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Unusual Instruments: Keyboard-Like

Backgrounds and Videos of Unusual and Unique Musical Instruments


An instrument that uses a keyboard to control the creation of sounds.

American Fotoplayer

The American Fotoplayer is a type of photoplayer developed by the American Photo Player Co. between the years of 1912 and 1925. The Fotoplayer is a type of player piano specifically developed to provide music and sound effects for silent movies.

Before movies had sound, it was discovered that playing background music during a film could aid in developing a particular mood for a certain scene. Initially, small theaters would use player pianos to produce music automatically from piano rolls. After some time, some of these pianos were extended in size with pipe organs and sound effects inserted into large cabinets connected to the sides of the piano. The user of this new contraption, which became known as the photoplayer, could then create multiple sounds to match the actions on screen. Between 8,000 and 12,000 of these musical instruments were made between 1910 and 1928, with the American Fotoplayer Company's Fotoplayer being one of the most popular brands.

- from Wikipedia

Button Accordion

A button accordion is a type of accordion on which the melody-side keyboard consists of a series of buttons rather than piano-style keys of a piano accordion. The first button accordion is credited to Franz Walther in 1850. A wide variation in keyboard systems, tuning, action and construction of these instruments exists. The two main examples of this are the chromatic button accordion and the diatonic button accordion.

There are four main components of any accordion: the reeds, bellows, buttons or keys, and the switches. The accordion has a treble side, which usually encases the reeds, and a bass side, which usually has the buttons and/or keys. The buttons or keys control the pitch which is on the treble side, and there are usually buttons on the bass side that are harder to see but can be tactfully identified with something like a gem or crosshatch pattern. The bellows are considered the life of the instruments as they are the ones expanding and contracting air into the reeds, and are usually made out of paper. Lastly, the switches control the timbre or voice of the instrument.

- from Wikipedia

Glass Harmonica

The glass harmonica is a type of musical instrument that uses a series of glass bowls or goblets graduated in size to produce musical tones by means of friction (instruments of this type are known as friction idiophones).

The name "glass harmonica" refers today to any instrument played by rubbing glass or crystal goblets or bowls. The alternate instrument consisting of a set of wine glasses (usually tuned with water) is generally known in English as "musical glasses" or the "glass harp".

- from Wikipedia

Stalacpipe Organ

The Great Stalacpipe Organ is an electrically actuated lithophone (an instrument that creates sound be hitting rocks) located in Luray Caverns, Virginia, USA. It is operated by a keyboard that controls rubber mallets that tap on stalactites to produces tones.