Unusual Instruments

Apache Fiddler
As played by Berndt Bohman
Swedish Principal Cellist of
Tokyo Symphony Orchestra
(Guitar Damore, Guitar+Violin_Cello)
Made by Osamu Okumura
President Arpeggione Society

The Arpeggione is a
musical instrument,
fretted and tuned like a guitar,
but bowed like a cello,
and thus similar to the
bass viola da gamba.

The Modern -Arpeggione is a
string instrument built by
Osamu Okumura.
 It is an acoustic, upright -fretted,
seven string instrument
tuned from a bass G up to E
(half-step below the high E on a guitar).
The body is larger than an acoustic guitar,
with an arched fingerboard
and bridge for bowing or picking.

TogaMan GuitarViol
Jonathan Wilson
Sylmar, California
 (Greater Los Angeles Area)

Hybrid of Guitar and Bowed-String Instrument
Bowed Guitar Etude

Bowed Guitar Loop

"La Bravura" (non cutaway)  and "La Bastarda" (Cutaway)

Preserve America
A Story of Love:
A Master American Craftsman, Inspired by the Beauty of a Tranquil Place, Invents a Musical Instrument with an Historic Past

Artful Violins

Rubber Glove Bagpipe
Australian Musician
Linsey Pollak

Canjo Bass

Foot Bass
"Basse aux pieds"
Popular Instrument Early 20th Century
Invented by Mr. Joseph Alexandry, Namur, Belgium and patented in 1894

Frankenstein Bass

Benioff Cello
The Benioff Violin

The Black Stone Violin

Photo: Jan Olby

Bohemian Violin

Photos Courtesy of Jon C. Mol
Melbourne, Australia
Fourteen pegs: seven playable strings and seven resonating strings
  This is probably a 'viola d' amore' - an 18th century south European
 stringed instrument belonging to the violin family (not viola) 

The bow shown is a modern bow and does not belong with this instrument 
   Judging from the fact that it has a scroll
 (and not a finial or stylized head, human or animal)
means that the dating is likely late 18th century

The complex sound holes probably mean that this instrument is of Bohemian origin
Bones and Spoons

©Photo by Lois Siegel

Chinese Bluegrass

Chinese musicians, melding their traditional instruments
with American bluegrass instruments
Katy Hill" performed by Mei Han's Red Chamber
with John Reischman and the Jaybirds.

Chinese Erhu - Bowed String Instrument

Chocolate Violin
Delice Royal

Ottawa Ontario

Cigar Box Fiddle

Creole musician Joseph "Bebe" Carriere of Lawtell, Louisiana, made this fiddle using a cigar box.
South Louisiana
Cigar Box and Wood
Photo: Thomas A. Wintz, Jr.

Joseph "Bebe" Carriere of Lawtell, St. Landry Parish
Photo: Nicholas R. Spitzer

Cigarbox Fiddle
The North American Fiddler's Hall of Fame



Crocodile Zither
Mi gyaun (long zither)
 Burma, 19th century

Salvador Dali's Violin

Epinette des Vosges

Fretted Zither of the Vosges Mountains

Fish Fiddle

The Gusle (Serbia, Albania) is a single-stringed musical instrument traditionally used in Southeastern Europe. The instrument is always accompanied by singing.


"Cornerless" Fiddle


5 String Chinese Viola (recent)
 in a Baroque "Testore" Style

From the Collection of Jim  Garber

Sievert Copy
by Nick Gent
Daventry,  UK

Philippe Guillerm
Wood Sculpture - "Love at First Sight "
Walnut, Maple, Mahogany

Sculpture & Art by Bruce Gray
Distorted Guitar Sculpture
 "Jimi's Nightmare"

 Pikasso 42-String Guitar
By Linda Manzer
Pat Metheny

11-String Guitar
Jean Baudin Playing an 11-String Base Guitar

5-Neck Guitar

The national instrument of Norway.
It's most distinguishing feature is
 the four or five sympathetic strings
that run underneath the fingerboard
 and add echoing overtones to the sound

by Olav Lomundal Norway, 1966
National Music Museum

Hardanger Fiddle

Harp Guitar

The Knutsen Archives

        Image copyright and courtesy Jeff Carr

One Armed Violin

Chris Knutsen & Family 
Harp Guitar

Acoustic Instrumental Christmas Carol
 c.1915 Dyer Harp Guitar by Gregg Miner

Westphalia Waltz

18-string fretted 'cello/guitar



V68 - A Harp-Built-For-Two

©Photo by Lois Siegel
Artwork by Patricia Doyle

Random Sound Musical Instruments
Luthier Don Peddle

"Acacia Lyra and the V68 Harp"

Video by Lois Siegel

Cigar Box Harp


Esteban Antonio

Pictured: The 17 string,
 double-necked guitar
with a harp section called ‘HaShem.'

The HaShem is the first Grand Concert Classical Harp Guitar in the world designed by Esteban,  built by renowned guitar maker, Stephen Hill + Electric model built later in Cornwall,
patented worldwide in September 08.


Huiras Instruments Internationale


French Hurdy-Gurdy

Helmut Gotschy
Hurdy-Gurdy Maker

Hurdy-gurdy Concert
 Patrick Bouffard & Gilles Chabenat
Over the Water Hurdy-Gurdy Festival


Viola by Carleen Hutchins
Montclair, New Jersey


Viola Da Gamba
Peter Hütmannsberger

©Photo by Eric Jensen

Icelandic Fidla

Luigi Russolo (left)
Italian futurist painter and musical composer
and his assistant Ugo Piatti

Listen to the sound of Intonarumori

Jig Dolls

©Photo by Kasia Korta
Lois Siegel
 Fiddle, Spoons
 Dancing Marionettes

Chris Harvey's Jig Doll Circus


©Photo by Tom Robertson
Lois Siegel Plays the Spoons

Spoons and Dancing Marionette:
Lois Siegel
Piano: Jake Charron
Fiddle: Gordon Stobbe


Mr. Pig

Piper Grove

Dancing Bill

Dancing Sam
Woody and Marcia McKenzie
Children's Show

Jig Doll

Les gigueux
Jig Dolls

Jig Doll Duet by Val Knight at Reading, England

Dancing Limberjack

Dancing Limberjack
Created by Kevin Burke
Duclos, Quebec

Martin Zak
Old Joe Clark

Jig Dolls, Limberjacks or Les Gigueux
Dancin' Dolls and Walkin' Mules

Jigger Toy

American Painted Wood Jigger Toy, with stenciled patent date of December 1863, figure in the form of black boy with jointed shoulders, hips and knees dancing on a stenciled paddle and blue base with red striping, ht. of figure 8.75, lg of base 16.25 in.

UK, USA, Canada, Australia

Jean Ritchie - Skip to my Lou
With Pete Seeger

Jug Band
Chief Persian Bowed Instrument

©Photo by Tasic Dragan
Kayhan Kalhor

Aleksander Kolkowski - Portrait in Shellac


West African lute or harp - a sacred instrument of the Mandingo tribe
traditionally played only by the Griot caste
when recounting historical accounts and folktales

10-String Double Violin
Bethanien Kunstlerhaus

Jon Rose Web

Laser Harp

Maggini Violin
Manzer Guitars

Pikasso I    
42-string guitar
used by Pat Metheny

Matchstick Violin
Created by Jack Hall
Courtesy of his son Tony Hall
Additional Photographs

Glen Campbell playing
the Guinness World Record 1937 Matchstick Guitar
followed by public performances
 by The Matchsticoustic Men

American Musical Instrument Society Newsletter
Yehudi Menuhin
Page 17

 Northern India
 19th century
This peacock is a bowed, stringed instrument with movable frets, four principal strings,
 and fifteen sympathetic strings.

Woody McKenzie
Appalachian Alien Dulcimer
Lap Dulcimer

©Photo by Bharati Mallya
Mongolian Skull

©Photo by Lois Siegel
Montreal World Film Festival, 2002
Performance by musicians
from Inner Mongolia


Dutch Craftsman Yuri Landman

Mouth Bow
Buffy Sainte-Marie & Pete Seeger

How to Play the Mouth Bow

Musical Bow

Musical Leaf-Whispering Hope


Ornately Decorated Violin Attributed
 to Honoré Derazey
National Music Museum

Norwegian Folk Fiddle

©Photos by Lois Siegel
Martine Chiasson

American Nyckelharpa Association

The Orpheon Foundation
Museum of Historical Musical Instruments

Pamela's Unusual Violins 

Paper Bag
Martin Zak

Laura Pharis

Tim Phillips



Bennett Williams Play Phonofiddles
 "South of the Border"

1906 Phonofiddle Playing "Galway Bay"
(Yiddish Version)

Piano Stairs
Stockholm, Sweden

Pig Fiddle
Made in England c.1850


A dancing master's kit, made c 1780

Menzies Stringed Instruments

Jeff Menzies
Pig Pochette
Pochette pocket fiddle

Guy Rabut Violin Maker
New York City

Recycled Instruments
Romanian Artistic Instruments

Gliga Violins USA

Photos by Peter Schug
Violin by José Sánchez, Germany

Asya Schween
"He's Mine!"
Kodak Endura Metallic Type-C
Print 12" x 17"

Shruti Box
Sruiti Box

C-Octave Shruti and Hang Drum

 Courtesy of  John McVey
Bottle Bell Shawm
Glynn Parry of Bedford Waites Medieval Music Group tests the new Bottle Bell Shawm
made after a carving in Beverley Minster Yorkshire.
He pronounced the instrument a success and added that it was a "nice instrument." 
It is in "D" at 430 Hertz.

Courtesy of John McVey
John McVey, Felmersham, England, noticed the similarity of pochettes (dancing-master's fiddles) and  the shape of a weaving shuttle. His friend, John Westland
had a smashed violin in his workshop and a weaving shuttle. John McVey put them together
 to create a Shuttlefiddle.
It sounds just like a violin if used with a pickup and amplifier.

Sievert Copy
by Nick Gent
Daventry,  UK

© Keaphoto
The Singing Saw
Iner Souster
Toronto, Canada


Listen to the Bowafridgeaphone & Bungee Bass

Bungee Cord Bass

The Fat Body Fiddle


Spoons Improvisation by Tran Quang Hai

Meeting Of 2 Kings Of Spoons
Roger Mason Tran Quang Hai

Australia's Got Talent


©Photo by Tom Robertson
Lois Siegel Plays the Spoons

Spoons and Dancing Marionette:
Lois Siegel
Piano: Jake Charron
Fiddle: Gordon Stobbe


Strange Fiddle

Straw Beating
aka Fiddlesticks
(Chinese Chopsticks)
Straw Beating was found in Colonial America:
Georgia, Florida and North Carolina, Tennessee from about 1880 to 1920

Martin Zak & Radek Spindler - Beating the Straw - Old-Time Mus

Tim Eriksen: Fiddlesticks on Mt. Pollux
Featuring Tim Eriksen and Peter Irvine
"Sandy Boys"

Fiddle Sticks

Maggie Jane and Cassie
Straw Beaters

Canadian Grand Masters Fiddling Championships

Stroh Violin

Jeremy Gignoux

Stroh Violin


Stroh with Two Horns

Stroh Violin

Photo by Dan Perkins
San Gimignano,

Northampton Community College Luthier Studies
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Eastern and Central Europe
The instrument is never played with a bow but rather with a pick.  
It has strap buttons so it can be held like a guitar.  
It also has a floor stand.


Hungarian Tambura Ensemble

Three Guitars & a Tractor

Trapezoidal Fiddle 
Felix Savart 1819

Tromba Marina

Trumpet Fiddle
Hammacher Schlemmer

Trumpet Harmonica

Twisted Sisters
by Joe Martin


    I have always admired violins that are
 non-standard. It may be they are a refreshing diversion from the glut of normal violins. For years I have been trying to come up with something unique myself.


            One thought was to build a violin with
 the neck attached backwards at the lower or wider bought end. The instrument would look drastically different. I speculated that it would
 be harder to play than a standard instrument.
Its string length would need to be shorter
 to place the bridge between
 the F-hole notches.


            While thinking about the possibilities of flip-flopping the directions of the boughts,
 I came up with the idea of only switching one side. The thought then came to mind, why not dismantle two identical violins and reassemble them with opposite sides. I do not recall ever seeing a violin constructed in such a manor. To me it seems obvious that someone must have thought of or tried this at one time.
Basically the design can be drawn using a standard half-violin template without
 flipping it over to draw the entire violin outline. 

Joe Martin


            I drew the instruments and found their
 f-hole configurations to be amusing.
 One violin would be a left and one a right.
 I thought one would need to be assembled
 as a left hand violin. The bridge placement
appeared to be a problem; one side would set exactly on top of an f-hole. This wasn't enough
 to deter me. I proceeded with the experiment.


            My first challenge was to find two violins exactly the same. We carry Samuel Shen instruments at our shop. I happened to have
 two that looked very similar. The only
 difference was that the wood of their backs
 have slightly contrasting grain characteristics.
I proceeded to dismantle the instruments.
Taking apart two perfectly healthy
instruments was an unnerving challenge.
 I was delighted to find that the four plates
 had consecutive serial numbers
 printed on them, which indicated they were made at the same time.


            After putting all of my violin repair
 abilities to the test I came up with two good sounding violins. I was surprised when they sounded normal. They actually sound
 as good as or better than the other
 regularly-shaped violins in my shop.

Mop Top Jane

©Photo by Tom Robertson
Ugly Stick
Created by Lois Siegel

with the assistance of Paul Jean

Lois Plays the Ugly Stick
Video by Lisa Connell
Filmed at the Grand Masters Fiddling Championship
By-the-Canal Fiddle Camp
Piano: Troy MacGillivray
Accordion: Joey Dziok

Cumberland Museum Heritage and Power Show

©Photo by Lois Siegel

Traditional Newfoundland Instrument
Parts: mop, rubber boot, bells, bottle caps, horns,
aluminum pie tin, grooved stick or drumstick

©Photo  by Paul Jean
Lois Siegel and The Ugly Stick
"Mop Top Jane"

Created by Lois Siegel
with the assistance of Paul Jean

©Photo by Lois Siegel

Ugly Stick
Elmer From West Virginia
Band: The West Virginia Swamp Rats

Created by Lois Siegel
with the assistance of Roger Michon

Ugly Stick
St. Patrick's Day



Created by Lois Siegel
with the assistance of Paul Jean

Canada Day


Robbie Burns Day

©Photo by Lois Siegel

Ugly Stick
Rat Face

Created by Lois Siegel
with the assistance of Roger Michon

©Photo by Lois Siegel

Ugly Stick

Created by Lois Siegel
with the assistance of Roger Michon

Ugly Stick

Created by Lois Siegel
with the assistance of Roger Michon

The instrument is lifted and dropped on the floor
in time with the music, while the musician strikes the attachments
with a grooved stick or drumstick.



Photo and Ugly Stick
Created by Arthur McGregor
Constructed entirely using a Swiss army knife

Elaine Blandford
Created by Bill Rideout
Twillingate, Newfoundland



Sandy Palmer
Duncan, BC
Originally from Newfoundland


"Woody Island Mummers"
by Rod Hand

"Mummering" is an old Newfoundland tradition
taking place during the twelve Days of Christmas.
It's said to date back to 1819.
Neighbors and friends dress up with old clothing,
sometimes using pillow cases over their faces for disguise.
They usually bring along several musical instruments to accompany
their singing and dancing antics as they visit from house-to-house.


Monkey Stick



World Lagerphone Record at the National Folk Festival
The town of Brooweena in Queensland, Australia claims to hold
the unofficial record when 134 people
simultaneously played the lagerphone in 2009

Mr. Mars' Blog


Paul made his lagerphone in the shape of Australia


Dutch province Friesland this type of instrument is known as a 'kuttepiel'



In the American upper-midwestern states of Minnesota and Wisconsin, the closely related Stumpf Fiddle or Pogocello originated in Czech communities and adds small cymbals, strings, and a drum.

© Photo Daniel Melander
Stump Fiddle

Chip Bailey - Duke Special

Ski Fiddle (Olympic Stumpf Fiddle)

How this was made


A similar instrument, the batih, is found in Ukraine


The variation of this instrument called the ‘Zob Stick’ was constructed and named in 1968 by percussionist and songwriter Keef Trouble of the band Brett Marvin and the Thunderbolts and Terry Dactyl and the Dinosaurs.

Jingling Johnny, also called Turkish Crescent, French Chapeau Chinois, or Pavilion Chinois.  It's a musical instrument consisting of a pole ornamented with a canopy (pavillon),
a crescent, and other shapes hung with bells and metal jingling objects, and often surmounted by horsetails.

French Foreign Legion

 Turkish Crescent

It possibly originated as the staff of a Central Asian shaman,
and it was part of the Turkish military Janissary band that
stimulated the late 18th-century European vogue for
Turkish music.
The jingling Johnny was used in European military bands
 in the 19th century and survives, somewhat altered, in Germany.
Similar instruments occur in ancient Chinese music,
probably diffused from the same Central Asian sources.

Instrument Names

Australia, Lagerphone
Austria, Grampas
Central Asia, Chaghana, Châpeau Chinois

Turkish crescent, Pavillon Chinois.
Germany, Schellenbaum, Wiki article in German

Militärmusikkorps mit Schellenbaum

Great Britain, Mendoza or Mendozer, Zob Stick, Monkey Stick, Jingling Johnny
Wikipedia article: Monkey Stick and Wiki: Jingling Johnny
New Foundland, CA, Ugly Stick.
Wiki article

New Zealand, Bushwhacker

Turkey, the Turkish Crescent, the Turkish jingle
Wiki article

Venezuela, Chapero

Vasser Clements' Fiddle
Viola d'Amour

The instruments pictured above were made
 in 1772 (?) and 1783
 by Tomaso (Thomas) Eberle,
 an Italian maker of Austrian ancestry
 who is considered a follower of
 the Gagliano school

Viola di Pardone (Baryton)

Essentially, the Baryton is a viola da gamba with six or seven strings
  but with many thin metal strings running under the fingerboard.
 These can be plucked with the thumb of the left hand while the other strings are bowed.

Violano Virtuoso

The Violin Player
Leipzig 1912
National Museum van Speelklok tot Pierement
Utrecht, Netherlands

Henner Harders
& Susanne Küster


David Holt and the Lightning Bolts: Washboard
"Raincrow Bill"

Doug "Little Brother" Jones
 Washboard Demo - Big Fat Mama - Honey Boy

Doug "Little Brother" Jones
 Washboard Demo - Big Fat Mama - Honey Boy


Washboard Hank
(Hank Fisher)

Photo by Patrick Walton
Sander Mommers


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