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Uncommon Musical Instruments Part One

Updated on September 13, 2011

I have decided to write a series on uncommon musical instruments...Even if they are only uncommon to me. I will start with the Hurdy Gurdy and the Theremin as those two instruments are what started my journey to discovering such instruments as I had never before known existed.

It all started while I was listening to some music on a chill station on the internet, and I kept hearing this one instrument that had a haunting sound to it. It reminded me of a Bagpipe, yet not quite...Maybe a Bagpipe mixed with a Violin. So i went searching on the internet and discovered the Hurdy Gurdy. I then listened to different samples of it on YouTube. The above video is my favorite. The funny thing is that for the longest time I thought that video was of a man named Theremin playing Beowulf on a Hurdy Gurdy. Then while reading some comments on another video someone commented on the Theremin...and the man was not on that video, but there was someone on a strange instrument. Then I remembered what I had taken to be someone conducting the man doing Beowulf...Turns out it wasn't a conductor after all but someone playing an instrument called a Theremin. The Theremin sounds like a human voice and a violin mixed.

The Theremin is basically antennas and works by the proximity of your hands. The upright antenna controls tone and the vertical antenna controls volume (if I remember right). The Theremin was invented by a Russian Physicist named Leon Theremin in October of the year 1920, although it was not patented until the year 1928. Wikipedia has some very interesting information on how he came to invent this instrument. The Theremin is popular in films, television and even rock groups use it.

According to Wikipedia, the earliest version of the Hurdy Gurdy was called an organistrum, and was around as early as 945 AD or earlier. It is a combination instrument that is stringed and has a keyboard. It has a wheel that applies constant pressure to the strings creating a drone like a Bagpipe and the keys put pressure on the strings to create notes. The Hurdy Gurdy is also known as the Wheel Fiddle.


The Hurdy Gurdy give a beautiful, haunting melody to music, while the Theremin adds an almost pure vocal type pitch to music that perhaps could not otherwise be obtained. Of all the new instruments I have discovered, the Hurdy Gurdy ranks at the top as one of my all time favorites.


Submit a Comment

  • tlmcgaa70 profile image

    tlmcgaa70 5 years ago from south dakota, usa

    hello Lady_E...thank you for stopping by and reading and commenting. if you watch the two videos i included in this hub, you will hear what both instruments sound like. have a great day.

  • Lady_E profile image

    Elena 5 years ago from London, UK

    Interesting and unique Hub. The photo is very useful. I'm glad you included it. I wonder what it sounds like...

  • tlmcgaa70 profile image

    tlmcgaa70 6 years ago from south dakota, usa

    then i will write more of them...even if you will be the only one to read them it will be well worth the writing of them...thank you for loving music and the instruments that make those incredible sounds as I do :o)

  • Charlotte B Plum profile image

    Charlotte B Plum 6 years ago

    I was expecting your hub to be full of comments actually! But I really enjoyed it, and I'll love to read more too. It's sometimes funny how the hubs we like often are not a hit like we'd like them to be - I experience that so often!

  • tlmcgaa70 profile image

    tlmcgaa70 6 years ago from south dakota, usa

    ahhh Charlotte, if i could rate you awesome as a visitor I WOULD...i gave up on writing any more of these odd musical hubs because it obviously wasn't a big hit. i started out with these two because, well in the first video i wanted to show one very haunting way the hurdy gurdy was used...and i ad no clue at the time what a theremin was...since then i have heard it in many musical pieces, even pop and rock songs. if you ever watched the old start trek, you will have recognized it from there as well.

    thank you so much for taking the time to read this and i am so glad you enjoyed it. have a wonderful day.

  • Charlotte B Plum profile image

    Charlotte B Plum 6 years ago

    Totally loved this hub! Thank you so much for writing it! Really really enjoyed the video, I could just stare at the screen for hours figuring out how to play the theremin! If I could rate you awesome multiple times I'd do so!


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