5 of the best weird and wonderful musical instruments

These musical instruments might look like they belong to the Cantina band from Star Wars, but they sound out of this world

Roli Seaboard GRAND

£tba, weareroli.com

This next-gen take on the piano swaps out the usual ivory keys for a soft, three-dimensional surface, making it look a little like a keyboard that's donned bondage gear. Those pressure-sensitive keys let you to tweak pitch, timbre and volume – and even bend notes and add vibrato – as you play. You'd better be quick if you want to get your hands on one, though – only 88 are being made.


US$800, artiphon.com

This bamboo and hardwood beauty looks like nothing else on Earth – quite intentionally. Rather than replicating any one instrument, it uses your iPhone as the heart of a MIDI controller that can be used as a guitar, violin, mandolin, lap steel or even a drum pad depending on how you want to hold it. Six virtual force-sensitive frets and strings and a strum section let you manipulate sounds, while it'll play nice with any CoreMIDI-enabled iOS app.

Read our hands-on

Teenage Engineering OP-1

It might look like a toy, but this entry on the 2012 Stuff Cool List is anything but. A synthesiser, sampler and controller, it crams in eight synthesiser engines, three sequencers, drums, effects, a motion sensor, a sampler, a four-track recorder and an FM radio, its music-making prowess belies its Fisher Price looks.

Read our review

gAtari 2600

£DIY, cTrix.net

If you prefer your music with more of an retro gaming flavour, you could strap an Atari 2600 to a plank and add a joystick, EQ pedal and flange. That's what chiptune musician cTrix has done with the gAtari, creating an 8-bit instrument that's perfect for rocking out to a rendition of Pitfall II. Who needs keytars, eh?

nu-desine Alphasphere

£1000, Alphasphere.com

Part disco ball, part musical instrument, this Stuff Gadget Awards 2012 Design of the Year runnner-up does double duty as an instrument and a MIDI controller, with 48 pressure-sensitive pads that can be used to play sequences, MIDI notes and sound samples. It also features responsive LED lighting, which makes it look a bit like Darth Vader's disco ball.

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