Alice, Bob, Chris, Doug and Eustace are starting a band. Alice and Bob split vocals. When Bob doesn't sing, he plays guitar. Chris Takes the drums. Doug is the Bassist, and Eustace plays keyboard. All the bases are covered. One day Bob shows up to practice with Frank. "I heard you guys are starting a band." Frank says, "Can I join?" "What do you play?" Alice asks. "...autoharp." Alice is feeling open-minded and asks for Frank to play something just to see what he can do. It turns out Frank is good. He's really good. If Yngwie Malmsteen had picked up an autoharp instead of a guitar, this is what it would sound like. "...you're in." And that's how it happens. Heavy Metal Autoharp happens when a band uses an instrument that you wouldn't normally expect them to. This is often seen with Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly.
- Revenge of the Nerds. When the nerds put on a lights & music production for the homecoming Greek Games they feature Poindexter on the violin.
- Nightwish. In addition to autoharp, they have used violins, horns, flutes, and an entire orchestra.
- Avantasia has used several atypical instruments including violins, celtic drums, an organ, and an entire orchestra.
- Apocalyptica is a rare reversal of this trope in that they began as a heavy metal cello quartet which later adopted more conventional instruments.
- Korpiklaani is another reversal which began as a folk band and later became a folk metal band, adding traditional instruments.
- The Dave Matthews Band is well known in rock music for using a violin.
- Rush is notable for using a wide variety of percussion instruments.
- Blue Öyster Cult occasionally uses a cowbell.
- Beck is a country/blues singer but has used keyboards, bass, a glockenspiel, and a vocoder.
- Alabama Three is an acid house music band which has been known to use a harmonica.
- The Beach Boys are well known as a surf rock band. However, they have used a theremin in a few of their songs, most notably Good Vibrations.
- Accept is a German heavy metal band which often uses a sitar.
- Jethro Tull is a rock band which features a flute.
- Men at Work is another rock band which is known for using a flute, specifically in their song "Land Down Under."
- Carloman is a folk band with a focus on medieval instruments which also uses a synthesizer.
- Doug. One episode has the characters starting a band featuring such instruments as banjo, garbage can, and autoharp. The title character is kicked out of the band later in the episode because "A banjo isn't really a good instrument for a rock band."
- Kirby's Air Ride. The music for Machine Passage is techno but features a didgeridoo.
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