6 of the creepiest sounding instruments, ranked

28 October 2021, 14:16

6 of the creepiest sounding instruments, ranked
6 of the creepiest sounding instruments, ranked. Picture: Alamy

By Sian Moore

Ahead of Halloween, we take a listen to some of the world’s most sinister sounding instruments. Goosebumps impending...

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It’s the spookiest time of year, so it seems only fitting that we unearth some of the creepiest, most fear-inducing instruments to ring out across our land.

From curious contraptions to medieval music machines, these are six undeniably spooky-sounding instruments to give you the chills this Halloween.

Read more: 21 petrifying phrases to tell a classical musician this Halloween

  1. Theremin

    Let’s kick things off with this visually-unassuming electronic musical instrument: the theremin. Controlled without physical contact (creepy strike number one), this small instrument certainly sounds otherworldly.

    Often using two metal antennas, the theremin senses the position of its players’ hands as they separately control oscillators for frequency and amplitude, before sending those electric signals to loudspeaker.

    Mozart’s ‘Lacrimosa’ on four theremins is hauntingly beautiful

  2. Hydraulophone

    One of the newer inventions on our list, the hydraulophone is a 12-jet instrument which is played by flowing water. All sounds pretty unsuspecting, no? Well, wait until you hear it.

    The line between beautiful and terrifying is thinner in this case than the other contenders, but the hydraulophone’s subtle and ceaseless sound certainly has an otherworldly undertone to it.

    Read more: Musician plays ‘Interstellar’ theme on world’s first musical instrument played by flowing water

    James Hancock playing hydraulophone at CCRMA, Stanford University

  3. Hurdy-gurdy

    Crank up a hurdy-gurdy and await the ensuing sinister Renaissance sound that follows – the result of the instrument’s rosined wheel sweeping against its handful of strings.

    It’s a constant drone, and one that puts us in mind of a dark, eerie setting straight from the Middle Ages.

    Read more: Holy smokes, a hurdy-gurdy cranking heavy metal riffs sounds monumental

    Dark Medieval Ballad performed on Hurdy-Gurdy in YouTube clip

  4. Pipe organ

    Imposing in sight, and thundering in sound, the mighty pipe organ can sound utterly terrifying when playing the right tune.

    Take for example this spine-chilling rendition of The Exorcist theme, which fills the deserted halls of an empty church. Prepare to reawaken your fear of Mike Oldfield’s ‘Tubular Bells’...

    Read more: What makes J.S. Bach’s Toccata in D minor so terrifying?

    The Exorcist Theme on church organ (Tubular Bells opening theme)

  5. Aeolian harp sculpture

    Standing at three metres tall, the ‘Singing Ringing Tree’ is one of the largest wind chimes in the world, and has a slightly discordant and intimidating sound to match its appearance.

    The instrument’s range is several octaves, and when the wind picks up on the lonely northern moor it stands, it can produce a ringing, nightmarish whistle. Eerie.

    The Singing, Ringing Tree

  6. This 80-inch symphonic gong

    There’s no question that an 80-inch symphonic gong and its accompanying hefty mallet deserves a place in this ranking – and at the top spot, no less.

    Strike this colossal instrument every so slightly, and prepare for an echoing, intimidating sound that will send a shiver down your spine and accidentally summon something supernatural.

    Read more: Hear a colossal 80-inch symphonic gong that sounds straight out of a horror movie

    Man plays a mighty 80-inch symphonic gong that sounds straight out of a horror score