10 instruments you’ve heard but haven’t heard of

When we hear the strum of an acoustic guitar or the snap of a snare drum, we can easily picture the instrument that produced the sound in our heads.

However, there are also a myriad of sounds we hear in music that are familiar, but we can’t quite put our finger on what instrument produced them. In the video above, we go through 10 instruments you’ve heard but haven’t heard of – we’ll play the sound before we reveal the instrument, so see if you can identify the source of any of the sounds before we display the answer!

Once you’ve completed the challenge, check out the Collection of sounds featured in the video, and scroll down to see all of the answers and learn more about each instrument.

1. Vibraslap

The vibraslap is a percussion instrument consisting of a piece of stiff wire connected to a wood ball and a hollow box full of metal ‘teeth’ inside. It has a very distinct rattling timbre, and is used in everything from orchestral music to rock and electronic music.

2. Waterphone

The waterphone is constructed of a stainless steel resonator bowl with neck rods attached to the rim of the bowl. The rods are of various different lengths, and you can use a bow to get some seriously suspenseful sounds.

3. Berimbau

The berimbau is a single-stringed instrument from Brazil, although earlier versions can be traced to Africa. It’s typically used in capoeira, and has quite the distinct timbre.

4. Mridangam

The mridangam is a double-sided drum that sounds similar to the tabla, but has a slightly heavier tone. It’s from south India and is a main percussion instrument in Carnatic music.

5. Flexatone

The flexatone is a percussion instrument comprised of a small flexible metal sheet that’s struck with two small wooden beaters. You’ve likely heard it in everything from spooky cinematic soundscapes to EDM and trap beats.

6. Kalimba / Mbira

The kalimba is a tuned percussion instrument also commonly known as the mbira and thumb piano. It originated from the Shona people in Zimbabwe, but has become popular throughout the world for its compact size and charming tone.

7. Apprehension Engine

The newest instrument on this list, the Apprehension Engine is designed for horror and suspense sounds. Taking the waterphone’s sonic characteristics to the next level, it can create an incredibly wide range of timbres by employing different exciters and different parts of the instrument.

8. Erhu

The erhu is a two-stringed bowed musical instrument, also known as the spike fiddle. Perhaps one of the less obscure instruments on this list, the erhu is beloved for its sliding, soothing sounds.

9. Morsing

Another instrument from south India, the morsing is a small metallic jaw harp instrument. It can be categorized in the lamellophone family of musical instruments.

10. Shakuhachi

The shakuhachi is a longitudinal wooden flute introduced to Japan in the seventh century, with ancient origins from China. It has a distinct warm sound that can be found in a variety of genres, especially film scores.

Are there any instruments on the list that you weren’t familiar with? Let us know in the comments below.

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March 7, 2020

Nick Chen Content Marketing @ Splice. Nick Chen is a producer, performer, and educator under the aliases "nickthechen" and "Enix."