Discovering rare and interesting instruments

~ Music is what feelings sound like

Today is not just another Sunday in June, it is not just another weekend, today is National Music DayAbout 120 countries and 700 cities participate in this musical celebration day. If you didn’t know that, you’re not the only one. I never heard about this day before in my life, until this year. Sad, I know. I love music, I play music, I sing. So I am excited to take part in this musical day with a very special blog post! You will get to read about and hear music from some rare and unique musical instruments. I am intrigued by every one of the instruments listed in this post! And…psst, you know what? My dream and hope is that in the future, I will be able to collect and play each of these instruments myself. Probably sounds silly, but hey, at least one can dream! national music day

Kalimba “Thumb Piano”

It is a cute little instrument that almost sounds like a xylophone. To many people it’s known as the “thumb piano”, and it is also known as mbira. This instrument originates in Africa, and was discovered by European explorers such as the Portugese as early as the 1400s. It is often used in accompaniment to singing. Many charming little songs can be made by using the kalimba, and as the video below shows, it can be quite versatile!

(more info on kalimba)


This odd looking instrument has a surprisingly beautiful, resounding and earthy tone. It is an ancient Swedish instrument, and the name means something like “key-harp”. It is a medieval instrument and variations of the instrument were from as early as 1408. I think it looks like a combination of a violin with a type of accordion. What do you think?

(more info on nyckelharpa here and here)


The name ocarina comes from a Bolognese dialect of Italy, and means “little goose”. The ocarina is quite ancient, and found in many cultures such as the Aztecs, India, China, and then in Europe. It is as old as 5000 B.C. In Europe, the Italians adopted the instrument from Central America in the 1500s, and later, Guiseppe Donati an Italian baker refined the instrument as we know it today. There are many different styles of ocarinas. An interesting historical note: In WWI and WWII, soldiers were given ocarinas to carry with them in war so it will keep their spirits up. I would love to get myself an ocarina! To me it sounds like a Celtic instrument. Listen to these short videos to see how lovely it sounds! The last video may be familiar, one I featured before on the blog. It has a Celtic style song with the ocarina.

(more info on the ocarina here)


Glockenspiel means “bell play” in German. This instrument is a combination of two types instruments, one with bells and another instrument called the “metallophone” from Eastern Asia. In the 17th century, the Dutch refined the instrument and arranged it in the shape that it is today, with the rows of metal bars. George Friedrich Handel was the first composer to write music for the Glockenspiel and include it in his orchestra. I just love the sound of the Glockenspiel! It has such a sweet, charming, peppy sound! Listen to this short clip in this video.

(more info on the ocarina here and here)

Bowed Psaltery

The psaltery is originally an instrument that is plucked with the fingers. An ancient instrument, it is referred to in the Bible too. However, the bowed psaltery, which is played with bows like a violin, was invented in the 20th century. It has an interesting sound, and it looks like a fun instrument to play. I think it goes along well in combination with other stringed instruments.

(more info on the psaltery here)

Mountain Dulcimer The Mountain Dulcimer is another hybrid of an instrument. It originated in the Shenandoah River Valley in Eastern United States, from a combination of Scottish and other European folk musical instruments such as German, Swedish, Norwegian and French. It was also an Appalachian mountain instrument. The Mountain Dulcimer has a nice tone.  It reminds me sometimes of fingerpicking guitar. I love it!

(more info on mountain dulcimer here)

Which instrument do you like best? Which would you choose to play? Which do you think is the oddest instrument? 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *