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Everything Is an Instrument

"Is mayonnaise an instrument?"
Patrick Star, Sponge Bob Square Pantsnote 

Music has a long tradition behind it, and with any tradition comes traditions of form and style. For music, there are certain things that are considered musical instruments and certain things which aren't. For example, you wouldn't be surprised to hear a violin playing music, but if you were to hear a chainsaw playing a well-known melody, you would be.

Many people have found the idea appealing, and make an effort to make musical sounds out of things that wouldn't necessarily be considered musical. Body noises like belches and flatulence are rather popular, as are animal noises and violence used to produce melodies. Whatever is used, it's something removed from the norm. Sometimes it's done for comedic effect, but just as often it's used by serious artists who have found that weird instruments make good music.

See also Serendipitous Symphony and Trash Can Band. If they actually build an instrument out of it, it's a Bizarre Instrument. Compare Anything Can Be Music.


  • The Blue Danube Waltz is very popular for this kind of treatment.
    • An Animaniacs short had Wakko performing the Blue Danube using belches.
    • Happens in The Simpsons, with Homer munching the Blue Danube whilst in space.
    • Monty Python's Flying Circus has used "The Exploding Blue Danube."
    • An episode of House of Mouse has Mickey and Baby Shelby playing "The Blue Danube". Mickey plays on Shelby's shell like a xylophone, and Shelby does "ha ha"s to do the notes.
    • Someone once submitted a clip to You've Been Framed featuring two men doing the Blue Danube, with armpit burps.
    • Ferris Bueller demonstrates using his synthesizer keyboard to make fake coughing sounds by playing "The Blue Danube".
    • An episode of Phineas and Ferb features the aptly named "Marty the Rabbit Boy and his Musical Blender" playing Blue Danube on well, a blender.
    • The Muppet Show did a neat little skit set in a library, with Miss Piggy, Fozzie, Gonzo, and company playing it by coughing, rustling papers, tapping pencils, etc., and a librarian trying to shush them. Failing in this, she appoints herself conductor.
  • The World 1-1 theme from the original Mario has been played on everything capable of making a sound. Don't believe me? Go to Youtube.

  • In a car battery ad, Gary Numan played his song "Cars" on a keyboard that was hooked up to the horns of about 30 black and white cars, arranged like the black and white keys on a keyboard. Point of the ad: The car battery was powerful enough to power thirty car horns and the keyboard, and then enough to start all 30 car engines.
  • This Cola ad resembles the picture at the top of the page, albeit with some kind of troll creatures in place of cats.
  • This New Zealand-produced advert selling insecticide for farmers.
  • A McDonald's ad featured Ronald conducting an entire band of kids using various objects that shouldn't logically function as instruments. That of course implying that any ad with Ronald in it runs on any sort of logic.

  • In The Adventures of Baron Munchausen the sultan had an organ where the notes played were screams of tortured people on the other side getting poked with spikes.
  • On a similar vein, Mel Brooks' History of the World Part I had the Hallelujah chorus being sung by cavemen who had their feet and stomachs hit by rocks.
    • Later on, in the Inquisition scene, he uses the knees of Jews as a xylophone, and a victim's head as a bongo.
  • In the 1999 Disney film Tarzan, the song "Trashin' the Camp" is this trope, with instruments ranging from a typewriter and glass bell-jar percussion to an (elephant-enhanced) gramophone trumpet.
  • The 2010 movie Sound of Noise features a supposed terrorist group using Everything Is An Instrument as their weapon of choice.
  • In Return of the Jedi, the Ewok celebration scene at the end shows one Ewok using sticks hitting stormtrooper helmets as a drum set.
  • In a flashback scene in The Russia House Sean Connery and some Russian friends play a tune using improvised instruments such as matchboxes.

  • Musical saws. Ordinary handsaws can be used as instruments, by rubbing a violin bow across the unsharpened side. They're popular enough that there are manufacturers making saws designed specifically to be used as musical instruments, rather than for cutting wood.
  • Various albums have cats or other animals singing Christmas carols.
  • Leroy Anderson's The Typewriter uses a typewriter as the percussion section with the keys clicking a rhythm and the carriage bell ringing at the end of each phrase.
    • Anderson was very fond of this. Other examples from his work include sandpaper in "Sandpaper Ballet" (fine, medium, and coarse to produce different pitches), alarm clocks in "The Syncopated Clock", and coconut shells and sleigh bells in "Sleigh Ride."
  • Imogen Heap, with everything from banging on carpets and light fixtures to recordings of dripping sinks, incoming trains, people talking, herself running around her flat... Should these not meet her requirements she can always turn to her wide collection of rather exotic instruments. This is most exemplified on her 2009 album, Ellipse, as well as her Heapsongs project, which included extensive sound- and image-sourcing from her fans, primarily for the song "Lifeline".
  • The Plasmatics were known for using and listing chainsaws and machineguns as instruments
  • The Deep Purple song "Fireball" features the air conditioner in the studio being turned on in the beginning.
  • The intro to Pink Floyd's "Money" has cash registers, coins and a paper ripping forming a melody. Other examples include "Time," from the same album, begins with several alarm clocks sounding at once; "Seamus", from Meddle, features a "solo" of barking and howling performed by a dog; and the Animals album features sounds from the animals referenced in each song's title. The first part of "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" also features a glass harp (rubbing wet fingers against the rims of wineglasses.) In fact, Pink Floyd even had plans to release an album called Household Objects, an album that would feature music made from common every day items, but the idea was eventually scrapped.
    • The two songs recorded in the Household Objects sessions will be released on the 2011 reissues.
  • Penguin Cafe Orchestra's "Telephone And Rubber Band", which is played on a telephone and a rubber band (and strings).
  • Spike Jones' version of "You Always Hurt the One You Love", starting at about the minute-and-a-half mark. (And just Spike Jones in general, but that particular song is probably one of the most famous.)
  • The Boston Typewriter Orchestra is a improvisational percussion group that uses nothing but typewriters.
    • Brian Eno included a typewriter solo on his song "China My China."
  • Percussionist Jamie Muir, a former member of King Crimson, often used "found instruments". For example, the screeching noise at the end of "The Talking Drum" was made by blowing into bicycle horn reeds (with the air bulbs removed). Others included a bowl of pistachio nut shells, metal plates, and a large double-handed hand saw.
  • Joe Nanini, the first drummer for Wall of Voodoo, was known for his use of pots and pans as drums, as heard in their sole hit, "Mexican Radio."
  • Einstürzende Neubauten use custom instruments built mostly from scrap metal and industrial tools. Their liner notes list everything they use from styrofoam to a jet turbine. On one early track, they added percussion by attaching microphones to Blixa Bargeld's body and having N U Unruh beat him up. Their dance club-ready song "Zampano" is made entirely out of springs, pneumatic pistons and air horns.
  • Fad Gadget (an occasional collaborator with Einsturzende Neubauten) did used an array of glass bottles on "Collapsing New People" and a power drill on "Ricky's Hand". The rhythm from his disturbing "Immobilize" is a horse galloping.
  • Depeche Mode were listening to Einsturzende Neubauten around 1983 and happened to have just bought a Synclavier sample machine. Half of that year's album, aptly titled Construction Time Again, consisted of samples of random stuff being hit or dropped. One track was recorded in a warehouse next to a railyard so you have trains going by and getting manipulated into melodies.
    • The drums of one of their most famous songs, "Personal Jesus", was created by jumping on their instrument cases.
  • Negativland was (and still is) an experimental music band known for using various non-musical sounds as an integral part of their music, though with some songs the "music" designation is questionable.
  • Xoc and Heavy Friends' music is created by the eponymous "heavy friends" sending sending any sound they like to Xoc, who then assembles them. This naturally results in the occasional use of non-standard instruments, such as drills, combs, and people reading software license agreements.
  • Music for the ballet "Parade", composed by Erik Satie (known for his gentle, contemplative style), had a typewriter and pistol, among other things, added to it by the ballet's writer Jean Cocteau. Satie was not amused.
  • Avant-garde composer György Ligeti (often heard in the films of Stanley Kubrick) wrote "Poéme Symphonique for 100 Metronomes", wherein one hundred metronomes are fully wound, set to different tempos, and released simultaneously to tick away until they have all wound down.
  • On Radney Foster's first album, the percussionist plays a tire iron.
  • On Big & Rich's debut single "Wild West Show", the percussionist shakes a peanut can at the end.
  • Dolly Parton clicks her fingernails rhythmically on "9 to 5".
  • Matmos is well-known for making music out of found sounds. On one album they only used squicky medical sounds — just guess what the songs "California Rhinoplasty" and "Lipo Studio" sample most.
    • "For Felix (And All The Rats)" from the same album - A Chance To Cut Is A Chance To Cure - uses the bowed bars of their deceased pet rat's cage as the primary sound source. It is truly heartbreaking.
  • This is basically the entire premise of the group Stomp.
  • The Blue Man Group actually builds their own instruments out of PVC piping and other materials. That "swishing" noise you hear on some of their songs ("Utne Wire Man" most notably) is really just them swinging really long aerials.
    • It's worth noting that the liner notes for Audio go into detail on how they assemble their instruments... and mention one of their failures.
  • Slipknot includes whacking beer kegs with baseball bats in their percussion arsenal (see the videos for "Duality", "Psychosocial", and "Sulfur").
  • The Lumberjack. Say what you want about Jackyl, that song is badass.
  • Panda Bear of Animal Collective seemed to enjoy sampling various noises, along with traditional musical instruments, on his solo album Person Pitch.
  • "Bicycle Race" by Queen has a solo on the bicycle bell.
    • And Seaside Rendezvous, with the incredible solo of band members faking trumpets and the shoetapping with fingers and bottle caps. Yes, it's true.
  • Cleaning Women, whose instruments of choice were amplified laundry drying racks.
  • Sleepytime Gorrila Museum has a lot of homemade instruments such as the Electric Pancreas, the Lever-Action Lever, and Thing.
  • AC/DC has cannons.
    • Previously seen in Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture. It's even listed on the tab.
    • "Wellington's Victory," one of Ludwig van Beethoven's least-known orchestral works, which calls for cannon shots and musket fire from two sides.
  • The Vienna Vegetable Orchestra does exactly what their name suggests. (After concerts they turn the instruments into soup.)
  • "Breaking the Girl" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers has a solo played on pieces of scrap metal.
  • "Driving In My Car" by Madness has a melody of engine noises, car horns, bicycle bells and tools on car parts.
  • One of Frank Zappa's earliest TV appearances had him playing the Bicycle on the Steve Allen show.
    • He even tries to get Allen involved with it. By the way, can you believe that's Frank?
    • His fascination with one of the first samplers, the Synclavier, led to bizarre songs consisting of orgasmic screams, rubbed glass, sneezes, like on his album "Jazz From Hell".
  • Guns N' Roses' "Dead Horse" features a nutcracker.
  • Apparently the metallic bangs in the Terminator theme were done by Brad Fiedel hitting the microphone with a frying pan.
  • Concerto for Horn and Hardart by P.D.Q. Bach. The "Hardart" of the title is a musical instrument in which each note is produced by a different method: bell, whistle, plucked string, popped balloon, etc.
    • It is written (by Prof. Schickele) that the wine bottle was the instrument that P.D.Q. Bach was most accomplished at playing; his cantata Iphegenia in Brooklyn has idiomatic solos written for it. Other instruments for which P.D.Q. Bach composed include the windbreaker (which is not a jacket but a series of mailing tubes), the double reed slide music stand, the left-handed sewer flute, the bicycle (with handlebars and siren), balloons, the lasso d'amore, the double reed hookah, the pastaphone, the foghorn, the shower hose, etc. Most impressively, some of his pieces were written for the Oscar Meyer Wiener Whistle, several centuries before the advent of the Oscar Meyer Wiener.
  • Lucas Abela has used, among other things, amplified plate glass, bits of steel, homemade turntables, and amplified needles. He once took it one step further by releasing an album that he claims was composed and performed entirely by his Volkswagen.
  • Various things are used as instruments in many Songs To Wear Pants To songs, like spoons and the sound of the toilet flushing.
  • A popular instrument for people wanting to invoke this trope is the cactus. for example. This video demonstrates some of the different sounds you can get when playing the cactus.
  • The rhythm section of Havalina's "Murder" includes a metal library cart being beaten within an inch of its life.
  • Anathallo, on the album Floating World, used sounds of shuffling cards and rattling chains as percussion. And, while everybody and their mom has used hand-clapping before, Anathallo's use in "A Song for Christine" goes Up to Eleven
  • The entire album Gizmodgery by Self features songs composed only using toy instruments.
  • The album Hidden by These New Puritans has foley recordings made by the band of clashing swords, rattling chains, shattering glass, guns being cocked, and a melon wrapped in cheese crackers being hit with a mallet to simulate the sound of a crushed human head(!) all used as percussion.
  • Artis the Spoonman is a street performer who is known for using a set of spoons as his instruments. He has since been featured on many songs, most notably the Soundgarden song named after him, "Spoonman."
  • In his earlier years, Beck often employed a Gameboy to make noise music.
    • During one tour, he'd play "Clap Hands" on acoustic guitar, while his backing band sat around a small dinner table and provided percussion by rhythmically banging on silverware with utensils. The studio version uses more normal instrumentation though.
    • "Corvette Bummer" seems to use a sample from a motion-activated Halloween toy, which would produce a distinctive, theremin-esque wail when activated.
  • The intro to "Hardware Store" by "Weird Al" Yankovic features a hammer, an unspecified power tool, and a hand saw.
  • Japanese musician 黒電話666 (Literally, "Black phone 666") uses old telephones (known for the black plastic used to make them) as well as various custom-made phones from various like-minded artists.
  • Various noise musicians, most notably Merzbow, have built their own instruments out of scrap metal and other junk materials.
  • The Siouxie and the Banshees song Red Light uses a camera as a instrument to great effect.
  • Angelspit love this trope and use it often.
  • Alan Jackson strikes a hammer against an anvil on "Hard Hat and a Hammer."
    • Hammers are popular musical instruments for songs with "hammer" in the title. The Indigo Girls used a hammer and a nail to accompany "Hammer and a Nail", while on Johnny Cash's cover of "The Legend of John Henry's Hammer", a hammer was used to accompany the song.
  • A band called Clayhill (supporting Beth Orton), whose set included a track called "Weird Beard" which required somebody to play a pair of scissors.
  • Tilly And The Wall earn credit for ditching the drummer and having their rhythm provided by Jamie Presnall's tap dancing.
  • M.I.A. used drills as percussion on "Steppin Up."
  • On Björk's Vespertine (in which Matmos played a role in the programming), there are various sampled sounds, like shuffling cards on "Cocoon" and "Hidden Place", snow being walked upon on "Aurora", and ice being cracked and smashed on "Frosti."
  • CDR has done this on and off since he began. He's done tracks with tape machines, squeaky toys, bits of cellophane and other things.
  • Nicolash, to the point where the list of instruments can be several lines long and include such things as sticks, tables, cellular phones, mp3 players, water bottles, candy wrappers, and his own jacket.
  • All Psapp songs are made using toys.
  • Entertainment for the Braindead sometimes employs kitchen utensils, salt shakers, and drawers as instruments. She also uses actual instruments in non-standard ways, such as using a guitar or banjo as percussion.
  • Subverted with Paul Gilbert, who has been known to use a power drill with picks strapped to it for some real fast strumming, though Eddie Van Halen made the drill + guitar equation more famous in the intro to "Poundcake" (he didn't touch the strings with it, just so you know - it was the electrical interference that produced the sound.
    • Van Halen has also used car horns ("Runnin' With the Devil") and car revving ("Panama").
  • This techno song made using the sounds from a Jeep.
  • "Blades" by Pig used sounds of knife sharpening.
  • Infocalypse uses weird samples. On album "Raygun Gothic" this includes adjusting radio receiver and telegraph keys (or synthesizer emulating these), and "Jam the Death Star" is a whole song performed on two keys — in stereo.
  • Ween's "Never Squeal" features a chainsaw solo.
  • The Paper Chase used scissors as the percussion in "We Know Where You Sleep".
  • The Bonzo Dog Band was very much of this trope - one instrumental has the call-out "New horizons in sound now as Roger plays a solo on the electric shirt collar!"
  • The piano player on Mary Chapin Carpenter's debut album shakes a Cream of Wheat can on one track.
  • The whole premise of The Lost And Found Orchestra
  • Gerard Hoffnung: "Compositions specially commissioned for the Festivals included Malcolm Arnold's A Grand, Grand Overture, Op. 57 [2] which was dedicated to U.S. President Herbert Hoover and was scored for several vacuum cleaners and other domestic appliances." [,9171,824825,00.html ]
  • Motograter. Instead of a bass guitar, they used the Motograter; it is made of industrial cable and guitar parts. It's played by hitting the cables with a drumstick and tightening or loosening them to create different notes. Seen here:
  • The Spinto Band have performed a version of their song "Later On" entirely using silverware, utensils, and food.
  • At a time long before synthesizers were even realistically possible, let alone affordable, The Silver Apples were making electronic music using a home made instrument nicknamed the Simeon. Essentially just a collection of 30 something oscillators tuned to different pitches and triggered using telegraph keys, playing it required using ones hands, feet AND elbows. Oh, and the guy playing it was also the singer. A detailed schematic of the instrument is supplied in the liner notes for their eponymous album, as well as a breakdown of the drummers (equally impressive) drum kit.
  • The Vaselines' "Molly's Lips" features a bicycle horn in the chorus. In some live performances they typically get someone from the opening act to sit in on bicycle horn.
  • Ok Go's Chevrolet-sponsored video for "Needing/Getting" involves the band playing the song with a car. The main way this is done is with retractable pneumatic arms on the vehicle, which strike carefully arranged and "tuned" objects as the band drive by them. There are some very unconventionally-used pianos and guitars involved, but mostly these are things like barrels, steel poles, and tires.
  • A few songs on Nirvana's Nevermind (most notably the instrumental breakdown in "Drain You") feature some toys Kurt Cobain brought to the studio.
  • Charlie McDonnel, i.e. Charlie Is So Cool Like, uses a box of buttons, a toy TARDIS, a clothes iron, and other such 'instruments' in "A Song About Love."
  • The album Strange Cargo by David Van Tieghem is undoubtedly named for the massive list of instruments used its creation, from the self-explanatory "assorted scrap metal" to the beguiling "amplified tennis racket".
  • Keith Urban plays, among other instruments, a cardboard box on "Somebody Like You".
  • LA band The Haters gained a name for themselves for their odd definition of the term: Sandpaper, calculators, staple guns, hole punches, suitcases, funnels and power tools are among the many things that have shown up in their arsenal.
  • One of Pepe Deluxe's guiding principles is "The more work you put into a sound or recording, the more you will like it,", and this inspires them to seek out bizarre instruments and studio equipment, or to build their own. Their 2012 album Queen of the Wave includes a Tesla Coil synthesizer solo (performed by guest musician Arc Attack), and a song, "In the Cave", performed on the Great Stalacpipe Organ (which produces sound by striking hollowed cave stalactites with rubber solenoids). In fact, while "In the Cave" is hardly the first song performed on the Organ, it is the first song ever composed specifically for the Stalacpipe Organ. The recording equipment includes the Spectrumizer and Optical Spectrum Analyzer (designed by A.D. Conrow, they convert audio signals into light waves, separate these light waves into separate frequencies, then convert the light back into audio) and the Aether Modulator (a device that converts sound to magnetism and vice versa; it was inspired by Thomas Edison's research into communicating with the dead, and built by Pepe Deluxé themselves). According to their online supplementary material, Pepe Deluxé also claimed to use a Psychical Predictor (another of Conrow's inventions, which allegedly tapped into the aether and displayed the spirit's answers to questions: "yes", "no", or "ask later"), but they have yet to explain how they got music from this device.
  • Florence + the Machine's "Are You Hurting the One You Love" features drumming on pots and pans. Also, the Bayou Percussion Version of "Girl with One Eye" has the sound of breaking glass at the end.
  • "We Walk" by R.E.M. has a thunderclap sound effect used in various parts of the song. The "thunder" is actually a slowed down recording of Bill Berry playing pool.
  • "Ping Pong" by Bassnectar uses samples of a ping-pong match as part of its percussion.
  • Canadian band Walk Off The Earth have used cardboard tubes, water bottles, and a BB gun as instruments.
  • Naing Naing's entire discography is dedicated to this idea, his songs consisting of such stuff as the sound of him brushing his teeth, the sound of ice cubes being shook in a glass and one song which is a cover of Peggy Lee's "Fever" with the music being sung by toads.
  • The music video for Cold Chisel's "Forever Now", in particular drummer Steve Prestwich.
  • George Gershwin's "An American In Paris" calls for taxi horns in four different pitches.
  • Linkin Park allegedly used car keys for background percussion on "Given Up."
  • This was the signature aesthetic of musique concrete, done via tape manipulation.
  • Tycho apparently uses weather broadcasts, talking or even breathing as part of his songs. Justified as he's an ambient techno musician, and everyday things like those are relaxing when used the right way.
  • "Ah I See" by De Staat features a vehicle horn.
  • George Antheil's Ballet Mécanique includes parts for electric bells and airplane propellers.
  • On the classic electronic album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, Brian Eno and David Byrne augmented their percussion this way. They used a cardboard box in place of a kick drum, a biscuit tin in place of a snare drum—"basically anything that was lying around", in Byrne's words.

  • In "The Last Illusion," a short story by Clive Barker, a bunch of demons kill some humans and creatively dismember them to turn them into playable musical instruments, including a lyre and a set of bagpipes.
  • In Fate/Zero, the resident psycho master and servant tries to use half dead people's scream as instruments by pulling out their instruments in set chords and mashing their fingers on them. It does not work.

Live-Action TV
  • Ross in Friends did this kind of music with his keyboard. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus had "The Bells of St Mary's," where a man trained mice to squeak at a certain pitch. He played them by hitting them with giant hammers. As soon as he starts, two men rush the stage to drag him off.
    • On their "Interesting People" sketch, they had "The March of the Men of Harlech", peformed on bicycle bells.
  • The Muppet Show has "the beloved" Marvin Suggs and his Muppaphone, made up of talking fuzzballs who go "Ow!" in tune as Marvin hits them with a mallet.
    • When Buddy Rich guest starred, he performed an extended percussion piece from his dressing room to his drum kit. In his own words, "When I play a theatre, I play the theatre!"
  • Joey D'Auria - the second and last Bozo on WGN-TV - did a bit called "Doctor Flamo" on The Gong Show of the pig organ/mouse organ/Muppaphone variety: he held his hand over candles of vaious heights, his own screams of pain were the melody of the tune in question ("Love in Bloom" as I recall).
  • The Late Show often had these kinds of acts - one had glass soft drink bottles which they stuck their fingers in and popped out for the sound.
  • Top Gear:
    • They did a segment when James May recreated the theme song (a variation of "Jessica" by The Allman Brothers Band) using the exhaust sounds from various car engines.
    • On another episode, the boys used the loose and squeaky bits of their British Leyland cars to try and play a tune.
  • The opening theme of Are You Being Served? started with cash register sounds forming a melody. This was a couple years before Pink Floyd's "Money".
  • Some of the percussion "instruments" in the score from LOST are pieces of the original airplane from the pilot.
  • An All That sketch about a school music class with its funding cut had characters playing erasers, sneezes, mud, sandwiches, and even their own tongues (bowed with a ruler). Partially subverted in that their performance sounds awful on the first try, until Amanda Bynes retunes her tongue, and then they start sounding like a symphony orchestra.
  • Wall$treetWeeks theme used a teletype machine.
  • Complusive clubber Tyres from Spaced imagined a dance track from the phone ringing, the kettle boiling, the clock ticking and other incidental sounds. Later, he's dancing to the beeping on pedestrian crossing.
  • In one Episode the Cylon Theme in Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined) was played on pots, pans, and a toaster.
  • In LOST, Michael Giacchino used some pieces of the destroyed plane used for the Oceanic 815 wreckage for percussive sounds.
  • On a few episodes of Home Improvement, the K&B Construction Crew would appear on Tool Time to perform a musical number using mostly tools such as power saws, wrenches, screwdrivers, and an actual musical saw.
  • In a joke episode of New Zealand farming TV show Country Calendar, a wire fence was used as a set of orchestral strings.
  • One of the later themes for the BBC show Food and Drink was "Food, Glorious Food" from Oliver! performed on saucepans and other kitchenalia.
    • The tension music used for the announcement of the winner on Great British Menu is also performed on utensils.
  • In the Reading Rainbow episode covering "Ty's One-Man Band", Ben Vereen guest starred singing a song about this trope titled "It Sounds Like Music To Me".
  • The theme for Wall $treet Week with Louis Rukeyser featured a teletype machine used as a percussion instrument.
  • Flight of the Conchords do this a few times, once in their New York apartment using both their instruments and whatever else was lying around, then again when they're deported and working as shepherds in New Zealand, including playing a wire fence as a bass and what appeared to be Jemaine playing a sheep as an accordion.
    • There's also the "office supply break" in "Leggy Blonde".

New Media

  • Sometimes heard on A Prairie Home Companion. The sound effects man can, for example, simulate the sound of a song being quacked by a duck or played on a pneumatic drill.
  • B&Q, a hardware chain in the UK, ran a radio advertising campaign with E. Grieg's "Morning" from Peer Gynt played on power tools.

Tabletop Games
  • In Demon The Fallen, a true name can be this as one of the novels shows. One demon's true name is the sound of a hundred crows cawing "Don't Fear the Reaper" by Blue Oyster Cult.

  • Babes in Toyland originally opened its third act with a novelty instrumental titled "In the Toymaker's Workshop," including parts for eight different noise-making toys: rooster, cuckoo, dog, cow, duck, rattle, baby and whistle.
  • Hänsel und Gretel by Engelbert Humperdinck has a carefully notated part for a "cuckoo instrument."
  • In the musical I Can Get It For You Wholesale, "The Sound of Money" has a rhythm part for ticker tape, as well as the obligatory cash register sound.
  • The 1960 Broadway musical Greenwillow instructed the percussionist to tap a stick against the wooden side of the orchestra pit in the number "The Music of Home."

Video Games
  • In We Love Katamari, the track "Sunbaked Savanna" is a medley of songs from the first game rescored with animal noises and tribal drums.
  • The soundtrack for Conkers Bad Fur Day had a track called Pooland, that was a a jazz song played with... ahem... colon trumpets.
  • In one video of Super Mario World, a series of hack-created stages are set up so that Mario's movements (automatic due to the design of the stage) play various videogame themes.
  • Team Fortress 2: A common Memetic Mutator, fans often take the sound effects (like the Scout's "BONK!") and make music of it. The Mario 1-1 theme and the Mortal Kombat theme are two of the most popular.
    • The Super Mario Bros. theme has been played on virtually every instrument ever, and some things that are not (normally) instruments as well.
    • And then there are those that take it even further.
    • Ahem.
    • The Medic can play his bonesaw as though it were a violin. And if it's the Amputator, it can heal others too.
  • The boss theme "Death and Honor" from MadWorld uses a chainsaw for counterharmony in the chorus.
  • Searching for an "urban" sound in the soundtrack of inFAMOUS, the composers hit tubas with wire brushes and plucked bungie cords against bass drums, along with the cellist making his notes wind up and down like an engine. The result sounds appropriately atmospheric.
  • With exception of the beat, a song entirely made of Pokémon cries.
  • In Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 3: Lair of the Leviathan, Noogie plays the manatee bile sacs like bongos, and playing them wildly can cause the bile to rise up.
  • In World of Goo, the creators admit to using cardboard boxes and chairs for the game's percussion.
  • Penn and Teller's Smoke and Mirrors (unreleased videogame) had a level which aurally imitated the aforementioned The Typewriter except as an arcade shooter instead of a typewriter.
  • In the PSP remake of Persona, one of the tracks (Battle ~ Tesso) uses, among other things, car horns and mewling cats for "instruments". It's surprisingly melodic.

Web Comics
  • Cartilage Head of Achewood fame uses what is probably a cello bow to play a large saw.
  • Referenced in At The Heart Of It All, with the mention of a band who "played music by throwing chainsaws down stairways into flaming pianos".

Western Animation
  • The Classic Disney Short Symphony Hour. Mickey Mouse conducts a flawless rendition of Von Suppe's "Light Cavalry Overture" while auditioning for a radio show. Before the big broadcast, Goofy accidentally drops all the instruments down the elevator, and the performance ends up sounding like Spike Jones.
    • In Steamboat Willie, after getting a goat that ate some sheet music to play "Turkey in the Straw", he proceeds to play out the melody on as many things as he can find. He runs out of inanimate things fairly quickly, and then proceeds to play it on a yowling cat (because he's pulling its tail), a duck, a group of feeding piglets by pulling their tails, the mother pig the piglets were feeding like an accordion and finally the teeth of a cow as if they were a xylophone.
  • Nelson Muntz did another version in a talent contest on The Simpsons: He had a row of nerds, he wedgied them to create the notes.
  • The junkyard instruments used by Fat Albert and his friends.
  • the short animated Film Noir The Cat Piano has its plot built around the eponymous instrument.
  • On Family Guy, one of the flashback gags had Peter and Michael Moore sitting in adjacent bathroom stalls... farting out "Dueling Banjos".
  • The Beatles had a Running Gag of Ringo Starr playing the drums on things besides drums: skulls, sea creatures, etc.
    • All four Beatles use different pieces of modern art as instruments in "Twist And Shout."
  • The Triplets of Belleville. Cabaret jazz played on newspapers, vacuum cleaners, and bicycle spokes? Sold.
  • Phineas and Ferb have Phineas and Ferb on a holiday reformatory school in "Phineas and Ferb Get Busted", starting a tune by brushing the floor with a toothbrush.
    • And don't forget about Marty the Rabbit Boy and his Musical Blender!
    • Sherman of "Love Händel" performs "I Ain't Got Rythm" in a library by stamping and thumping books, accompanied by the boys and background people rattling cups, slamming books and clapping.
    • Candace performs "Queen of Mars" on... her martian subjects. She later complains that "Every part of their bodies is an instrument, and they never invented music! Martians are lame!"
  • The Smurflings in The Smurfs upstaged Brainy's orchestral performance in one story (and episode) with music from instruments made of junk.
  • Early Looney Tunes shorts featured Bosko, The Talk-Ink Kid making music with whatever he could get his hands on, including shower spray as a harp, a wooden bridge as a xylophone and a Daschund as an accordion.
  • The opening sequence of Animaniacs includes Yakko xylophonizing the heads of various characters whom the Warners torment in the course of the series.
  • Popeye's nephews use pieces of their bedding as musical instruments in "Me Musical Nephews."
  • The page quote is from the Spongebob Squarepants episode "Band Geeks", specifically the part where Squidward's trying to teach the citizens of Bikini Bottom about instruments and slow-witted Patrick thinking certain condiments made excellent instruments.

Real Life
  • The "jug band" of American folk music is built around this concept, using instruments made from common rural household items such as jugs, washboards, wash tubs, kazoos (comb and tissue paper), saws, and spoons. Before using spoons, the Irish played animal bones in the same manner.
    • Skiffle also developed from the same improvised instrumentation ethos.
  • The pig organ. The idea was that pushing a key on the organ would pull a pig's tail, making it squeal.
  • Josef Pujol performed under the stage name "Le Petomane" at the Moulin Rouge in the 1890s. The name means essentially "The Farting Maniac", and that's exactly what he did. From The Other Wiki:
    Some of the highlights of [Pujol's] stage act involved sound effects of cannon fire and thunderstorms, as well as playing 'O Sole Mio' and 'La Marseillaise' on an ocarina through a rubber tube in his anus.
  • The Musical Road in Lancaster, CA.
  • There are several "singing bridges" which make a singing noise when driven over.
  • Tuned Tesla coils, affectionately known as "Zeusaphones."
  • Hand farting.
  • Car engines have been used to play tunes.
  • Techno Jeep.
  • This street performer using a bunch of buckets and other things to make a drum set.
  • A two slot toaster and a pair of forks.
  • Michael Iceberg's composition Pigs in the Wind used pig sounds to make a concerto.
  • The Infernal Noise Brigade, an anti-globalization, anti-consummerist marching band, preferred to make their "instruments" out of trash as part of their message.
  • The musical piece "4'33"", by John Cage, was essentially intended to be the sound of the audience getting annoyed at him sitting in front of the piano like a lemon for the four-and-a-half minutes of the piece. Modern audiences are in on the joke, though, rather ruining the effect.
    • Cage was famous for this kind of thing. Imaginary Landscape No. 4. is for a small ensemble and 12 radios tuned to random stations; Living Room Music is intended to be played with common living room items; and other pieces using vegetables, conch shells, and the sound of fire. Yes.
  • The General MIDI standard defines programs 119 through 127 as the sound effects Reverse Cymbal, Guitar Fret Noise, Breath Noise, Seashore, Bird Tweet, Telephone Ring, Helicopter, Applause and Gunshot, respectively.
    • Likewise, The Roland GS and Yamaha XG standards add even more sounds, including Thunder, a cat's meow, horse gallops, a passing train, and even machine gun fire.
  • Wine glasses. When rubbed correctly, they can produce chillingly beautiful music.
  • It's very likely that this was how instruments came to being in the first place, as the first proto-humans experimented with the objects around them and what sounds they made.
  • The Vegetable Orchestra uses vegetables as instruments. They constantly have to make new ones because they eventually rot, but when they finish, they make them into a soup to serve to the audience.
  • The BBC Radiophonic Workshop quite possibly deserve an entire subcategory of their own. Their task was to create strange sound effects for various BBC productions, but were seen as legitimate mad scientists by the company. The BBC even initially had a policy of not allowing anybody to work in the section for longer than 6 months, out of a genuine fear that it would drive people insane.
    • They're probably most famous for the original Dr. Who theme tune and the shows sound effects. The iconic bassline was created using an ordinary rubber band, played back at different speeds to get the correct pitches, while the main synth was created using a basic oscillator used for testing broadcast lines and a similar amount of tape editing. The individual tape splices, each roughly an inch in length, were stuck together to create the tune as a whole, then played back on 4 different tape machines as they didn't have the capability for multi-track recording at the time. Overall, around 2 miles of tape were used, each stuck together an inch at a time.
    • Ron Grainer, the guy who originally composed the theme, is reported to have asked "did I write that?" when he was first show the results, to which Delia Derbyshire (the engineer responsible) replied "most of it". Grainer was so impressed by their efforts that he lobbied the BBC to list Derbyshire as a co-composer, thus entitling her to a share of the royalties. The BBC declined, as at the time they still viewed the Workshop as a "sound effects" department and refused to credit them as musicians.
  • The birth of hip-hop turned once common household record players into an instrument in the form of "scratching," whereby a DJ moves an in-play record back and fourth on it's turntable to produce a rhythmic scratch or manipulate the recording. The art form's evolution eventually made use of faders, commonly found on club D Js' consoles.

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