Created By: sprankton on October 22, 2011 Last Edited By: sprankton on October 28, 2011

Heavy Metal Autoharp

A band uses an instrument which is not typical of their genre.

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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.


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.

"'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.

[[folder:Western Animation]]

[[folder:Video Games]]
  • Kirby's Air Ride. The music for Machine Passage is techno but features a didgeridoo.
Community Feedback Replies: 15
  • October 22, 2011
    See also the ykttw Odd Instrument Solo.
  • October 22, 2011
    • The Red Hot Chilli Pipers might be an example, although it's not clear which instrument is the unusual one. Is it that a pipe band shouldn't have an electric guitar, or that a rock band shouldn't be leading with bagpipes? Depends on whether they're playing Amazing Freaking Grace or Radio Gaga.
  • October 22, 2011
    I fixed your markup for you: single words that should be linked to wiki pages go in double curly braces, and if you want to pothole them, you gotta put the double curly braces inside the double square brackets.
  • October 22, 2011
    Video Games: The music for Kirby Air Ride's Machine Passage course is techno with a didgeridoo providing the bass.
  • October 23, 2011
    I remember that an episode of The Fairly Odd Parents had someone playing an electric triangle.
  • October 23, 2011
    I like this trope!

    How about Beck - who combines county-blues with synthesizers and sequenced drums - or Alabama Three - "speading the word with sweet country acid house"?

    Though I'm not sure about orchestras, that mey be a trope on its own. Rock So Big It Goes Orchestral sort of thing.
  • October 23, 2011
    The Beach Boys often used a theramin, most notably on their famous song Good Vibrations, a rather odd electric instrument best known for providing cheesy sound effects to horror movies.

    Fixed some spelling.
  • October 24, 2011
    Carloman uses medieval instruments (panpipes, lutes, tambourines)... oh, and a synthesizer.
  • October 27, 2011
    I'd swear we have this, but check shows there's none.

    Out Of Genre Instrument?

  • October 27, 2011
    In Revenge Of The Nerds the Nerds put on a hi-tech (for the time) lights & music production for the homecoming Greek Games featuring Poindexter on the violin.
  • October 27, 2011
    Jethro Tull is a rock band featuring flute.
  • October 27, 2011
    Nightwish is a Symphonic Metal band, how should violins, autoharps, horns, flutes and orchestras be unlikely??
  • October 28, 2011
    Plenty of Accept songs feature a sitar.
  • October 28, 2011
    Sorry about the delays with updates. I think I'm caught up again, though.

    @peccantis: The way I see this trope working is that it focuses on the main genre of the band. That is to say: since Nightwish is a metal band their use of accoustic instruments is unusual. You are right that this is a defining trope for their sub-genre, however.

    @T Beholder That name is a little FOR Ky for my tastes. I'm not averse to changing the title, however. I seriously doubt the hivemind will give Trope Namer privileges to Nightwish. Maybe "Rock and Roll Violin" for Dave Matthew's Band?
  • October 28, 2011
    Maybe just mention fusion genres generally to avoid edit warring? Like how folk "anything" tends to mix fiddles and perhaps tin pipes etc. with standard pop, rock, metal etc. instruments for a curious sound. And of course symphonic metal (among others), which is a recognised subgenre with its now standard conventions. It's bit of a different deal to use just an unusual instrument in a song or two, and to consistently be a fusion genre.