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Today is the day to celebrate musical instruments (and sounds) that you don’t come across every day – it’s Uncommon Instrument Awareness Day.

As long as there has been music, there have been people not content with the range of instruments and sounds already available; people who felt the need to create something new and unique, and sometimes just plain odd.

And lo and behold, there are some seriously strange instruments out there!

I don’t have anything quite as odd as a gravikord, pikasso, or ringflute, but I was lucky enough, some time back, to discover a wonderfully eccentric and jovial-looking little string instrument in a local secondhand shop, and I’m now the proud owner of my own mandolin-banjo.

The mandolin-banjo – it may look like a toy, but it can kick up a serious racket!
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Looking like a mini banjo, yet stringed, tuned and played like a mandolin, with four sets of twin-strings, the mandolin-banjo (sometimes also known as a banjoline in France, or a manjo in Ireland) is not the same as the four-string banjolin (which is more of a mini-banjo).

The mandolin-banjo was originally developed by mandolin players who wanted a banjo-style sound without having to learn the fingerings of the banjo. Thanks to it’s banjo-like stretched skin head, it is a lot louder than a normal mandolin, which made it a popular choice for outdoor performances. It became popular in the early twentieth century, and despite its obvious Irish and American heritage, there is strong support for the fact that it was actually invented in Australia, by the Manj Corporation. How’s that for innovation from Down Under?

So that’s my contribution for the day – do you have any weird and wonderful musical instruments in your closet?

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