Cool Music Instrument rare unusual selected and beautiful instruments

Aquaggaswack: experimental sounds with recycled household instruments


The Aquaggaswack is an  odd  music instrument with an equally odd and difficult to spell name. This interesting musical instrument was first made  as mentioned by Curtis Settino,  being composed of a medley of unique household instruments, all hung from a framework of metal  galvanized plumbing pipes in a way easy to assemble and break down into pieces to  be easy  to transport..  First version was built in1996 and it was featured in an issue of Experimental Musical Instruments back in December of 1998. A good example of how to create music recycling materials.

The first version of the Aquaggaswack dated in 1996 was narrower and only had 18 pot lids and no  outer sections. The second and improved version was  made in 1998, with 29 pot lids representing a majority of the notes in an octave, plus some quarter-tones. The center lids have mostly "bell"-like tones and the outer sets have a more "gong"-like tone. All the lids were obtained from thrift stores and friends and can be played with mallets, sticks and brushes.  At various times both versions of the Aquaggaswack also included a cymbal, jingle bells, a cowbell with clacker and a mine cylinder

In Spain  is currently  known as "Carrillón de tapaderos" and you can read some guidelines about how to make your own one in this article  (Spanish)

And if you are wondering about how it sounds like...  and looks like in action you can watch the following video.



Michael Burke Irish Whistles and Low Whistles

Burke Whistles

The fact that you can find inexpensive tin whistles for a couple of dollars doesn't mean that a true and well made one hasn't to be a precision item. Michael Burke has devoted his skills to hand craft instruments with clear tone, balanced and in tune in two octaves. Committed to make the finest professional penny whistles out there this small company  based in USA and run by Mr. Burke self and his wife was the answer to my search.

Not a long time ago looking for a low whistle  (lets say a tin whistle with a pitch lower than Bb) was really a hard task, and when found it was only the Low D. I felt a little bit scared to try as my hands are small and it the slow whistle is too large holed or the stretch too big, then it was an impossible thing no matter how relaxed I was. Then I found my Burke  Low D whistle and I was happy ever since. seriously.

But sure you can find higher keys, in fact "ANY" key! :)
.detail of burke whistle
Detail of the Low whistle

The instruments are made with great care. The body is cylindrical and the sound is clear, clean and sweet. As owner of quite a few low whistles, I fell in love with my Burke. I do know you'll be pleased and will never regret your house. It's the one I use most and definitely the one I possess I love the sound most... and I confess I would have not complaint to have more keys. Lightweight, well balanced, easy to grip and quite gentle to the small hands one mine with a split low D piece.

They also have a lot of models in stock in a wealth of keys reducing your wait time and make effort to ship your order as soon as possible. I wish I could grab quite a few of them... But I know in some time soon I'll replace my actual high D whistle for a Burke one too.

Most of the models are offered in different keys and in Brass, Aluminum and Composite, depending of the kind of sound you're trying to achieve. Brass is sweeter and Aluminum is louder. You can watch this video where they compare different burke whistle materials and the size of the holes so you can make a decision of what kind of sound you're  looking for.


I also recommend to opt for the thumb hole. I opted for this and never regretted. Explaining what it is  in a standard D whistle  this option is a way of providing a perfect C natural on your D whistle so that you can play in the key of G or other scales that need a flattened 7th. It also allows you to get an octave C natural on the D whistle as well, to extend the scale and also to add options for ornamentation. The extra tone hole is located on the back of the tube between the top two tone holes and the note is played by playing a "B" and lifting the thumb. If you keep your thumb in place, the whistle will play exactly as a regular 6 holed whistle. The option is available on any model in any key. This is a great option that allows you a very accurate second scale on your whistle. I also came from recorder playing, so somehow I was always missing  it.

Priscilla Hernandez playing Low Whistle Priscilla Hernandez playing a Low D Viper burke whistle

Above: me on stage playing a Low D Viper Aluminum Low D Burke Whistle.

I've already recorded quite a lot of songs with it for the new album, so will upload some excerpts very soon. I tell you that the Irish whistles are instruments very versatile and not only for traditional Celtic style.

low whistle by burke whisles

The Viper Aluminum Low D  is the most powerful and loudest low D they make It has moderate back pressure, a very big and powerful low end and great balance in sound between the octaves. The second octave is very accessible with moderate blowing and this low D can be used to play any kind of music at any speed as can be shown in our sound sample. By the way it's available in Low C too (SIGH!)

I recommend you also their handy roll case with slots for different keys, affordable and really useful

tin whistles and flutes roll case

And you can listen samples of most of the whistles available at BURKE WHISTLES official website

Aeolian harp... an instrument played by the wind

aeolian harp by harpmaker

Above: Aeloian harp made by Harp Maker


The Aeolian harp   (read the wikipedia articleis named after Aeolus the ancient greek god of the wind. They're sometimes called "harmonic harps". They originated in ancient Greece and flourished through the Renaissance era becoming very popular n the Romantic Era.  The traditional aeolian harp is essentially a wooden box soundboard with strings stretched lengthwise across two bridges. It is placed in a slightly opened window where the wind can blow across the strings to produce sounds. The strings can be made of different materials (or thicknesses) and all be tuned to the same pitch (some are called "monochords") or identical strings can be tuned to different pitches. The musical sounds of an Aeolian Harp are the results are of vortex "swirls" flipping around in the back of the strings It's somehow misterious but also ethereal, haunting and inspiring. Aeolian harps are still hand-crafted today. Some are now made in the form of monumental   outdoor metal sound sculputures. In fact if you place a standard up in a windy hill you will most likely hear this eerie ghostly wind moans.

outdoor aeolian harp sculpture

Above: Outdoors Aeolian harp sculpture in California

So how does it sound untouched by human fingers?

-Click here to listen a livestream of an aeolian harp at the University of Ulm (Germany).
-Internet radio broad cast with sounds of the wind harp

Wind harps transpose the spirit of the wind into spontaneous, multi-layered music in time to nature's rhythms. Their vibrant voices sing pure harmonic tones that range from deep, pulsing bases to soaring sopranos.The sound is random, depending on the strength of the wind passing over the strings, and can range from a barely audible hum to a loud scream. If the strings are tuned to different notes  then sometimes chords can be heard. 

Below: Video of wind harp recorded it on a beach in Pembrokeshire, West Wales. The sounds are created randomly by the wind vibrating the strings. This is a track from my CD Windharp and Wavesong that you can find at



Raw recording (with no effects added) of wind on a standard harp producing a similar effect.   


There are some builders that go beyond making bigger outdoors sculptures that you can place in your garden. Harmonic wind harps  make not only the typical door and window harps but also other bigger sculptures ready for outdoors,  for example the weather proof harmonic sanctuaries that can accommodate several people, an unique auditory experience! 

aeolian harp harmonic sanctuary

Above: Aeolian harp harmonic sanctuary

If you find these wind sounds  healing or relaxing, then you can buy  the cd Wind Songs is a distinctly unique CD, composed of eight tracks that feature a variety of harps, winds, and tunings. at harmonicwindharps. Sample of the album called "chakra tuning.mp3" 


How to build your own aeolian harp
Maybe you're considering to make your own aeolian harp!

Feeling crafty...? making an aeolian harp  doesn´t look so difficult... You can find already made plans to do it... or even improvise it. I'm about to try it myself so I´ll come and edit to inform you of my progress

The below graph was taking from this link where you can commission yours or see some pictures of the process on the making

aeolian harp plans

The above drawing of an aeolian  harp was drawn by Bruce Taylor (using Windows Paintbrush) and posted on many years ago.

You´ll need zither pins and nylon strings that you can easily find in ebay and also any music  local luthier or instrument music store. Remember that the longer the harp is, the more easily it will sing in light breezes. You find some plans also to build it in ebay.

 aeolian harp plans 

Above: aeolian harp woodworking plan

Here is a link to book "Building the aeolian harp" that is sold electronically  and consists of a step-by-step tutorial explaining the complete process from material selection to tuning the completed harp and getting it to sing for you.  It includes 19 drawings, 22 color photos and all the information you will need to build your own harp.

And in this other link you can  also read an indepth  article about aeolian harp and read how to make your own with illustration:  how to build an aeolian harp


As you see in aside of the classical aeolian harps they make other models, including with plastic bottles and chairs... and also combining it with other actual and playing instruments like this example:

 gourd aeolian harp 

Above: Gourd harp made by

Ukranian Bandura

bandura instrument


The Bandura is the national instrument of Ukranie and a potent symbol of this country. The instrument is also also pretty popular in Russia.  The bandura  combines the elements of a lute and a psaltery.

The metal strings are played open with the tips of the fingers and nails in a manner similar to the harp. The sound  when  plucked is really exquisite and somehow bright between the sound of an harp and harpsichord. It produces deep single bass string patterns, also is characteristic the offbeat chords played by the right hand alternating with the bass notes, sweeping chromatic flourishes and ornaments  on the upper high pitched strings and tremolo effects rubbing the fingers in the high pitched strings too

Above: Bandura played by Natalia Golub.


The bandura is a multi-stringed Ukrainian folk instrument. The great majority of banduras found to purchase range from 36 strings  to concert professional ones  that can have up to 68 chromatically tuned strings (through 5½ octaves).Though used most  in folk music the instrument is used in large ensembles however it is an effective and mesmerizing solo instrument and is also sought after as an accompaniment to vocal groups of various kinds and composers. The strings are plucked with the ends of the fingers and nails, giving the instrument a slightly metallic sound, like a cross between the harp and the harpsichord. The back is usually dug out of a single piece of willow, while the front soundboard is of spruce. Played when seated, the left hand usually wraps around the top of the bandura to pluck the bass strings while the right reaches across to play melody or chords on the higher pitched strings, as seen in the following picture.

 bandura player 

Banduras were first mentioned in 6th century Greek chronicles as a type of gusli (a russian instrument very similar to the kantele). The modern instrument can more precisely be said to derive from a lute-like instrument. called the kobza, dug out from a solid piece of timber. This became extremely popular in Ukraine and beyond during the era of the Ukrainian Kozaks/Cossacks (16th-18th centuries). During this time the instrument underwent certain structural changes such as the addition of secondary strings along a widened soundboard, which later became one of its distinguishing features.It was then where a special class of musician called kobzar emerged. These were the Ukrainian equivalent of the troubadours of France and typically blind. The kobzars sang epic ballads called dumy about the exploits of the Kozaks against foreign invaders, reminding the people of their past glories and tragedies. They accompanied themselves on the bandura, which gradually developed into the instrument pictured above and they were normally blind. The bandura was  alsotraditionally played by soldiers and it was a compulsory instrument to play. Whenever soldiers were wounded and couldn't fight anymore, playing the bandura became their profession. At the beginning of the XX they were thought to be all dead but the instrument rescue was promoted and it experimented a revival later in that century thanks to  Hnat Khotkevych managed to find a small number of them and reinvigorated the tradition through promoted performances. The bandura became extremely popular, being taught in many music schools and conservatoriums, as Ukraine enjoyed a very brief period of independence at the end of World War One and also some autonomy during the early period after forced incorporation into the USSR . In the 1930s, Soviet authorities took measures to curtail national aspects of Ukrainian culture (see Russification). This included any interest in the bandura. Various sanctions were introduced to limit cultural activities that were deemed nationalistic. When these sanctions proved to have little effect on the spreading of such cultural artifacts, bandurists often came under harsh persecution from the Soviet authoritie. But  after that period players were rehabilitated and Oochestras of banduras were formed, and they were also incorporated into otherwise Russian folk orchestras of domras and balalaikas.Many Soviet Ukrainian composers wrote serious, complex works such as full length sonatas and concertos for bandura during the 20th century plus many arrangements of and variations on Ukrainian folk songs and dances.

 kobza bandura player
Above:  Kobza bandura player

During it’s evolution it was used by traveling minstrels or kobzari to accompany their story telling – usually these stories were of epic kozak battles and heroic deeds while facing invaders of  the Ukrainian homeland.

Some recommended links

-I will recommend you (if only for historical reasons)  and also for details of different models and evolution (from fretted to unfretted) of the instrument to read very complete  information about the Bandura in wikipedia.

-Here you can see a blog of a bandura maker so you can see pictures of the making of process.

-Article about traditional folk ukranian instruments

Where to buy one:

I keep investigating further on this so I'll update soon, so far Ebay does list banduras regularly, though scarce I've seen listed some rare very expensive vintage ones and some affordable student models too. If you don't find any keep on checking because some sellers often re-list the item. Below you can see an example bandura found in bay.

 I found also this ukranian luthier called Trembita Guitars  that sells Banduras directly from Ukrania.(Lviv)

Sheng (Chinese mouth Organ): one of the oldest wind instruments


The Sheng ( 笙 pronounced "sung" and also called "Chinese mouth organ" in western culture)  is one of the oldest Chinese instruments whose manufacture and use were documented in ancient history. It first appears in 551 BC during the Zhou Dynasty (1111 to 222 BC) but there are records of similar ones back to 3000 years ago



The Sheng

The instrument is a mouth blown free reed instrument. In fact, the Sheng is the first musical instrument in the world utilizing a "coupled acoustical system," between an air column and a free reed.The traditional Sheng is made up of 13 or 14 pieces of vertical pipes of different lenghts mounted together on to a base, but the number of reeds of the modern Sheng varies from 21 to 32 being 17 rather popular. As the Sheng can produce chords as well as single notes, it is used as both a solo and accompanying instrument. Its pleasingThe base is traditionally a gourd-shaped, wooden wind-chest. Each bamboo pipe has a free reed made of brass. Music is produced by blowing and sucking the air through a metal tube connected to the base the air then rushes through the other pipes.

 sheng pipe

Above: detail of Sheng pipe 

A player determines the notes to play by allowing the air to rush through selected pipes while pressing on selected keys near the base. By covering two or more holes on various pipes, chords are possible, being a typical technique used in most regional orchestras of China.


Example of live solo in concert. he SHENG is used as both a solo and accompaniment instrument.


How to play and fingering charts

Traditional ones often has 17 pipes tuned like this:

a′ b′ c″ c♯″ d″ e″ (2 pipes), f♯″ g″ a″ b″ c♯″′ d″′ or
A4, B4, C5, C♯5, D5, E5 (2 pipes), F♯5, G5, A5, B5, C♯6, D6

Chromatic keyed ones appeared half XX century.

Fingering charts for Sheng

(charts from Melody of China website)


Some links you may find interesting

Sometimes you can find inexpensive shengs in ebay, but I wonder if they are playable... I'll update this article once I found this and other stores you could find one. It's a pretty popular item in chinese instrument trading :)

sheng ebay

Above: example of inexpensive sheng found in ebay


Togaman Guitar Viol: Bowed guitar... Not another guitar... another instrument!!

Jonathan Wilson playing his bowed guitar

Above: Johathan Wilson playing his "Guitar Viol" or bowed guitar that you can purchase at Togaman Guitars

Above: Impromptu on Guitar Viol  and improvisation by the maker himself. You can see more videos in his  official channel youtube channel

A bit  of history about the bowed guitar

Jimmy Page. Sigur Ros. Julio Revueltas. These are just a few contemporary examples of modern electric guitar players who are noted for weilding a bow to the guitar. The fact is, however, that "guitar bowing" has been going on for centuries. Bowed guitars have their predecessors in the early instrument called "Viol" also known as Viola de Gamba,  however, by the 1700's, these heavenly sounding bowed string instruments all but died off due to the modern violin family's greater volume and ability to fill a concert hall with sound.


There was a six string instrument with frets and tuning  like the guitar but bowed like a cello called the Arpeggione  invented in 1823 by the Viennese guitar maker Johan Georg Staufer. Franz Schubert wrote a fine sonata for it. Today, Schubert's "Arpeggione Sonata" is commonly played on the Cello


Above: Arpeggione

As we know guitars  the bridge of the guitar is flat  and traditionally flat string plane will not allow for effective bowing. I know this.. and if you're thinking about tuning your guitar and add a viola bridge... warning! unless you're an instrument maker with expertise all you will get is your strings burst with the tension and probably bend the neck and spoil your instrument...! Though it's always fun to experiment with a violin bow on a guitar, on one of the strings at the edge, and a few experimental sounds this way, the possibilities are really limited. But then   there are the "guitar viols" that will solve this problem.


The Guitar Viol
 bowed guitar 

Above: Toga Man Bowed guitar detail  with curved bridge

And here is when Jonathan Wilson  came up with the dream  of  having a truly bow-able guitar  and he ended up designing his own guitar-formatted bowed string instrument that has captivated the imagination of sonic artists, composers and guitar players around the world and been included even in some movie scores  in popular films (300, Clash of the Titans, Day the Earth stood still, True Blood (HBO), CSI Miami (CBS) to name a few).

It has two series of instruments, the electroaccoustic (costing about 5000 dollars) and the accoustic. The second models are closer to a classical instrument (rather similar to the viola da Gamba) and rather much more pricy (around 7500-9000 dollars) but also with the quality sound of a good Viola (and now ask the prices of good classical instruments and you'll even consider it's cheap!)

Jonathan is a micro builder, that creates one of a kind pieces in his studio. Thus if you're thinking to order one consider there´s a time wait of four months up. For sure it will worth. I wish I could afford one at least.. I'd be happily waiting for it! :)

But though it's a bit out of my reach you may consider and find it interesting and you can read more about them at Togaman guitars

Also you can network with the Jonathan self or like her facebook group and connect with other players.

And here you can play some examples

You may need: Adobe Flash Player.

You may need: Adobe Flash Player.

Koshi Chimes: A new concept of chimes

koshi chimes logo

Kabir is a crafter that have been developing the art of Shanti chimes for over two decades.

I have a previous model also crafted by Kabir that were known as "shanti" chimes that are now currently out of stock but were really popular. They were already lovely and heavenly sound. I have in particular the model "echoes of silence" and it delivers a moody eerie haunting combination of notes that I have featured in a few of my new songs.

 shanti chime

Above: me with previous Kabir chimes with the  model "shanti" chimes! 

But now  a new generation called Koshi Chimes have arrived

  koshi chimes       koshi chimes  

But now the chimes have been renamed as Koshi chimes and  have renewed their look being considerably longer than their predecesors , with the clean finish of the bamboo they look more refined and elegant, and the combination of notes have been divided into the four elements Earth, Water, Air and Fire. Below you can listen to some samples, and also see how the sounds mingle together to render an even more outstanding result. I am super happy with my Shanti Chime (a light and portable companion for the stage), but already craving for these.  He does assure they sound better, and I only have the previous ones to compare with so I can tell you better has to mean "awesome". Nothing you need to learn to play them, all you have to do move the chime gently holding it by its cord: the crystalline, relaxing sound may leave you in quiet wonder. Outside, as it plays with the wind it will carry you away on an unexpected melody. I've featured mine in a song called "the wind song" and can´t be more fitting, and soothing.

Koshi chimes come in four tunings (click to her MP3 Samples)


The 4 Elements together

And you can purchase them here in KOSHi.FR. You can read their site in English and French


For healing, for meditating, for relaxing, for composing, for chanting... I can´t recommend them enough! If oil protected they can be used also as outdoors wind chimes but  I suggest you actively play them, it will render some lovely haunting melodies on their own! Hand made at the foot of the Pyrenees mountains, each chime is the result of meticulous craftsmanship.

The Glass harmonica invented by Benjamin Franklin: a cursed heavenly sounding instrument

Sure we´ve all seen a "Glass harp" which is set up with  glasses and cups of wine filled with water so they pitch to different notes and they can be player with your wet fingers. This has been done since the Renaissance times. Have you ever tried it? Probably in a wedding you've seen people doing it for fun! and It does really sound heavently! We´ll make an article about setting up a glass harp in your home with glasses of wine soon, but now we´re about to talk about a haunted (and somehow cursed instrument) called the "Glass arrmonica"

glass armonica

The glass harmonica is an instrument invented by Benjamin Franklin in the XVIII century who  using the same principle invented this haunting instrument that consists of a set of glass vases  conveniently arranged like a keyboard. Initially Franklin named it the 'glassychord', but soon settled on  "armonica" due to the armonious angelic sound of the instrument which became an instant hit. Mozart and Bethoven both composed pieces for this odd instrument that was inded played by some historical characters like George Washington and Marie Antoinette.

You can read a bit of the story of this instrument in the wikipedia entry

Here you can read a pdf with the story of the glass harmonica and also its "cursed" story that made it almost disappear from the concert Halls due to the rumors that said its ghostly tones could cause  damage in the nerves of the player. Finally banished the bad reputation and idea that the sound of bowed glass can be unhealthy stays alive as an urban legend even nowadays. In fact there are around a dozen of professional players of the instrument in the world.

There´s been a modern revival of this instrument.Among the contemporary players we have to highlight Thomas Bloch one of the most skilled among the few performers left in the world of this wonderful instrument.

Glass armonica
low notes on left and high notes on right like in a piano

The only place i've found where you can purchase a glass harmonica is Finkenbeiner

glass armonica manufacture

Above: Glass harmonica manufacture at Finkenbeiner´s

Read more about glass armonica story at their site

Here you can see a bit of the story and the instrument in action in a little documentary aired in "The History Channel"

Erik the Flutemaker

I have myself two bamboo flutes from this maker, they´re really not very expensive and are really rich in tone. I've tried some cheap bansuris in local music stores and they were like crazy out of tune or were way too much hard to blow. I have a G concert pitch (doesn't mean that the others are not in tune but he sells a model concert-pitch if you need to make sure it's 440 and perfectly balanced) and I have also a minor flute (from the exotic scales he also makes). I've successfully recorded both, and they were my first transverse flutes, and first training to learn to blow the flute (coming from a whistle/recorder playing) they were really very good training, but still i'm really hapy with the sound they have themselves.

Erik the flutemaker site

bamboo flutes and saxes (xaphoon)

also bamboo pennywhistles made of bamboo

He also makes some exotic scales, like minor or oriental... that gives to your easy playing a total different "air"

You will see that our flutes and Bamboo Saxes are finished in different styles: Natural, Starry Night and Dark and Carved.

 erik flutemaker 

Above: some of the products you'll find in Erik´s store


By the way in this exclusive photoshoot  taken by Sebastià Pagarolas and wearing a moth dress designed by El Costurero Real  for FAE MAGAZINE autumn 2010 issue I'm playing a bansuri  bamboo flute by Erik The Flutemaker.

fae magazine costurero real ad

He also makes double flutes using two whistles (I have like a bit of obsession about double flutes). By the way I shamelessly confess I copy this technique with two whistles myself.. and it worked... though it took me a lot of work!! :) by the way it's the flute that my friend in the picture is holding.

I leave you with his tutorial  cos it gives tons of ideas about how this "double whistle work"

The Array Mbira

The Array Mbira is a glorious hand-crafted custom made modern musical instrument with a harp or bell-like sound. It is made in  USA by their inventors Bill Wesley and manufactured by Wesley with Patrick Hadley in San Diego, California, United States. It is based upon the African mbira or thumb piano (also called kalimba or  which is native to Zimbabwe but the array mbira is bigger in size and meant to play with all the fingers of your both hands like a "piano". It reminds me very much to the sound of a music box.

Array mbira

You can read the wikipedia article about the array mbira  to get an idea about how the notes are arranged

Bill Wesley, musicologist, performer and author, invented  and developed the array system, following a logical tone configuration based on the circle of fifths.The Array system of organizing the notes is similar to the system for arranging the buttons of the stradella bass system on an accordion. Here you can download in PDF the array of notes. Octaves are in the same column, and it has a top guide to tell you the notes too, so seems quite gentle for the newcomer.And in the official site they encourage it as very easy to get started with. On their words no other instrument may be learned so easily initially or be subsequently pursued to such an advanced level of performance.

Most of array Mbiras are made to order though you can find some already to ship instrument with a "buy now" buttom. If not available it takes 3 to 4 months for completion. There are models from 3 to 5 octaves.If you want something to custom they're also welcome you to contact them for so. To purchase one visit the Official site here at The Array Mbira


Here you can see "Carol of the Bells" performed by an Array Mbira. Sweet! Don´t you want one? I DO!

Here you can see some offficial uploads into youtube they have as tutorials in their site. they also have some small videos and a DVD to learn to play the Mbira on sale.


As I always say, there´s nothing like the real instrument but on the waiting or while you can´t afford it, there´s a company that has sampled a 5 octave Array Mbira VST (Virtual Instrument) at Soniccouture for  69 Eur. It won't sound the same or look the same on stage but might kill the craving for the instrument till you become able to grab one ! :)

 soniccouture array mbira vst  

Above:Soniccouture Array Mbira VST

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 beloved friend

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