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What Is/are Your Favourite Obscure/obsolete Instrument(S)?

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Are there any instruments you wish were more prevalent and available to you either for your own study or for your compositions? I find some obscure instruments have really beautiful, unique timbres. Some of them were superceded by improved, more versatile instruments; others fell out of disuse for other reasons or never/haven't yet caught on.

Some of my favourites:

-the oboe d'amore

-the fortepiano

-flutes made of wood instead of metal


They're not obscure, but I'm not sure it could be said that the saxophone family has been firmly entrenched in classical music (yet).

Honourable mentions:

-the clavichord (but a little too unrefined)

-the harpsichord (not so much that I love it, but I could foresee myself having fun with it)

-heckelphone/bass oboe

-bass flute

Bösendorfers also aren't nearly prevalent enough and anyone willing to donate one should contact me as soon as possible. :toothygrin:

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I really like the glass armonica, or at least the idea of it. Check out this nugget from Wikipedia:

Purported dangers

The instrument's popularity did not last far beyond the 18th century. Some claim this was due to strange rumors that using the instrument caused both musicians and their listeners to go mad. It is a matter of conjecture how pervasive that belief was; all the commonly cited examples of this rumor are German, if not confined to Vienna.

One example of fear from playing the glass harmonica was noted by a German musicologist Friedrich Rochlitz in the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung:

The harmonica excessively stimulates the nerves, plunges the player into a nagging depression and hence into a dark and melancholy mood that is apt method for slow self-annihilation. If you are suffering from any nervous disorder, you should not play it; if you are not yet ill you should not play it; if you are feeling melancholy you should not play it.

It's very similar to the hydraulophone. But the hydraulophone uses a special integral property called 'absement'. This is for some reason not even on Wikipedia (at least when I checked), despite how basic of a concept it is: http://wearcam.org/a...nt/examples.htm

Check that page out Dom. if you didn't already know about absement.

Secondly, is the 'Violin octet'. These are basically scaled up Violins, which try and scale the timbre "properly". Due to the various construction nuances between the current string family (e.g. the neck on the double bass, the belly shape, etc), they all have different timbral differences to varying degrees. I can't remember what I thought of the sound of these instruments, or even if I found any music of them. But still, I think that the small differences could be used cleverly.

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I could definitely see those instruments serving a purpose in some modern scores.


Funny enough, I just found out there is a public hydraulophone located about an hour away from me. I'll have to check it out sometime.

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Definitely, I wish more people recorded on these. On a giant resonant steinway or something, Mozart can just sound odd at times.

It's the monstrous bass that's rich in overtones that causes problems. Apparently many European pianos have more subdued overtones, making them lighter- but clearer-sounding and probably more fitting to that kind of music. But it's still not a fortepiano, of course, and, as far as that goes, concert Steinways (or what are essentially their clones) are found a lot more often than any other piano.

On the other hand, Beethoven, other than perhaps the early sonatas, suits a modern grand just fine, in my opinion. Some composers seemed to be writing for instruments of the future, so to speak.

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Guest Ryan K

Checking some of these instruments being mentioned.

I personally like bagpipe for a melodic line in orchestra. Not for some traditional-sounding ceremonial exposition but for a real evocative piece; gives just that mystical woodsy tone I'm looking for.

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  • 7 months later...

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