6 Non-Rock Instruments in Rock Songs

Take a look at these six instruments you wouldn't expect in rock songs.

When you think of rock music, you would likely picture a band holding a couple guitars and then a drum kit. Here are six very non-rock instruments in rock songs:


The Theremin is one of the only instruments in the world you play without touching it. You move your hands between two antennas; one is for pitch and the other for volume. It was invented in the early 1900s by a Russian scientist.


Broken Bells used a Theremin for the lead single off After the Disco. You can hear it during the intro.

Maybe the most famous use of a Theremin in a song is the Beach Boys‘ “Good Vibrations”.



The Autoharp is played by pushing down buttons, which depress dampers and mute strings not needed to play the chord you want.


2014 Polaris Music Prize shortlister Basia Bulat often plays an autoharp.



The Harpsichord is very similar to a piano. If you own a keyboard, it probably has an effect to make it sound like a harpsichord. Instead of hitting strings with mallets like a piano, the harpsichord plucks the strings.


The harpsichord is much more prominent than the guitar in The Black Keys‘ song “Too Afraid to Love You”.

Damon Albarn plays the harpsichord in “Clover Over Dover” off Parklife. On other songs on the album, he also plays the melodica, recorder, and vibraphone.


Hand Saw

One of the weirdest instruments on this list is also a tool.

hand saw

I didn’t realized until I saw it at TURF, but Neutral Milk Hotel makes the hum sound in “In The Aeroplane Over the Sea” that comes in at about 40 seconds by rubbing a bow across a hand saw.



The glockenspiel is very similar to a xylophone, it just has metal keys.


The glockenspiel was one of the last things to be added during the writing/recording process of Radiohead’s “No Surprises”.

Bloc Party sampled a Mbira and Glockenspiel and put them on top of each other to make the shimmering sound on “Signs”.


Rain Stick

The Rain Stick is not actually filled with rain, but small pebbles or beans.

rain stick

Eels‘ lead singer/songwriter Mark Everett said the band always kept a rain stick in the studio as a joke, but since they’re neither hippies nor a jam band, they never used it. One night they decided to try it out, and it ended up on the record. You’ll have to wait ’til the end of the song to hear it.


Bonus: Melodica

The melodica is a small handheld keyboard you play by blowing through a mouthpiece while holding keys down. It is also without question, one of the hardest instruments in the world to look cool while playing. Check out 5 big songs you might not have known used the melodica here.