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Everything Is an Instrument

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Critics panned the Swedish Chef's drumming.
Patrick: [raising his hand] Is mayonnaise an instrument?
Squidward: No, Patrick, mayonnaise is not an instrument.
[Beat, then Patrick raises his hand again]
Squidward: Horseradish isn't an instrument, either.
[Patrick lowers his hand]

Music has a long tradition behind it, and with any tradition comes traditions of form and style. For music, especially codified, formal styles like Classical 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 in a symphony, but if you were to hear a chainsaw being revved to play a well-known melody, you would be surprised.

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 popular, as are hitting household items like pots and pans to produce rhythms or melodies, or nudging animals so that they make sounds that resemble music. Whatever is used, it's something removed from the norm. Sometimes it's done for comedic effect, like if a drummer drops their drumsticks and then they grab a wooden spoon to keep playing.

Often it's used by serious artists who want to experiment, because they have found that weird instruments make good music. Even though Classical Music is strict about the rules for old music (Mozart, Beethoven, etc) , if you are an avant-garde composer doing experimental modern music, you could write a symphony for orchestra and pots and pans.

Improvised instruments are often a part of folk music and traditional music. Centuries ago, poor people who wanted to make music often had to use everyday items. There is a weird and wonderful world of folk musicians who play everyday items. In Canada, some folk musicians play rhythms with two spoons. Many folk groups create percussion by hitting everyday items like a suitcase or wooden box. Some folk musicians play the handsaw. Take a violin bow, bend your saw, and stroke the edge with the bow. It eats the horsehair like nothing else, but you can roughly reproduce the sound of a wolf howling.note  Other odd instruments include the glass harmonica: which is based upon the common practice of stroking glass rims with a wet finger. This instrument gives you a large selection of glasses suspended over a bin of water, allowing you to play it similarly to an organ. note  Some of these instruments have even gone mainstream: the steel drum is a key instrument in Caribbean music. If it makes a sound, then there's a good chance someone at least tried to make it into an instrument.

The Blue Danube Waltz is very popular for this kind of treatment.

See also Instrumental Weapon, Serendipitous Symphony, Kazoos Mean Silliness, and Trash-Can Band. If they actually build an instrument out of it, it's a Bizarre Instrument.


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  • 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.
  • A commercial for Delta's "Touch2O" faucets had Glenn Kotche playing an array of faucets by touching them to activate the water stream, which would produce a note when it struck a pot or pan underneath.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • The Boy Who Cried Idiot: Martin describes Lincoln's sleep-breathing as "music".
  • The Reaping of Hatsune Miku: Kamui Gakupo claims that "the last thing he did with music was find out you could achieve pitch with a sword" when asked to provide vocals on a collab.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Triplets of Belleville. Cabaret jazz played on newspapers, vacuum cleaners, and bicycle spokes? Sold.
  • 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 title instrument from The Cat Piano drives nails into cats' tails to make them yowl the notes.
  • In Will Vinton's Claymation Christmas, The Carol of the Bells is performed by a choir of (wait for it) anthropomorphic bells hitting themselves with hammers.
  • In Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas during "Donald's Gift" every person and thing in the mall is suddenly making noise to the tune of "We Wish You A Merry Christmas", the very song Donald was trying to escape.
  • Pinocchio: In the song "Always let your conscience be your guide", Jiminy bounces on a saw blade, which makes squeaky sounds with the music.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Adventures of Baron Munchausen the sultan has an organ where the notes played are screams of tortured people on the other side getting poked with spikes.
  • A scene near the start of Animal House features Delta fraternity member Daniel Simpson Day ("D-Day") playing the William Tell Overture on his throat. (Bruce McGill, who portrayed D-Day, did actually play the tune this way and could still do it over 30 years later.)
  • Mel Brooks' History of the World Part I:
    • On a similar vein, the Hallelujah chorus is being sung by cavemen who have 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.
  • 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.
  • Dancer in the Dark features a song called "Cvalda", in which the rhythm is inspired by the noise of factory machinery.
  • Ferris Bueller's Day Off: Ferris Bueller demonstrates using his synthesizer keyboard to make fake coughing sounds by playing "The Blue Danube".
  • King of Jazz: One act features a guy playing "Stars and Stripes Forever" with a bicycle pump.
  • Jacques Tati's circus film Parade includes a fellow who plays a recognizable tune by controlling the air that's venting out of a blow-up balloon.
  • Constantly subverted as a gag in John Mulaney & The Sack Lunch Bunch during Mr. Music's song. He keeps trying to make music with everyday objects, only for them to be totally silent. He goes to a leaky faucet only to discover it doesn't drip after someone fixed it, he tries and fails to make a noise by pulling a spoon out of a pudding cup he dances on a mattress only to discover it's Tempur-Pedic and suppresses noise, and he throws a clarinet out the window only for it to land on a random truck full of pillows passing by. He goes so crazy that he almost swings a cat by its tail just so it'll make a pained noise that resembles music, though he steps on glass before he gets to do it.
  • In Go West (1940), Rusty manages to rig a Native American weaving loom into a makeshift harp, this being the set-up for Harpo's obligatory harp-solo.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail: The song "Camelot" has a brief section of one knight playing a tune on the helmets of several other knights.

  • 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.
  • In Elric of Melniboné, Elric is entertained by his court musician torturing a tuned array of slaves, each of which has been surgically altered to scream one perfect note.
  • The Way Things Work: The section "Sound and music" begins with a story of "playing the mammoth", in which musicians try to make music from a tethered mammoth by thumping its belly, plucking its stretched tail, and tapping its tusks; and the mammoth joins in, by making sounds from its trunk.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Frank Zappa made a very early appearance on The Steve Allen Show, playing a bicycle.
  • Ross in Friends does this kind of music with his keyboard. Hilarity Ensues.
  • In one of the puppet shows from the Baby Einstein video Meet the Orchestra, a duck puppet plays Blue Danube with bottles.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus:
    • Parodied with a dose of Black Comedy by "The Bells of St Mary's", where a man on stage proudly presents the audience his "mouse organ", a box containing mice which he arranged like piano keys and claims to have trained them to squeak at a certain pitch. Once he begins to perform, the man reveals his method of "playing" his mice: making them squeak by fervently bashing them with two giant mallets much to the horror of everyone present, which gets him forcibly dragged off the stage and chased out of the building by an angry mob.
    • On their "Interesting People" sketch, they have "The March of the Men of Harlech", performed on bicycle bells.
    • They also performed "The Exploding Blue Danube."
  • Someone once submitted a clip to You've Been Framed featuring two men doing "The Blue Danube" with armpit burps.
  • 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".
  • In Lost, Michael Giacchino used some pieces of the destroyed plane used for the Oceanic 815 wreckage for percussive sounds which can also be heard in the score.
  • 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). At first it seems the trope will be subverted when their performance sounds awful on the first try, but then Amanda Bynes retunes her tongue, and then they start sounding like a symphony orchestra.
  • The theme for Wall $treet Week with Louis Rukeyser features a teletype machine used as a percussion instrument.
  • 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 (2003) was played on pots, pans, and a toaster.
  • 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".
  • Flight of the Conchords:
    • They 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".
  • Glee: Episode "Lights Out." A power outage inspires the initially-stunned students to do "We Will Rock You" in this manner. Brooms, chains, pulleys, trash cans, lids, all types of cans and bottles, and even tap dancing shoes come into play here.
  • Burnistoun: A recurring gag is a tension-filled situation (i.e. someone encountering hoodlums destroying his car) turning into a musical mashup of rhythmic sounds, which turns out to be being actively mixed by DJ Jesus in heaven.
  • Chernobyl: Hildur Guđnadóttir put a hazmat suit on, went into the decommissioned nuclear power plant in Lithuania that would be used to film the series, and recorded sounds there, including pumps, reactors and turbines. Then she arranged the haunting soundtrack of the series with them.
  • That Mitchell and Webb Look sketch featuring the show Anything Can Be Music; which makes a song out of "a guinea-pig realizing it's about to be put down", "a boy begging not to be caned", "a horse being kicked in the testicles", "a middle class family separated in a cave system", and a prisoner saying the actual words "Anything Can Be Music".
  • In Horrible Histories' "Cowboy Song", Mike performs a "solo thanks to beans".
  • Sesame Street had Placido Flamingo accompanied by an orchestra of animal noises.
  • Based on their skit on stage, Aunty Donna in their Netflix show Aunty Donna's Big Ol' House of Fun put as their First sketch Everything's a Drum. Where every object the trio could conceive of including a willie and Zac's relationship with his mother was a drum.
  • One clip submitted to America's Funniest Home Videos featured a man watching Jeopardy! and playing the Jeopardy! Thinking Music with a bicycle pump and manualism (making flatulent noises by cupping his hands together).
  • The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon frequently does this, with the Roots band backing up prominent singers on either kindergarten classroom instruments or found items. Notable examples include Ed Sheeran ("The Shape of You"), Idina Menzel ("Let It Go") and the original cast of Hamilton ("Helpless").
  • Mr. Bean: In "The Return of Mr Bean", Mr Bean plays "Happy Birthday" to himself in a restaurant, by tapping the glasses and plates on the table, with some success.

  • 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.
    • On the note of saws, "The Lumberjack" by Jackyl famously contains a chainsaw solo.
    • "Never Squeal" by Ween also uses a chainsaw during the instrumental break.
  • Steel drums were originally just that: they were originally fashioned from oil drums (Trinidad and Tobago, the instrument's home, is a major oil producing country) in which the tops are beaten down to create various pitches.
  • A washboard is perhaps one of the few things in which you are just as likely to have seen as a musical instrument, and maybe even more so, as to have seen it used as a laundry tool.
  • 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. (Now better known in the UK as "the theme from The News Quiz".)
    • 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.
  • Pink Floyd:
    • The intro to "Money" from The Dark Side of the Moon has cash registers, coins and a paper ripping forming a melody.
    • Other examples include "Time" from the same album, which begins with several alarm clocks sounding at once.
    • "Seamus", from Meddle, features a "solo" of barking and howling performed by a dog.
    • 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 were eventually released on the 2011 box set reissues of The Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here (1975).
  • Nils Frahm does this quite often; his piece "Toilet Brushes" starts of with him playing the strings of a piano with Exactly What It Says on the Tin. He also makes HEAVY use of sequence repeaters. It. Is. AWESOME!!!
  • 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:
    • The band 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. The song also features a bridge made from rhythmic breathing, sampled from the Title Track to Kate Bush's The Dreaming.
  • 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.
  • In Symphonie Fantastique, Berlioz originally called for two bells to be played during the final movement for the ominous effect. We do not mean the tube bells that are prevalent in orchestras, nor do we mean hand bells. He actually meant for two giant church bells tuned to C and G to be taken down and played by two percussionists with unwieldy sledgehammers. Most productions nowadays just use tube bells, but there are a few who hold true to the original.
  • 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.
    • Ligeti also incorporated many unusual instruments in his satirical (and only) opera "Le Grande Macabre." These instruments include music boxes, metronomes, car horns, electric doorbells and a bag of crockery, etc.
  • Péter Eötvös, a contemporary Hungarian composer, has his fair share of unusual instruments. In his opera Der goldene Drache (The Golden Dragon) he makes use of wine and beer bottles, shot glasses, a plastic comb and a paring knife hitting a cutting board.
  • Radney Foster's 1993 single "Hammer and Nails" features the drummer striking a tire iron at various points.
  • Big & Rich's "Wild West Show" has percussion from a peanut can at the very end.
  • Dolly Parton clicks her fingernails rhythmically on "9 to 5".
  • Matmos is well-known for making music out of found sounds, even making Concept Albums out of them:
    • On their breakthrough album A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure, 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.
    • Ultimate Care II was an album made entirely from their Whirlpool Ultimate Care II washing machine, sequenced to mimic the cycle of an actual load of wash.
    • Plastic Anniversary was a statement on the overuse of plastic and was composed entirely of plastic items, from ATM cards, salad bowls and plastic flutes, to percussion solos on pelican cases, a thermoplastic police riot shield and a breast implant. A special edition of the vinyl came in a recycled cardboard box; the album was made out of recycled vinyl, and a second copy of the album, included as an "art object", was rendered unplayable by it being embedded with recycled plastic bottles.
  • This is basically the entire premise of the group Stomp, a theatrical show that builds dance routines around percussion made with everyday items (basketballs, road signs, etc.).
  • 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").
  • Panda Bear of Animal Collective seemed to enjoy sampling various noises, along with traditional musical instruments, on his solo album Person Pitch.
  • Queen:
    • "Seaside Rendezvous" features the band members mimicking a muted trumpet and shoetapping with fingers and bottle caps. Yes, it's true.
    • "Bicycle Race" has a solo on the bicycle bell.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Frank Zappa:
    • One of his 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?
    • Car horns and toy horns are also heard during pieces from Burnt Weeny Sandwich and "City Of Tiny Lites" from Sheik Yerbouti.
    • 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" from Use Your Illusion features a nutcracker.
  • The Terminator: The metallic bangs in the main 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. 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 a notch.
  • 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."
  • Beck:
    • In his earlier years, he 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 released as a B-Side 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 "Soul Sucking Jerk (Reject)" includes a short lo-fi drum loop that has been sourced to a battery operated toy boombox.
  • The video for Ćther Realm's "TMHC" features the band and its fans playing and singing along to the song on whatever's available, such as opening and closing cabinet doors, using drumsticks on a baffled-looking cat, and beating on waffles placed on a drum kit.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic:
    • "Another One Rides the Bus" features percussion provided by beating on an accordion case.
    • The intro to "Hardware Store" features a hammer, an unspecified power tool, and a hand saw.
    • A cow and sheep have parts in "Smells Like Nirvana".
  • TD Cruze's The Savage Beast and The Savage Beast 2 EP's were comprised of only animal sounds.
  • 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 Siouxsie 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."
  • Lee Brice also "plays" an anvil on "Drinking Class".
  • 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. Not that the other ladies aren't good with taps, either.
  • 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."
    • On Biophilia, the percussion for "Thunderbolt" is accomplished via a Tesla coil. She even invented new instruments for the album, such as a "gameleste" (a combination of the Indonesian traditional gamelan and a celesta) and a "gravity harp" which converted the swinging of two massive pendulums in accordance with the rotation of the Earth to the sounds of a harp.
  • 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. Brazilian band Pato Fu did the same for an album aptly titled "Toy Music".
  • 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.
  • 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 vocals, 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 Deluxé'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.
    • Gershwin's "Second Rhapsody" calls for a fly swatter.
  • 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.
  • Downplayed trope: If a "pretty normal" instrument is used where you don't expect it. A random prominent example is "Road to Nowhere" which usually gets termed "the song with the accordion". In the same vein, "the song with the sax" ("The Day The World Turned Day-Glo" by X-Ray Spex) which has a totally normal sax...only that it seems out of place in punk rock.
  • Still in the same vein, a guitar in pop music is admittedly the opposite of this trope. But German project "Rossburger Report", who play twelve guitars at the same time...
  • "My Love Tells Me So" from Garth Brooks' In the Life of Chris Gaines has the sound of snapping fingers during the bridge section.
  • On Fairport Convention's album Unhalfbricking, Martin Lamble is credited with playing "stacked chair backs" on one song.
  • In "The Buggy Boogie Woogie" from Captain Beefheart's Lick My Decals Off, Baby John French and Art Tripp rhythmically move a broom around.
  • "Rudi" by German singer/songwriter Herwig Mitteregger features the characteristic jumping-to-rest of a table-tennis ball.
  • John Zorn:
    • On "The Book Of Heads" (1995) Zorn rubbed ballons on guitar strings until they popped, hold talking dolls up to the microphone, pulled guitar strings out of the bridge notch, hit the strings with pencils and played with rice!
    • Zorn used water, glass bowls, metal pipes, wax paper, mud and staple guns on his album "Songs from the Hermetic Theatre" (2001).
    • The track "Cycles du Nord" on Music for Children (1998) is a 20-minute composition for wind machines.
  • In the 1980's, Holger Czukay of Can listed among his primary instruments a dictaphone (a dictation machine that predates cassette recorders).
  • Harry Partch is known for this.
  • Travis Tritt's song "Dixie Flyer", the last track on his debut album Country Club, has the drummer play a folding chair.
  • Appropriately, Kacey Musgraves' "Biscuits" has the percussionist play a biscuit pan.
  • The experimental hip-hop group clipping. used the sound of an alarm clock as the beat for their song Get Up.
  • "Wild at Heart" by Gloriana has percussion provided by a road case (those big heavy black cases that touring musicians use).
  • Tim Wilson "plays" a pair of scissors on his song "Haircut Malpractice".
  • Davis Daniel's Fighting Fire with Fire album includes percussion from a snuff can and a hubcap.
  • Iggy Pop "Lust For Life" has the characteristic beep of a EKG monitor. Not much spoilering that the patient flatlines at the end of the song...
  • Abwärts "Der Westen ist einsam" starts with a car starter.
  • So does "Manta" by Norbert & die Feiglinge: They've recorded an actual Opel Manta engine.
  • The Beatles have included jet aircraft recordings in "Back In The U.S.S.R."
    • The Leningrad Cowboys replaced them before the intro with a tractor engine unwilling to start up.
  • Italian composer & sound designer Diego Stocco has made music with a dry cleaning room ([1]), a bonsai, a tree, sand, a drying rack and a burning piano.
  • "Big Boy Toys" by Aaron Tippin features the sounds of someone striking rebar, a ratchet wrench, and a wire saw.
  • The percussion on the third verse and closing of "455 Rocket" by Kathy Mattea is provided by some of the session musicians and Mattea slapping their knees.
  • SOPHIE's production style is a strange Double Subversion. While most of the sounds she produces are synthetic and are based on simple waveform synths, she often crafts them from scratch into weird sound effects that make the basis of her songs. Such examples include the bloopy "bubble" sounds and water drops that make up most of "Lemonade", or the metallic whips, plastic-y smacks and rubbery squeaks used throughout "Hard".
  • Lari White's "Anything Goes" features a tea steeper.
  • According to an apocryphal story, the bassline on Backstreet Boys' "The Call" was created when Howie D. farted while recording his vocals, and Max Martin was able to turn it into his signature bassline since it was in the right key.
  • The very first sample created with the Fairlight CMI (which became an early champion of this trope) was the barking of one of the Fairlight employees' dog. It was used in a patch named "Wonderdog" and included in the Fairlight's factory sample library. Among others, the Korgis used it as a lead sound in "Rover's Return".
  • Jean-Michel Jarre made a lot of use of sampling on his albums from the first half of The '80s:
    • Magnetic Fields includes more or less ambient sounds of passing jet aircraft and trains and a somewhat rhythmic sample that one may mistake for more rail vehicles, but that was actually heavily edited samples of a printer head.
    • Zoolook consists largely of vocal samples from dozens of languages, specifically made for Jarre. The "tsut" lead sound from "Ethnicolor" is another Fairlight factory sound, though, albeit modified.
    • As a former student of Pierre Schaeffer, Jarre used noises in his music on other albums as well. The waves and seagulls in "Oxygène 6" are synthetic, as is the wind at the beginning of "Oxygène 4". The rain and thunder on Equinoxe are actual pre-sampling recordings. Other iconic Jarre samples include the shutter and motorwinder of Charlotte Rampling's Nikon camera ("Souvenir Of China"), a heartbeat instead of an actual beat ("Ron's Piece") and the many, many rhythmic clock samples on Chronologie. The metallic beat in the overture of "Industrial Revolution" is synthesized again.
  • Some of the drumming on "Katie Wants a Fast One" by Steve Wariner is provided by trash cans.
  • "SOS" by The Breeders includes the sounds of a sewing machine miked through a guitar amplifier - Kelley Deal had brought her sewing machine to the studio to work on a quilt during downtime; when Kim Deal heard her using the machine, she decided it should be on the album somewhere. Thus, the Last Splash liner notes credit Kelley with playing the "Kenmore 12-stitch" alongside more conventional instruments.
  • Billie Eilish and her brother and producer Fineas tend to record interesting sounds around them to use in songs - "Bury A Friend" uses a recording of a dentist drill for unsettling texture. More prominently, the hi-hat sound in "Bad Guy" came from an Australian crosswalk signal - in its original context, the rhythmic clicking is meant to let blind pedestrians know it's safe to cross the street, but it happens to make for a catchy dance beat.
  • The Overture for the Gioachino Rossini opera Il Signor Bruschino asks the violinists to rhythmically tap their bows onto their music stands.
  • Canadian composer Andrew Huang is best known for doing this. His compositions mostly consist of sampling random objects and sound effects (both his own and from his fans) through Ableton and using them to create melodies and rhythms. Alternatively, he purchases unusual electronic instruments to create interesting sound effects.
  • American composer, Adam Silverman made use of Battat Colossale Carousel Bells, a spinning children's toy with chromatically-tuned bells in his percussion duet composition "Paper Covers Rock."
  • Gene Koshinski, an American percussionist and composer often uses unusual percussion in his compositions. His composition "And so the wind blew..." contains a whole slew of wind chimes spread across three racks (although the score only specifies a minimum of three). Other instruments he uses include: pieces of metal, a drum shell and porcelain rice bowls. Koshinski's works for solo snare drum involve the drummer playing the drums with random objects such as a knitting needle, a marble (spun around the interior edge of the head) and a door stop spring on the end of a wooden rod.
  • The "siren" synth sound on Devo's "Peek-A-Boo!" was allegedly sampled from a personal rape alarm.
  • Among the instruments used on Kraftwerk's Computer World album were a Texas Instruments Language Translator and a Mattel Bee Gees Rhythm Machine toy.
  • According to Steven Tyler, the studio version of Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion" features him using a sugar packet as percussion - they wanted to use maracas, but there weren't any in the studio, so he improvised by shaking the packet in front of the mic and having an engineer turn the volume up as much as possible so it would actually be audible over the music.
  • Travelogue (a Synth-Pop project headed by Jon Sonnenberg) used sampled fireworks as the percussion track on his 2012 album Fireworks.
  • American composer Andy Akiho wrote Ricochet, a two-movement concerto for violin, percussion and ping pong. Not only is the ping pong table used as an instrument, but the game itself becomes the main melody. The world premiere concert in Shanghai had Michael Landers and Ariel Hsing, two professional players on the ping pong part. Landers and Hsing use various assorted objects such as paddles, wine glasses and frame drums to strike the balls against the table and a bass drum among other items. The finale is one of the most unusual things to ever happen in a symphony orchestra concert, but the whole concerto really needs to be seen in its full glory.
  • On his 2009 album Slide On Over Here, Steve Azar used a glass candle holder for the slide guitar parts.
  • Some remixes on Overclocked Remix use farts for music.
  • SleepResearch_Facility has incorporated the sounds of raw electrostatic discharges, a malfunctioning electric heater and a Stealth Bomber into his ambient sound.
  • According to the credits for Electric Light Orchestra's Out of the Blue album, the metallic percussion in "Mr. Blue Sky" was produced with a fire extinguisher.
  • In what might qualify for the world record of 'largest instrument', American musician and composer Joseph Bertolozzi has played the Mid-Hudson Bridge and the Eiffel Tower.
  • Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 6 features a hammer as a percussion instrument, stipulating that the sound of it should be "brief and mighty, but dull in resonance and with a non-metallic character (like the fall of an axe)." These highly-specific instructions have given orchestras no shortage of issues over the years trying to get the sound right, eventually culminating in the commonplace solution of hitting a block of wood with an oversized wooden mallet, dubbed the "Mahlerhammer." A 1907 Die Muskete cartoon satirized the ordeal by depicting Mahler preparing to write another symphony around the sound of a bike horn.
  • Being largely based around sampling and found sound, many Disco Inferno songs naturally involve this; for example, "Starbound: All Burnt Out & Nowhere to Go"'s percussion section is built around camera shutter sounds.
  • Peter Gabriel was an early and enthusiastic adopter of the Fairlight CMI, which he positively compared to a modernized Mellotron, and used it extensively on Security. As shown in a making-of featurette on The South Bank Show, many of the sounds on the album were recorded by playing around with random objects in a junkyard, including hitting TV screens, blowing into rusty pipes, and smashing windshields. Other samples were presets already included with the Fairlight CMI, such as the pulsing flute sound that opens "The Rhythm of the Heat". Gabriel ended up using a whopping 64 kilobytes worth of samples in the making of the album.
  • A key part of Art of Noise's sound was the use of samples of everyday objects to form songs that are effectively sound collages. The sound effect of a starting Volkswagen Golf is used quite regularly, the sound of a flushing toilet is used on "Hoops and Mallets", the sound of a ruler being strummed against a desk forms a large part of "Who's Afraid of the Art of Noise", and much, much more besides.
  • Yellow Magic Orchestra based the sound of Technodelic around the LMD-649, a custom-built digital sampler that was the first to use PCM audio. Consequently, the album features songs composed of such things as prepared pianos, two-way radios, snippets of nonverbal vocalizations, cans of soybean oil being struck, and found sounds from a factory.
  • The drum solo in Midnight Oil's "Power and the Passion" ends with the drummer breaking a lightbulb.
  • Sparks guitarist Bob Haag is credited with "Tab cans" on their 1983 album "In Outer Space".

    Puppet Shows 
  • Fraggle Rock: In "Mokey and the Minstrels", the Minstrels demonstrate this to a skeptical Mokey by playing their instruments to the beat of water dripping from stalactites into a pond.
    Mokey: Oh, that's beautiful! I've never heard that song before.
    Cantus: There are many songs you've never heard.
  • The Muppet Show:
    • 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 "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!"
  • The third episode of The Muppets Mayhem begins with Animal playing with a Simon toy. The rest of the Electric Mayhem use the packagaing for their snacks and the beaded curtains in the van to jam out to the beeps from the toy.
  • A Muppet Viral Video had the Swedish Chef performing "Popcorn", with the popping noises being made by actual popcorn, while the Chef accompanied it on wine glasses, a kitchen knife played like a saw, melons, pans, and a blender.
  • Sesame Street: Lampshaded in the song "What Makes Music?", about how tunes can be played on everything from rubber bands to old tin cans.
    Bob: A paper and a comb...
    Susan: A washboard and a bone...
    Gordon: A bucket that you bang on, or a ringing telephone!

  • 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.
  • Dungeons & Dragons module X2 Castle Amber. The Amber family turned eighty-eight people with singing ability into stone statues. When each key on a keyboard is pressed, the corresponding statue will sing one note, allowing the user to play music.

  • 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.
  • The Off-Broadway show Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk does has various pots and pans used in a mostly-instrumental song number named "The Pan-Handlers".
  • Hansel and Gretel (1893) 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."
  • Wharf Revue 2018: Deja Revue featured a song about plastic pollution in which the four performers accompanied themselves on a succession of plastic rubbish: lengths of pipe, plastic bottles, rubbish bins, etc. The effect was eerie and highly effective.

    Video Games 
  • Doom (2016) features the work of Mick Gordon. After being told 'no guitars' by Id Softare, he proceeded to sample a running chainsaw and a Soviet-era synthetic tone generator for the game's title theme.
  • In Um Jammer Lammy, Lammy can use Mind over Matter on anything to use it as a guitar.
  • 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 Conker's 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.
  • Kingdom of Paradise: The two Celestial Swords, the New Moon and Full Moon swords, can produce some fine music by tapping along the flat of the blade. This knowledge is needed to reveal the Celestial Temple at Gekkei Lake. The main theme is played from the combination of both swords, which is ONLY played at the epilogue.
  • In League of Legends, when composing the theme for Dark Star Thresh the composer used dry ice on metal achieve the tones he desired.
  • The Peronza Plaza music in the Luncheon Kingdom from Super Mario Odyssey, as this behind the scenes video shows, uses the sounds of knives hitting a cutting board and a ladle hitting a metal pot lid as the sole percussion, to go along with the locale's Level Ate theming.
  • Genshin Impact: One of Kazuha's idle animations has him play a tune by blowing on a leaf.

  • 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".
  • Sawtooth from Freefall once performed "Orbital Bombardment in D Minor".
    Sawtooth: It's not every day you get to play an entire planet as a pecussion instrument.
  • Homestuck:
    • Aradia's theme song, "Temporal Shenanigans", includes a metronome to mimic the sound of a ticking clock.
    • "The March of the Batterwitch" uses a kettle pot boiling and other sounds common in a kitchen to make a fitting theme for the diabolical baking CEO Betty Crocker.

    Web Original 

    Web Video 
  • The "MÜ! Song" from the The Zane And Noah Show is a rap instrumental that consists of animal noises.
  • In a Season 9 Hermitcraft episode, Zedaph and Etho collaborated to record a version of the 1812 Overture. Etho's contribution used note blocks, which are the most normal way to make music in Minecraft. Zedaph's contribution, on the other hand, used the game's exploding creeper enemies to provide percussion.

    Western Animation 
  • Classic Disney Shorts:
    • "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.
  • 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.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Homer munching "The Blue Danube" whilst in space.
    • Nelson Muntz does another version in a talent contest: He has a row of nerds, he wedgied them to create the notes.
  • The junkyard instruments used by Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids 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:
    • 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".
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • Phineas and Ferb on a holiday reformatory school in "Phineas and Ferb Get Busted", starting a tune by brushing the floor with a toothbrush.
    • An episode features the aptly named "Marty the Rabbit Boy and his Musical Blender" playing "The Blue Danube" on well, a 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 (1981) 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 later cartoon "Hobo Gadget Band" has the unnamed hobo and his buddies entering a radio talent contest where they perform a song about themselves and how they use anything to make music.
    What we don't read or understand,
    We just play to beat the band
    With a hunk of junk or an old tin can
    Pots 'n' pans, old tin cans,
    It makes no difference what
    We swing it high, we swing it low
    We swing it sweet 'n' hot!
  • Animaniacs:
    • The opening sequence includes Yakko xylophonizing the heads of various characters whom the Warners torment in the course of the series.
    • Several skits feature Wakko as "The Great Wakkortti," who performs various pieces of classical music by belching.
  • Popeye's nephews use pieces of their bedding as musical instruments in "Me Musical Nephews."
    • An Al Brodax era cartoon has Popeye playing "Yankee Doodle" using the top of his head.
  • 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.
    • In "Jellyfish Jam", Gary tapping his eyeballs creates a rhythm that calms the jellyfish down. Later the jellies play their tentacles like guitar strings while bubbles, burping treasure chests, chains, dolphins, and clams provide ambiance.
  • Towards the end of the opening titles of the Punky Brewster cartoon, Punky and her pals are playing music using a broom, an aluminum washtub and other items.
  • Futurama has a double example in "Bendin' in the Wind", in which Beck invits him to be the "washboard player" for his backing band, that is, Bender plays his own body, which is torn with parallel-line grooves, which gives it the same effect as a washboard.
  • Captain Underpants gives us The 1812 Ofarture. Yes, the 1812 Overture with fart sounds.

    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.
  • In perhaps a mechanised use of the aforementioned washboard, here's a washing machine with a dodgy drum bearing serving as the percussion for a performance of "The Devil Went Down to Georgia".
  • The pig organ was a conceptualized instrument that was never built. The idea was that pushing a key on the organ would pull a pig's tail, making it squeal. This became the basis of a Monty Python skit, with using hammers on mice.
  • 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.
  • "Musical roads" are stretches of road covered in rumble strips (usually installed on road edges to wake up sleepy drivers drifting off the road or near an upcoming stop or hazard as an advance warning) with grooves spaced at various intervals, which produces a tune when a vehicle drives over them. Some examples include this one in Japan which plays "Memories of Summer" and this one in South Korea which plays "Mary Had a Little Lamb". An infamous one is the "Civic Musical Road", built by Honda as a publicity stunt in Lancaster, California. In theory, it's meant to play the famous melody from the William Tell Overture, but thanks to screwed-up calculations, the end result is very off. It was originally installed on Avenue K between 60th Street East and 70th Street East, but due to noise complaints from residents it was moved to Avenue G between 30th Street East and 40th Street East and that one is also out of tune!
  • There are several "singing bridges" which make a singing noise when driven over.
  • Tuned Tesla coils, affectionately known as "Zeusaphones."
  • Home appliances and power tools!
  • 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.
  • John Cage believed this wholeheartedly, and built a career around it. His most famous work is 4'33, which given the conditions of contemporary musical performance, usually consists of the noise made by a concert hall full of people trying to be silent while a pianist sits at a piano for 4 minutes and 33 seconds. Did your cellphone go off because you forgot to silence it before stepping into the concert hall? That's okay, it's technically part of the performance itself.
    • 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 DJs' consoles.
  • The 1970 album Songs of the Humpback Whale was the first album released to the public featuring nothing but sounds of singing whales. At the time many people had thought whales were mute, but the record actually showed them to be majestic and magnificent creatures whose vocal sounds are an amazing and wonderful listening experience. It quickly became an enormous bestseller, and helped people to realize that these intelligent creatures ought to be protected from hunters, thus inspiring the "Save The Whales" movement.
  • On its one year anniversary, the Curiosity Mars rover used one of it's on-board instruments called SAM to play Happy Birthday to itself.
  • Swedish band Wintergaten loves this trope.
    • "Starmachine2000" uses a slide projector to play the beats. And the slides used are actually frames of a stop-motion video. So the projector plays both music and movie!
    • They also have The Marble Machine (watch here), which is a hand-cranked analog computer that plays a xylophone, drum kit, and guitar by dropping ball bearings on them.
  • Early floppy games could use the stepper motors in their floppy drives to play music. One YouTuber, Pawel Zadrozinak built an instrument called "The Floppotron" that uses this to play surprisingly complex (albeit grunting and buzzing) remixes of several songs on a horde of floppy drives and other computer hardware bits.
  • Floppy drives themselves can be used as instruments with enough creativity (and technological knowledge).
  • A welding machine maker manufactures a variable frequency machine that can be programmed to play music.
  • "Weird percussion instruments" by David "rdavidr" Raouf. He uses saw blades, brake drums, fire extinguishers, stick caddies, mic stand bases, flexi-tones and scuba tanks as drum and cymbals.
  • Here is a video of a man building a roof in harmony with a practising marching band, using his nail gun as an instrument.
  • There is a video of an archaeologist specializing in prehistoric music playing a lithophone. Literally banging rocks together to make primtive music.
  • There is a video of a man making the instrumental for "WAP" only using sounds of stirring mac and cheese, taking the song's innuendo about "macaroni in a pot" literally.
  • The late Filipino composer Levi Celerio was known to use a leaf as a musical instrument, and even had a Guinness record for being the only man who could pull that off.
  • Despite what Squidward says, mayonnaise is indeed an instrument.
  • The ugly stick is a Newfoundland instrument made from household and tool shed items. It's typically a mop handle with bottle caps, tin cans, small bells and other noise makers, with a boot at the bottom. The instrument is played with a drum stick or notched stick. It was featured in Come from Away, during the party at the Legion, acknowledged with this line which is immediately followed by a brief solo on the ugly stick:
    Oz: A couple o' the local b'ys get up with their accordions and fiddles - and someone brings out an ugly stick.
  • The "Sounds of Music" event in Science Olympiad (a science/engineering-based competition open to middle and high school students) requires teams to build a musical instrument and use it to play scales and songs. Just about any combination of material and design is allowed, except for electrically powered instruments.
  • The sounds produced inside an MRI machine could be used rather effectively in techno music by a sufficiently skilled composer... if they could somehow talk the hospital staff into letting them borrow the MRI machine.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Sound Effects Song, Anything Can Be Music


Los Swingverguenzas

Jaime Pastor, Fernando Acevedo and Suko, collectively known as Los Swingverguenzas, perform Seven Nation Army with rulers, fans, and a saxophone made out of a watering can.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / EverythingIsAnInstrument

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