listen to, and then realize how sick you are of a lot of the music on it. You need more! I have a few suggestions for you.

1. Find out what your friends are listening to
This one is probably the best. I can guarantee that you and your friends have differences in your music libraries. Ask them to tell you what they like the most. Chances are they will have a few artists they listen to frequently and you will be able to find something you like.

2. Browse the charts
No doubt you have a particular genre that you are fond of. Billboard is a website (and magazine) that tracks sales through all the retailers and distributes in the U.S. and Canada that use SoundScan (over 14,000 of them including iTunes and Best Buy). The have a chart for all of the mainstream genres, as well as charts for the top songs overall, and even a few international charts. Looking through these can be a great way to find music that suits your taste. Whether you like classical, rock, metal, rap, R&B or gospel music, you can find the top songs through this site.

3. Use iTunes genius
This only works for people who use iTunes but can be quite effective. If you click on a song in iTunes, information should appear on the right. Towards the bottom you should see Genius Recommendations if you click on it it will take you to a page with all sorts of recommendations of music you would like based on what you have in your library. Also, rating your music will make this more effective. I would expect other music services, such as Rhapsody, would provide that feature as well.

4. Keep your ears open
Music is everywhere in our culture, in stores, in movies, even in commercials. If you hear a song you like on the radio, or anywhere else. Try to remember it. Generally a single line from a song is enough to learn the songs name through Google.

I hope this helps you out in finding more music to your tastes. I am always looking to expand my music library, and I want to help you do the same. Any questions ask bellow.

Music Performance Mistakes: Why You Shouldnt Be Worried

Perhaps the worst fear of any musician is a live performance mistake. Your going along just fine and dandy and all of a sudden you pluck the wrong note, press the wrong key, or hit the wrong drum. It sounded awful. Your band-mates (if you have any) are giving you looks. You feel stupid.

It happens to all of us

Well you shouldnt. In my talks with people that are part of an audience when I perform, most of the time they say that they didnt notice the mistake. Even if I point out the specific point in time it happened, they dont notice.

But why is this?

Honestly, most audience members are relatively dumb when it comes to the structure of music. They really dont know how it is supposed to sound. The only time they would notice is if it is glaringly obvious. If your voice breaks for example (especially if you are singing solo, I did it once, but, thankfully, I was with a chorus), or if you hit a note so very wrong that no one could help but noticing it.

You have to remember that you and I are musicians. We notice every little detail. If something goes wrong, no matter how trivial, we recognize it right away.

Let me tell you a story. A few weeks ago I got the opportunity to play in front of a large-ish group of people at a church service along with three other people. Two days earlier I had replaced my guitar strings. Over those days I had played my guitar a lot in order to stretch out the strings. It didnt work. My guitar did not stay in tune.

I was distressed. Thankfully we had another guitarist who could pick up the slack. In the meantime, I had to play my guitar very carefully in order to make sure that everything would sound OK. The only people who noticed were my band mates, the sound technician, and a few people who knew me well enough to tell that I was preoccupied.

So you see, you need to worry less about your exact sound when you perform. Even in the case of the more obvious examples, there is a good chance that they will forget it by the end of the performance as long as it is good enough for them to focus on.

Have you ever done something terribly obvious that you felt completely stood out in your performance (in a bad way) if so, what? And did anyone notice?

All Things Bright and Beautiful

Yes, this post is a little abnormal, but normality is boring.

Im stoked. Excited. For tomorrow is the day. THE DAY. Dont know what The Day is? Let me educate you. Dont feel bad for not knowing, I dont blame you one bit.

Once upon a time there was a 20 year old who worked loading trucks at a Coke factory. Unfortunately, this guy was an insomniac and had lots of trouble sleeping on a regular basis. On these nights, he would sneak down into his parents basement and record music that he wrote himself. Over the course of the next couple years, he acquired a Myspace following, and sold thousands of copies of his music. He released a couple of albums before he was signed by a record label. His next album had this little song on it called Fireflies, and before he knew it, he was famous.

If you do not know now, I am talking about Adam Young. The guy behind the smashing success known as Owl City. Youngs story is one of those success stories that we all wish we could replicate. This guy is really cool, but how does one come out of nowhere like this?

Young is the quiet, introverted sort. He suffers from Asperger Syndrome, but seems to do a relatively good job socially despite this. His music style can be most easily described as optimistic, with a general feeling of happiness. It is definitely electro-pop, and some have compared it to The Postal Service. Yes, they are similar, but Adam Young has his own gig. Perhaps he got lucky, or maybe, perhaps, hes just good enough.

I loved Ocean Eyes (his first studio-backed release). And I am incredibly excited for All Things Bright and Beautiful. As I write this the world is slowly revolving towards the 14 of June, which means that those wonderful people from down under (a.k.a. Australia) get it first. Oh well. I pre-ordered it weeks ago, I can wait a little longer.

P.S. (psst One of those last statements is not strictly true. He already has the whole album up on his Myspace page, but Im am being a good little boy and waiting until tomorrow. But you dont have to be.)

No One Plays the Ratchet or Why Percussionists are Awesome

In December of 2010, I had the privilege of being part of a guest choir at a orchestral concert. The concert was fabulous, but I found it curious that there were two of the members of the orchestra who never played anything. In fact, they were not even on stage. They were simply sitting in the front row, they seemed to be waiting for something.

After intermission, all was revealed to me. The orchestra had prepared a musical version of A Christmas Carol called Scrooge. It was done with very little acting. It was interactive so there was certain parts where members of the orchestras choir would queue the audience members to do something. Lots of fun. But what was really cool was that these two people, who had been sitting throughout the whole first half, finally got their turn up at bat.

It was fascinating. Between the two of them there were at least 25 instruments that needed playing. They had to be a complete team. Although each instrument was predominantly played by one musician, occasionally one musician would reach over and play one of his companions instruments if the other guy was already engaged. There was a huge variety of things; ratchets, chimes, plain old drums, and things that probably are not used terribly frequently in music. Most of them were use to express certain things that is not normally in music, like the opening of a door, or the falling of snow. But it added to the music all the same.

Now, do not confuse a percussionist as I describe it with a drummer. Although drummers are percussionists in ever sense of the word, these two were very different from drummers. I loved watching them. If you ever go to a musical like this one, watch the percussionists, I guarantee you will find them awesome.

Here I have a video for you of the Celtic Women. Now, the Celtic Women are excellent musicians, but they could not be what they are without the musicians who back them up. One really cool thing to watch is the percussionists. They have a drum set that completely encircles them, as well as other little odds and ends that they use on occasion. Although the video naturally focuses on the singers themselves, the Drummers are featured quite a bit as well. Take a look!