MenagerieFive obscure instruments
Five obscure instruments

Madie Chua

 

Plato once said that “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything,” and he was right. Music does bring that little bit of color to our everyday lives, in the form of art and expression. It serves as that passageway for us to escape our regular realities and explore a new side of ourselves – a side which we may or may not have known of before.

 

For some, their musicality emanates from their own voices while others seek it through various musical instruments. Whatever instrument you choose to use, may it be your own voice or the strings of a guitar, it will distinguish you as an artist.

 

Here, we would like to explore some unusual musical instruments that you may want to consider to express your own musical individuality.

 

The Oboe

 

Many of us have likely heard about the Oboe, but not all of us actually know what it is. Well, picture it this way – remember that beige recorder you were required to buy in grade school? Imagine it longer with a narrower mouth piece and silver keys instead of holes. Then, imagine those keys wrapped around the body of this instrument, and now you’ve got an Oboe.

 

Similar to other wind instruments like the flute or the recorder, the Oboe produces a smooth yet slightly high pitch sound. Typically, this instrument is used in Classical songs; though Youtube musician, Tom Abelis proves this to not-be-so true as he uses an Oboe in his covers of current songs. His renditions of Katy Perry’s Roar and Adele’s Skyfall did not only make him different but it also personalized his performance, thus making him stand out among other cover artists.

 

The Lap Steel Guitar

 

For those of you who were born in the 90s, you probably got a glimpse of an instrument similar to this, through Edd in the television show, Ed, Edd n Eddy. Although Edd’s instrument was a pedal steel guitar, it still possesses similar attributes and characteristics to the lap steel guitar.

 

Like Edd’s pedal steel guitar, the player holds a metal bar on his/her left hand and slides it to change the pitch and adjust the sound; while the right hand plucks the strings to create the music. The sound it produces is quite interesting – it’s similar to that of a normal electric guitar but with a more distinct, country-like sound to it. Australian solo artist, Andrew Winton uses this instrument to individualize himself from other independent musicians. His acoustic cover of Led Zeppelin’s Nobody’s Fault But Mine, using only his double-neck lap steel guitar, did not only allow listeners to enjoy the song in a more bluesy vibe, but it also featured his incredible artistry as both a singer and a musician.

 

The Jazz Bass

Physically, this instrument looks identical to a Cello, but is played through the strumming or the plucking of its strings. Unlike the first two mentioned, this instrument is played upright.

It has a Blues sound to it and would be perfect for any Jazz song, although it rarely goes well with other instruments.  De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde student and longtime musician, Veronica Villanueva, says it’s because an instrument like that calls for a “solo or lead sound” and has “its own sound apart from rhythm.”

The Harmonica

Perhaps you remember it’s portrayal in classic black-and-white Hollywood films. The shady criminal, looking remarkably like Dick Dastardly, brushes the elongated silver instrument across his lips from behind the prison bars. This aforementioned musical device is none other than the harmonica, of which there are two major kinds: the chromatic and diatonic. We shall deal with the latter.

 

Smaller than their chromatic counterparts (used in classical), the diatonic harmonica is famous for being the poster boy of blues instruments. As for its sound, it would be futile to attempt to describe sound perfectly; after all, music begins where words ends. But in order for the reader to appreciate its distinct voice, it is imperative that a little background regarding the instruments usage in American history be understood.

 

Brought to America from Europe in the 19th century, the harmonica took no sides in the Civil war. Instead, it chose to provide solace for both Union and Confederate soldiers alike. It has been the instrument used to express the sorrows and horrors of war that each soldier, regardless of allegiance, have had to endure. But it was not to these soldiers alone that the Harmonica gave voice too.  African Americans protested slavery, the abolition of man’s dignity to nothing more than a beast, in the Harmonica’s wails.

 

And the pneuma of the instrument lives on in the works of great musicians such as Stevie Wonder and Billy Joel, their playing doing justice to the Harmonica’s story of human failings

 

Your voice (Or rather your voice in a helium accident)

 

There is nothing more poignant than the intricately beautiful music of a window breaking, said no one. Maybe it is this association between Opera music and shattering glass that discourages many a person from engaging in the last instrument in this lively list… Your voice.

 

The common notion of Opera singing is of an overweight woman in Viking braids trilling notes so high that it is almost as if she had endured a helium accident. This misconception has done its job of deterring potential Opera singers. But if these potentials were informed of the fact that Opera is more than that, and that it is composed of different types of Opera voices, interest could spark. Some of the types are as follows: for the female, soprano (highest voice), mezzo-soprano (middle), contralto (lowest). For the males, there exists the countertenor (alto), tenor (highest), baritone (the most common), bass (lowest). Each type is unique, and each one has its own charm that lends to the beauty of the song.

 

For it must be remembered that Opera singing is not just music; it is acting. Each kind of voice is the soul of a different character. Thus does Lauretta beg, “Oh my beloved father, I love him!” in one of the most stirring Opera pieces, O Mio Babbino Caro (taken from Giacomo Puccini’s  Gianni Schicchi). And let us not forget that the jazz standard ‘Summertime’ was taken from Porgy and Bess, Gershwin’s opera. For au contraire to popular belief, opera singing is not droll, but alive with diversity, vivacity, and emotion.

 

But in the end, even with the best of instruments, it is the player who brings out the music.