Top Ten Underappreciated Musical Instruments

(Image Above: Martin Koenig on the Balalaika Web Site)

Everyone these days seems to look up to a guy who plays a guitar or a friend who rocks out on the drums.  These instruments have some magical capability to endow their player with charm, allure, and interest.  But what about other music-making devices?  Why does no one acknowledge their splendor?  In an effort to bring these overlooked instruments the recognition they deserve, this week’s Top Ten is devoted to Underappreciated Musical Instruments.

10.  Bagpipes. That endless drone and those reedy notes have got a way about them.
9.  Rackett. Some sort of Renaissance-Baroque instrument, but I bet it’s a terrible thing to listen to.
8.  Didgeridoo. Oldest wind instrument that history can recall.
7.  Accordion. Best when played by some old Frenchman in the winding streets of St.-Germain-de-Pres.
6.  Heckelphone. For when you feel nostalgia for your overbearing mother.
5.  Harmonica. There must be a reason that the sound of “harmony” is in their name.
4.  Gongs. I bet the Beach Boys loved them, because they give off really good vibrations.
3.  Banjo. That arpeggiated plucking makes me weak at the knees.
2.  Lyre. Do people even play this any more? Know anyone named Orpheus? Perhaps he knows the answer.
1.  Balalaika. Because it makes me think of baklava.  Mmmm.

Do you know any other instruments that don’t get their fair share of attention?

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  1. Sydney 07/27/2009 at 6:14 am #

    I would add the shamisen and the koto (the two quintessential Japanese stringed instruments).

  2. Belle S. 07/27/2009 at 7:09 am #

    The Glockenspiel

  3. Jaclyn English 07/27/2009 at 7:34 am #

    Of the named instruments, believe or not, my father has a didgeridoo (there’s a reason it’s underappreciated, haha), harmonica, banjo (he built it), and balalaika. That’s pretty good, I think.

  4. Anna H. 07/27/2009 at 7:55 am #

    I love me a well-handled bagpipe… at least when it’s not too close! 😉

  5. Colleen 07/27/2009 at 8:11 am #


    I’m partial because I’ve been playing for 12 years. But no one ever knows what a French horn is… unless you tell them it’s the instrument all over Christmas decorations.

  6. Jacky 07/27/2009 at 9:31 am #

    the theremin !! it actually is in a beach boys song, good vibrations.

  7. Kaitlyn 07/27/2009 at 9:53 am #

    hmm…the glockenspiel. It’s the forgotten brother of the xylophone

  8. Blair 07/27/2009 at 11:29 am #

    The serpent, perhaps?

  9. Jaclyn 07/27/2009 at 11:38 am #

    Of the named instruments, believe or not, my father has a didgeridoo (there’s a reason it’s underappreciated, haha), harmonica, banjo (he built it), and balalaika. That’s pretty good, I think.

  10. Silvana 07/27/2009 at 11:59 am #

    The ukulele, definitely.
    And the kazoo.
    And the slide whistle.

    (I play all three, although kazooing can’t really be considered skill. :D)

  11. Lauren 07/27/2009 at 12:16 pm #

    Yesss, the theremin. First electric instrument!

  12. Sarah 07/27/2009 at 1:22 pm #

    SITAR! The world would be nothing without the sitar…

  13. Vince 07/27/2009 at 2:55 pm #

    Hey Hannah, love this top ten list. I would add the Kazoo and the Recorder, but otherwise I love all your picks. The Accordion is a good one too. You can cross-post this to our site and link back to your site. We are trying to create a directory for top ten lists where people can find your site. The coolest feature is you can let other people vote on the rankings of your list.

  14. Jenna 07/27/2009 at 3:48 pm #

    I would echo sydney, and add the shakuhachi to that, also from japan. Also, the Suona, finger cymbals, the cajon (a really sweet box drum) and my group does some interesting things with a Melodica. Good list!

  15. Melanie 07/27/2009 at 5:05 pm #

    I have a softspot for rare instruments:

    crystal baschet
    glass harmonica
    and my personal favorite, the ondes martenot.

  16. Laura 07/27/2009 at 5:59 pm #

    You are quickly becoming my favorite Modcloth blogger. Awesome list!

    Ahh, the bagpipes…brings me back to my old Highland dancing days 🙂 I love banjos and harmonicas, absolutely adore accordions – Amelie! – and apparently, alliteration…

    I have a balalaika. My boyfriend can pick out a few tunes but I’m hopeless. 🙂 It always makes me think of Back in the USSR, too!

  17. Rita 07/27/2009 at 6:02 pm #

    How odd! Just today there was a busker on the subway playing a balalaika. And I’m in Toronto, not Russia.

  18. Hilary 07/27/2009 at 9:09 pm #

    ‘Gongs. I bet the Beach Boys loved them, because they give off really good vibrations.’

    Actually laughed out loud at this! Love a good pun!

  19. Hannah 07/28/2009 at 5:18 am #

    Wow everyone, all your knowledge of musical instruments impresses me!

    And Laura, you just made my morning. Yay!

  20. Eric 07/28/2009 at 5:57 am #

    The Ukulele, obviously.

  21. Hannah 07/29/2009 at 10:06 am #

    You also, in case no one has listened to them before, need to look up, Neutral Milk Hotel!
    I’m sure this group of people will appreciate his kind of music!

  22. Tony Brown 09/24/2009 at 6:53 am #

    I don’t know If I said it already but …I’m so glad I found this site…Keep up the good work I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say GREAT blog. Thanks, 🙂

    A definite great read..Tony Brown

  23. Roy 04/08/2010 at 10:22 pm #

    I love the sounds of the names of some of the old instruments. How about the chitarone, the oliphant, etc.

  24. Rockon 10/18/2010 at 8:22 am #

    All your knowledge of musical instruments impresses me!

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