Created By: CountofBleckFebruary 5, 2013 Last Edited By: DAN004yesterday

Magical Musical Instrument

A magical musical instrument, whose powers can be used by playing it.

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Trope
DAN 004 wuz ere takin over ur druft


A Plot Device or Improbable Weapon in the form of a musical instrument, whose power can be used by playing it. This type of weapon can possibly but isn't limited to being an Instrument Of Murder. Such an instrument is bound to have magical abilities, or else it would be an ordinary instrument. Beware, listening to these instruments may sometimes be the equivalent of listening to a Brown Note.

Instruments of Power can also be Plot Device's or Mac Guffin if the plot is surrounded by them. Plots surrounding the Instrument of Power can make them turn into a Sound Stone, and involve either collecting them all or trying to beat the Big Bad to it to prevent The End Of The World As We Know It.

Related to Magic Music. Compare Songs In The Key Of Lock. A Musical Assassin may either use this, or Magic Music with a mundane instrument.


Examples

Anime And Manga

Fan Works
  • In PMD Explorers there are magical instruments that have a different ability, each one representing one of the 17 types. Each instrument can either be used to control Pokemon of their element or can can attack with the element of the instrument. If the instrument decides you're compatible or not...

Film

Literature
  • Chronicles Of Prydain series. At the end of The Castle of Llyr Eilonwy gives Taran a silver-bound battle horn from Caer Colur. In Taran Wanderer the dwarf Doli identifies it as the work of the Fair Folk, with the ability to summon them if the correct notes are played upon it.
  • Soul Music contains perhaps the most extreme example of all, wherein the protagonist chances upon a pawnshop full of unusual pawned instruments, and buys the guitar that was used to create the universe. It brings him immediate fame and success, but nearly drives him to an untimely death (its owners are compelled to live fast and die young).
  • Non-magical example: In Foundation and Empire, the Mule can naturally control people by manipulating their emotions, but he can amplify this power greatly (to more intensely control one person, or to control a large number at once) by playing an instrument called a Visi-Sonor.
  • Mo's violin in The Laundry Series is a very dark version of this. It is not a normal violin (it's made of people, at least twelve innocents were tortured and killed to make it if I'm remembering right) and it kills demons, among other things.

Live Action TV

Myth And Legend

Tabletop Games
  • Dungeons And Dragons has had a vast number of magical musical instruments over the years, everything from the Horn of Blasting to the various bardic string instruments (Canaith Mandolin, Cli Lyre, Anstruth Harp etc.).
  • Lejendary Adventures
    • Pipes of Dancing cause other creatures to do nothing but dance for as long as they're played.
    • Pipes of Dreaming cause all opponents hearing them to fall asleep.

Theatre
  • The Magic Flute
    • Tamino uses his magic flute to get through the four elements in his third trial- earth, air, fire, and water.
    • Papageno uses his magic bells to cause Monostatos and his minions to dance and allow him and Pamina to escape.

Video Games
  • Solatorobo has the three pieces of the Divine Flute, used to summon the Master of the Clouds to take you under the sea of clouds.
  • In Okami, Waka's flute also functions as a freaking Lightsaber.
    • Then, in the sequel Okamiden, Kurow's main way of helping you in battle is by playing his flute, which sends out damaging musical notes. Not only that, but his flute also like Waka's, doubles as a Lightsaber, only Darth-Maul style.
  • The Horn of Valhalla from Baldurs Gate is a magical horn that when played, summons fierce warriors from Asgard to fight for the player.
  • In Super Mario Bros 3: There are instruments called warp whistles you can collect. When used they warp you to an area that lets you skip to the start of a later "world" in the game. How far you can skip depends on what world you used it in.
  • In Final Fantasy I Princess Sarah gives the Warriors of Light a Lute as a gift for saving her from the rouge knight Garland. Later in the final portion of the game you return to where you saved her from and find out her Lute opens up the portal to 2000 years in the past where said rouge knight has retreated to become the demon Chaos.
  • In Brutal Legend, guitars are considered magical weapons of death. Music in general, in particular Heavy Metal, approaches Reality Warper power in this world.
  • In the first Pokemon games, the Pokeflute was needed to wake up the sleeping Snorlaxes blocking two different roads.

Web Original
  • SCP-298 is a chamber organ made around 1400AD or so, just before organs began to sprout stop controls. Apart from a small area around the player, anyone hearing its song will find their blood solidifying, taking on incredible tensile properties and extruding out through the skin. This is invariably fatal. A diluted effect can happen when some parts are used in other organs. The player will lose their protection in this case; symptoms include blood thickening and headaches.

Western Animation
  • In Don Bluth's Rock A Doodle, the Duke plays an electrified pipe organ that generates rainclouds which block out the sun.
  • In Shrek Forever After, The Pied Piper (see the Myth and Legend section of this page) appears. His pipe is adjustable to work on a variety of creatures, including ogres.
  • The Fiendish Fiddle in The Impossibles. Capable of banishing heroes to other planets. Also capable of keeping them alive there, somehow.
  • One episode of The Smurfs had Gargamel trick Harmony into playing a cursed flute for the others. The result was the Smurfs falling into a deep coma. Harmony destroys the flute when he finds out there's no cure for its tune. He decides to play a tune on his normal horn as a dedication to his fallen friends. Somehow, that wakes them up.
  • Tech Coyote of Loonatics Unleashed is compelled to construct a double-neck guitar for Rupes Oberon. This guitar can open wormholes in space/time, allowing Rupes to free two other villains in a plot to seize control of interstellar travel.

Community Feedback Replies: 44
  • February 5, 2013
    troacctid
  • February 6, 2013
    Arivne
    According to its page, a MacGuffin is "a motivating element in a story that is used to drive the plot."

    Specifically, "it won't actually do anything except possibly distract you while you try to figure out its significance."

    So if a musical instrument has special powers and does something it isn't a MacGuffin by definition.

    A MacGuffin that happened to be a musical instrument - e.g. a valuable Stradivarius violin that everyone wanted - would just be The Same But More Specific of MacGuffin.

    Long story short: MacGuffin shouldn't be in the name.
  • February 6, 2013
    kefiiirs
    • Solatorobo has the three pieces of the Divine Flute, used to summon the Master of the Clouds to take you under the sea of clouds.
    • In the first Pokemon games, the Pokeflute was needed to wake up the sleeping Snorlaxes blocking two different roads.
    • More Zelda:
      • A Link To The Past's flute serves as a Warp Whistle in the Light World (a bird flies by and drops you off), but comes into play when you pursue Ganon from his tower to the pyramid, both in the Dark World (the bird appears anyway).
      • Spirit Tracks has the Spirit Flute, used to unlock railroad tracks, summon birds, and replaces the shovel.
      • Skyward Sword has a harp used in certain locations to advance the plot.
  • February 6, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    What Arivne said is true. Also, I find it weird that you mentioned Sound Stone in the description and still failed to see that this trope you're suggesting is exactly the same:

    "The Sound Stone is a specific type of MacGuffin which is an instrument, melody, music track, or part of a song which must be used or collected in order to achieve some purpose."

    See? We already got this one covered. It doesn't specifically say that the instrument has to be played (though it does mention "using" it) but essentially they are one and the same.
  • February 6, 2013
    CountofBleck
    Hmm.....To be honest, by time I made the trope, I realized that at the very bvottom of the article, it clearly says not to confuse with Plot Device. I also never saw the instrument part in Sound Stone, as I thought it would be a song only. I'm sorry, I will edit the post to explain the trope more.
  • February 6, 2013
    Astaroth
    The Horn of Gawley in Little Big Adventure, which can be played to break seals of Sendell and allow Twinsen access to new places (or extra four-leafed clovers). In the sequel, Twinsen aquires the Horn of Blue Triton, which allows him to stockpile excess life points and use it to heal himself or injured NPCs.
  • February 6, 2013
    kefiiirs
  • February 7, 2013
    Arivne
    Literature
    • Chronicles Of Prydain series. At the end of The Castle of Llyr Eilonwy gives Taran a silver-bound battle horn from Caer Colur. In Taran Wanderer the dwarf Doli identifies it as the work of the Fair Folk, with the ability to summon them if the correct notes are played upon it.

    Tabletop Games
    • Dungeons And Dragons has had a vast number of magical musical instruments over the years, everything from the Horn of Blasting to the various bardic string instruments (Canaith Mandolin, Cli Lyre, Anstruth Harp etc.).
  • February 7, 2013
    KZN02
    Related to Magic Music
  • February 7, 2013
    oneuglybunny
    Western Animation
    • The Duke plays an electrified pipe organ that generates rainclouds which block out the sun in Don Bluth's RockADoodle.
  • February 7, 2013
    CountofBleck
    Soul Music contains perhaps the most extreme example of all, wherein the protagonist chances upon a pawnshop full of unusual pawned instruments, and buys the guitar that was used to create the universe. It brings him immediate fame and success, but nearly drives him to an untimely death (its owners are compelled to live fast and die young.)
  • February 11, 2013
    polarbear2217
    The Magic Flute Tamino uses his magic flute to get through the four elements in his third trial- earth, air, fire, and water.

    Papageno uses his magic bells to cause Monostatos and his minions to dance and allow him and Pamina to escape.
  • February 11, 2013
    shoruke
    Mabinogi Fantasy Life allows the players to fight using musical instruments as weapons. They can also compose "magical music" score scrolls that increase stats, or use the various bard skills to enhance things like Mana Regeneration or Harvesting Speed.
  • February 25, 2013
    IsaacSapphire
    Mo's violin in The Laundry Series is a very dark version of this. It is not a normal violin (it's made of people, at least twelve innocents were tortured and killed to make it if I'm remembering right) and it kills demons, among other things.
  • February 26, 2013
    Unknown Troper
    • In Okami, Waka's flute also functions as a freaking Lightsaber.
      • Then, in the sequel Okamiden, Kurow's main way of helping you in battle is by playing his flute, which sends out damaging musical notes. Not only that, but his flute also like Waka's, doubles as a Lightsaber, only Darth-Maul style.
  • March 20, 2013
    CountofBleck
    bump
  • May 3, 2013
    Arivne
    Tabletop Games
    • Lejendary Adventures
      • Pipes of Dancing cause other creatures to do nothing but dance for as long as they're played.
      • Pipes of Dreaming cause all opponents hearing them to fall asleep.
  • May 3, 2013
    DracMonster
    Might need "musical" to avoid confusion with "instrument" as a tool (IE a magic wand)
  • May 3, 2013
    BOFH
    Live Action TV
  • May 4, 2013
    arbiter099
    In Brutal Legend, guitars are magical weapons of death. Music in general, in particular Heavy Metal, approaches Reality Warper power in this world.
  • May 4, 2013
    Superscythe
    In Katekyo Hitman Reborn, M.M. uses a Clarinet which can send sound waves that explode on contact.
  • May 4, 2013
    TooBah
    In the Spellsinger series, Jon-Tom is transported to a world where magic is real. He can use any instrument to create magic, but generally uses a two-stringed lute called (I think) a duclar.
  • May 5, 2013
    TooBah
    ^OK, I looked up the Spellsinger example. The instrument is the only one he can use, and it's called a "duar".
  • May 5, 2013
    lycropath
    In Final Fantasy I Princess Sarah gives the Warriors of Light a Lute as a gift for saving her from the rouge knight Garland. Later in the final portion of the game you return to where you saved her from and find out her Lute opens up the portal to 2000 years in the past where said rouge knight has retreated to become the demon Chaos.
  • May 5, 2013
    xanderiskander
    In Super Mario Bros 3: There are instruments called warp whistles you can collect. When used they warp you to an area that lets you skip to the start of a later "world" in the game. How far you can skip depends on what world you used it in.
  • May 6, 2013
    Trueman001
    (Western Animation)

    In Shrek 3, The Pied Piper (see the Myths and Folklore section of this page) appears. His pipe is adjustable to work on a variety of creatures, including ogres.

    (Literature)

    In Foundation and Empire, the Mule can naturally control people by manipulating their emotions, but he can amplify this power greatly (to more intensly control one person, or to control a large number at once) by playing an instrument called a visi-sonor.
  • May 10, 2013
    Trueman001
    Before launch, the title needs to be clarified to make the point that a musical intrument is meant, rather than "instrument" in the general sense of "tool".

    There's one SF example whose details I can't remember; about a box which gives any electric guitar enormous power. In the intro The Beatles happen to be playing a reunion concert (with the box filling in for John) when World War III breaks out, and the Fab Four use their music to cause the nukes to "Get Back" into their silos. Unfortunately this just causes a milder post-apocalptic society than would otherwise have been, and the USA becomes an imitation Wild West where "the six-string guitar reigns supreme". The climax is a showdown between two notorious guitar-slingers. If the name and author of this story (it was published in the early 1980s, probably in Analog) could be tracked down, it would be a worthy example.
  • May 11, 2013
    oneuglybunny
    Western Animation
    • Tech Coyote of Loonatics Unleashed is compelled to construct a double-neck guitar for Rupes Oberon. This guitar can open wormholes in space/time, allowing Rupes to free two other villains in a plot to seize control of interstellar travel.

    p.s.: Spell "Animation" correctly to eliminate the red-link.
  • May 11, 2013
    Howzers
    In the first season of Power Rangers, the Green Ranger summons his zord by playing his dagger as a flute.
  • May 11, 2013
    Olaf_Merchant
    Videogame example, The Horn of Valhalla from Baldur's Gate is a magical horn that when played, summons fierce warriors from Asgard to fight for the player.

    Film example, Erik the Viking- Erik needs to find the magical Horn Resounding so that he and his crew can enter Asgard, and later on return back to the real world.
  • May 30, 2013
    randomsurfer
    In the film Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band FVB is after Sergent Pepper's insturments, which will magically make them good musicians. They fail but their quest destroys Heartland, so Sgt. Pepper's trumpet magically makes Sgt. Pepper come back to life and restore everything back to the way it should be.
  • June 23, 2013
    Trueman001
    -bump-
  • March 21, 2015
    DAN004
    Gonna take this over and call this Magical Music Instrument.
  • March 22, 2015
    Arivne
    • Examples section
      • Added a line separating the Description and Examples sections.
      • Added the word "Examples".
      • Changed unnecessary double curly braces to Camel Case.
      • Namespaced and italicized work names.
      • Corrected spelling (intrument x4, differet, your -> you're, compatiable, intensly).
      • Capitalized (visi-sonor).
      • Put the name of the work at the beginning in the Rock A Doodle example as per How To Write An Example - State the source.
  • March 23, 2015
    randomsurfer
    • Escape To Witch Mountain: Tony's telekinesis works much better when he's playing his harmonica - it helps him focus.
    • Two musical assassins in Kung Fu Hustle use their instruments to magically create weapons with which to kill.
  • March 23, 2015
    BKelly95
    Western Animation
    • One episode of The Smurfs had Gargamel trick Harmony into playing a cursed flute for the others. The result was the Smurfs falling into a deep coma. Harmony destroys the flute when he finds out there's no cure for its tune. He decides to play a tune on his normal horn as a dedication to his fallen friends. Somehow, that wakes them up.
  • February 3, 2016
    DAN004
    Bump for now.

    Do note that the instrument has to be explicitly magical/having powers; someone pulling a supernatural trick with an ordinary instrument doesn't count (and goes to Musical Assassin instead)
  • February 3, 2016
    shadowbeast
    • SCP-298 is a chamber organ made around 1400AD or so, just before organs began to sprout stop controls. Apart from a small area around the player, anyone hearing its song will find their blood solidifying, taking on incredible tensile properties and extruding out through the skin. This is invariably fatal. A diluted effect can happen when some parts are used in other organs. The player will lose their protection in this case; symptoms include blood thickening and headaches.
    • The Fiendish Fiddle in The Impossibles. Capable of banishing heroes to other planets. Also capable of keeping them alive there, somehow.
  • February 4, 2016
    eroock
    It was mentioned above that we have this as Sound Stone already. Don't launch before resolving this issue.
  • February 4, 2016
    DAN004
    1. Sound Stone can be an instrument, music note or any related musical things. This one is strictly an instrument.
    2. This one is also not about Mac Guffin while Sound Stone is. The focus of this is that the instrument is enchanted - like a magical weapon or magical artifact would - and can bring about supernatural effects.
  • February 4, 2016
    updownbanana
  • February 4, 2016
    DAN004
    ^ what's an "etwahl"?
  • yesterday
    acrobox
    Magic Music already covers magical instruments. It's in the first line.

    quote: A type of Functional Magic that works via music: playing a certain song or a magical instrument that causes a spell-like effect to happen.

    Does it need a split?
  • yesterday
    DAN004
    ^ are you sure somebody didn't vigilante-edit it?

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable