Microscopic Guitars, Laser Harps, Carrot Flutes, Oh My: Ten Unorthodox Instruments

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Nano Guitar:
Pull out the microscope for this one. The nano guitar, developed by Cornell University researchers, is about 10 micrometers long (roughly the size of a human blood cell). Though the tiny contraption has six strings that can be strummed (by an atomic force microscope), the sound it makes is so faint it’s inaudible. Scientists say they created the nano guitar to demonstrate updated technology.

Laser Harp:
For anyone who thinks harps are solely for weddings (or Joanna Newsom concerts), the laser harp might just revolutionize the way you view the instrument. Made up of (naturally) laser beams that create sound when blocked, this sci-fi version of the stringed instrument was popularized by French musician Jean-Michel André Jarre.

Watch the laser harp in action:

Pikasso Guitar:
Building on the harp theme, the Pikasso guitar is a harp guitar created especially for jazz artist Pat Metheny. This particular guitar has 42 strings, two necks and took about two years to complete. Its name comes from its strange appearance, which likens it to an abstract Picasso painting.

Watch Metheny negotiate the intersecting strings of the unique guitar:

The ideal instrument for a rebellious kid who hates piano lessons, the skatar was created by Keith Irish of the California band Punk As A Doornail. Apparently, this skateboard/guitar hybrid came about when Irish—traditionally a bass player—was asked to take guitar duty in the band but didn’t own one. He instead transformed something he did own—a skateboard—into a guitar of sorts. (Oh, and Irish says it must be played with a Hennessey bottle.)

Watch Irish rock his skatar:


AK-47 Rifle-Turned-Guitar:
At an Austrian event honoring Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary-general received a memorable gift: an AK-47 rifle that had been transformed into a guitar. The rifle came from the disarmament efforts in Colombia and is one of several such instruments crafted by Colombian musician Cesar Lopez, who worked with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in Colombia to raise awareness of violence.

Chladni Singing:
This isn’t so much an instrument as a reaction to sound, but it’s so oddly mesmerizing that we thought it deserved a place on the list. Developed in the 18th and 19th centuries by Robert Hook and Ernst Chladni, this technique uses a powder-covered piece of glass that begins to rearrange itself when sound vibrations are introduced.

Watch Meara O’Reilly as she rediscovers an old musical approach:

Chladni Singing from meara o'reilly on Vimeo.