Home for the Curious Musician

4 Enormous Instruments Taking Music to New Lows

Here at Soundfly HQ we love instrument innovation. We’ve hit PVC pipes with flip flops and tuned the spokes of a bicycle wheel, all in the name of creativity. So of course we take notice when we find musicians going the extra mile to get just the right tone out of their instrument. In this case, musicians are innovating to great new heights (and depths) in search of their sound. Here are four enormous instruments we’ve come across recently.

1. The Octobasse

The Octobasse was invented in 1850 by famed violin maker Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume in order to bring a “low-end rumble to any large orchestra.” The enormous, three-stringed instrument stands over 11-feet tall, with a tone so deep that when the bottom note is played fully open, the resulting sound is below the range of human hearing. Musicians stand on a specially-built stool to play the instrument, fretting the notes with a series of hand and foot levers. There are four known octobasses in existence, the one featured above lives at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Arizona.

2. The Klavins Model 370

Enormous Instruments - Klavins Model 370

The only piano with an upstairs and a downstairs, the Klavins Model 370 holds the world record for largest piano. Frustrated by the lack of innovation in piano design, David Klavins invented the instrument to test the boundaries of modern materials science and understanding of acoustics. The piano weighs in at two tons. The longest string is over three meters long. And aided by its unique soundboard — twice the size of that in a concert grand — the Klavins 370 is able to produce a uniquely rich sound with more overtones than ever previously achieved. The behemoth is beloved by modern classical composers including Nils Frahm, Aurelia Shimkus, Janusz Kohut, and more.

If you don’t have the space to house a 12-foot-tall piano, Native Instruments recently released a digital version of the 370. On the flip side, if you thought to yourself “it’s really just not big enough”, Klavins is currently accepting donations to help build a 14-foot, 9-inch tall version.

3. The Hyperbass Flute

Invented in the early aughts by flautist and sound artist, Roberto Fabbriciani, the hyperbass flute is the longest and lowest flute ever made. The flute consists of nearly 50 feet worth of PVC tubing and wood, and it’s lowest note, a C0, registers at 16 Hz, below the range of human hearing.

4. The Great Stalacpipe Organ

We recently heard about this cave in Virginia where, in 1954, a mathematician hooked up an organ to tiny mallets that tap different stalactites, each filed down so that the tapping creates a resonant tone matching the note played. It was repaired back in the late ’90s and is expected to stay in tune for the next thousand years. The lithophone, or “rock gong”, is considered the largest natural instrument in the world.

Have you heard of any crazy musical innovations lately? Share your favorites in the comments below!

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Zoë Young

Zoë is an internet enthusiast and writer who wants to empower everyone to find the knowledge they need to pursue their dreams through the magic of the internet. When not working on web tools and articles to support the Soundfly community, Zoë cooks up a storm and plots ways to recapture her former glory as a third grade recorder soloist. Follow her @parsnipsbk.