10 Awesome DIY Instruments


In a pinch, we bet you could use pretty much anything to make a musical instrument. You’re at your desk and you have a pen and a book — voila, percussion section. But make a synthesizer from some paper clips and an old keyboard and you’ve really got our attention. Making musical instruments can be an art form itself, as the entries below prove. From carrot fifes to a jellyfish theremin to home-made amplifiers, check out our list of amazing DIY instruments after the jump.

1. Jellyfish theremin

Though we couldn’t tell you what exactly is happening in this video if you paid us, apparently the jellyfish not only controls the sounds emitted from the device, but also the lighting and even the air-conditioning of the room. Why? Because, according to inventor Yuri Suzuki, “the Theremin is also an instrument which is as mysterious as a jellyfish.” Brian Wilson would approve.

2. Vegetable ocarinas

Vegetable instruments like the ones demonstrated in this video are popular enough that there is an entire orchestra dedicated to them in Vienna, complete with celery bongos and cucumber horns.

3. Daxophone

Invented by German experimental musician Hans Reichel, the daxophone is a thin wooden blade played with a bow and outfitted with a microphone — it looks something like a ruler clamped to a desk. Only some dozen people in the world know how to play the mysterious instrument. One of them happens to be Paul Simon.

4. Rubber glove bagpipe

Australian musician Linsey Pollak rocks out on this rubber glove bagpipe instrument in concert. Pollak specializes in making reed instruments, including reed flutes and other bagpipe-like instruments. He also invented the “humarimba,” a marimba that hangs from the belts of two players.

5. Watering can clarinet

Another Pollak special, the watering can clarinet (in conjunction with the humarimba and a bicycle seat clarinet) is one he often brings out at shows. Other instruments include the chair flute, the handlebar harmonica, and a bicycle pump wind instrument.

6. Bicycle Wheel Harp

Ken Butler is the master of hybrid instruments: He combines violins and household objects, hardware, and weaponry to make string and keyboard creations. He even has a Tommy gun guitar and a piano made out of an old bed.

7. Propane tank steel drum

Instrument inventor and music whiz Dennis Havlena used a propane tank to make this steel-drum sound-alike percussion instrument. If you’re interested in one of your own, there are instructions on how to make it on his website.

8. Fire organ

You might need an engineering degree to explain how this works, but the fire organ basically uses thermoacoustics to make noise, shifting temperature to produce different sounds. Plus, you know, shooting flames. It’s hard to argue with the weapon-instrument combination.

9. Laser harp

And you thought the fire organ was badass! The laser or light harp is kind of like an enormous, person-shaped theremin — you control the sound by the placement of your body, and how you interrupt the laser streams. If you have one of these, a fog machine should be your next purchase.

10. Drinking straw horn

The poor man’s vuvezela, the drinking straw horn is a lowly but extremely cheap way to start a band. Sure, you only get one tone but if you play it loudly enough, who cares?